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Release Date: 10/22/1997
Contact Information: Leo Kay, Press Office, (617)918-4154

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to fine Handy and Harman Electronic Materials Corporation $233,900 for hazardous waste and community reporting violations at the company's facilities in North Attleboro, Mass. and East Providence, R.I.

The EPA is proposing to fine the company $81,000 for violating the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and $152,900 for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, which applies to hazardous waste handling. The two facilities manufacture specialty electronic components by electroplating metal with precious metal and non-precious metal solutions.

"The handling and reporting of hazardous materials requires the utmost attention to detail to protect workers, local residents and others who not only could be put in harm's way as a result of inadequate waste handling practices, but also have a right to know what chemicals are being used in their neighborhood," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England office. "This action should encourage others in the area who may not be keeping a clean house to do so in the future."

The RCRA action is based upon violations the EPA identified during inspections of the North Attleboro and East Providence facilities in November and February, respectively. The EPA is citing the company for the following RCRA violations: improper hazardous waste container management practices; failure to segregate incompatible hazardous waste; failure to properly classify wastes as hazardous; failure to conduct inspections where hazardous waste is stored; failure to provide training to employees who handle hazardous waste; and failure to maintain a current contingency plan to respond to hazardous waste spills.

Under the federal community right-to-know regulations, certain facilities are required to annually report each toxic chemical that was manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in certain quantities during the preceding year. Failure to report such information accurately and in a timely manner prevents comprehensive risk-based planning by federal, state and local authorities to clean up industrial pollution, target facilities for inspections or compliance assistance, and conduct comprehensive pollution prevention assessments. In addition, such failure also deprives the community of its right to know about chemical releases in the neighborhood that may affect public health and the environment.

In 1993 and 1994, Handy & Harman failed to maintain complete records for copper, nickel, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. Additionally, the company failed to accurately report the amount of copper and nickel transferred off-site.

Compliance with the RCRA regulations will minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous waste into the environment through mishandling or improper designations. Compliance with the reporting requirements will result in corrections to the EPA's 1995 toxics release inventory database, more comprehensive use of available data when calculating release estimates, and increased awareness of the importance of maintaining substantiating records.

The EPA and representatives from Handy and Harman will now begin negotiations to reach a settlement on the case.