EHS Administration, Enforcement and Inspection

Improper Stormwater Management Can Lead to Big Problems

On November 9, 2023, the EPA announced SA Recycling LLC of St. Louis, Missouri, will pay $68,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). According to the Agency, the company failed to adequately control stormwater runoff from its scrap metal recycling and processing facility. The EPA says these failures could result in illegal discharges of pollution into the Mississippi River.

“Uncontrolled runoff from industrial facilities not only harms streams and rivers, but it also limits the public’s use and enjoyment of those waters,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, in an Agency news release. “This settlement demonstrates EPA’s commitment to protecting vital watersheds, especially in areas overburdened by pollution, and creating a level playing field with businesses who are complying with the law.”

SA Recycling is a scrap metal recycling operation with two permitted points of discharge (outfalls) located immediately adjacent to and west of the Mississippi River, according to the proposed consent decree. Scrap metal is stockpiled, processed, shredded, and sorted at the facility, and waste products are collected and shipped off-site. Both outfalls discharge to the Mississippi River.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) is the state agency with the authority to administer the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program in Missouri pursuant to Section 402 of the CWA. The EPA maintains concurrent enforcement authority with authorized states for violations of the CWA.

Effective January 1, 2019, the MoDNR issued a General State Operating NPDES Permit to PSC Metals, LLC, for industrial stormwater discharges from the site. SA Recycling acquired the facility in December 2021, and the MoDNR subsequently transferred the NPDES permit to SA Recycling.

On June 7 and 9, 2022, the EPA conducted a compliance evaluation inspection of the facility to evaluate compliance with the NPDES permit and the CWA. During the inspection, the EPA inspector reviewed records and obtained copies of documents related to the NPDES permit, including the facility’s stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) and inspection records. The EPA inspector also toured the facility, observed discharge locations, and photographed various stormwater-related areas.

Findings from the inspection found seven counts of alleged violations of the terms of the NPDES permit:

  1. Failure to mark outfalls. Outfalls are pipelines or tunnels that discharge municipal or industrial wastewater, stormwater, combined sewer overflows, cooling water, or brine effluents to a receiving water body. The NPDES permit requires outfalls to be clearly marked. During the inspection, two outfalls were found that weren’t marked.
  2. Failure to identify outfalls and update the SWPPP. The SWPPP must include a legible site map showing the site boundaries and outfalls and an assessment of all stormwater discharges associated with the facility, facility activities, and facility materials. This assessment must include a list of potential contaminants and an annual estimate of amounts that will be used or stored in the described activities. The inspection found two discharge points from the facility that weren’t marked and included in the facility’s SWPPP.
  3. Failure to properly manage materials. The NPDES permit requires the facility to manage materials (products, stockpiles, waste piles, etc.) to ensure they aren’t transported off-site or into a water of the state during a high-water event. And the facility is required to provide good housekeeping practices on-site to keep solid waste from entering waters of the state. During the inspection, the EPA observed and documented several areas where materials were stored in a manner that would allow transport to the Mississippi River during a rain event.
  4. Failure to update the SWPPP. Per the NPDES permit, facilities must perform ongoing SWPPP review and revision to incorporate any site condition changes. SA Recycling’s SWPPP was developed by the previous owner, and the inspection found that the SWPPP wasn’t updated to include SA Recycling’s representatives and any changes in stormwater management practices, training, and inspection procedures.
  5. Failure to implement best management practices (BMPs) and/or inadequate BMPs. BMPs include sediment and erosion control sufficient to prevent sediment loss off of the property and pollution into waters of the state. The inspection found inadequate and missing controls at three different locations on the property.
  6. Failure to conduct inspections and failure to maintain records. NPDES permit requirements include a schedule for monthly site inspections and a brief written report that includes the name of the inspector, the inspector’s signature, and the date. The inspections must include observation and analysis of BMP effectiveness, deficiencies, and corrective action that will be taken, as well as the integrity of the containment structure(s), including aboveground tanks, secondary containment, external piping, etc. The EPA inspection found that monthly inspections weren’t being conducted or documented.
  7. Failure to conduct training. The EPA inspection revealed that employee training hadn’t been conducted and training records didn’t exist. The terms of SA Recycling’s permit requires that its SWPPP include:
    1. A provision for providing training to all personnel involved in material handling, material storage, and housekeeping of areas that have materials exposed to stormwater. It also calls for employees to be trained on the proper handling of oil, petroleum products, used mineral spirits, antifreeze, mercury switches, lead acid batteries, and solvents.
    1. New employees are required to undergo training concerning proper operating practices to avoid conditions that cause pollution; the effective use of BMPs; and proper scrap handling, inspection, and storage procedures. Additionally, these items, along with housekeeping, cleanup, etc., are to be discussed in the routine safety meetings held at the plant.

In addition to the payment penalty, SA Recycling agreed to correct the alleged violations at an estimated cost of $44,000 through implementation of an EPA compliance order.

“EPA identified that the community surrounding SA Recycling’s facility was a potentially sensitive location for air pollution, lead-based paint, hazardous waste, and wastewater discharges,” states the Agency news release. “EPA is strengthening enforcement in such communities to address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of industrial operations on vulnerable populations.”

Under the CWA, industrial facilities that propose to discharge into protected water bodies are required to obtain permits and to follow the requirements outlined in those permits to reduce pollution runoff. Failure to obtain a permit or follow the requirements of a permit may violate federal law.

See the EPA NPDES website for more information about permit requirements, program management, and technical resources.

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