Car-Crushing and Recycling Companies to Pay up to $1.25 Million for Emitting Pollutants and Mishandling Hazardous Materials at Shredding Facilities
Defendants’ “Megashredder” and Other Operations to Be Strictly Controlled
BOSTON — Two car and appliance crushing and recycling companies will pay up to $1.25 million to settle allegations that they emitted excess pollutants including particulate matter, asbestos, mercury and volatile organic compounds, and mishandled hazardous wastes, at their metal shredding facilities in Attleboro, Everett and Worcester, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
According to a consent judgment, approved today by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger, Metals Recycling, LLC., and Prolerized New England Company, LLC, both doing business as Schnitzer Northeast will pay a civil penalty of up to $900,000. The companies must also fund two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) of up to $300,000 toward the safe removal of waste tire piles in three locations in Middleton that have been an environmental problem for decades; and up to $50,000 toward a program to recycle mercury-containing consumer products. Mercury is a dangerous neuro-toxin that can accumulate in the ground, be absorbed by food plants and animals, and ultimately cause serious human health problems.
The AG’s Office alleges that the companies violated the portion of the state’s Public Health Law that addresses air pollution, as well as the Hazardous Waste Management Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Mercury Management Act, and the regulations that implement these statutes, when they emitted pollutants and mishandled hazardous materials at their shredding facilities.
“Companies that emit pollutants must be careful and abide by all laws put in place to protect the public and our environment,” said Attorney General Healey. “These dangerous substances endanger public health, and have detrimental effects on our precious natural environment.”
“This comprehensive investigation has resulted in these defendants re-charting their course by installing state-of-the-art air controls and implementing tighter management of their waste stream,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “The funding of two environmentally beneficial projects within the local community was also a key element of this agreement.”
In its complaint, the AG’s Office alleges that test samples of shredder residue—a soil-like substance produced when automobiles and other metal products are crushed and ground up—taken at Prolerized’s Everett facility revealed higher than permissible levels of lead and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). PCBs are manmade organic compounds known to cause cancer and have adverse effects on human reproductive, nervous, immune and endocrine systems. Lead can cause central nervous system damage if not properly managed. The complaint also alleges that Prolerized failed to seek and obtain required air permits prior to installing and using the 9000-horsepower Megashredder, a large crusher which emits volatile organic compounds and particulate matter that can harm respiratory health, at the Everett facility. The AG’s Office also alleges that Prolerized shredded hundreds of vehicles at the Everett facility without obtaining required proof that all mercury-added vehicle switches had first been removed before shredding.
According to the complaint, Prolerized did not properly handle or store asbestos-containing material consisting of thermal system and boiler insulation on equipment at Prolerized’s Attleboro facility, and Metals Recycling also failed to handle such material properly at its Worcester facility. Exposure to loose, friable asbestos particles can cause cancer or mesothelioma in humans. The complaint further alleges that Prolerized failed to store waste oil properly at the Worcester facility, as required by the Commonwealth’s hazardous waste regulations.
The AG’s Office alleges that Metals Recycling did not properly store containers of gasoline and likely contaminated soils, and also kept open and unlabeled containers of gasoline in a vehicle draining area at its Worcester facility. The complaint asserts that the company failed to have a proper containment system or emergency response procedures in place in the case of an accidental release of hazardous materials at its Worcester facility. The Worcester facility also allegedly emitted excessive amounts of particulate matter to the ambient air from its operations. Fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less easily enters the lungs and can cause serious respiratory problems in humans, including premature mortality.
The consent judgment also mandates that the defendants implement much tighter testing and sampling protocols at their facilities. This will result in a cleaner waste stream and will ensure that substances like mercury, asbestos and other pollutants that are routinely part of the shredder residue will be managed and handled much more effectively and safely.
The consent judgment also requires the defendants to apply for and obtain permits for the Megashredder and for the installation of state-of-the-art emissions controls, known as Best Available Control Technology (BACT), which will achieve the lowest technologically feasible emission rates for facilities like those operated by the company. The defendants must install a BACT-level pollution capture system to enclose the Megashredder and contain its emissions. The system must be able to incinerate 98 percent of the facility’s volatile organic compound emissions, control 98 percent of the facility’s acid gas emissions, and control 99 percent of its particulate emissions. It must also install monitoring devices to ensure that facility emissions are accurately reported to MassDEP.
The court-approved consent judgment requires that the defendants pay $450,000 of the $900,000 they owe to the state within 30 days of the filing of the consent judgment. The remaining $450,000 will be suspended and will be waived in incremental amounts as the defendants meet certain defined milestones set forth in the consent judgment. If the defendants fail to meet these milestones or otherwise violate the law during the seven-year life of the consent judgment, they will have to pay to the state those portions of the civil penalty that have not yet been waived.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division. The case was developed and investigated by MassDEP senior attorneys Jeanne Argento and Jennifer Davis; MassDEP Environmental Strike Force personnel including director Pamela Talbot, scientists Dana Muldoon, Steve Spencer, Tim Dame and Rich Tomczyk; Northeast Regional Office staff including Amy LaPusata, Ed Braczyk, and Susan Ruch (ESF); Dikran Kaligian of Boston’s Bureau of Air and Waste, and Oscar Pancorbo from the state’s Wall Experiment Station in Lawrence. Former AAG John Beling, now at MassDEP, began the case for the AG’s Office.