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EcoLab Pays $214K penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations Following Fire

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Seattle – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has reached a settlement with EcoLab, Inc., in Tacoma, Washington over violations of federal hazardous waste and pesticides laws that resulted in a fire involving hazardous waste at the company’s facility on the Tacoma Tideflats and the hospitalization of a nearby worker. Under the settlement, EcoLab addressed the violations and agreed to pay a total penalty of $214,407.

On or about March 19, 2019, EcoLab employees removed approximately 177.5 pounds of partially spent Weevil-Cide from a shipping vessel in Longview, Washington. This partially spent Weevil-Cide was placed in two dry deactivation containers at EcoLab’s Tacoma facility. On March 19, 2019, the Tacoma Fire Department responded to a fire associated with the two dry deactivation containers. In addition, both the Washington Department of Ecology and the EPA Emergency Response Program responded to the fire due to the release of a hazardous substance.  

According to Ecology, the partially spent Weevil-Cide reacted with water in the air to produce hydrogen phosphide gas, or “phosphine,” which spontaneously ignited. The reaction produced significant levels of phosphine that warranted the evacuation of the EcoLab facility and a shelter-in-place of the nearby facility. One person working nearby was taken to the hospital due to apparent inhalation exposure to phosphine.  

“Failures like those at EcoLab can be catastrophic for people and the environment – companies handling pesticidal products must ensure that they comply not only with the requirements of a product’s label but also ensure that they dispose of the product legally,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Division. “Further, facilities like Ecolab are often in neighborhoods overburdened by pollution. EPA’s enforcement program is increasing efforts in these areas to ensure compliance and protect vulnerable communities.” 

The settlement resolves violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (PDF) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (PDF). Parties that dispose of pesticidal products must ensure they comply with both FIFRA and RCRA requirements in doing so. EPA found EcoLab violated the hazardous waste management requirements of RCRA by failing to obtain an EPA transporter ID number; receiving dangerous waste from offsite generators without a permit; and storing and/or treating dangerous waste without a permit. Maintaining permit coverage and complying with permitting requirements ensures that hazardous wastes are treated, stored, and disposed with necessary safeguards in place for the protection of human health and the environment.  The company agreed to pay $180,000 for the RCRA violations.

EPA also found EcoLab violated FIFRA by disregarding the requirements of the pesticide’s label, including: collecting partially spent aluminum phosphide dust in large drums where confinement of gas vapors occurred; piling multiple cloth bags/socks of partially spent aluminum phosphide together; and allowing the buildup of phosphine to exceed explosive concentrations. Compliance with FIFRA label provisions safeguards the public, the environment, and workers by ensuring that pesticides are used, stored, and disposed of appropriately. The company agreed to pay $34,407 for the FIFRA violations.

EcoLab no longer operates the facility where the violations occurred.

For more information about the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, visit: https://www.epa.gov/rcra

For more information on Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, visit: http://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act

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