Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): Agriculture-Related Enforcement Cases
The following are enforcement-related cases pertaining to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and related to agriculture.
- June 15, 2007: EPA Settles With Hospital Laundry Services and Snappy Apple Farms for Chemical Inventory Reporting Violations
- September 22, 2005: Settlement Agreement Proposed for Puerto Rico Company's FIFRA, CERCLA Violations
- October 14, 2004: EPA Seeks Penalty of $46,000 From Food Company with Facility in Ellington, Conn.
- October 12, 2001: World's Largest Meatpacker
Reaches Agreement With U.S. To Resolve Environmental Problems Throughout
June 15, 2007EPA Settles With Hospital Laundry Services and Snappy Apple Farms for Chemical Inventory Reporting Violations
EPA Region 5 recently settled two cases of hazardous chemical reporting violations involving Hospital Laundry Services and Snappy Apple Farms. The facilities are located in Wheeling, Ill., and Casnovia, Mich. Federal law requires that local authorities be notified of hazardous chemicals storage. In the event of a fire or emergency, responders need to know what they are dealing with so they can take steps to protect people living or working in the area. Hospital Laundry Services, 435 W. Hintz Road, Wheeling, Ill., paid $41,242 to resolve EPA's May 2007 complaint for failure to submit to state and local authorities the required 2003-2005 chemical inventory forms for 3,962 pounds of sulfuric acid, 16,605 pounds of sodium hydroxide and 13,767 pounds of hydrogen peroxide. Sulfuric acid is an extremely hazardous substance and must be reported if over 500 pounds is stored. Sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide are hazardous chemicals that must be reported at levels above 10,000 pounds. Sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid are commonly used in cleaning and processing metal.
Snappy Apple Farms, 961 Newaygo Road, Casnovia, Mich., paid $7,919 and agreed to perform a supplemental environmental project costing $4,581 to resolve an EPA May 2007 complaint for failure to submit to state and local authorities the required chemical inventory forms for 2002-2004. The facility exceeded the reporting threshold for anhydrous ammonia by 16 times. The environmental project will include purchasing and donating to the local fire department four weather stations, four binoculars, 16 road-blocking devices and gas cartridges for 15 breathing apparatuses. Snappy Apple Farms will also pay for fire department training on hazardous material inventory, mapping and site plotting.
Anhydrous ammonia is used in commercial refrigeration systems. All of the chemicals mentioned above can cause burns to the skin and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat and may be fatal if inhaled for long periods of time.
September 22, 2005Settlement Agreement Proposed for Puerto Rico Company's FIFRA, CERCLA Violations
On September 13, 2005, a settlement agreement was lodged with the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in United States v. Tropical Fruit, S.E., et al. The agreement resolves a U.S. motion to enforce an October 2001 consent decree and its request for stipulated penalties. The consent decree required the defendants to pay $35,000 in penalties and CERCLA response costs and to comply with extensive injunctive relief measures, including the creation of a non-spray buffer zone on their farm. The settlement agreement authorizes specified plantings in the buffer zone, allows certain applications of low-toxicity pesticides in buffer zone areas, and also requires payment of a penalty of $50,000 over a 1-year period, plus interest. The Federal Register notice includes information on viewing and commenting on the settlement agreement.
October 14, 2004EPA Seeks Penalty of $46,000 From Food Company with Facility in Ellington, Conn.
EPA is seeking a $46,408 penalty against Natural Country Farms for not immediately reporting a release of anhydrous ammonia from its juice packaging facility in Ellington, Conn. in violation of federal law. According to the complaint, the Ellington plant released about 6,134 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on Oct. 14, 2003, which led to the evacuation of some 1,500 people within a half mile of the facility. Two elderly people were taken to the hospital for evaluation and ammonia concentrations of 150 parts per million were detected in the neighborhood after the release. The release triggered a major chemical emergency response operation that included state, local and federal government organizations.
According to EPA’s complaint, Natural Country Farms, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, failed to report the release to the National Response Center, in violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and failed to notify state authorities, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Natural Country Farms is a subsidiary of Country Pure Foods Inc., also of Akron. The complaint stems from a December 2003 investigation by EPA inspectors, who visited the Ellington plant to determine the cause of the chemical accident. “Late notification of a toxic release to the state and federal authorities makes it much more difficult for public health and safety officials to respond effectively,” said Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Timely reporting is especially important for facilities such as this one, where the large quantities of toxic materials stored and the facility’s close proximity to a population center vastly increase the risk when releases occur.”
The Ellington facility uses a refrigeration system that contains anhydrous ammonia. Under CERCLA and EPCRA, any release of more than 100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia requires immediate notification to the National Pollution Response Center and state and local emergency planning offices. Ammonia can burn the skin and vapors can cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. High concentrations of ammonia are poisonous and could be fatal. EPCRA provides citizens with the “right to know” about chemicals in their communities. It requires facilities to immediately notify emergency responders of accidental releases so that they can evaluate the need for a response action. Accidental releases of hazardous chemicals have the potential to cause acute and tragic adverse effects. Without timely knowledge of a release, emergency responders going to chemical emergencies cannot do their job – that is, work with industry to prevent or mitigate actual or potential harm to human health and the environment following a release of a hazardous chemical.
