Alleged Superfund consent decree violation nets largest Superfund stipulated penalty in EPA history
The U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP) announced Schneider Electric USA will pay a $6,868,975 penalty for allegedly violating the terms of a 2002 court-approved Superfund consent decree during its cleanup at the Rodale Manufacturing Superfund Site located in Emmaus, Pa. The violations resulted in uncontrolled emissions of air pollutants that can cause threats to public health and the environment.
“We will not tolerate violation of our consent decrees, especially where those violations can result in risks to public health, welfare and the environment” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “The significant penalty in this case shows that non-compliance with settlement requirements have serious consequences.”
The company will pay the largest Superfund stipulated penalty in EPA history, and the third largest stipulated penalty overall in EPA history. The PaDEP will receive 10% of the penalty.
The Superfund consent decree to remove groundwater contamination at the Lehigh County site includes a groundwater “pump and treat” system; groundwater monitoring; and air pollution controls to prevent harmful air emissions during the cleanup operations. According to EPA and DEP, Schneider Electric USA was not operating the air pollution control portion as designed dating back to at least 2008. Schneider Electric addressed the problem in 2013 by replacing the groundwater treatment system. The alleged violations involve the following:
- Failure to maintain air pollution control equipment to collect and treat hazardous air pollutants, including trichloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds;
- Failure to alert EPA and PaDEP of the malfunctioning air pollution control equipment;
- Failure to comply with Pennsylvania air pollution permitting regulations; and
- Failure to provide records to agency officials
The site is subject to the federal Superfund law, formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation, and Liability Act. It requires landowners, waste generators and waste transporters responsible for contaminating a Superfund site to clean up the site, or reimburse the government, or other parties for cleanup activities.
The Rodale Manufacturing site was added to the Superfund list of the most contaminated sites in the nation and began cleanup activities in 1991.
This site has a long history of electrical component manufacturing—including electroplating, vapor degreasing and metal shaping activities—starting in the 1930s by Rodale Manufacturing Company and continuing when a subsidiary of Square D Company purchased the facility in 1975. Schneider purchased the Square D Company and currently produces electrical distribution equipment including circuit breakers, switches and infrared measurement devices.
As part of the settlement, Schneider Electric has neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.