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July 15, 2021
EPA enforcement roundup

In the second quarter (Q2), the EPA finalized 235 settlement agreements with companies large and small across the United States. This represents a decrease in enforcement actions, down from 290 penalties issued in Q1 for 2021. The actions taken resulted in fines totaling $9,969,598. Here are some of the highlights.

RCRA violations yield biggest fine from EPA

The largest fine assessed by the EPA in Q2 was against two mail and shipping companies for numerous hazardous waste violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Through means of data mining, EPA found that the companies were generating and managing hazardous waste in all three generator statuses—conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators, Small Quantity Generators, and Large Quantity Generators—without providing all the required information about these facilities to the EPA. Analysis of information gathered from other sources led EPA to determine that the companies’ facilities generated, accumulated, and offered for transport, treatment, and/or disposal certain hazardous waste streams, including ignitable, corrosive, and reactive substances as well as acute hazardous wastes. The settlement requires the companies to correct alleged RCRA violations at all facilities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas, and includes a civil penalty of $3,800,000.

Additional enforcement actions were taken against 31 other entities for RCRA violations, with penalties that ranged from $600 to $350,000. In all, RCRA violations accounted for $5,297,392 in Q2.

CAA violations bringing six-figure fines

EPA continues its consistent enforcement for Clean Air Act (CAA) violations:

  • A blood plasma–based medical therapies manufacturer was fined $527,144 for violations of the CAA’s risk management program (RMP) at its Illinois facility. After a 2018 inspection, EPA alleged the company failed to develop written operating procedures for safely conducting activities, implement a mechanical integrity program, implement an emergency response program with instructions on the use of relevant equipment, and meet record-keeping requirements.
  • A Rhode Island transportation company was penalized $314,658 for violations of the CAA’s chemical accident prevention requirements, including the general duty clause (GDC) and RMP, and for violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act’s (EPCRA) chemical inventory reporting requirements. During an inspection at the company’s warehouse facility, EPA found that the company failed to submit a risk management plan, conduct a process hazard analysis for the warehouse, ensure that incompatibles were stored separately, and submit complete, timely EPCRA reports with state and local planning/response authorities.
  • A petroleum refining facility in Arizona was fined $123,331 for various violations of the CAA’s GDC, including failure to conduct a hazard review, identify hazards associated with the discharge of pressure relief valves, install isolation valves around pumps, and identify and train employees about various electrical hazards. Some of the identified deficiencies contributed to a release and ignition of flammable substances resulting in a fire at the facility in 2016. The fire resulted in minor injuries to an employee, required response by firefighters, and caused significant damage to facility equipment.

Targeting chemical companies

A chemical distributor in Oregon was penalized $165,000 for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). During an inspection at the company’s pesticide-producing establishment, EPA found that the company misbranded a pesticide label, which omitted important information including user safety requirements, user safety instructions, personal protective equipment (PPE), and portions of both the first aid section and the storage and disposal section.

An agricultural chemical and seed company in Indiana was fined $35,600 for FIFRA violations when it failed to file a notice of arrival of a regulated pesticide.

TSCA violations

A chemical distributor in Ohio was penalized $140,158 for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations, specifically of the New and Existing Chemicals Program. EPA alleged that the company failed to submit the required Form U and TSCA import certification.

A property management company was fined $61,500 for violating the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Program under the TSCA. During an investigation of a rental property to determine the source of lead exposure in a child with an elevated blood lead level, a health inspector observed renovation activity at the property that appeared to be out of compliance with the RRP Rule. An employee of the property management company was allegedly removing painted portions of an exterior porch in a home built prior to 1978 without having tested for lead-based paint or utilizing lead-safe work practices. A follow-up inspection by EPA at the company’s office confirmed that no certified renovator had been assigned and the firm was not EPA lead-safe certified.

Emphasizing clean water

The EPA cited 63 different entities for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), including oil and construction companies, for inadequate Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, as well as towns and cities for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit violations. The fines totaled $751,942 and ranged from $850 to $127,821.

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