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Thursday, January 31, 2008

EPA fines waste firm $42G

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Active Oil Inc. has been fined $42,075 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for illegally storing PCB-tainted waste oil, in a case dating back to December 2003.
The Forbes Avenue waste oil recycling plant stored a shipment of oil containing PCBs in its receiving tanks without testing the material, a violation of federal law regulating the storage and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, EPA officials said.
PCBs are suspected carcinogens. Exposure to PCBs can cause liver problems and skin rashes.
Despite widespread contamination at the site, EPA attorney Gregory Dain said it is not believed workers at Active Oil were exposed to PCBs, or that the material caused environmental harm.
"Their entire facility was contaminated with PCBs," Dain said. Contamination spread to all three of Active’s receiving tanks and into its bulk storage tank.
While Active Oil self-reported the problem, the case triggered action from the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the EPA, and required a lengthy cleanup.
Active Oil’s permit with the DEP has since expired and a new permit is under review.
"As a result of the problems they had, they couldn’t use their facility. It was completely contaminated with PCBs. It took quite a while to clean it up, and took quite a while to work out differences with the state," said Dain.
While the business was inactive, the EPA held off pursuing action against the firm. "Since they weren’t in business, we couldn’t sue for money," Dain said.
"We had an arrangement where if they worked out differences with the Connecticut agency, they could restart the business, and would agree to pay the penalty," he said.
"As far as I know, they’re back in business," Dain said.
Active Oil’s listed phone number is not in service, but an attorney for the company, Steven Levy, said "they are still a viable company."
The company has not yet paid the fine, which Levy said is not yet due.
Active Oil sued an environmental testing firm in August 2004 that had allegedly been hired to test oil shipments for the company. That suit was settled earlier this month. Details of the case and settlement were unavailable Wednesday.
Dain said the EPA was not involved in the suit, and continues to hold Active Oil responsible for the contamination.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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