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Rhode Island Company to Pay $500,000 Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 07/07/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

For Immediate Release: July 7, 2004; Release # 04-07-07

BOSTON – The US Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Ultra Scientific Inc., a North Kingstown, RI chemical standards laboratory, has agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty to settle claims by the EPA that it had extensive hazardous waste handling violations at its facility in Quonset Point Industrial Park. Ultra Scientific agreed to pay the fine within 30 days.

The settlement stems from two days of inspections in September 2002 that EPA conducted jointly with the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM). During the inspection, EPA staff discovered numerous violations of hazardous waste storage and management regulations at the company’s production building and several large outdoor containers behind the building.

For example, inspectors observed jumbles of boxes and bottles containing hazardous waste – some of which were highly flammable, reactive and/or toxic – piled inside one of the 40-foot containers. These wastes were left in the summer heat and cold winter temperatures, and were stored without proper identification, labeling or adequate aisle space for firemen or other emergency personnel if there had been a fire or explosion at the site.

In addition, Ultra Scientific failed to separately store various wastes that, if spilled and combined, could have ignited, exploded or caused releases of toxic gas. At EPA’s second inspection, North Kingstown fire and building code officials arrived and issued their own citations to the company for fire safety and code violations.

The September 2002 inspection was done at the request of DEM, which first discovered the violations during a state inspection in August 2002. Ultra Scientific failed to correct the violations after this first state inspection.

“The size of this penalty reflects the dangerous conditions that existed at this facility during the inspection,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Handling hazardous waste in such a sloppy way presented real potential dangers, particularly for workers who weren’t properly trained or for emergency response personnel.”

Varney said that over 80 gallons and 400 pounds of various ignitable, corrosive, reactive and toxic chemicals were removed and properly disposed of after the inspection, thus reducing the overall potential health threat at the site.

“I’m pleased that we were able to work closely with DEM on this issue and that the inspection and subsequent efforts prompted the company to move quickly to correct the problem and ensure it won’t happen again,” Varney said.

Related Information:
RCRA Enforcement