Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Cleaners face
$19.7 million fine

By Diana Leone

A Honolulu company that cleans ship tanks and bilges faces potential fines of nearly $19.7 million for improper handling of used oil, the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday.

West Coast Cleaning and Preservation of Honolulu, whose customers include the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Defense, has 30 days to respond to the EPA's complaint.

EPA enforcement officer Roberto Rodriguez said that during a routine inspection at the company's Campbell Industrial Park transfer facility in August 2000, he found:

>> Thirteen containers of used oil, totaling about 13,000 gallons, had been held longer than the 35-day storage limit.

>> Nineteen containers of used oil sat on gravel and dirt, instead of on an impervious surface that would protect the environment in case of a spill.

>> No labels identifying the contents of 19 containers of used oil.

>> No records documenting that the used oil was not hazardous waste.

The four infractions could result in a penalty of up to $27,500 per day per violation, Rodriguez said. The company is believed to have been in violation for 179 days, he said.

According to the EPA, West Coast is classified as a used-oil transporter and used-oil transfer facility, and conducts tank and bilge cleaning operations at local shipyards and other facilities.

The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Although there was no spill, the alleged violations "are obviously serious because we took an action against the facility," Rodriguez said.

"Companies that handle this type of waste are required to meet certain protective standards," Jeff Scott, EPA waste management director for the Pacific-Southwest region, said in a statement. "West Coast Cleaning and Preservation didn't meet these standards, and EPA is taking action to ensure that any future operations are protective of the environment and the community."

The complaint is the first of its kind in Hawaii, Rodriguez said. He added that it is the EPA's practice when it finds violations of this magnitude to inspect other companies that do similar work.

State Department of Health officials made follow-up checks of the company's compliance, but coming into compliance does not protect the company from fines, Rodriguez said.

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