SAN FRANCISCO – Late last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has fined Asarco LLC $30,900 for using buildings contaminated with PCBs and improper management of PCB waste. The company will also spend $115,714 to reduce PCBs at their copper smelter located in Hayden, Ariz.
The violations stemmed from a 2011 inspection in which EPA inspectors found two buildings contaminated with PCBs that Asarco employees continued to use, a violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
“Exposure to PCBs is a concern whenever facilities are handling materials containing these toxic chemicals,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to safeguard worker health and nearby communities by ensuring that Asarco takes the necessary steps to improve the safety of their recycling and disposal practices.”
As part of the agreement, Asarco has agreed to replace three PCB transformers at the smelter, reducing future risk of exposure to workers and the environment.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978, and many PCB-containing materials are still in use today.
When released into the environment, PCBs remain for decades. Tests have shown that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Acute PCB exposure can also adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as liver function. Concerns about human health and the extensive presence and lengthy persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact TSCA in 1976.
For more information on PCB regulation and enforcement, as well as TSCA enforcement in general, please visit the EPA’s website at: www.epa.gov/region09/toxic/pcb/