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New Hampshire Metal-Finishing Company Fined for Clean Air Act Violations; Settlement is Part of EPA Initiative Focused on Metal Finishing Industry

Release Date: 04/26/2001
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617-918-1013)

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has settled an administrative penalty against a Walpole, N.H. firm for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The settlement calls for Central Plating of New Hampshire, Inc. to pay a $13,750 fine over 18 months and to spend $94,080 over five years on environmental improvements at its facility.

Central Plating's Walpole shop specializes in chrome and nickel plating. EPA's penalty stems from a May 1997 inspection of the plant.

What EPA found at Central Plating's Walpole shop were violations of the testing, monitoring, work practice and record keeping requirements of the Clean Air Act's standards for chromium emissions. At the time of the inspection, the company was operating its chromium electroplating tank without any emissions controls, which likely led to chromium emissions into the air around the plant. Evidence shows that certain types of chromium emissions cause lung cancer, while other types can accumulate in the lungs and cause breathing problems.

In addition, the investigation also showed the company was violating the reporting requirements of the Clean Air Act's emissions standards for cleaning parts with a halogenated solvent. Halogenated solvents used at Central Plating contain trichloroethylene, or TCE, a hazardous air pollutant that is carcinogenic and can cause a variety of adverse health effects.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets limits on how much of a pollutant can be in the air anywhere in the United States to ensure all Americans have the same basic health and environmental protections. One of the tools EPA employs to determine those limits are requirements for companies to monitor how much pollution they release from their facilities and report those findings. The Clean Air Act also established work practice requirements to ensure workers are not subjected to dangerous levels of air pollutants.

"Given the toxicity of the chemicals that metal finishers work with, it is especially important for companies such as Central Plating to comply with environmental laws," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA New England. "When companies fail to monitor and report emissions from their plant, they are potentially putting people – their employees and neighbors – at risk."

Central Plating has started using a fume suppressant to control chromium emissions from its chromium electroplating tank and replaced its TCE solvent cleaning machine with a water-based process.

As part of the settlement, Central Plating will spend $94,080 on four pollution prevention projects at its Walpole shop:

    • Replace an oil-fired boiler with one fired by cleaner-burning propane, which will reduce the amount of particulate and sulfur oxides released into the air.
    • Install a water softener to remove minerals from the water the plant uses and thereby cut down on the volume of hazardous waste produced at the plant.
    • Replace a filter press with a more up to date model to cut down on the amount of hazardous waste at the plant.
    • Rebuild an effluent system to cut down on the amount of wastewater discharged from the plant.
"The measure of success at EPA does not rest in how much we levy in fines, but in how much pollution we can prevent. Central Plating should be commended for doing what it can to help reduce pollution in this case," Leighton said.

The EPA today also settled a similar Clean Air Act case with Springfield Electroplating of Springfield, Vt. also involving chromium emissions containment and monitoring. Springfield Electroplating and Central Plating are related corporate entities under the same ownership.

The complaint against Central Plating and Springfield Electroplating is part of a larger effort by EPA that includes assisting companies that clean or finish metal and educating them on relevant environmental regulations. EPA efforts to control pollution by the metal industry stems in part from regulations enacted in 1995 to regulate emissions of chromium, trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals.

Much of the work with the metal industry is being done through EPA's Metal Finishing Strategic Goals Program, a 3-year-old program that is encouraging metal finishers to meet aggressive pollution reduction goals by the year 2002. The national program was launched in partnership with industry groups, environmental groups and state and local regulators.

Companies that sign up for the program – so far 50 New England metal finishers have done so – receive compliance and pollution prevention assistance. And, as companies work toward meeting the goals, they'll be rewarded with more flexible regulatory oversight from EPA and state environmental regulators.

More information on federal regulations and how to prevent pollution is available by calling EPA's Office of Assistance and Pollution Prevention, or visit the Web site: