Culpepper, Va. Settles Alleged Environmental Violations at Water Treatment Facility

The town of Culpeper, Va. will pay a $27,420 penalty and make more than $100,000 in upgrades at its water treatment facility to settle alleged environmental violations at the town’s water treatment facilities.

According to a consent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the town did not immediately notify the EPA’s National Response Center as required following an incident in May 2008 when about 106 pounds of chlorine were released into the atmosphere from Culpeper’s Water Pollution Control Facility. In addition, the town did not notify the state and did not provide the state or local emergency planning committee with written follow-up reports about the incident.

 This case involved two federal laws designed to ensure prompt notification and emergency response to hazardous chemical releases. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as the Superfund law), facilities must immediately report significant releases of hazardous substances to the National Response Center, the national point of contact for reporting oil and hazardous chemical spills.   The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) mandates that facilities notify state and local emergency officials of hazardous releases, and provide follow-up reports explaining the responses to the releases and any public health effects resulting from the release.

 EPA also identified other environmental violations during a risk management program inspection at the town’s water treatment facility including failure to develop a management system to oversee a risk management program, failure to implement safe work practices to maintain equipment, and failure to conduct compliance audits.

In addition to a $27, 420 penalty, the town has committed to complete a “supplemental environmental project” at an estimated cost of $100,000. This project will eliminate the risk of future chlorine releases by upgrading the town’s water treatment plant to use sodium hypochlorite instead of chlorine. Chlorine released is a respiratory irritant and can lead to temporary skin irritations and breathing problems to people exposed to the release. In larger concentrations, chlorine can be toxic.

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