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Clean Harbors to pay over $1.7 million to settle alleged violations in Braintree

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 16, 2011 08:07 AM

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A Norwell company has agreed to spend over $1.7 million to settle allegations of violations at its hazardous-waste facility in Braintree.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said the Braintree facility of Clean Harbors Inc., a hazardous-materials management and disposal services company, was in violation of nearly 30 regulations from both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act.

The violations included inadequate waste characterization, failure to properly maintain hazardous waste tanks, inadequate secondary contaminant for waste containers, and improper storage of incompatible waste, the EPA said.

Additionally, inspections found that many of the company’s hazardous-waste tanks were deteriorating. Resulting EPA monitoring showed releases of emissions that contribute to smog coming from some of the tanks.

The EPA issued an administrative order in July 2007 ordering Clean Harbors to address many of the issues that “could have posed a danger to human health or the environment,” a release said.

Clean Harbors soon came under compliance after the 2007 order.

A follow up inspection in June 2007 from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protections further required the company to replace all old storage tanks as well as implement numerous other infrastructure upgrades, which the company has since done.

According to Phillip Retallick, the Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for Clean Harbor, the company has since gone above and beyond those mitigations to further be in compliance with federal regulations.

"We went above the law and installed additional organic vapor capture and control equipment on the tanks in operation to show good faith that we were going above and beyond the rules required to prevent any emissions," he said.

The violations came as a surprise to the company, who has not had a major spill, event, or air emission violation for decades, Retallick said.

Although the company still asserts that the alleged violations presented no threat of substantial endangerment to the public at the time, both the company and EPA have since reached an agreement on further reparations.

In addition to infrastructure upgrades, Clean Harbors will pay $650,000 in civil penalties for the 2007 violations.

Additionally, the company will spend $1,062,500 on 1,400 trees in low-income and historically disadvantaged environmental justice areas in Boston to settle a complaint filed by the US Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA, regarding the numerous hazardous waste management and emergency planning violations at the company’s Braintree facility.

Clean Harbors will work with the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department to implement the project, which will take place over a two-year period.

Additional monetary penalties will be imposed if Clean Harbors does not pay in a timely manner the civil penalty or the supplemental environmental project.

Additionally, if the EPA determines that the tree planting was not completed satisfactorily, Clean Harbors will owe the city an additional $850,000 plus interest, according to the lawsuit filings.

Beyond monetary requirements, the EPA has also stipulated that Clean Harbors must comply with an enhanced waste analysis plan that goes beyond what is currently required in its hazardous waste permit.

“This plan will help to ensure that the hazardous waste Clean Harbors receives and generates will be properly characterized and managed. Further, Clean Harbors has installed and will maintain a vapor collection system for its tanks that will collect and treat volatile organic compound emissions, which contribute to smog,” the release said.

"We did agree to a set of principles, even though we believe we were in material compliance with all the hazardous waste regulations [at the time]," Retallick said.

According to Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office, the settlement helps show the importance of adhering to EPA guidelines

“Complying with these standards helps reduce the possibility of a chemical release that could put the community and the environment at risk,” he said. “I am also pleased that under this settlement a large number of trees will be planted, which will improve air quality and the quality of life for Boston citizens.”

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, also stressed the penalties for other corporations if similar requirements are not followed.

“This agreement illustrates the commitment by the US Department of Justice and EPA to protecting communities from the potential dangers of hazardous waste and to fulfilling important environmental justice goals,” she said.

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