EPA Fines California Hazardous Landfill $1 Million

Date: August 24, 2011

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The US EPA has levied $1 million in penalties against Chemical Waste Management (CWM), a division of Waste Management (Houston, TX) for mismanagement of its hazardous waste landfill near Kettleman City, CA. For the last few years, local activists have blamed the landfill for a relatively high number of birth defects in the area. However, studies conducted by the company and supervised by EPA showed the levels of cancer-causing chemicals to be too low to pose any danger to workers or nearby communities. Federal regulators did however find fault with the laboratory equipment and procedures used by the company to test incoming waste samples. Consequently, the agency will require CWM to pay a $400,000 fine and spend an estimated $600,000 to replace its laboratory equipment, software and procedures. The company will also be required to use an outside lab for at least two years to verify that its hazardous wastes meet treatment standards prior to disposal.

"Significant shortcomings" at the company's lab hurt its ability to accurately analyze toxic waste that was being dumped in the landfill, said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Pacific Southwest regional administrator. But there is no evidence that the landfill poses a danger to workers or nearby communities, Blumenfeld said. "Nobody has been able to answer what has been causing the birth defects," Blumenfeld said.

See also "Hazardous Landfill Study Says Levels of PCBs Too Low to Harm Residents," (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20110118E.htm).

See also: "EPA Gives California Hazardous Waste Landfill Green Light," (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20100720D.htm).

See also: "Cleanup Complete at Largest Hazardous Landfill in the West," (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20100518I.htm).

See also: "CalEPA to Investigate CWM's Kettleman City Landfill," (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20100330B.htm).

See also: "CA Governor Urges Immediate Investigation of Birth Defects near Toxic Landfill," (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20100202C.htm).

August 24, 2011

$1 Million EPA Enforcement Action Against Kettleman City Hazardous Waste Landfill

  • Chemical Waste Management required to make significant improvements to its facility and laboratory

SAN FRANCISCO Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Chemical Waste Management requiring the company to pay a $400,000 fine and spend an estimated $600,000 to comply with environmental laws after the facility failed to properly manage waste at its landfill near Kettleman City, Calif.

"Significant shortcomings at Chemical Waste Management's lab compromised the company's ability to accurately analyze the toxic waste to be disposed of in their landfill. As a result, EPA has assessed a significant penalty and required an outside lab be used for at least two years," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

Today's settlement is a result of a joint U.S. EPA and California Department of Toxic Substances Control investigation in February 2010. An analysis of the landfill's records showed that the facility's laboratory had not been following proper quality control procedures since 2005. EPA made a preliminary recommendation that the company switch to using an outside laboratory, which it has done since May 2010. The investigation found records indicating the facility disposed of waste that did not fully meet standards for treatment prior to disposal. In addition, the facility disposed of hazardous waste leachate from the landfill without assuring the leachate met treatment standards.

There is no evidence to suggest that the landfill's violations posed any danger to nearby communities or workers at the facility.

Under the terms of the settlement, the facility must use an outside laboratory for a minimum of two years to verify that its hazardous wastes meet treatment standards prior to disposal. The facility is required to install an advanced record management system, and purchase new equipment before it is allowed to perform all analyses in its own laboratory. It must also make physical and operational changes in its leachate management system. EPA will continue to vigorously monitor each of the improvements outlined in the settlement.

Earlier this year, EPA concluded in an air sampling study, that Kettleman's waste ponds were not significant sources of harmful emissions (see report). A January 2011 EPA mandated study showed that polychlorinated biphenyls - PCB's were not migrating offsite at concentrations that adversely affect the health of local residents or the environment (see results). In a separate action in November 2010, EPA levied a $300,000 fine against the company for failing to properly manage PCBs within the facility.

The Chemical Waste Management Kettleman Hills facility is a commercial hazardous waste facility located in Kings County, Calif. The facility handles the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste, PCBs, and non-hazardous waste.

The EPA regulates hazardous waste under authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and PCBs under authority of the Toxic Substance Control Act.

For more information, please visit: www.epa.gov/region9/kettleman/.

Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, chavez.wendy@epa.gov, 415.947.4248

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