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Walpole Mass. Company Fined, Addresses EPA Concerns for Chemical Management and Accident Prevention

Release Date: 04/14/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – April 14, 2006) - The Callahan Company of Walpole, Mass. will pay a fine of $40,000 and undertake two environmental improvement projects to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act and other environmental statutes.

An EPA investigation discovered that Callahan failed to employ adequate safeguards to prevent and mitigate two releases of acetone which occurred at the company’s Walpole facility. The company also violated federal requirements to quickly notify local, state and federal responders to the potentially-hazardous chemical release.

Under the settlement, Callahan will both pay a penalty of $40,000 and will also undertake two “Supplemental Environmental Projects” (SEPs). The projects call for Callahan to make substantial stormwater management improvements to the lower drainage areas of its facility, and to install environmental safeguards to their above-ground tank farm. Both projects will be at Callahan’s Walpole facility.

Together, the projects will cost approximately $317,000, and will provide significant environmental and public health protections. It is noted that Callahan Company was cooperative with EPA during the negotiation process. The civil penalty was discounted to reflect the company’s cooperation and willingness to undertake projects that benefit the local environment.

“During the month of Earth Day, we are reminded that environmental protection begins with each of us,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We are gratified that Callahan is taking their error seriously and are now putting in place two projects that will help protect the environment in Walpole.”

Disasters such as September 11th, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have highlighted the importance of preparing for, preventing and responding quickly to chemical releases in our communities. EPA’s New England office is intensifying its efforts to make sure manufacturers report chemical use, take the necessary steps to prevent chemical accidents, and immediately report releases, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

This settlement with Callahan, a bulk chemical delivery company, derives from violations of the Clean Air Act by failing to employ adequate safeguards to prevent and mitigate two releases of acetone - one of about 1,300 gallons on Dec. 6, 2004 and another of 200 gallons on Jan. 14, 2005. Both spills apparently resulted from human error. The company was also cited for failing to follow accepted safe operating procedures by failing to give timely notification of the first release to the National Response Center and the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

EPA recommends that companies dealing with potentially hazardous chemicals should:
- Work closely with Local Emergency Planning Committees to make them aware of chemicals they use and store at their facilities;
- Be prudent about assessing the potential for chemical hazards, and take steps to prevent releases – add redundant controls where control failure results in significant risks;
- Report significant releases to emergency responders and the National Response Center immediately. Do not wait to calculate the amount of chemical released. You may be fined for late reporting if EPA determines that you should have known that the release exceeded reportable quantities of chemical before precise calculations are complete; and
- Ensure that you have a system for ensuring compliance with EPCRA and other chemical safety laws, including the CAA and OSHA. The system should survive staff turnover.
EPA New England has been and continues to offer technical assistance to groups and individual facilities. During the past year, regional staff have organized or participated in 34 conferences that with more than 2,800 attendees to help companies understand these important laws. EPA has also been working with industry and local officials to improve data systems to make reporting easier.

EPA also encourages companies to take advantage of its Audit Policy, a program that includes incentives for regulated entities to voluntarily come into compliance with federal environmental laws and regulations. The Audit Policy provides that when facilities undertake voluntary, systematic environmental audits of their facilities and disclose and quickly correct any violations they find, they may qualify to receive vastly reduced penalties. The policy does not cover criminal violations or violations that resulted in actual significant harm to public health or the environment. In 2005, some 74 facilities have self disclosed EPCRA violations to EPA through the use of the Audit Policy and the Small Business Policy, saving a combined $5 million in penalties.

More information on EPA’s chemical emergency preparedness and prevention programs: http://www.epa.gov/ne/tks/chemprepinfo/

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