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EPA Cites Lynchburg for Chlorine Release

Release Date: 04/03/2006
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed an administrative complaint against the city of Lynchburg, Va., for failing to properly report a chlorine release from its wastewater treatment plant.

EPA’s complaint, which seeks $56,680 in penalties, alleges the plant operators did not immediately notify federal authorities, as required under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and did not provide a follow-up report in a timely manner after the release, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

According to the complaint, approximately 1,958 pounds of chlorine were released from Lynchburg’s wastewater treatment facility at 2301 Concord Turnpike in Lynchburg, shortly after 7 p.m. on May 17, 2005. Chlorine is considered a hazardous substance, and the facility is required to report any release of chlorine that exceeds the reportable quantity to the National Response Center (NRC) as soon as they are aware of the release.

Under CERCLA, the reportable quantity for chlorine is 10 pounds. The release, which was nearly 200 times the reportable quantity, was not reported to the NRC until 10:48 a.m on May 19, more than 36 hours after operators at the facility had knowledge of the release.

Chlorine gas can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Exposure to high levels can result in corrosive damage to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tissues and could lead to pulmonary edema and even death in extreme cases.

The EPA complaint also alleges violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, for failure to provide a follow-up report to the State Emergency Response Commission as soon as practicable after the release.

The alleged violations of CERCLA and EPCRA compromise the reporting systems of both statutes, which are designed to help federal, state and local responders properly respond to chemical releases. As a result, these violations pose potential harm to public health and the environment. EPA has proposed a penalty of $28,340 for each count, making the total proposed penalty $56,680. The city has 30 days to request a hearing.