After evaluating the compliance of Wharton Chemical, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the company’s Hungerford, Texas facility was in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s (RCRA) storage and hazardous waste handling provisions. Now, the company has to pay a $230,000 civil penalty to settle the allegations, and take steps to protect the local community from the health and environmental risks of mishandling hazardous waste.
The mishandling of hazardous waste is a huge problem in the United States. A myriad of different industries each produce hazardous waste as the result of their processes, and are required to handle it using special precautions. For example, as much as 15% of the health care industry’s waste is hazardous, and needs to be incinerated, autoclaved, or taken care of in some other regulated way. Yet, too many companies do not handle their hazardous waste properly, and as a result, more than 400 million tons of hazardous waste is simply thrown out each year.
“Wharton Chemical, also known as Lamberti USA, Inc., produces specialty chemicals for industrial applications,” said the EPA in a press release. “The facility was classified as a small-quantity generator of hazardous waste. However, during several occasions in Jan. 2009 through Dec. 2013, the facility generated large quantities of hazardous waste (1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month).”
The RCRA is the federal law that governs the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes, and was designed to protect the public and the environment, as well as to avoid costly cleanups. The law requires every company that produces hazardous waste to store it in a safe, environmentally sound way, and dispose of it in an equally secure manner.
It mandates the use of safe practices that reduce the chance of hazardous waste being released into the environment, which Wharton Chemical did not do by over-producing hazardous waste in a facility that was too small to handle the quantity.