By Eric Freedman
A federal judge in Syracuse has fined a Rome, New York., airplane maintenance and painting company $40,000 for mishandling hazardous waste.
As part of the plea deal, Premier Aviation Overhaul Center agreed to implement a hazardous waste reduction plan and provide training to all employees and contractors who handle paint, paint stripping and other hazardous waste activities.
After a criminal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state Department of Environmental Conservation, the company admitted it had omitted mandatory labeling information on a trash compactor containing chromium-tainted material. The violation occurred in February 2014.
The company admitted that at least one employee dumped “large sheets of plastic containing hazardous chromium waste into a large trash compactor without updating the labels to disclose the presence of hazardous waste inside,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The company generated the waste when it stripped paint from aircraft and stored it in the trash compactor for about two weeks before law enforcement officers arrived. “Subsequent tests revealed that the levels of chromium on the plastic sheets were approximately 23 times higher than the legal limit,” the prosecution statement said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Perry said officials had received a tip about the problem.
Perry said, “There was no environmental harm” because the contaminated waste hadn’t left the facility before the inspectors arrived.
Inhaling chromium compounds can irritate the respiratory tract “resulting in airway irritation, airway obstruction, and lung, nasal, or sinus cancer,” according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The effects of inhalation also can include asthma, congestion and chronic bronchitis.
Under the plea agreement, the company must report quarterly to EPA on the hazardous waste it generates, stores and disposes of. It also must allow federal and state officials to inspect its facility without advance notice. Both those provisions expire Sept. 30, 2018.
Premier Aviation pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact, a misdemeanor. It had faced a potential maximum fine of $350,000.