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EPA, OMG settle hazardous waste case

Release Date: 4/22/2003
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      Denver -- A Utah metals recycler has agreed to pay a $111,000 penalty as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement was reached after OMG Apex, Inc. reported that it discharged approximately 44,000 gallons of wastewater containing high levels of chromium into two of its lined wastewater evaporation ponds over a four-day period last August in violation of the nation’s hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. OMG's ponds had not been granted permits to accept hazardous wastes. However, EPA determined that the discharge posed no substantial threat to the public or the environment.

The settlement was contained in an Administrative Consent Order between the company and EPA Region 8, which inspected the facility after the discharge was reported and discovered additional alleged RCRA violations. The bulk of the proposed penalty was assessed because of the discharge.

EPA also cited the company for failure to ensure the waste was treated to meet treatment standards prior to final disposal; failure to perform weekly inspections of its hazardous waste container storage area; failure to educate local health authorities about injuries or illnesses that could result from accidents or releases at the facility; and failure to provide copies of its emergency plan to local police and fire departments, hospitals and emergency response teams.

In addition to the penalty, OMG agreed to sample and analyze the wastes in the evaporation ponds; the sampling work was finished during the completion of the settlement agreement. In November 2002, OMG's corporate headquarters announced its intention to close the facility as part of a major corporate restructuring. The plant ceased operations in December.

The company is currently working with the Shivwits Band of Paiute Indians to assist them with finding acceptable alternative uses for the plant site and to implement a site reclamation plan. That plan will include clean closure of the existing wastewater ponds. The Apex Plant is located on the Shivwits' Reservation near St. George, UT.

This agreement with OMG follows a previous settlement EPA reached with the company in August 2001, in which OMG agreed to perform nearly $900,000 worth of environmental work and pay a $125,000 penalty for allegedly mishandling hazardous wastes at the same plant site.

EPA enforces RCRA goals to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal and to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. In this case, the EPA found that the facility’s disposal of hazardous wastes without a RCRA permit poses a moderate risk of exposure to humans and wildlife. As a consequence, the EPA requires and OMG agrees to the timely cleanup and removal of any hazardous wastes contained in the Apex Plant’s retention ponds.

EPA seeks to assure through federal enforcement and civil penalties that those who comply with the law are not placed at a competitive disadvantage with those who do not.