EPA Reaches Settlement with Oil Recycling Company for Improper Handling of PCBs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced two separate settlements with one of the nation's largest oil recycling companies. The action will resolve violations of federal toxic substance regulations at the company's facilities in New York and several New England states. Under the settlements, Safety-Kleen Systems Inc. agreed to pay a total of $210,000 in penalties and improve its procedures for sampling and handling polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are potentially cancer-causing chemicals and can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.

Federal regulations prohibit the shipping of materials that contain PCBs above 50 parts per million (ppm) without proper documentation and require waste oil containing PCBs to be handled as hazardous waste. Inspections conducted by EPA at seven Safety-Kleen facilities in New York, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut revealed that the company had received used oil containing PCBs above 50 ppm. The company then shipped the oil without preparing the documents required for the transport of hazardous substances.

"PCBs can cause very serious health problems, and Safety-Kleen did not fulfill its obligation to handle this dangerous chemical properly," said Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator. "The changes that the company has agreed to make will improve its own practices, and has the potential to be a model for the oil recycling industry."

One of the two settlements covers violations at facilities in New York (Buffalo, Lackawanna, Syracuse, and West Nyack). It includes a penalty of $130,000 and operational improvements at Safety-Kleen facilities in New York and New Jersey. The company will pay an additional $80,000 to settle toxic substance violations at facilities in several New England states.

The company will either test the used oil before it is transferred from trucks into the company's holding tanks for storage or processing, or test the oil it collects prior to shipping it. These operational improvements and testing at its facilities will exceed the requirements of federal regulations.

PCBs were domestically manufactured and widely used from 1929 until their manufacture was banned in 1979, when Congress strictly limited the manufacture and use of this toxic substance. Despite this ban, PCBs remain legally in use under certain conditions, and are a common contaminant in used oil.