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City of Tacoma settles for nearly $525,000 for release of ozone-depleting gases

Release Date: 07/15/2010
Contact Information: Katie McClintock, EPA Air Compliance Unit, 206-553-2143, mcclintock.katie@epa.gov Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

(Seattle—July 15, 2010) The city of Tacoma will pay nearly $225,000 in penalties for the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) stemming from its refrigerated appliance disposal service, according to a consent decree lodged by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The city will also pay nearly $300,000 for new pollution-reduction projects in Tacoma.

From October 2004 to August 2007, The City of Tacoma Solid Waste Management Division processed more than 14,600 appliances to recover refrigerants. Due to a flawed purging process, an estimated 4,600 pounds of refrigerant was released to the environment, according to the consent decree. The CFCs released in this case are equivalent to 32,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, or approximately 530,000 roundtrip commutes between Tacoma and Seattle.

The releases were a violation of the federal Clean Air Act, which prohibits the release of CFCs to the environment. CFC refrigerants are a leading cause of ozone depletion, which contributes to climate change and has negative human health impacts, such as increasing the risk of skin cancer.

“Every pound of CFCs that enters the environment is a blow to the Earth’s protective ozone layer and a setback in controlling climate change,” said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. “We expect any facilities that handle refrigerants to have sound practices for recovery.”

The city has agreed to take corrective action and conduct additional monitoring beyond the regulations to ensure that it is recovering a maximum amount of refrigerant from the disposal process.

In addition to the penalty, the city will fund several projects worth nearly $300,000 to reduce air pollution in the Tacoma area. These projects will reduce green house gas emissions and particulate matter in the Tacoma area, which faces air quality challenges. These projects include:

  • Replacement of one diesel waste collection truck from the city’s fleet of 50 with a truck powered by a hybrid technology that improves fuel efficiency
  • Replacement of one terminal tractor at the city’s landfill facility with a hybrid-electric terminal tractor to reduce diesel emissions
  • Retrofitting ten long haul diesel tractors with diesel particulate filters, which remove harmful particulate matter from diesel exhaust