$612K Hazardous Waste Fine Upheld


Leaking drums, mishandled aerosol paint and hazmat tanks without containment all add up to an unpermitted hazardous-waste storage facility that will cost two Virginia chemical companies more than $600,000 in penalties.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's appeals board has upheld multiple charges against Chem-Solv Inc. and Austin Holdings-VA LLC for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law governing the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

EPA announced Feb. 19 that its Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) had affirmed the 2014 decision involving the companies.

Chem-Solv and Austin Holdings are the operator and owner, respectively, of a chemical and blending distribution facility in Roanoke, VA. The facility handles and distributes solvents, alcohols, acids, caustics, mineral oils, surfactants, glycols and other chemicals.

Chem-Solv also has locations in Piney Flats, TN; Colonia Heights, VA; and Rock Hill, SC.

In an email Thursday (Feb. 26), the companies' law firm said that neither it nor the client would be issuing a statement at this time.

Accumulating Waste, Paint Cans

Most of the violations focused on an area of the facility referred to as the "acid pad" and a 1,900-gallon subgrade tank that collects liquids from the acid pad. Other violations involved aerosol paint cans and a 55-gallon drum of sodium hydrosulfide, which was corroded and leaking.

Chem-Solv used the acid pad to repackage and blend materials from bulk storage tanks. After filling drums with various chemicals, the lines from the bulk tanks were flushed through a drain and collected in the tank.

The EPA  said the companies had "accumulated and stored hazardous waste in a manner such that [they] were by law operating an unpermitted hazardous waste storage facility."

Chem-Solv was also accused of storing the hazardous waste in an unlawful manner and failing to make waste determinations.

The company also operated a tank system without secondary containment and, according to EPA, failed to:

  • Obtain or maintain records of a tank assessment;
  • Conduct or document inspections of a tank system;
  • Control air pollutant emissions; and
  • Comply with the closure and post-closure requirements applicable to a regulated tank system.

Found Liable

In a final decision and order issued Jan. 26, the EAB upheld the entire 126-page 2014 decision made by EPA Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan L. Biro. Respondents were ordered to pay the full, original $612,338 civil penalty.

Both Chem-Solv and Austin Holdings were found "jointly and severally liable" on six counts; Chem-Solv was found solely liable for one additional count.


An EPA inspection of Chem-Solv discovered over 20 "heavily rusted and damaged drums" (not pictured here) among other items of concern.

The joint civil penalty totaled $597,026, and an additional $15,312 was assessed for the additional count against Chem-Solv.

Bias Questioned

Chem-Solv appealed the decision in 2014, challenging the judge's determination that:

  • The company had impermissibly operated a hazardous waste storage tank regulated under RCRA;
  • A leaking chemical drum contained solid waste rather than a useful product;
  • The company failed to make required hazardous waste determinations for materials in the storage tank and for certain aerosol paint cans.

The company also questioned whether the judge showed bias against Chem-Solv in the decision.

The EAB ruled, however, that:

  • The initial decision was "supported by a preponderance of the evidence";
  • Chem-Solv's bias allegations were "without merit"; and
  • It found "no evidence of bias in the record."

The initial judge "thoroughly explain[ed] why she found each witness' testimony credible or not, and cited to other facts in the record upon which she relied in reaching her decision," the appellate board found.

State & Federal Efforts

EPA started inspecting the company in 2007 after a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) inspector contacted the agency and suggested that the facility be added to the feds' annual inspection list.

hazardous waste storage
©iStock.com / SteveDF

The EPA alleged that the companies "accumulated and stored hazardous waste in a manner such that [they] were by law operating an unpermitted hazardous waste storage facility."

The inspector testified that she had made the request because VADEQ "had identified problems specifically with particular drums ... because of their condition, their age, and we had asked for hazardous waste determinations from the facility, asked for analytical data, and we just weren't getting that information."

During the 2007 inspection, the EPA said it observed totes and drums marked "bad," "contaminated," "do not use," and "REJECT - DO NOT USE." Some had dates, "but most did not," and many of the containers "bore a layer of dust."

The company told the EPA that the containers had been returned and labeled by customers.

The EPA also discovered another area with over 20 "heavily rusted and damaged" drums, which the company identified as "the last of the containers that were the subject of a State warning letter in 2005."

30 Days to Pay

"EPA takes seriously our obligation to protect people's health and safeguard communities by assuring compliance with the nation's environmental laws," said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA's Regional Administrator.

"This final decision and order affirms the due dilligence we took in pursuing an enforcement action to address hazardous waste violations that put the public's health and environment at risk."

The EAB ordered the penalty to be paid in full within 30 days and let stand the judge's original compliance order requiring the company to comply with applicable RCRA hazardous waste tank closure requirements.

Respondents have the right to appeal the EAB's final decision and order in federal district court.


Tagged categories: Air pollution control; Construction chemicals; Container labels; Environmental Controls; Environmental Controls; EPA; Hazardous waste; North America; Paint storage; Tanks and vessels

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.