Toxic landfill hit by fine over potentially cancerous chemical handling

A landfill has been fined by an environmental watchdog after it failed to properly deal with potentially cancerous causing PCB waste.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week fined Chemical Waste Management (CWM) more than $300,000 after it failed to properly manage PCBs at its Kettleman Hills site in California.

PCB, also known as polychlorinated biphenyls, has to be disposed of in specific ways at specially registered sites.

PCBs are liquids that were used in electrical transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers, voltage switches and have been proved to cause cancer.

During a series of 2010 inspections, EPA investigators found that CWM improperly managed PCBs at the facility.

Further tests showed samples taken by EPA and CWM in and around the site detected PCBs at elevated levels ranging from 2.1 parts per million (ppm) up to 440ppm.

These levels are above the regulatory limit of 1ppm and, in soil, demonstrate that PCBs were improperly disposed of in violation of federal law.

The EPA said in order to protect human health and the environment its regulations and facility specific permit requirements require that PCBs are properly tracked, stored and disposed.

The site, called the Kettleman Hills Landfill, is the only landfill in California federally regulated to handle PCBs and is just one of just 10 PCB regulated landfills in the US.

"Companies charged with safely disposing of society's most toxic materials need to rigorously follow the protective laws established to secure both the public safety and public trust," said the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, Jared Blumenfeld.

"Violations of federal environmental laws at the Kettleman hazardous waste facility are unacceptable."

He went on to explain that there was no evidence to suggest the current spills posed any danger to people living nearby.

Luke Walsh


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