Nine California metal finishers have paid thousands of dollars in fines for federal hazardous-waste violations after a recent rash of targeted inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The violations were discovered during recent inspections in seven cities statewide. All nine companies returned to compliance with federal law and paid fines ranging from $2,000 to $48,500, the EPA said in a statement. One company also agreed to attend Compliance School, in which employees are trained in on-site hazardous waste management techniques.
‘Committed to Aggressive Enforcement’
“Hazardous wastes pose a danger to residents and can cause serious environmental damage,” said Jeff Scott, director of EPA’s Waste Management Division for the Pacific Southwest region.
“EPA is committed to aggressive enforcement of federal law to protect communities and workers from the potential impacts of improperly managed hazardous waste.”
Metal finishers typically generate hazardous wastes like acids and sludges that contain chromium, cadmium, lead and other heavy metals; spent plating solutions containing metals or cyanides; flammable liquids; and both alkaline and acidic corrosive liquids.
Metal Finishing Targeted
The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requires companies to properly manage hazardous waste to prevent harm to human health and the environment. During fiscal year 2010, EPA targeted the metal finishing industry for inspections
Significant violations found during the California inspections included:
• Failing to maintain the facility to minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous waste to air, soil, or surface water, which could threaten human health or contaminate the environment.
• Failing to label containers of hazardous waste, which increases the possibility of improper handling.
• Failing to properly characterize wastes, which led to hazardous waste being disposed of in the general trash.
• Failing to close containers of hazardous waste, which increases workers’ exposure to hazardous constituents, contributes to air pollution, and increases the likelihood of spills.
• Failing to prepare or meet the requirements of a contingency plan, which increases the possibility of improper response to emergencies.
• Failing to provide proper training, which increases workers’ risk of exposure and increases the possibility of improper management of the wastes.
• Failing to inspect hazardous waste storage areas, increasing the possibility that containers may leak.
• Storage of hazardous waste for over 90 days without a permit.
The California companies that have settled with the EPA (and the fines they have paid) are:
• Al’s Plating Company ($2,800), Los Angeles
• Hermetic Seal Corp. ($28,000), Rosemead
• Nu-Metal Finishing ($5,200), Santa Clara
• Photo Chem Etch Corp. ($2,000), Sun Valley
• Bowman Plating Co. ($48,500), Compton
• AAA Plating and Inspection ($19,800), Compton
• Highland Plating ($7,500), Los Angeles
• Vaga Industries ($35,000), South El Monte
• Bronzeway Plating Corp. ($7,000), Los Angeles
Two of the fined facilities are in Compton, one of several densely populated communities closest to the I-710 Freeway, where the effects of pollution are disproportionately higher than in other areas of Los Angeles County. About 1 million people, some 70% of them minority and low income, are severely impacted by pollution from industrial activities in the area and goods movement on the freeway.
Federal, state and local regulatory agencies have formed an Enforcement Collaborative to focus resources over multiple years to ensure that businesses and industries in this area are complying with environmental laws.
The EPA-led initiative includes Cal/EPA, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Air Resources Board, and local government and non-profit organizations.
U.S. EPA will continue to devote resources to conducting inspections of generators of hazardous waste and pursuing appropriate enforcement in fiscal year 2011.
For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/rcra.html.