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EPA Settles Hazardous Waste Case with the State of Massachusetts Case Sparks Change in State Contractor Policy

Release Date: 12/01/2004
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: Dec. 1, 2004; Release # sr04-12-02

BOSTON -- The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation agreed this week to pay a cash penalty of $12,375, and spend an additional $80,000 to remove asbestos from historic buildings at Outer Brewster Island and open them to the public. The agreement settles a case brought last June by EPA's New England Office, alleging that the state violated federal hazardous waste laws in 2002. As a result of the case, the State changed its contractor liability policy for environmental testing.

According to the EPA, the state's contractor who was working on a restoration project at Lawrence Heritage State Park, in Lawrence Massachusetts, failed to test suspicious-looking soils excavated from the Park. The state's failure to conduct adequate waste determinations caused it to ship hazardous waste to an unauthorized facility, in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law regulating hazardous waste.

At the time of the violations a state policy put the contractor at risk to pay for any requested samples that turned out to be non-hazardous. New state policy put into effect since the complaint was filed provides that the state will pay for analyzing these samples regardless of whether or not the samples showed that the soil contained hazardous substances.

"The state's prior policy created a clear disincentive for a contractor to request tests," said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England's Regional Administrator. "The new policy requiring the state to foot the bill whenever a contractor requests a sample is more protective and encourages more thorough environmental investigations."

According to EPA, the state sent 18 truckloads with at least 619 tons of cadmium-contaminated soil to Torromeo Industries, a Kingston, NH, disposal site that is not licensed or designed to accept hazardous waste. The waste soil was disposed of at the New Hampshire facility by placing it in large piles on the ground, within five hundred feet of a wetland.

After the shipment to the NH facility more discolored soil was discovered at the Lawrence park. DCR contractors then tested the soil and found it to have levels of cadmium above EPA's threshold limits. Once informed of the mistake, DCR excavated 679 tons of the soil from the New Hampshire facility and disposed of it in a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility.

In the settlement, the state agreed to pay $12,375 and spend $80,000 to remove asbestos from all of the historic buildings on Outer Brewster Island -- part of Boston Harbor Islands State Park. The asbestos-laden structures, dating back to World War II, include barracks, bunkers, gun emplacements and a desalinization plant. The structures have never been open to the public and no shelter exists on the island. Once cleared of environmental hazards, the structures will provide shelter to the island's growing number of visitors. Last year alone more than 1,000 visitors reached the island by private crafts -- the only means of accessibility. Once the island has public shelters, it opens the possibility that the state consider funding for permanent dock construction and ferry service, which could provide greater public accessibility.

For more information about EPA's hazardous waste enforcement program go to: http://www.epa.gov/region1/enforcement/waste/index.html

Related Information:
RCRA Enforcement in New England
RCRA/Hazardous Waste