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March 2007
Recent EPA enforcement underscores need for careful waste handling 

Several recent EPA enforcement actions against New England companies illustrate the importance of understanding and following federal regulations regarding handling and disposal of toxic substances.

Each case involves the mishandling of waste containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a highly toxic compound. Because these companies did not test the waste sent for disposal or recycling, the waste materials were later found to be contaminated with PCBs. Federal law requires special disposal methods for PCBs.

The following enforcement actions involved mishandling wastes that contained PCBs:

  • A Connecticut property owner and one of their tenants, Allied Elevator Service Company Inc. are being held responsible for PCB contamination at a leased property in Bridgeport, Connecticut. EPA issued an administrative complaint seeking $32,500 in penalties after discarded oil in a catch basin at the property was found to be contaminated with PCBs.
  • Two Massachusetts companies, Clean Harbors of Braintree Inc., of Braintree, and Massachusetts Electric Company dba National Grid USA, were held responsible for failing to adequately test and characterize PCB waste after an October 2005 oil spill in Malden, Massachusetts.
  • StoneHill Environmental Inc., of Portsmouth, New Hampshire will pay a $2,000 penalty under a settlement with EPA for having shipped 6.37 tons of PCB-contaminated "sandblast grit" to a Maine recycling facility. StoneHill failed to wait for test results which revealed that the sandblast grit contained PCBs. The sandblast grit in turn was used in paving materials at the Maine recycling facility's parking lot, where they are believed to pose minimal risk to human health.

Although federal regulations have prohibited the manufacture of PCBs and controlled the phase-out of their existing uses since 1977, the highly toxic substance can still be found in older paints, caulking, oil and electrical equipment. Facilities disposing of waste materials that are in question should arrange for PCB analysis before shipping wastes for disposal or recycling.

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