DEQ Announces Penalties Totaling More Than $168,000 During February and March 2004

Portland VA Medical Center penalized for series of hazardous waste violations originally investigated in 2002

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced today 19 penalties totaling $168,343 during the months of February and March 2004. To date in 2004, DEQ has announced 23 penalties totaling $201,930.

On Feb. 23, DEQ issued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Portland VA Medical Center, 3710 SW U.S. Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, penalties totaling $33,235 for a series of seven separate hazardous waste violations. The penalties were issued after DEQ investigated a complaint that
the VA Medical Center sent hazardous waste (crushed mercury-containing fluorescent lamps) to a facility in Yamhill County that was not permitted to receive the waste. The VA Medical Center  notified DEQ on March 16 that it was appealing the penalties. No formal hearing has been scheduled.

DEQ originally inspected the VA Medical Center in August 2002 and noted a fluorescent tube lamp crusher. While whole mercury-containing fluorescent light tubes may be managed as universal waste and not hazardous waste, crushed mercury-containing lamps are considered hazardous waste and must be managed under stringent state and federal hazardous waste laws. The VA Medical Center reportedly had made arrangements with a Yamhill County-based company, Environmental Protective Container LLC (EPC) to provide the lamp crusher equipment and to take the crushed material to an off-site facility for disposal. EPC is not permitted as a hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility. In addition, DEQ has not issued a permit to EPC to treat or dispose of universal waste. (DEQ issued a $15,789 penalty to EPC in June 2003 for hazardous waste violations. EPC appealed the penalty, and a hearing with DEQ is scheduled for May 2004.)

EPC transported crushed lamp waste and whole mercury-containing lamp tubes from the Medical Center to its shop, an agricultural shed near the Yamhill County community of Carlton. EPC billed the Medical Center for the disposal of more than one ton of mercury-containing lamps. The Medical Center transported the waste from the EPC facility to a permitted hazardous waste facility. DEQ later learned, however, that the Medical Center could not account for 1,600 pounds of the waste, and that this waste was still located at the unpermitted EPC agricultural building in rural Yamhill County. On several occasions, DEQ requested that the Medical Center arrange for proper disposal of this remaining lamp waste.

EPC was evicted from the Yamhill County property and left, abandoning the waste there. However, under the law, the Medical Center is still responsible for the waste. Mercury waste is a concern because it is highly toxic and lasts a long time in the environment. The abandoned waste posed a
threat to human health and the environment, as the building in which the waste was stored was designed for agricultural use and not waste storage. On Feb. 23, 2004, DEQ issued the Medical Center an Order requiring that it remove and properly dispose of the waste.

While the Medical Center has corrected most of the violations noted in DEQ’s post-inspection Aug. 26, 2002 Notice of Noncompliance, DEQ determined that the Medical Center has yet to adequately correct its lamp waste violations. Therefore, on Feb. 23, 2004, DEQ issued a series of penalties pertaining to those violations.

DEQ broke down the Medical Center’s $33,235 total in penalties as follows:

$12,035 penalty for sending hazardous waste (crushed mercury-containing lamps) to a facility (EPC) that is not permitted to transport or store hazardous waste.
$10,000 penalty for sending universal waste (whole mercury-containing fluorescent light tubes) to a facility (EPC) that is not permitted to handle or store universal waste.
$4,800 penalty for offering hazardous waste for transportation without preparing a hazardous waste manifest.
$3,600 penalty for failing to file an “exception report” when it did not receive a copy of a hazardous waste manifest signed by the destination facility (EPC) within 45 days of the initial shipment date.
$1,600 penalty for failing to properly prepare a hazardous waste manifest for the transport of its mercury-containing waste off site.
$600 penalty for accumulating hazardous waste for more than 90 days without obtaining a storage permit.
$600 penalty for failing to meet contingency planning requirements (including failing to update its listing of emergency coordinators, failing to list emergency equipment and its capabilities).