State warns about PCBs Contractor is told to clean up or face sanctions

$50,000 fine possible

Order is second in three months for Curtis Bay company

September 13, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A state inspector formally warned a Curtis Bay industrial contractor yesterday to clean up hazardous material illegally stored at its site by next week or face sanctions that could include up to $50,000 in fines if the company is convicted of criminal charges.

It was the second time in three months that state environmental officials had ordered McShane Inc. to dispose of a drum containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are carcinogenic.

In early June, a state Department of Environment inspector found a drum containing PCBs on the site in the 600 block of Pittman Road and gave McShane 90 days to dispose of it, said Quentin Banks, a department spokesman.

When the company had not disposed of it by yesterday, the inspector issued the complaint, which requires McShane to dispose of the drum by next week, Banks said.

"This is a formal advisory to the operator that there's something wrong, and that there is a possibility of greater sanctions if progress is not made," Banks said.

Ed Kila, McShane's president, said the company has three or four sealed drums of lighting ballasts that contain PCBs, which commonly were used as insulators in electrical transformers in the 1970s.

He said McShane, which builds, maintains and retrofits chemical and pharmaceutical plants, has had the drums since it moved to Pittman Road three years ago, replaced the old lighting system and stored the ballasts in sealed drums pending proper disposal.

"I feel the entire situation has been blown out of proportion," Kilasaid.

"Lighting ballasts are very common. The majority of the volume of the drums is electrical equipment, and there's a small quantity of PCBs contained in the electrical ballasts."

According to Banks, McShane does not have a permit to possess or store PCBs -- which also can cause rashes and irritate the eyes, nose and lungs.

Kila said his company was not able to meet the state deadline for disposal because the EPA, which searched the premises with the FBI in August, seized documents about the drums that were necessary in hiring a contractor to do the job.

The state complaint also requires McShane to repack some of the drums -- which Kila said contain old oil from machinery -- that have deteriorated and might leak.

A state inspector will do a follow-up check on McShane next week, Banks said.

Kila said a company attorney is sending a letter to the U.S. attorney's office seeking permission to dispose of the drums. Kila said he was putting off the PCB disposal -- which will cost about $2,000 -- and repacking the drums until he heard from the U.S. attorney.

"We don't know if it is evidence," Kila said. "We don't want to be accused of disposing of evidence."

Pub Date: 9/13/97

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