For Immediate Release - December 09, 2014

Chemical Packaging Company to Pay $100,000 to Settle Claims That it Discharged Hazardous Material into the French River

Company Must Implement Additional Safeguards to Detect and Prevent Future Discharges Under Settlement with AG’s Office and MassDEP

BOSTON — A chemical packaging and formulating company located in Dudley has agreed to pay $100,000 for allegedly discharging hazardous materials into the adjacent French River, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. 

Under the consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court today along with the complaint, Shield Packaging Company Inc. will also implement a protocol to prevent the discharge of oil or hazardous material, hazardous waste or pollutants into waters of the Commonwealth. 

“Our office is committed to protecting and preserving our rivers and the communities they serve,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “We expect companies handling hazardous materials to take proper precautions to prevent releases, to educate employees about the risks, and to alert the MassDEP promptly if such a release occurs.”  

“Any company that uses large amounts of chemicals, toxic or otherwise, should use best management practices in their day-to-day operations to limit environmental impacts,” said Commissioner David W. Cash of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Especially where direct connections to waterways exist, as at this location, the risk of harm to the environment and the public health must be prevented with vigilant, responsible management.”

The complaint alleges that, in December 2011, a Shield employee discovered that more than 50 gallons of wastewater had leaked into a containment area from one of several above ground storage tanks at the Dudley facility. After consulting with management, the employee illegally pumped the wastewater out of the containment area and into a series of catch basins that emptied into the French River. The wastewater contained mineral spirits, which is a petroleum-based hazardous waste used in manufacturing. The discharged mineral spirits caused a large sheen visible along the river. Shield did not report the release to MassDEP within two hours, as required by law. 

MassDEP only learned of the release after receiving reports from local fire department officials of an oil sheen on the French River that allegedly produced a strong chemical odor in the community. The complaint alleges that Shield violated the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act, the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention Act and the Massachusetts Hazardous Waste Management Act.

As part of the protocol, Shield will designate a compliance officer to inspect and test all storm water run-off collected at the facility as a safety precaution. Shield is prohibited from discharging collected stormwater that contains oil or hazardous material, hazardous waste or pollutants and must properly dispose of such material in accordance with the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act, the federal Clean Water Act and all other applicable state and federal laws.  

The French River flows through south-central Massachusetts, including the towns of Dudley and Webster, and is a tributary to the Quinebaug River, which runs into northeastern Connecticut before joining the Thames River. These waterways are part of a special area known as “The Last Green Valley” or the Quinebaug-Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor. The French River itself is designated as a resource suitable for recreation such as swimming and fishing, and as a habitat for fish and aquatic wildlife. 

This case has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Peter Downing and Assistant Attorney General Louis Dundin, both of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Mary Jude Pigsley, Chief Regional Counsel in the Central Regional Office of MassDEP in Worcester, and Nick Child, Bob Dunne, John Stapler  and Jennifer Macionus, also of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office.