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EPA Levies Fine for PCB Violation by NSTAR Company

Release Date: 02/13/2001
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617-918-1013)

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a $5,500 fine against the NSTAR Company, an electricity provider for 81 communities based in Boston, for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The settlement stems from an EPA inspection in May after a report of illegally stored chemicals at an NSTAR substation at the corner of East and Cecil streets in Dedham. While the chemicals were properly stored, during the inspection EPA officials discovered a leak of polychlorinated biphenyls – or PCBs – from a electrical transformer onto a concrete platform. Although absorbent pads had been placed underneath the leaking equipment, the leak had not been contained and had contaminated the surrounding area.

The Toxic Substances Control requires PCB spills be cleaned up within 48 hours. In this instance, cleanup at the Dedham substation has taken several months.

"PCBs are considered probable carcinogens and laws regulating this toxic material are meant to protect the public's health and the environment," said Ira Leighton , acting regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "This action will serve as a reminder that all PCB spills must be cleaned up right away."

Although the substation is well protected from unauthorized entry, the soil surrounding the area is vulnerable. In addition, the substation is located in a residential area next to a playground.

The production of PCBs has been banned for decades but the substance remains in use as a non-conductive, fire-resistant additive to coolant liquids in heavy electrical equipment. PCBs released into the environment during fire conditions can be volatilized and converted into even more toxic materials such as dioxin. PCBs are probable carcinogens and are known causes of liver ailments and chloracne, a persistent skin rash.