EPA enforcement blitz heats up: 5 areas drawing big fines

EPA is zeroing in on facilities that lack controls and contingency plans for keeping pollutants out of the environment. 

Notice we didn’t say inspectors are targeting actual cases of pollution! Most of the six-figure enforcement cases being announced this summer don’t involve spills, leaks or toxic emissions.

5 deadly compliance sins to avoid

Here are five mistakes that guarantee big fines and bad publicity:

• not making hazardous waste determinations: World Oil Terminals in California treats and stores used oil and antifreeze. Staffers didn’t flag and safely store all waste. Total fine: $207K. Keep in mind: Inspectors will ask to see facilities’ solid waste determinations, so keep records handy to comply with the Generator Improvements rule.

• late or missing Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports: This is a common oversight by sites that process chemicals and use solvents – and EPA doesn’t waive fines. Nutra-Blend, a Missouri feed manufacturer, didn’t file TRI reports for zinc, copper and three other substances kept in quantities above 25,000 pounds. Fine: $111K.

• lack of underground storage tank (UST) leak records: UST regs are tougher these days and random inspections are on the rise. TFL, a gasoline station owner in Nebraska and Iowa, couldn’t prove it checked equipment for leaks when inspectors asked for records. TFL also didn’t maintain overfill controls. The bulk of its $150K penalty will go to upgrading its alarm and monitors.

• no oil spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) plan: Bulk handlers of petroleum as well as food oils must develop certified plans to prevent and mitigate spills. California-based U.S. Lubricants couldn’t escape a $196K fine for SPCC noncompliance.

• air toxics risk plan deficiencies: Kayem Foods, a Massachusetts food processor, didn’t properly position pressure-relief piping or do routine maintenance on its anhydrous ammonia refrigeration system. Multiple violations of the Clean Air Act Section 112(r) can be pretty steep, as this company learned the hard way. Fine: $138K.