For Immediate Release - February 01, 2017

MassDEP Penalizes Specialty Minerals Inc. of Adams $10,750 For Violating Environmental Discharge Regulations

BOSTON - Specialty Minerals, Inc. (SMI) of Adams has been assessed a penalty of $10,750 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for violating hazardous waste, wastewater and wetlands regulations associated with a wastewater seep discovered at its facility located at 260 Columbia St. The company is a producer of industrial mineral products, such as calcium carbonate.

On April 1, 2016, SMI personnel notified MassDEP that a seep/spring existed at the base of the kiln-waste disposal area and that February 2016 sampling showed a pH in the range of 12.0 to 13.0 pH units.  The elevated pH was the result of groundwater coming into contact with the kiln waste pile; wastewater with a pH exceeding 12.5 is regulated as hazardous waste. The seep continued as surface water flowing downstream and discharging to a large wetland area.

MassDEP confirmed the pH results of 13 at the origin of the seep and determined the pH decreased to 12.0 at the wetland. The high pH water constituted a violation of groundwater and surface water discharge regulations and a release of a reportable quantity of hazardous materials that negatively impacted wetland resource areas. Regulation requires that MassDEP be notified in a timely manner after discovering a release, and SMI failed to notify MassDEP in February.

MassDEP ordered SMI to cease the discharge and issued an Authorization of Emergency Action to create a temporary system to collect the water at the seep and discharge it to SMI's wastewater treatment facility, which is designed to treat high pH wastewater. SMI worked cooperatively with MassDEP and completed the temporary collection system on May 20.

SMI and MassDEP then entered into a consent agreement requiring SMI to design and construct a permanent collection system for the discharge, assess whether there are additional environmental impacts from the discharge and mitigate as necessary, and restore the wetland. MassDEP assessed a penalty of $10,750, but agreed to suspend $5,750 of the penalty provided SMI remains in compliance with the requirements of the agreement.

"MassDEP appreciates that SMI worked cooperatively, however timely reporting would have resulted in ceasing the discharge sooner and limited the impacts to the environment and threat to public safety," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "MassDEP, if contacted immediately upon the discovery, could have provided technical and regulatory guidance to cease the discharge."

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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