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EPA Slaps Plant on Chemical Drum Mess

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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Hundreds of corroded, leaking, dusty, unlabeled drums have drawn a federal order that chemical producer SIC Technologies change its ways, and quickly.

 Jeremy Brooks / Flickr

 Jeremy Brooks / Flickr

The 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the primary U.S. law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste.

The 55-gallon drums, stacked floor to ceiling, are among thousands of problem chemical containers degrading and gathering dust at SIC’s Atlanta plant, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has issued a clean-up and disposal order.

“EPA believes that an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment exists at the facility, due to the improper storage of solid and/or hazardous wastes, the presence of corroding and leaking containers, and the lack of adequate aisle space sufficient to address emergency releases,” says the agency’s Administrative Order of Consent, signed Feb. 15.

Citizen’s Complaint

Southern Industrial Chemicals Inc. (known as SIC Technologies) provides more than 500 chemicals for paint pre-treatment of steel and aluminum, as well as other metal finishing and industrial processes.

The so-called 7003 Administrative Order of Consent is issued for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The SIC order stems from conditions found on inspections by the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection Division on Nov. 30, Jan. 18 and Jan. 30. Those inspections followed a “citizen’s complaint” that drums of chemicals were stacked floor to ceiling without being disposed of, EPA said.

Waste or Product?

According to the Order, the first inspection found:

• Hundreds of corroded, leaking and unlabeled drums stacked on pallets from floor to ceiling in the “Raw Materials Storage Area.” GA EPD could not determine if these contained raw materials or waste.

• About 200 55-gallon drums and “numerous” 300-gallon totes in the “Empty Drum Storage Area.” Many of these containers were unlabeled, many were not empty, some were open, and one was marked “Chrome Waste,” authorities said. Plant officials said the containers had been there for more than 10 years.

• Hundreds of plastic containers of lab samples that had also been there more than 10 years, plant officials said.

Wastewater and Caustics

On the second inspection, conducted by EPA, inspectors found more than 1,000 full and partially full 55- and 30-gallon drums, 300-gallon totes, five-gallon cans, jerry cans, and cardboard boxes, as well as “thousands of bottles and jars” containing lab samples and chemicals.

Plant staff told EPA the chemicals could include wastewater, caustic solutions, acids, chrome and nickel solutions, and floor sweepings, among other substances. Chemicals were not sorted or segregated for compatibility, inspectors said.

Drums were stacked four deep on pallets up to five levels high, and there was no room for inspection, spill control or emergency response equipment, EPA said.

‘No Good’

Labels on the containers were sketchy at best. Some containers were just marked “no good.”

Much of the area was covered with dust, and containers were degrading, inspectors said.

Plant officials also told EPA that 280 containers had been moved out for disposal since the first inspection.

On the third inspection, EPA also found lab samples dating to 1994 in degrading cardboard boxes.

“Facility owners could not identify the majority of the materials being stored in the warehouse,” EPA’s order read.

Cleanup Plan

EPA ultimately determined that the chemicals were “abandoned” and thus waste, not stored products.

The resulting 22-page order details cleanup of spills and releases; repackaging of wastes and materials in compromised containers; preparation of a waste analysis plan; and segregation, transportation and off-site disposal of all wastes stored at the facility.

SIC was given:

• 10 days to develop a Disposal Work Plan;

• 20 days to develop a Usable Product Disposition Plan for products that it considers usable and in storage;

• 20 days to develop a Community Endangerment Plan; and

• 30 days to document what it did with anything it disposed of after the first inspection.

SIC must report on its progress every two weeks to EPA and must keep all current records at least six years for EPA’s review.

The cost of noncompliance: $7,500 a day.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Hazardous waste; Protective coatings; Raw materials; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Comment from Joe Doherty, (2/22/2012, 10:05 AM)

Why isn't OSHA involved?

Comment from Mary Chollet, (2/24/2012, 7:44 AM)

Good question! We took it to the OSHA regional office, and a spokesman advises, "OSHA received a referral on this company and opened an inspection of this company on January 25. That inspection is still open." OSHA investigations generally take about six months, so we will report back.

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