Nation's Largest Hazardous Waste Treatment, Disposal Operator Reaches CAA Agreement

Federal officials reached a settlement with Clean Harbors Environmental Services that is expected to enhance calculating and reporting on benzene emissions from North America's largest operator of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. This settlement involves 10 facilities in eight states.

The affected facilities are located in Chicago, Ill.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Braintree, Mass.; Bristol, Conn.; Baton Rouge, La.; Plaquemine, La.; La Porte, Texas; Deer Park, Texas; Kimball, Neb.; and Aragonite, Utah. The agreement confirms the proper industry standard for compliance with the Clean Air Act regulation that limits emissions of benzene (a hazardous air pollutant and a known carcinogen) from facilities that treat, store and dispose of hazardous waste, officials said.

"By enforcing proper methods to calculate benzene emissions, we move closer to ensuring that this hazardous air pollutant is not unlawfully emitted into our environment," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson. "This settlement with the country's largest operator of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities should set the standard for the rest of this industry."

A consent decree, filed Sept. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, will require Clean Harbors to properly determine the benzene quantities in waste shipments received from its customers. Clean Harbors will not be allowed to estimate the benzene received by using the middle number in a range of possible benzene concentrations that a customer supplies. Instead, Clean Harbors will have to measure the actual benzene concentration or use the high end of the range in order to ensure that benzene is not underreported. Underreporting benzene can result in failing to install pollution controls on tanks and other equipment that handle benzene.

The states of Illinois and Louisiana are joining the settlement.

"This settlement underscores EPA's commitment to enforcing the Clean Air Act. Companies that treat, store, or dispose hazardous waste are required to properly quantify the amount of benzene received at their sites," said Granta Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "It is particularly important for facilities that have the potential to release benzene, a known carcinogen, into the air."

To meet its obligations under the consent decree, Clean Harbors will revise its nationwide "Waste Material Profile Sheet" to ensure that all customers that are covered by the benzene waste regulation properly evaluate and certify the amount of benzene in their waste shipments. Clean Harbors will institute a program to sample these wastes to ensure proper reporting and will train its employees on compliance with the benzene regulations. Clean Harbors will also pay a $300,000 penalty.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree lodged is available (PDF format) at

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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