October 12, 2001World's Largest Meatpacker Reaches Agreement With U.S. To Resolve Environmental Problems Throughout Midwest
The settlement resolves violations by IBP inc. of the Clean Water Act's (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA), at its facility in Dakota City, Neb., and at other facilities in Nebraska, Texas, Iowa, and Kansas. The settlement commits IBP inc. to corrective action valued at approximately $10 million to make environmental improvements that will reduce water and air emissions. Specifically IBP has committed to construct additional wastewater treatment systems to reduce its discharges of ammonia to the Missouri river, and has agreed to continue and expand improvements ordered last year that will significantly reduce hydrogen sulfide air emissions. The company also has agreed to pay a $4.1 million civil penalty.
- IBP's Dakota City, facility consists of a beef slaughterhouse, rendering operations, tannery and wastewater treatment facility.
- Five thousand cattle a day are processed at IBP's Dakota City slaughterhouse, and the tannery processes those hides and a similar amount of uncured hides from other IBP facilities daily.
- Wastewater from IBP's slaughterhouse and tannery is processed in a wastewater treatment plant owned and operated by IBP and located one mile east of the main complex.
- The wastewater treatment system includes a series of anaerobic covered and uncovered lagoons. Hydrogen sulfide is generated at the wastewater treatment plant and the tannery and released into the air.
- Significant amounts of ammonia are generated by this facility and discharged into the Missouri River.
- IBP owns or has owned a number of slaughterhouse facilities across the country. Today's action also resolves violations at facilities located in Gibbon, Neb.; West Point, Neb.; Madison, Neb.; Lexington, Neb.; Palestine, Texas; Storm Lake, Iowa; Columbus, Iowa; Denison, Iowa; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Perry, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; South Hutchinson, Kan.; Emporia, Kan.; and Holcomb, Kan.
- On Sept. 28, 2001, IBP, was acquired by Tysons Foods Inc.
EPA filed a complaint on Jan. 12, 2000, alleging violations of numerous laws at the Dakota City facility for more than a decade, including:
CERCLA and EPCRA: Since 1989, IBP has released the hazardous substance, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in quantities above the reportable quantity (100 lbs/day) established by EPA and has failed to report such releases. IBP estimates it has released as much as 1,919 lbs of H2S per day.
CAA: IBP failed to obtain PSD permits after three major modifications to the facility.
CWA: IBP has committed numerous violations of numeric and narrative limitations in its NPDES permit. Most seriously, IBP has had a toxicity problem dating back to 1988, and has failed to properly operate and maintain its wastewater treatment plant.
RCRA: IBP until recently failed to manifest off-site shipment of spent gun cartridges containing lead, which is a hazardous substance.
EPA's complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties for the above past violations.
An agreement for interim injunctive relief was reached in May 2000 and the first Partial Consent Decree was entered in September 2000, which required IBP to reduce emissions of hydrogen sulfide, and thereby reduce the threat to human health and welfare. The injunctive relief in the settlement was valued at $13 million. By Nov. 30, 2000, IBP completed construction and placed into operation three new covered anaerobic lagoons. The three new and two existing covered lagoons are connected to a scrubber and flare to remove hydrogen sulfide.
Human Health and Other Impacts
- Hydrogen sulfide is deadly in high concentrations and chronic exposure to low concentrations can cause a number of adverse health effects, including respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation, and possible neurological problems.
- EPA and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) have received numerous complaints of health effects and property damage from citizens living near the Dakota City plant. NDEQ has repeatedly documented concentrations of Total Reduced Sulfur (TRS), which consists primarily of hydrogen sulfide, in the ambient air surrounding the IBP Dakota City facility at levels exceeding Nebraska's health-based standard of 100 parts per billion as a 30-minute average.
- IBP's whole effluent toxicity test results since 1988 indicate that its wastewater discharge is consistently acutely toxic to aquatic life. IBP identified ammonia as the primary cause of toxicity.
Terms of the Proposed Second and Final Consent Decree
- Civil penalty: $4.1 million. $1.85 million of the penalty will be shared with the State of Nebraska, a co-plaintiff on the CAA claims, which will direct the money to the local school system. (Under a separate administrative action negotiated with Region 5, IBP agreed to pay an additional $200,000 to resolve EPCRA/CERCLA violations at its Joslin, Ill., facility concurrently with this settlement.)
- The settlement commits IBP inc. to corrective action valued at approximately $10 million to make environmental improvements that will reduce water and air emissions:
- Injunctive Relief : The current Consent Decree contains injunctive relief to resolve the CWA claims that supplements the injunctive relief previously obtained under the Partial Consent Decree for the CAA claims. The major elements of the current injunctive relief are:
Dakota City, Neb. Facility:
- Design, construct, and properly operate a nitrification system at its wastewater treatment facility on or before July 29, 2003.
- Meet pre- and post-construction interim limits and monitoring requirements.
- Staff the wastewater treatment plant 24 hours/day, seven days a week with a certified operator from the time the nitrification system is operational until six months after continuous compliance with the post-construction interim ammonia effluent limits.
- Assemble and maintain an operating and maintenance manual for the wastewater treatment plant.