October 9, 2008
Coast Guard Punished for Lax Handling of Environmental Waste
By SCOTT HARPER
By Scott HarperThe Virginian-Pilot
The Coast Guard must pay a $9,280 fine and spend another $89,000 on new equipment to settle long-standing environmental violations, most involving lax handling of hazardous wastes, at a Portsmouth command center.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement Wednesday. T he case dates to 2005, when inspectors first found problems at the Coast Guard's Integrated Support Command in Portsmouth.
The Coast Guard was temporarily storing hazardous wastes on the grounds without a government permit to do so, according to case documents.
Inspectors also could not tell what was left inside several 55- gallon drums because they were not labeled, and other drums were not marked correctly or with proper dates, records show.
The EPA also cited the Coast Guard for violating the Clean Air Act because a gauge at a sand-blasting area had been painted over and could not be read. The command center also could not document that staff members had been trained under new environmental rules, according to the records.
"We're taking this seriously and have worked for several years with the EPA to correct some deficiencies," Lt. Rob Wyman, a Coast Guard spokesman, said Wednesday. "But we're in full compliance now."
The Coast Guard could have paid a higher fine but cho se to perform a "supplemental environmental project" to accompany the $9,280 penalty.
The project involves replacing X-ray machines at the center's medical and dental clinics with digital equipment that does not use chemicals.
Old X-ray machines required that film be processed with chemicals, which then became hazardous waste that had to be stored and handled in accordance with environmental regulations.
The digital machines, which make X-rays without film, should reduce chemical wastes by about 906 pounds a year, according to EPA estimates.
"No film, no wastes - and no compliance issues," Wyman said. "It's better all around."
Wyman said the center also has hired a new environmental specialist to help with regulatory matters and has created a "one- stop shop" for staffers to refer to when handling wastes so they can more easily follow environmentally safe procedures.
Scott Harper, (757) 446-2340, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Coast Guard could have paid a higher fine but chose to perform a "supplemental environmental project" along with its $9,280 penalty.
The project involves replacing X-ray machines at the center's clinics with digital equipment that does not use chemicals.
Originally published by BY SCOTT HARPER.
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