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Oeser Admits to Federal Waste Violations

Release Date: 2/8/2005
Contact Information: Cheryl Williams
williams.cherylb@epamail.epa.gov
(206) 553-2137


February 8, 2005


Wood Treater Also Required to Pay $25,000

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Oeser Company, a Bellingham, Washington wood treating plant, will pay $25,000 in penalties for on-going violations of state and federal laws governing the handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals. Although violations of this type would typically result in a dramatically higher penalty, EPA adjusted the penalty downward based on Respondent’s demonstrated inability to pay.

In settlement documents filed Monday, February 7th, (see below) the EPA notes that the company routinely failed to account for, contain, and dispose of wood preservatives used at its facility. A key provision of the settlement guarantees that the company will assume responsibility for correcting its mistakes and setting aside funds for future closure of the drip pads at the facility. The company is also responsible for Superfund cleanup costs at its property.

Site inspections of the facility and reviews of company records, between the years 2000 and 2004, found that the company violated several important regulations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act more commonly known as RCRA. Most significantly Oeser failed to clean up drippage that fell on the ground from treated poles it stored in its storage yard. This drippage contains pentachlorophenol (or “penta”), which the EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen. Additionally, the company admits it violated RCRA when it failed to properly store the hazardous waste it generated, stored dangerous wastes for more than 90 days and failed to keep required records.

EPA further alleges that Oeser violated RCRA when it:
    • failed to properly dispose of hazardous waste at an approved facility;
    • failed to identify wastes as dangerous;
    • failed to have a groundwater monitoring program, closure plans and financial assurance for closure.

“Oeser is one of the major Northwest producers of treated poles,” said Mike Bussell, EPA’s regional director for its Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “Poor management practices contributed to the site’s status as a Superfund site, and unfortunately those practices have continued."

EPA’s Bussell also drew a distinction between RCRA and CERCLA, the two federal laws that safeguard the public against mismanagement of hazardous waste, both past and present.

“RCRA holds the current owners and operators responsible for proper management of the hazardous waste that they generate rather than having the taxpayers pick up the burden at some future date. You can think of RCRA as a tool designed to prevent future Superfund sites,” said Bussell.

Although the Washington Department of Ecology is the lead agency with regard to the enforcement of hazardous waste regulations in the state, Ecology agreed to have EPA take the lead on enforcement at Oeser. Both agencies agree that this settlement will benefit human health and the environment.

In addition to paying the $25,000 penalty, the settlement requires the Company to:
    • immediately come into compliance with dangerous waste regulations;
    • cease disposing of dangerous waste at the facility,
    • cease illegal storage of dangerous waste,
    • clean up various locations where dangerous waste has been stored and disposed, and
    • set aside money to pay for cleanup of the drip pads once they cease to be used.


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