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EPA-New England Announces Strong Enforcement Results for 2000
Release Date: 01/19/2001
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)
BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today announced strong results in its enforcement program last year, including more administrative orders than at any time in the past seven years and a record number of self-disclosures under the agency's five-year-old Audit Policy. The agency's regional office issued a total of 132 administrative orders, compared to 50 in the prior year. The regional office also initiated 29 judicial referrals and 34 administrative penalty actions.
EPA New England's enforcement efforts required $393 million of expenditures by violators to come into compliance. These investments - nearly 50 percent higher than in 1999 - are providing environmental benefits across New England.
EPA New England also posted a solid year in negotiating innovative environmental projects - activities not required by law - in settling enforcement cases. More than $2 million of supplemental environmental improvements were funded last year through enforcement settlements.
At the same time, more companies than ever before last year voluntarily audited their own environmental operations or established programs to prevent, detect and correct environmental violations. EPA New England received 23 such self-disclosures under its Audit Policy, the most it has received in a year since the policy was finalized in 1995. Meanwhile, the region's "assistance and pollution prevention" program completed more than 300 mailings, workshops and on-site assistance efforts, reaching more than 38,000 people and organizations who were given a chance to correct violations without any legal actions.
"Whether it's GE or the military, EPA New England is showing once again that it will not hesitate to take aggressive action against companies and facilities that pollute our environment," said Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "We're also following through on our commitment to integrate enforcement with strong compliance assistance and pollution prevention - and targeting these activities on specific sectors where we can achieve the biggest environmental benefits."
EPA's enforcement efforts in New England last year continued to focus on large complex cases, which lead to the most significant environmental or public health impacts and have the greatest deterrent value. Among the most noteworthy cases:
Boston Harbor: Last year, two major milestones were achieved in the Boston Harbor cleanup when the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority completed construction of its state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant at Deer Island and opened its 9.5-mile-long outfall tunnel for discharging treated wastewater. The harbor cleanup is being conducted under a federal court order which resulted from a lawsuit filed by EPA and the Conservation Law Foundation. EPA also issued a discharge permit for the Deer Island sewage plant, one of the most aggressive discharge permits ever written for a secondary sewage treatment plant in this country.
Massachusetts Military Reservation: Two landmark orders by EPA New England over the past year have provided significant protection to Cape Cod's sole drinking water supply. For the first time ever at a military base in this country, EPA last January ordered the cleanup of unexploded ordnance to prevent explosive contaminants from leaking into groundwater underneath MMR. This month, the agency ordered the National Guard to dispose of buried munitions (discovered during the cleanup) in a contained detonation chamber. The two orders bring to a total of four the agency has issued at MMR, the first two in 1997 ordering, first, a halt to live artillery and mortar firing and other environmentally harmful military training and, second, a study of the impacts of training on the Cape's groundwater.
Lloyd Manufacturing Corp.: The Warren, RI-based manufacturer agreed to pay $240,000 in fines and spend at least $148,000 to help reduce air pollution in Rhode Island to settle claims that the company violated the Clean Air Act. In the settlement, Lloyd agreed to buy 247 tons of excess air emissions to offset 247 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that the company emitted illegally between 1993 and 1997. The company promised to spend $148,000 to buy nitrogen oxide credits from Massachusetts. By purchasing these "emission reduction credits," the company will effectively remove this amount of pollution from the environment. VOCs and nitrogen oxides are components of ground-level ozone or smog pollution. High concentrations of ozone are known to cause difficulties in breathing, especially for children, asthmatics and people with impaired lungs.
General Electric: Last fall, a federal judge gave final approval to a landmark legal agreement requiring General Electric to restore the Housatonic River and much of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts from widespread PCB contamination. The 400-page consent decree was approved after extensive public comment that included more than 100 public comment letters. The cleanup order requires the cleanup of the Housatonic River, GE's 250-acre property in Pittsfield, Silver Lake, Unkamet Brook and numerous other parcels. GE has also agreed to fund a natural resource damage package and $45 million for the cleanup and revitalization of the 250-acre Pittsfield property - among the largest Brownfields investments of its kind in the country.
Lawrence Water Department: Last year, an employee at the Lawrence Water Department was convicted on criminal charges of falsifying drinking water quality testing results at the city's public drinking water plant. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in Boston and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
EPA's EPA New England is actively working to reduce the impacts of pollution discharged into waterways after rain events. For example, we are presently working with the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue enforcement cases that involve stormwater violations against several New England companies. More than half of the 100-plus communities in New England that have combined sewer overflow (CSO) systems and all but three of the largest systems (those with more than 10 CSO discharge outfall pipes) currently face either state or federal enforcement actions. CSOs are antiquated storm pipes that discharge untreated sewage and stormwater into waterways after heavy rains.
EPA New England has also worked to develop practical ways to eliminate CSOs without placing an unreasonable financial burden on the communities involved. The goal is to achieve the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
As in the past, EPA's enforcement efforts have included a "carrots and sticks," approach that links enforcement with compliance assistance, and focuses these efforts on specific industry and geographic sectors where compliance is a problem and the environmental benefits would be greatest. These efforts targeted at the metal finishing sector, universities and public agencies achieved significant environmental improvements.
