WEST HAVEN, CONN. (June 22, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently reached a settlement with New England Warehousing Group, LLC, based in West Haven, Conn., for alleged violations of both the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause (GDC) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 2019 and 2020. Under the settlement, the company has agreed to pay a penalty of $109,635 and certify compliance with all its CAA GDC and EPCRA requirements.
“With this settlement, EPA is sending a strong message to companies that deal with dangerous chemicals – they have an obligation to comply with environmental laws in order to protect the communities where they are located,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “EPA was particularly concerned that emergency responders were not provided adequate information about the type and amount of chemicals stored on site, and that the facility is located in an area with environmental justice concerns.”
The New England Warehousing Group, LLC (NEWG) is a privately owned company that provides chemical warehousing and storage services to customers in New England, New York, and New Jersey. NEWG stores between 10 to 12 separate products at their West Haven, Conn. facility that are reportable substances under EPCRA Section 311 and 312’s chemical inventory reporting requirements. Some of these products are considered extremely hazardous substances (“EHSs”) covered by CAA GDC requirements applicable to sources producing, processing, handling, or storing EHSs. NEWG handles and stores significant quantities of reportable substances at the facility and, in 2019, stored more than two million pounds total, including the highly flammable liquids ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and acetone.
The company’s alleged violations were first documented during an EPA inspection at NEWG’s warehousing facility at 82 West Clark Street. The company failed to conduct a process hazard review for the warehouse operation and to design and maintain a safe facility, under CAA GDC requirements, and failed to submit complete, timely EPCRA Section 311 and 312 Chemical Inventory reports (Tier IIs) with state and local emergency planning and response authorities. Before bringing a penalty action, EPA issued a Notice of Violation and Administrative Order to NEWG citing its GDC violations, which were corrected by the company after they conducted a process hazard review and made chemical management program changes at the facility. NEWG cooperated with EPA throughout the enforcement process.
NEWG’s facility is part of an eight-acre parcel located in a densely populated urban neighborhood. It is surrounded by numerous business and residential properties and lies within about 500 feet of a commuter rail station. The company’s past storage of hazardous chemicals at the facility presented substantial risk to human health and the environment, due to the presence of many highly flammable liquids. The facility is also located in an area of potential environmental justice concerns, due to the presence of relatively substantial environmental burdens and/or vulnerable populations.
This case is part of an initiative to improve safety and compliance at chemical warehouses. Through the initiative, EPA Region 1 has brought several civil and criminal cases against chemical warehouses and published information to assist with compliance.
Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act
The goal of the Section 112(r) of the CAA is to prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment. Facilities that fail to comply with Section 112(r) put facility personnel, employees of adjacent businesses, emergency responders, and the local population and environment at risk of harm from such accidental releases.
EPCRA Section 311 and 312 and Safety Data Sheet
Under EPCRA Section 311, EPA requires facilities that have hazardous chemicals to maintain a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and submit copies of SDSs or, alternatively, a list of hazardous chemicals to local and state emergency planning and response authorities. Companies must submit an updated SDS with new information if circumstances change or if new hazardous chemicals become present on site.
In addition, under EPCRA Section 312, companies must also submit to such authorities a chemical inventory form, which includes an inventory of their hazardous chemicals, including chemical name, quantity and location, annually by March 1st for the previous calendar year.