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U.S. EPA Fines Kettleman City Landfill / Chemical Waste Management Fails to Meet EPA Requirements for PCB Storage and Disposal

Release Date: 11/30/2010
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov

(SAN FRANCISCO--11/30/10) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today fined Chemical Waste Management, Inc. (CWM) more than $300,000 for failure to properly manage PCBs at its Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Landfill. In order to protect human health and the environment, EPA regulations and facility specific permit requirements require that PCBs are properly tracked, stored and disposed. EPA vigorously enforces PCB requirements and will continue to monitor this facility and other PCB storage and disposal facilities.

The CWM Kettleman Hills Facility is a commercial hazardous waste facility located in Kings County, CA. The facility handles the treatment, storage and disposal of PCBs, hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The Kettleman Hills Landfill is the only landfill in California federally regulated to handle PCBs, and is just one of ten PCB regulated landfills in the country.

“Companies charged with safely disposing of society’s most toxic materials need to rigorously follow the protective laws established to secure both the public safety and public trust. Violations of federal environmental laws at the Kettleman hazardous waste facility are unacceptable,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

During a series of 2010 inspections, EPA investigators found that CWM improperly managed PCBs at the facility. Further analysis revealed spills next to the facility’s PCB Storage and Flushing Building. Samples taken by EPA and CWM in and around the building detected PCBs at elevated levels ranging from 2.1 parts per million (ppm) up to 440 ppm. These levels are above the regulatory limit of 1 ppm and, in soil, demonstrate that PCBs were improperly disposed of in violation of federal law.

In January 2010, EPA committed to working with the State of California and the community of Kettleman City to both investigate compliance with federal laws and research environmental stressors. The current fines relate to the mismanagement of PCBs within the confines of CWM’s property. There is no evidence to suggest that the current spills posed any danger to adjacent communities. The question of whether there is any human health or environmental risk of PCBs migrating off site is being evaluated by a PCB congener study that is nearing completion.

PCBs are liquids that were used in electrical transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers, voltage regulators/switches, plasticizers, and additives in lubricating and cutting oils.
Tests have shown that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Acute PCB exposure can also adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as liver function.

The EPA’s Hazardous Waste Program oversees the safe management and disposal of hazardous waste including PCBs. Concerns about human health and the extensive presence and lengthy persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. The Act authorized EPA to secure information on all new and existing chemical substances, as well as to control any of the substances that were determined to cause unreasonable risk to public health or the environment.

In addition to the PCB releases, CWM failed to fully comply with information and decontamination requirements. A PCB container label and some materials containing PCBs did not display essential data required by federal law. EPA investigations also found that CWM failed to decontaminate PCB handling areas prior to continued use.

CWM has cleaned up PCB releases at the facility under a cleanup plan approved by EPA and the State of California, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The plan was submitted to the agencies and approved in September and October 2010. DTSC issued a Corrective Action Order on October 18th that required CWM to clean up PCB contamination in accordance with state and federal requirements. CWM will be submitting a final report documenting its cleanup to both agencies.

For more information on PCB violations found at the Kettleman Hills Facility, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/kettleman/index.html

For more information on PCB regulation and enforcement as well as the Toxic Substances Control Act, please visit: http://epa.gov/region9/toxic/pcb/index.html