EPA New England has long insisted that public agencies are accountable to the same environmental standards as private parties. The regional office has taken more than 300 actions against public agencies since the mid-1990s. Last year, EPA New England proposed a $396,299 penalty against the Natick Department of Public Works for numerous violations of federal hazardous waste management laws and a violation of the Clean Water Act. At the same time, EPA New England sent letters to town managers and mayors in nearly 1,000 towns and cities in New England, warning them that public agencies are responsible for complying with the same environmental standards as companies and offering them assistance in complying with environmental laws.
EPA has supplemented the enforcement arm of its Public Agencies Initiative by helping public agencies fully understand their environmental responsibilities. Last year, EPA New England focused on municipal highway facilities in Maine and Connecticut (having completed similar work in Massachusetts in 1998-99). A survey of the Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut highway workshop attendees indicated that, of those who responded to the survey, between a third and a half took action on compliance issues after the workshop, more than one-fourth implemented pollution prevention recommendations, and about a third to a half implemented better operational practices.
EPA New England also continued its Colleges and Universities Initiative, proposing a $500,000 penalty against Brown University last December for 13 violations of hazardous waste regulations and two violations of the Clean Water Act. The agency also settled an enforcement case with the University of New Hampshire, with the university agreeing to pay a $49,000 fine and conduct environmental improvements worth about $180,000. The settlement stemmed from hazardous waste violations. This initiative was launched in 1999 with the announcement of a targeted assistance program. Prompted by the threat of enforcement and the offer of assistance, more than 300 representatives from universities attended EPA-sponsored compliance assistance workshops last year at Worcester State College, the University of New Hampshire, and Boston University.
Enforcement efforts targeting specific geographic areas also brought significant environmental gains to New England's most important resources. In 1995, EPA announced an initiative to make the Charles River safe for swimming and fishing by Earth Day 2005. Five years later, the Charles is cleaner than it has been in decades. The river met swimming standards 65 percent of the time in 2000 compared to 19 percent of the time in 1995. Enforcement actions over the past few years have significantly reduced sewage running into the river. EPA-New England has also worked in partnership with communities to reduce storm water pollution and played a lead role in the formation of the Clean Charles 2005 Coalition, a new private-public partnership aimed at cleaning the river.
Programs that encourage companies to voluntarily audit their operations, or establish programs to systematically prevent, detect and correct environmental violations, have also proved successful. Last year, the region received 23 such self-disclosures under its Audit Policy, the most it has received in any single year. If a company discovers violations through an audit and promptly corrects the violations and discloses them to EPA, the agency will often waive punitive penalties that would otherwise be assessed for those violations. Of the 32 self-disclosures that have been fully processed since the policy was established, 87 percent have received a complete waiver of punitive penalties.
"EPA New England is using a variety of innovative approaches to improve water quality, air quality and our lands," Lubber said. "In the past few years, we have shown that we can achieve tangible environmental improvement through a number of tools. Our assistance efforts, our support for new technology and the deterrence provided by our targeted enforcement work are each central to making private and public polluters take more responsibility for cleaning the environment. With such combined efforts, we can all look forward to a healthier future."
EPA-New England achieved great success last year in negotiating innovative environmental projects in settlements with violators. Environmental improvement projects worth $2 million were funded through enforcement settlements. Among these projects were:
Crane & Co.: This Dalton, Mass., paper manufacturer agreed to pay $8,164 and perform an environmental project estimated to cost between $26,832 and $100,000 to settle claims it failed to submit required toxic chemical reporting forms from 1996 to 1998; failed to designate an emergency coordinator and failed to identify itself to the local and state emergency planning officials as a company that needs emergency planning. Under the settlement, Crane agreed to make changes in the chemicals used for making paper, changes that would reduce human and environmental exposure to harmful chemicals and reduce the environmental threat posed by discharges into the Housatonic River.
King Industries: This Norfolk, Conn., chemical manufacturer agreed to pay $16,283 and make environmental improvements worth at least $500,000 to settle claims by EPA that the company violated federal laws regulating hazardous waste management. King, which manufactures specialty chemicals, agreed to build a state of the art hazardous waste storage building with four new 8,000-gallon hazardous waste tanks and decommission the outdoor above-ground hazardous waste storage tanks. The company also agreed to write and distribute technical information for the design and operation of the new tank system and to share this information with other parties and industry members.
Nu Chrome Plating Co.: This Fall River electroplating and metal finishing company agreed to pay $25,000 and spend $74,000 on environmental projects to settle a claim by EPA that the company failed to meet federal hazardous waste management laws. In the settlement, NuChrome agreed to design and implement a new wastewater treatment system that will significantly reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated by the plating process. The company also greed to hire an independent contractor to conduct an environment audit to evaluate the company's compliance with state and federal laws.
EPA New England continued to work closely with the agency's Criminal Investigation Division to maintain a strong criminal enforcement presence. The Criminal Investigation Division prosecuted 11 individual defendants and four corporations and referred 13 new cases for prosecution. The Boston-Area Office's cases resulted in $5.2 million in criminal fines, among those a $1.5 million criminal fine paid by Kirsch Inc. for illegal discharges of cyanide and other pollutants into the Naugatuck River from the company's manufacturing plant in Beacon Falls, Ct. The company also paid $1 million to the State of Connecticut to help improve the Naugatuck River. In another case, the owner of the Morelite Development and Construction Inc. paid a $850,000 fine and served a one-year prison sentence for illegal stripping, removal and disposal of asbestos at a construction project in New Haven, Ct.