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1999 News Releases



Release Date: 11/17/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - In an innovative settlement designed to reduce environmental risks, a Providence, R.I.-based metal finishing company has agreed to pay $50,000 and make $70,000 worth of environmental improvements to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of numerous environmental violations dating back to November 1997.

The consent agreement and order, signed by Microfin Corp. and EPA, stems from an administrative complaint issued in January alleging various hazardous waste and air violations at the company's chrome- and nickel-plating facility at 555 Valley St. in Providence, adjacent to the Woonasquatucket River. In the agreement filed this week, Microfin promised to remove chrome-contaminated wastes from a concrete floor, to test the floor and underlying soils for potential contamination and to perform at least one environmental compliance audit.

The cleanup and testing work will be completed within 90 days at a cost of about $70,000. The work addresses chrome-contaminated wastes that EPA inspectors found accumulating on the company's concrete floor. This work, together with Microfin's commitment to adopt any new procedures necessary to chromic acid drips or spills onto the floor, will help ensure that the company is minimizing any potential risk of environmental contamination.

During their April 1998 inspection, the EPA inspectors found numerous alleged hazardous waste violations, including failure to provide adequate training in handling hazardous wastes and failure to label, date or inspect various hazardous waste containers and tanks. Microfin corrected these violations early in the enforcement action and has certified that it is now in compliance with federal and state hazardous waste laws.

"Microfin's mishandling of hazardous waste had the potential to threaten soils under the building and perhaps the nearby Woonasquatucket River,@ said John P. DeVillars, New England Administrator of the EPA. "The company took prompt action to come into compliance with environmental laws and is cleaning up its mess. We hope this serves as a warning to other metal finishers that EPA will take a firm stand against environmental violations."

Microfin also was cited for emitting chromium fumes at more than twice the levels allowed under federal regulations. Microfin's emission violations continued from November 1997 to May 1998, when the company installed new air pollution control equipment in response to EPA notification.

Microfin's $50,000 settlement penalty is substantially less than EPA's final proposed penalty of $836,653. Microfin's penalty was reduced based on the company's financial condition and demonstrated inability to pay a larger fine.

Much of EPA-New England's work to help metal finishing companies come into compliance with environmental laws is being done through the agency's Metal Finishing Strategic Goals Program. This three-year-old program is encouraging metal finishers to meet aggressive pollution reduction goals by the year 2002. The national program was launched in partnership with industry groups, environmental groups and state and local regulators. Companies that sign up for the program - so far, 16 Rhode Island metal finishers have done so - receive compliance and pollution prevention assistance.

Despite these efforts, EPA is working aggressively to reach the significant number of metal finishers it believes are still not in compliance with environmental laws. Within the past two years, EPA has targeted chromium electroplaters for enforcement inspections and the agency plans to complete more inspections of metal finishers in the year ahead. Today's settlement results from one of these inspections. EPA encourages metal finishers to come into compliance, and to self-disclose any violations under EPA's audit and small business policies to receive potentially favorable penalty treatment.

"Metal finishers that work to comply with environmental laws will get assistance and support from our agency,@ DeVillars said. "But EPA will use the full weight of the law against those companies that do not comply with the law."