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EPA Waives Penalties Against Three Pennsylvania Companies that Disclosed Reporting Violations

Release Date: 4/18/2000
Contact Information: Ruth Podems, (215) 814-5540

Ruth Podems, 215-814-5540

PHILADELPHIA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to waive penalties against three Pennsylvania companies that voluntarily disclosed their violations of toxic chemical reporting requirements.

Under its policy encouraging self-policing of environmental compliance, EPA has agreed to waive potential penalties of $55,000 against Carbide/Graphite Group Inc., a graphite manufacturer in St. Marys, Pa.; $188,975 against Dietrich’s Milk Products for violations at its facilities in Reading and Middlebury Center, Pa.; and $17,300 against Hickman Williams & Co., owner of plants in Etna and Wampum, Pa..

Note: all of these matters involved alleged reporting violations, not releases of toxic chemicals.

The three companies discovered, voluntarily reported, and promptly corrected violations of reporting regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the federal statute protecting the public health and environment from accidental releases of hazardous and toxic chemicals. EPCRA requires companies to annually report their manufacture, processing or use of regulated toxic chemicals, and to report both routine and accidental releases of regulated chemicals.

Under EPCRA, companies that store over a threshold quantity of hazardous chemicals must also file "material safety data sheets" with the state and local emergency response agency and the local fire department. The sheets describe the health risks associated with the chemical, and safety precautions for handling or accidental exposure. Companies must annually update state and local emergency response agencies, and the local fire department, on the maximum and average amount of hazardous chemicals present at the facility.
Waive Penalties - 4/18
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All of the violations in these penalty waivers were uncovered during the companies’ voluntary audits of their own environmental compliance. Dietrich discovered that it had failed to report the nitrate compounds at both plants from 1996 through 1998, nitric acid at the Reading plant from 1996 through 1998, and phosphoric acid at Reading in 1995 and 1996. (These chemicals do not come in contact with milk products. Phosphoric and nitric acid are used to kill bacteria in process equipment, and nitrate compounds are incidently generated during wastewater treatment.)

Carbide/Graphite failed to list two chemicals, polycyclic aromatic compounds and phenanthrene, in its 1997 toxic release form. From at least 1994 through 1997, Hickman failed to file material safety data sheets or emergency response agency and fire department notifications for two hazardous chemicals, ferrochrome and ferromanganese, stored at its Etna and Wampum plants.

EPA determined that the companies qualified for penalty waivers under the agency’s “audit policy,” which encourages self-audits of compliance with environmental regulations. The policy substantially reduces, and in some cases eliminates, penalties for violations discovered and corrected by a company. The policy does not cover criminal violations, or violations that resulted in significant harm to public health or the environment. Because the companies gained no economic benefit from the violations, EPA agreed to complete penalty waivers.

For more information on the policy, call the EPA Business Assistance Center at 800-228-8711 or check out EPA’s web site at