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Two New England Companies Fined for Violating Hazardous Waste Management Requirements

Release Date: 02/01/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Feb. 1, 2012) – Two New England companies that store and distribute hazardous chemicals have agreed in separate settlements to pay a total of more than $179,000 in penalties and to donate about $43,000 worth of equipment and training to local fire departments to settle EPA claims that they violated federal laws regulating companies that handle hazardous chemicals.

Settlement agreements with EPA’s New England office were signed recently by Hubbard-Hall Inc., a chemical storage and distribution company based in Waterbury, Conn., and by Monson Companies, Inc., which is based in Leominster, Mass. and has a warehouse in South Portland, Maine.

The claims and agreements with both companies arose out of a series of inspections that EPA New England has done in the last two years at chemical warehouse and distribution facilities in an effort to address compliance issues.  Since 2009, EPA New England has brought 13 Clean Air Act enforcement actions against companies that warehouse or distribute chemicals, including seven administrative compliance orders and six penalty orders.

Two agreements with Hubbard-Hall settled claims that the company failed to comply with the Clean Air Act at its facilities in Waterbury, Conn., and Wilmington, Mass. Under the agreements, the company will pay $111,290 in fines: $48,090 for Wilmington and $63,200 for Waterbury.  The company will also buy hazardous atmosphere detection equipment for the Wilmington fire department and provide training in the use of this equipment, at a total cost of $10,887.

Hubbard-Hall failed to have the required risk management plan, or RMP, at both facilities, EPA said. These plans were necessary because the facilities stored large quantities of highly concentrated hydrofluoric acid. An RMP ensures that companies identify the risks associated with their extremely hazardous chemicals; take steps to prevent chemical releases (such as training employees and storing the chemicals safely), and make sure emergency responders can react quickly and safely to an accidental release.  

In addition, in July 2011 EPA issued administrative orders to both Hubbard-Hall facilities for violations of the RMP regulations and the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act. According to the orders, the company stored incompatible chemicals so close together that a spill or release of one chemical could result in a violent chemical reaction with another chemical, creating toxic gases or causing a fire or explosion.

According to the agreement signed recently with Monson, the company will pay $68,100 in fines. It will also donate emergency response equipment for use by local emergency response teams and will invite those teams to the facility to participate in a training exercise, at a total cost of $32,975.

This will settle claims that Monson failed to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, the Maine Hazardous Waste Management Rules, federal hazardous waste laws and the federal Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act at its warehouse, distribution, repackaging and custom blending chemical manufacturing facility in South Portland.

EPA’s complaint against Monson asserts that the company violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause by failing to separate incompatible chemicals and to maintain adequate aisle spacing.  Storing incompatible chemicals together creates a risk of fire, explosion, or release of toxic gases, while failure to maintain adequate aisle spacing between chemicals can impede access to the chemicals in the event of an emergency. The “General Duty Clause” of the Clean Air Act aims to prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment from short-term exposures and to reduce the severity of accidental releases that do occur.  

According to the agreement, Monson also failed to submit a complete emergency and hazardous chemical inventory (Tier II) form for 2009 to local and state emergency planning officials and to the local fire department, in violation of the federal right-to-know law.  Failure of a facility to file these forms leaves the community unaware of the presence of chemicals in the neighborhood that may affect public health and the environment. Also, these forms help federal, state and local authorities plan for emergency response actions and the cleanup of industrial pollution.

In addition, Monson failed to make hazardous waste determinations to characterize containers of waste observed at the facility, and to update its hazardous waste contingency plan to reflect changes at the facility, as required by Maine Hazardous Waste Management Rules.

Both Hubbard-Hall and Monson cooperated with EPA in promptly correcting the violations and in reaching quick settlements.

EPA reminds operators of facilities that store hazardous chemicals that:

• Without sufficient inventory management, facilities may not realize chemical inventories have exceeded federal regulatory thresholds;
• Incompatible materials must be adequately separated;
• Buildings must be structurally appropriate for flammable chemical storage and equipped with the proper fire protections;
• The list of chemicals covered by OSHA Process Safety Management regulations is not always the same as the list of chemicals covered by Clean Air Act Risk Management Program regulations;
• Companies violating the Clean Air Act often are also violating EPCRA and/or hazardous waste regulations;
• Secondary containment systems for chemicals (to contain spills or leaks) must be in good repair, with drums stored in a stable way, and adequate aisle space for emergency responders;
• The Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause can apply even when Risk Management Program regulations do not. The General Duty Clause requires companies that manage extremely hazardous substances to prevent chemical accidents by, among other things, designing and maintaining a safe facility;
• Regular inspections are important to ensure the integrity of tank areas;
• Companies must coordinate with local emergency responders.

More information:
- Clean Air Act General Duty Clause (
http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/caa/gdcenf.html)
- EPCRA (
http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/epcra.html)
- Tier II Reporting (
http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/epcra/tier2.htm)

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