Pennsylvania Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

EPA fines manufacturer $7,090 for alleged violations connected to PCBs

By Dawn Geske | Aug 26, 2016

Law money 07

PHILADELPHIA – A specialty chemical and emulsion polymer manufacturer received a $7,090 fine for alleged violations of transporting oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed down the penalty to OMNOVA Solutions Inc. as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The violations stemmed from the alleged transportation of oil that contained PCBs from OMNOVA’s chemical manufacturing plant in Jeanette.

The company is headquartered in Beachwood, Ohio, and produces a range of chemical products such as elastomers, binders, lubricants, emulsions and resins.

According to the EPA, OMNOVA violated the Toxic Substances Control Act in a move of waste oil containing PCBs to a disposal facility. The company failed to follow proper procedures to handle the PCB waste and didn’t complete the required documentation for removal of this type of substance, the EPA alleged.

PCBs are considered a probable carcinogen to humans and are thought to have effect on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system. PCBs were commonly used prior to the 1970s as a nonflammable coolant for electrical equipment and transformers.

In the 1970s, Congress strictly limited the use of this substance by enacting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. This gave the EPA the authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions for PCBs.

For OMNOVA, the agency alleges PCBs got into some oil during the manufacturing process, resulting in the $7,090 penalty from the EPA for its presence. Regarding whether the penalty was in line with other settlements of the same nature, Roy Seneca, spokesperson for the EPA, told the Pennsylvania Record, “There have been several modifications to the penalty amounts over the years based upon inflation adjustments.”

For OMNOVA’s penalty, the EPA relied on its Enforcement Response Policy that outlines its guidelines for PCB penalty violations, enacted in 1980.

“EPA has an Enforcement Response Policy for violations that involve PCBs,” Seneca said.

“The Enforcement Response Policy contains a Gravity Based Penalty Matrix that identifies penalty amounts based upon circumstances and extent of the violations."

Circumstance and extent are determined by such factors as the amount of waste involved in the violation, whether material was illegally disposed of, documentation errors, etc.

Since the alleged violation, OMNOVA has begun an investigation into finding the source of any PCB contamination so it can develop a permanent procedure to handle the removal of this substance during its manufacturing process.

It has already upgraded its oil disposal process to check for PCBs before disposing of oil. During this process, if it finds PCBs present in the oil, it disposes of the material at a facility authorized to handle contaminated waste.

As part of the settlement with the EPA, OMNOVA did not admit liability for the violation, which Seneca explained:

“The procedural rules governing administrative cases state that, in a consent agreement, the respondent can state that it admits the jurisdictional allegations, but neither admits nor denies the specific factual allegations.”

OMNOVA has said it is now in compliance with all related PCB regulations.

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Environmental Protection Agency Region 3