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U.S. EPA settles case for $1,375 against Hawaiian Electric Company for improper disposal of PCB-contaminated material

Release Date: 05/09/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(05/09/06) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined the Hawaiian Electric Company $1,375 for improperly disposing of 75 pounds of absorbent material contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, a violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

In February 2004, a broken utility pole in a Honolulu neighborhood resulted in a spill of transformer oil from three electrical transformers. A HECO cleanup crew used about 75 pounds of absorbent material to soak up the oil from the concrete surface and disposed of the material at the local H-Power waste-to-energy facility.

Three days after the cleanup, test results confirmed the presence of PCB oils in the transformer that leaked the most oil. Because HECO disposed of the waste before receiving the test results and H-Power is not an approved disposal site for PCB-contaminated waste, the actions violated federal law.

“When addressing transformer accidents, utilities such as HECO need to properly test and dispose of any spilled PCB oil and clean up waste to protect the public and the environment,” said Enrique Manzanilla, director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “HECO promptly disclosed the violation after its discovery and has worked with EPA to correct the situation. In this case, we have a fine example of how EPA and industry can work together.”

HECO voluntarily disclosed the violation to the EPA under the agency’s self-audit policy. The company cooperated fully with the EPA in taking necessary actions to try and correct the improper disposal and prevent its recurrence. HECO’s good faith efforts at disclosure and compliance resulted in a 75 percent reduction of the proposed penalty.

More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978. PCBs were commonly used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and rubber products. The EPA banned this class of chemicals after tests showed that PCBs cause cancer in animals and adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems in humans.

For more information on PCB regulation and enforcement, as well as toxics enforcement in general, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/tsca/index.html

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