Environmental News

May 15, 2000
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To bring about speedier cleanups, more productive use of abandoned sites and fairer settlements, EPA in late May proposed a series of administrative reforms to the Superfund program.

Two new enforcement policies will reduce the liability faced by buyers of certain contaminated properties. EPA says these measures should help in its 'Brownfields' program focusing on redeveloping abandoned, contaminated industrial sites. In addition to providing assurances to future landowners, these changes should give current owners of contaminated properties a financial incentive to clean up their sites, EPA says.

The reforms also include a new directive that calls for EPA to consider the future uses of contaminated land when assessing risks, developing cleanup plans, and choosing the most appropriate remedy for the site. This should bring about more cost-effective remedies that take into account a community's plans for redeveloping the land.

Other reforms announced include:

  • 'Allocation Pilots,' which will test a fundamentally different approach to the allocation of Superfund costs by having a neutral third party assign shares of costs to Potentially Responsible Parties based on each party's 'fair share';

  • Expedited settlements that resolve the liability of minor contributors and consider their ability to pay; and

  • Increased use of alternative dispute resolution to speed up Superfund settlements.

New effluent limits set for metals firms

EPA on May 30 proposed new effluent limitations under the Clean Water Act for the metal products and machinery industry. The May 30 Federal Register proposal will cut the amount of industrial toxic pollutants discharged by nearly one million pounds, EPA says.

The new limits cover facilities that manufacture, maintain and rebuild finished metal parts, products or machines. This covers seven industrial sectors: aircraft, aerospace, electronic equipment, hardware, mobile industrial equipment, ordnance, and stationary industrial equipment.

EPA has proposed exempting indirect dischargers with flows of less than one million gallons per year. This would reduce the number of facilities covered to less than 4,000 and the cost of compliance for industry from $227 million to approximately $161 million.

This action is Phase I of a two-part rulemaking. Phase II, expected to be proposed in l997, will cover these industrial sectors: bus and truck, household equipment, instruments, motor vehicles, office machines, railroads, ships and boats, and precious and non-precious metals.

Polluters pay...

Chemical releases: EPA and Formosa Plastics Corp. recently signed a consent agreement resolving a 1993 penalty EPA filed for failure to report three hazardous substance releases from the facility under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA also found the facility had 30 releases exceeding the reportable quantity limit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.

The plastics production operation in Point Comfort, Texas, will pay a $50,000 civil penalty and will install a $1.68-million containment system designed to capture releases caused by over-pressurization in the plastics production process. Formosa agreed to allow EPA to conduct a chemical safety audit, which will include an in-depth review of procedures and training at the facility. Formosa also agreed to carry out a risk management program under the Clean Air Act within the next 18 months-earlier than required by the regulations. The company will also perform a $10,000 community benefit project and will contribute $35,000 to the regional local emergency planning committee.

Hazardous waste: The president of a Seattle electroplating company recently pled guilty to a felony criminal violation for improper hazardous waste storage. T. Boyd Coleman, of Advanced Electroplating and Finishing, Inc., admitted that between 1992 and 1995 he knowingly stored and later abandoned approximately 500 barrels and containers of hazardous waste, as well as other hazardous chemicals at his company's Seattle site. A number of tanks containing cyanide plating waste were also abandoned at the facility, which performed chrome plating of automobiles and trucks.

This investigation of Advanced Electroplating was part of the agency's environmental justice initiative since the tanks of cyanide waste posed a significant threat to the health and safety of children in a nearby school and to the surrounding community. EPA says the environmental cleanup effort of the facility will exceed $1 million.

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