Enforcement News: Wal-Mart Settles Clean Air Violations; Companies To Pay Combined $14.9 Million For Cleanup At California Superfund Site

Wal-Mart Settles Clean Air Violations

As part of a settlement for clean air violations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will undertake a national effort to reduce diesel truck idling at its 4,000 facilities across the United States. The anti-idling project results from a clean air enforcement action in Massachusetts and Connecticut brought by EPA's Region 1 office.

The EPA settlement, announced on Nov. 1, will result in Wal-Mart taking action across the country to address truck idling, by training Wal-Mart drivers, posting signs at all Wal-Mart facilities and notifying other delivery companies of Wal-Mart's policy to prohibit idling. Under the consent agreement, Wal-Mart also will pay a $50,000 penalty.

EPA's complaint that trucks were illegally idling at Wal-Mart stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut is the country's first multi-state case that addresses idling violations.

"Diesel pollution is a serious problem across the country, especially for those suffering from asthma or other health problems" said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "We are pleased that Wal-Mart is implementing these aggressive measures to limit idling and help make Wal-Mart stores across the nation healthier places for employees, customers and the surrounding communities."

Running a vehicle's engine while it is stopped (known as idling) wastes fuel and creates air pollution. Exhaust from diesel engines includes small particles, known as fine particulate matter, and smog-forming pollutants. Fine particles pose a serious health risk because they can easily pass through the nose and throat and lodge themselves deep in the lungs. When inhaled repeatedly, the pollutants in diesel exhaust may aggravate asthma and allergies or cause other serious health problems including lung cancer.

A typical idling truck burns nearly a gallon of fuel per hour. A fleet of 7,000 trucks, about the size of Wal-Mart's fleet, idling for one hour a day would burn 2.1 million gallons of diesel fuel each year, and create 415 tons of smog-forming pollutants, 10 tons of harmful particulate matter and 23,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change.

In fall 2004, EPA inspectors observed trucks owned by Wal-Mart and by other trucking companies idling for long periods of time at six different Wal-Mart properties in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Inspectors observed delivery vehicles idling during the day as well as sleeper cabs idling at night.

Both Connecticut and Massachusetts have anti-idling rules that are included in the "state implementation plans" that states submit to EPA outlining how they will meet national air quality standards. Regulations in the state implementation plan are enforceable by the state and by EPA. The Massachusetts rule prohibits vehicle idling over five minutes (with exceptions for periods of traffic, repairs, or operation of loading or refrigeration equipment). The Connecticut rule prohibits vehicle idling for over three minutes when temperatures are above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with exceptions for traffic conditions, repairs, etc.

Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart will comply with all federally-enforceable idling rules. In addition, through a supplemental environmental project, Wal-Mart has agreed to include all facilities in all states in its idle reduction program regardless of whether the state has an anti-idling regulation. Specifically, Wal-Mart will post "no idling" signs at all Wal-Mart facilities in all states, and notify other delivery companies that idling is not permitted on Wal-Mart property and may violate state or local idling restrictions. Finally, Wal-Mart will pay a $50,000 penalty.

Several idle control technologies can aid fleets in limiting idling time and complying with state regulations. Automatic shut-down devices can switch off parked trucks after predetermined time intervals. Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) -- which typically only consume between 0.05 and 0.2 gallons of fuel per hour -- can provide heat, air conditioning, and power without running the main engine. Trucks can be fitted with devices that allow them to plug into electrical outlets to provide power and climate control for the cab when parked. These idle control devices typically have a pay-back time of one to two years in fuel costs alone and can significantly reduce wear and tear on engines.

For more information about the health effects associated with exposure to diesel exhaust and strategies to reduce diesel pollution, visit http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/diesel.

Companies To Pay Combined $14.9 Million For Cleanup At California Superfund Site

Sixteen firms will pay $14.9 million for cleanup costs at the San Gabriel Valley Area 2 Superfund site, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and EPA announced on Oct. 16. The agency's cleanup calls for removing contaminants from approximately 30 million gallons per day of contaminated groundwater in and near Baldwin Park, Calif., benefiting some 85,000 households.

The 16 companies involved in the settlements will pay $14.5 million to the federal government and $346,000 to California. The settlements follow an earlier agreement between nine of the 16 companies and seven local water agencies that is helping to guide the cleanup. More than $100 million has been spent in the last three years alone on the construction and operation of four large water treatment systems to clean the groundwater and provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water to area residents and businesses. The groundwater cleanup, one of the largest in the country, has been a cooperative effort involving the EPA, the State of California, and seven local water agencies.

"The settlement is proof that the cooperative actions of federal and state government and the private industry can have a positive impact on our citizens and the environment," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "As a result of the cleanup efforts, hundreds of thousands of residents will be able to take comfort in the knowledge that their drinking water is safe and clean."

The 16 companies are: Aerojet-General Corp.; Allegiance Healthcare Corp.; Azusa Land Reclamation Co. Inc.; Fairchild Holding Corp.; Hartwell Corp.; Huffy Corp.; Leach International Corp.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Mobil Oil Corp.; Oil & Solvent Process Co.; Phaostron Instrument and Electronic Co.; Philip Morris USA Inc.; Reichhold Inc.; the Valspar Corp.; White & White Properties; and Winco Enterprises Inc. The settlements also cover several related entities.

The San Gabriel Valley Superfund site settlements are described in seven consent decrees lodged on Oct. 26 with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and one bankruptcy settlement lodged with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Ohio on Sept. 20. The settlements accomplish three goals: to reimburse state and federal government for their initial efforts to investigate and clean up the contamination; to obtain cash payments from seven of the companies that had not participated in the earlier agreement with the water agencies; and to provide commitments to pay future EPA costs of overseeing the cleanup.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Mobil Oil Corp., the Valspar Corp. and Phaostron Instrument and Electronic Co. will pay additional amounts for their failure to perform work required by a June 2000 EPA order. The additional amounts make up $1.5 million of the $14.5 million to be paid to the federal government.

The Baldwin Park area and three adjoining areas of groundwater contamination were declared Superfund sites in 1984. The Baldwin Park area cleanup addresses an area of groundwater contamination more than eight miles long and 1,000 feet deep.

Beginning in the 1940s, companies started using various chemicals at the site, substances that have now contaminated the area's groundwater. Contaminants include trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), volatile organic compounds that can affect breathing and nervous systems, and perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that may affect the thyroid.

The consent decrees and bankruptcy settlement are available at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html. For more information on the EPA's Superfund program, visit http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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