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City of Tacoma settles with EPA for violating federal rules on PCBs in used oil

Release Date: 09/30/2013
Contact Information: Suzanne Skadowski, EPA Region 10 Public Affairs, 206-295-4829,

(Seattle – September 30, 2013) The City of Tacoma has settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating federal rules on used oil contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

“Today’s settlement should serve as a reminder that handling used oil requires attention to the requirements designed to prevent the distribution of PCBs,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s enforcement program in Seattle. “Simple testing for PCBs before shipping used oil off-site helps protect people and the environment and prevents contamination of oil that can otherwise be recycled and reused.”
According to EPA, the City of Tacoma shipped 750 gallons of used oil contaminated with PCBs from the City’s landfill to Emerald Services, an oil recycling and reuse company. The City did not know that the used oil was contaminated with PCBs before they shipped the oil. Emerald Services found the problem during their routine oil testing and was able to trace the PCB-contaminated oil to the City’s shipment.
EPA discovered the violations when Emerald Services provided a waste report to EPA, as required by federal regulations, describing the PCB waste. The City’s oil shipment resulted in the PCB contamination of approximately 8,250 gallons of used oil at Emerald Services. Under federal rules, Emerald Services could not recycle the PCB-contaminated oil, and instead was required to dispose of the used oil as hazardous waste.
To settle the violations, the City of Tacoma has agreed to pay a $40,000 federal penalty.
PCBs are chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the U.S. before EPA banned their production in 1978, and many PCB-containing materials are still in use today.
When released into the environment, PCBs remain for decades. Tests have shown that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Concerns about human health and the persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976.
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