Four Commercial Laboratories in Massachusetts to Pay $1.75 Million for Alleged Hazardous Air Emissions
Companies Must Drastically Reduce Emissions to Protect Public Health under Landmark Environmental Settlement with AG’s Office and MassDEP
BOSTON — Four Massachusetts laboratory companies that perform commercial-scale environmental testing have agreed to pay a total of $1.75 million for allegedly failing to obtain required state permits and control their hazardous air pollutant emissions, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Under the four consent judgments, entered today along with four complaints in Suffolk Superior Court, the laboratories Alpha Analytical, Inc., Accutest Laboratories of New England, Inc., Spectrum Analytical, Inc., and Con-Test Analytical Laboratory must also comply with state air permitting requirements and install emission control equipment for sample analyses that will reduce hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions by 95 percent.
“This landmark environmental settlement requires the four biggest environmental testing lab operators in Massachusetts to come into compliance with the law and install controls to reduce their hazardous air emissions,” AG Coakley said. “These settlements will result in dramatic and cost-effective reductions to protect the health of communities in the Commonwealth. We hope that these actions will spur a national discussion about controlling laboratory-sector hazardous air pollution emissions.”
“With this settlement, hazardous emissions from these laboratories will be greatly reduced,” said Commissioner David W. Cash of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “MassDEP is committed to working with labs across the Commonwealth to ensure that they operate in compliance with our protective environmental and public health standards.”
The complaints allege that the companies violated the state’s Public Health Law that protects people and the environment from hazardous air pollution by operating as “major sources” of HAP emissions, and as sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), without required MassDEP permits and approvals, resulting in emissions of pollutants near residences, hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings, among other violations.
Under the terms of the settlements, all four laboratories will install equipment to capture 100 percent of the HAPs from the facilities’ analytical processes, and remove 95 percent of the pollutants from the exhaust stream before they are released.
- Alpha Analytical, Inc.: The operator of two lab facilities in Westborough and Mansfield offers testing services of drinking water, waste water, groundwater, waste material, soil and air. Alpha will pay $700,000 for allegedly violating the state’s air pollution law and regulations, Clean Waters Act, and the Hazardous Waste Management Act (HWMA). Alpha also allegedly mislabeled containers of hazardous waste, failed to take required safety precautions and improperly operated a wastewater treatment system at the Westborough facility.
- Accutest Laboratories of New England, Inc.: The operator of a lab facility in Marlborough will pay $350,000 for allegedly violating the state’s air pollution law and regulations and the HWMA. Accutest’s testing services include drinking water, waste water, groundwater, waste material, soil, air, petroleum forensics, gas fractioning, energetics and explosives.
- Spectrum Analytical, Inc.: The operator of a facility in Agawam will pay $350,000 for allegedly violating the state’s air pollution law and regulations. Spectrum’s testing services include hazardous waste, drinking water, ground water, industrial wastewater, plant and animal tissue, soil, solid waste, and air.
- Con-Test Analytical Laboratory: FILLI, LLC, doing business as Con-Test, operates a facility in East Longmeadow and will pay $350,000 for allegedly violating the state’s air pollution law and regulations and the HWMA. Con-Test analyzes water, air, soil and solid waste materials.
Each lab now conducts thousands of sample analyses annually for private and state clients, as the environmental testing industry’s growth in recent years has been rapid. The complaints assert that all of the facilities emitted or had the potential to emit more than ten tons of HAPs into the atmosphere each year, which made them “major sources” of pollutants. As such, they were required to obtain from MassDEP not only plan approvals to emit, but also operating permits that would have allowed more intensive oversight of their operations by MassDEP. The laboratories failed to seek either.
HAPs, or air toxics, originate from human-made sources, such as cars and laboratories that use chemical-based commercial processes. The hazardous air pollutant emitted in greatest volume from the labs is methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane (DCM), which is also a VOC and chemical used in paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and metal cleaning. The most common means of human exposure to methylene chloride is inhalation and skin exposure when large amounts of the chemical are released to the atmosphere, as is alleged to have occurred in these cases.
HAPs are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and require more stringent and comprehensive permitting from MassDEP because they can cause cancer, reproductive health effects, serious respiratory problems, and other adverse environmental and ecological problems. VOCs also have adverse human health effects and are precursors to the formation of ground level ozone, a respiratory irritant that can cause asthma attacks and even premature mortality.
According to the complaints, the companies failed to obtain necessary MassDEP permits years ago when they started emitting large amounts of HAPs. As a result, they operated without adequate controls, despite the proximity of the facilities to residential areas, schools, day care centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and other commercial establishments.
Today’s action is an important first step to reduce hazardous air pollution from commercial-scale analytical laboratories. According to the settlements, Alpha must comply with air permits issued for its two facilities by MassDEP, while Accutest, Contest, and Spectrum must follow clearly-defined procedures for completing the air permitting process for their facilities.
These four cases have been handled by Assistant Attorneys General Fred Augenstern and Turner Smith of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from James O’Hara of Coakley’s Civil Investigative Division. Working with the AG’s Office on these cases are MassDEP staff, including: Saadi Motamedi, Marc Simpson, Dan Balboni, Christine LeBel, Marc Wolman, MaryJude Pigsley, Keith Anderson, Glenn Pacheco, Douglas Shallcross, Laurel Mackay, Marilyn Levenson, Geri Lambert, Rose Stanley, Tom Cushing, Dan d’Hedouville, Dan DiSalvio, Gregg Hunt, Dan Kamieniecki, John Kronopolus, Maria Pinaud and Phil Weinberg.