EPA working on plan to have plant remove hazards or pay cost

Brooklyn Park cleanup could exceed $1 million

October 16, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to complete a plan as early as this week to remove hazardous chemicals from an Anne Arundel County plant - a cleanup that could cost in excess of $1 million, officials said yesterday.

The federal government's planned action against Consolidated Pharmaceuticals Inc., which owns the plant in Brooklyn Park, comes after the state levied a $100,000 fine against the company for several hazardous-waste violations and county officials warned of the potential for a "catastrophic fire."

"We're moving forward on this as quickly as possible," said David Sternberg, a spokesman for the EPA. "We anticipate having an action memo ... perhaps as early as this week. And the important thing is, one way or another, this problem will be addressed."

If Consolidated were unwilling or unable to remove the hazardous materials from the plant, the EPA would have the authority to hire a contractor to do the work, Sternberg said. He added that the action memo would authorize the federal government to spend the funds to clean the site.

"We do have the authority under the statute to order the responsible party to do the work," Sternberg said. "The idea under the statute is those individuals or companies that are responsible for the problem would pay for the cleanup."

Charles Schaller, an attorney representing Consolidated, did not respond to a call seeking comment yesterday.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, who wrote to the EPA last week asking for "immediate attention" to the site, said yesterday:

"I know sometimes the wheels of government turn slowly, but it's my hope and expectation that EPA officials would be out there this week. I hope the action memo means action this week."

The Maryland Department of the Environment notified the EPA in May of problems at the facility - a warehouse and tank-storage area that were once part of a penicillin-manufacturing operation - which included holes in the warehouse's roof, a scrubber that was leaking acid and corroded pipes on the tanks and a lab with hundreds of bottles of chemical waste.

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department's hazardous materials experts were called in and found chemical tanks filled with fuel oil, hydrochloric acid and solvents. The building's sprinkler system was deemed inadequate to handle a fire or explosion, and its fire alarm system was not in working order.

The MDE issued an administrative complaint against Consolidated in July, which the company appealed.

Horacio Tablada, director of the MDE's Waste Management Administration, said the company has taken steps to remedy the violations but is not in compliance.

"The main concern that we have is the potential for fire because of the chemicals," Tablada said. "Everything they've done is a little bit of what we asked but not everything we asked. Partial compliance is not compliance in our book."


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