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Environmental Justice Enforcement Highlights

One of the goals for EPA’s enforcement program is to aggressively go after pollution problems that make a difference in communities, through vigorous civil and criminal enforcement that targets the most serious water, air and chemical hazards, and advancing environmental justice by protecting overburdened communities.

FY 2010 Enforcement Activities - Environmental Justice Highlights

From concluding enforcement actions in overburdened communities to negotiating settlements that go “beyond compliance,” to working with communities to develop targeted compliance assistance and environmental education materials, EPA has been actively working to make communities across the nation clean and healthy places to live.

  • AVX Corporation, New Bedford, Massachusetts:  EPA’s Region 1 office worked with state and local government to negotiate a settlement with AVX Corporation in New Bedford, Massachusetts that will ensure that a vacant PCB-contaminated mill building in an overburdened community is demolished and turned over to the City for redevelopment.  In addition to the settlement with EPA, AVX also reached separate agreements with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of New Bedford to ensure that the site is further evaluated and remediated under the state cleanup program before being turned over to the City for redevelopment.  At the Parker Street waste site in New Bedford, EPA responded to concerns raised by community members about the possibility of contamination on residential properties as a result of a historic “burn dump” in the area.  EPA obtained access to about 60 separate residential parcels, including a low-income housing development, in order to conduct soil sampling.  Following analysis of the soil sampling results, EPA initiated a Superfund removal action to address contaminated soils at residential parcels.

  • Tonawanda Coke, Tonawanda, New York:  EPA’s Region 2 office is advancing environmental justice in the community in Tonawanda, New York by taking numerous enforcement actions, informing and notifying the community of Tonawanda Coke facility’s non-compliance with multiple environmental laws, and updating the community on EPA’s and the state’s continued oversight of the facility’s activities.   The enforcement actions alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and chemical hazard laws.  In addition, EPA continues to monitor the Tonawanda Coke facility’s activities, testing for benzene leaks into the air.   EPA also is working with the state to locate and address the leaks.  On a regular basis, EPA issues community bulletins that describe ongoing activities and work in the community.  EPA also speaks with local community groups and holds public meetings.

  • Port of Huntington Tri-State Initiative, Huntington, West Virginia:  A partnership between EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as West Virginia. Ohio and Kentucky, is focusing resources on potential multi-media non-compliance at the Port of Huntington Tri-State.   This effort will enable the Agency to understand and then address the significant environmental impacts on the community from the goods movement activities occurring at this inland port.  The Port of Huntington Tri-State is the largest in the United States in total tonnage and ton-miles of cargo.  The Port stretches for 100 miles along the Ohio River, 99 miles along the Kanawha River, and along 9 miles of the Big Sandy River.  Port operations occur in several major U.S. cities including Ashland, KY, Huntington, WV and Charlestown, WV.

    Information that EPA used to identify the Port of Huntington for this geographic initiative included increasing evidence of poor public health and environmental indicators among the communities located within the Port’s boundaries.  The City of Huntington, WV, for example, was named the “Unhealthiest U.S. City” by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2008, and a 2009 USA Today article on outdoor air quality in schools specifically identified the entire Huntington Port area as having some of the worst outdoor air quality around schools in the nation.  Five of the 62 schools across the U.S. that EPA has recommended for initial air toxics ambient monitoring are located within the Port, and some areas within the Port have an estimated carcinogenic risk that exceeds 100 in a million.

    The goals of this initiative are to:

    • assess environmental impact of Port operations on surrounding communities;
    • reduce pollution being introduced into the environment;
    • increase compliance with environmental laws;
    • increase understanding of environmental obligations by regulated facilities;
    • increase human health benefits; and
    • build community capacity to protect their environment and public health.

    EPA’s partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and Kentucky Department of Environment has uncovered information on more than 100 facilities.  The information points to potential non-compliance with multiple environmental laws, and will drive future enforcement, compliance assistance and community outreach efforts.  For example, more than 800 facilities are now receiving sector-based compliance assistance materials and compliance training; schools, childcare facilities, colleges/universities and hospitals in the Port area have received compliance assistance materials; and, two community meetings have been held to explain the work of the Initiative and to hear the public’s feedback and concerns.  Additional enforcement, compliance assistance and community involvement efforts are being planned for FY2011.

