Enforcement and Inspection

A Look at EPA Violations and Enforcement in First Quarter 2021

In the first quarter (Q1), the EPA finalized 290 settlement agreements with companies small and large across the United States. This represents a significant increase in enforcement actions—up from 150 penalties issued in Q4 for 2020. The actions taken resulted in $6,126,092 in fines. Here are some of the highlights of violations and penalties.

EPA violations and penalties

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FIFRA Violations Yield Biggest Fine From EPA

The largest fine assessed by the EPA in Q1 was to a dental instrument manufacturer in Illinois to resolve violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The company primarily produces and distributes dental hygiene equipment and supplies, but the EPA alleged that the company offered pesticide products for sale as part of a dental waterline cleaner kit, which was not EPA-registered, and as a result, the composition and labeling of the products had not been reviewed for efficacy and safety. In addition, the EPA alleged that the company had made claims for an EPA-registered pesticide product that are not allowed under the product’s EPA registration and could mislead the public regarding the product’s safety and effectiveness. The company was assessed a penalty of $464,737.

There were additional enforcement actions taken against 105 other entities for FIFRA violations, with penalties that ranged from $500 to $110,000. In all, FIFRA violations accounted for $714,451 in Q1.

CAA Violations Bringing Six-Figure Fines

The EPA continues its consistent enforcement for Clean Air Act (CAA) violations:

  • An adhesive and sealant manufacturer was fined $560,000 for violations of the risk management plan (RMP) and general duty clause (GDC) requirements of the CAA’s Chemical Accident Prevention provisions at its Massachusetts facility. The company failed to adequately test and maintain its outdoor chemical storage tanks and piping. In addition to the civil penalty, the company will complete certain repair and maintenance work.
  • An oil refinery in Utah was penalized $344,364 for violations of the CAA’s RMP requirements. The violations were related to the management of flammable mixtures and hydrofluoric acid, including deficiencies associated with process safety information, hazard analysis, mechanical integrity, and operating procedures. As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to improve the maintenance of process equipment to reduce the possibility of an accidental release of hazardous chemicals at its facility.
  • A seafood processing plant was fined $220,000 for violating numerous chemical accident prevention and RMP requirements to safely manage anhydrous ammonia at its Massachusetts facility. The company also failed to meet Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requirements to accurately submit chemical inventory information to the state and local emergency response agencies. Significantly, the company did not file an initial RMP when it was required to do so.

Targeting Chemical Companies

A fertilizer company in Florida was penalized $331,100 for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) when it failed to submit chemical data reports (CDRs) for 16 chemicals in the required time period.

A chemical plant in Georgia was fined $41,388 for violating TSCA when it failed to export notifications for two chemicals within 7 days of forming an intent to export or on the date of exportation.

RCRA Violations

A waste management company in Texas was fined $232,800 for violations of the state’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)-authorized dangerous waste regulations regarding storing hazardous waste for a period of greater than 10 days; obtaining a permit on the occasions when it stored hazardous waste for a period of greater than 10 days; and having interim status or being in the process of applying for a permit on the occasions when it stored hazardous waste for a period of greater than 10 days. Additionally, the company did not meet the requirements for a permit exemption for storing hazardous waste for a period of greater than 10 days.

A medical center in Florida was penalized $105,500 for RCRA violations, including failure to mark or label containers of hazardous waste located within the pharmacy satellite accumulation area (SAA) with an indication of the hazards of the contents; failure to keep multiple containers holding hazardous wastes in the 90-day central accumulation areas closed; failure to perform weekly inspections of the two hazardous waste 90-day central accumulation areas; failure to mark or label numerous containers of hazardous waste located in 90-day central accumulation areas with the words “hazardous waste”; failure to indicate the hazards of the content; and failure to ensure the date upon which each period of accumulation begins was clearly visible for inspection on each container.

Emphasizing Clean Water

The EPA cited 62 different entities for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), including oil and construction companies, for inadequate Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, as well as towns and cities for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit violations. The fines totaled $1,120,350 and ranged from $917 to $150,250.