    Read more about the Port of Huntington Tri-State Initiative and access additional information, including compliance assistance materials, community presentation materials, and meeting minutes.

  • Vigindustries, Inc. Spartanburg, South Carolina: EPA's Region 4 office concluded a consent order with Vigindustries, Inc.for the cleanup of the former IMC Fertilizer Site in the Arkwright community of Spartanburg, South Carolina. This property was identified by the ReGenesis Project, an environmental justice advocacy group, as an area critical to achieving revitalization of the community. The order requires the removal of more than 8,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and residuals from a fertilizer plant that is no longer in operation. The company will spend approximately $1.7 million to clean up the contamination. The removal, which includes excavation and off-site disposal of the contaminated soil and process residuals, is expected to be completed soon. The property will then be available for redevelopment.

  • City of Jeffersonville, Indiana:  EPA’s Region 5 office negotiated a settlement for violations of the Clean Water Act by the City of Jeffersonville, Indiana, requiring Jeffersonville to make extensive improvements to its sewer systems that will significantly reduce the city’s longstanding sewage overflows into the Ohio River.  Jeffersonville will also implement two environmental projects designed to improve water quality in the city.  The settlement includes green infrastructure projects (e.g., install pervious pavers and a rain garden along the river front) that will serve as a model for other cities around the nation. 

    The City of Jeffersonville is located in Clark County, Indiana, on the north bank of the Ohio River, directly across the river from Louisville, KY. Based on an analysis of the area within one mile of the town center using EJView, an EPA mapping tool, minority and low-income populations are higher than in Clark County or Indiana as a whole. Jeffersonville’s combined sewers are located in the older, downtown portion of the City and lack sufficient capacity to transport all of the combined sewage that it receives to the City’s wastewater treatment plant during rainfall events. As a result, the City commonly discharges the combination of sewage and storm water through one or more of its 13 combined sewer overflow outfalls that discharge to the Ohio River.

  • Delfasco Forge Site, Grand Prairie, Texas:  As a result of actions taken by EPA, the communities in Grand Prairie, Texas will experience reduced exposure to contaminated groundwater from operations at a metal forging facility.  EPA’s Region 6 office negotiated a settlement with the former Delfasco, Inc., to provide for environmental mitigation of homes in the Grand Prairie communities that have been affected by trichloroethylene vapor intrusion, and to remediate contaminated groundwater in the area.   Based on an analysis using EJView, an EPA mapping tool, there are substantial minority and low-income populations living within one mile of the Grand Prairie Delfasco facility.

  • California Interstate 710 Corridor:  An enforcement collaborative with state and local regulators and EPA’s Region 9 office will increase enforcement presence in communities along the California Interstate 710 Corridor, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  The work of the Collaborative will help to reduce disproportionate environmental impacts from goods movement activities on these communities by aligning regulatory authorities and resources.

    Approximately 1 million people, about 70% of whom are minority and low-income households, are severely impacted by pollution from industrial activities in the area and goods movement along the CA 710 freeway.  Engaging with these impacted communities, including through neighborhood/agency tours and community workshops to discuss and set priorities for enforcement, EPA Region 9 inspected more than 70 different facilities, including petroleum and metal plating facilities.  EPA took formal enforcement action against 13 facilities which, as a result of these enforcement actions, must invest in environmental improvements to keep more than 15 thousand pounds of pollution a year out of the local environment and prevent the potential release of 80,000 gallons of oil into local water sources. This effort is part of EPA’s Environmental Justice Showcase Communities project.

  • Yakima Valley, Washington:  In the Yakima Valley, located in central Washington, EPA’s Region 10 office is leveraging resources with the Washington State Department of Health and Yakima County to bring safe drinking water to tribal members of the Yakima Nation, Spanish-speaking families participating in the local agricultural economy, and low-income residents in the area.  The communities here are using private drinking water wells that exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate.  Nitrate is an acute contaminant that can cause methomoglobinemia (“Blue Baby Syndrome”), leading to serious illness and sometimes death in infants. 

    EPA also selected the Yakima Valley as an Environmental Justice Showcase Community, and used project funds to support public education, as well as support a potential enforcement action through sampling of additional residential wells.

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