Kenai Peninsula Borough officials have agreed to pay a fine and construct a building to store various hazardous wastes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found the borough’s maintenance shop violated several regulations.
A 2009 EPA inspection of the borough’s maintenance facility on East Poppy Lane revealed the borough had failed to determine if several quantities of waste stored there were hazardous and failed to label them as such, in addition to failing to label stored waste oil, according to a Sept. 14 press release.
The borough offered to construct a 32-by-24-foot building at an estimated $29,000 cost to mitigate some of the EPA’s penalties. Under a settlement recently announced, the borough will pay for the construction and operation of the new facility as well as a $12,800 fine.
“I think it is a good settlement going forward,” Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said. “One, we eliminated the liability for really what could have been a much bigger fine and at the same time we are building a facility, and that means we will be in compliance going forward and setting up practices for recording and documenting that weren’t in place that should have been in place. We will do it better going forward.”
In a closing document filed Sept. 14, the EPA alleged the borough had not determined certain wastes were hazardous and labeled as such in a waste accumulation area at the north end of the facility. Those materials included 2,839 pounds of paint thinner and other paint-related wastes, 2,900 pounds of waste fuels and solvents, 1,800 pounds of waste antifreeze, and 30 pounds of unknown waste, according to the document.
“There were clearly some practices that could have been improved on,” Navarre said.
Navarre said the materials stored at the facility were generated by the type of work done there.
“In these sorts of compliance issues ... we could have either tried to say that we weren’t doing anything wrong and gone through a litigation with the federal government,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, we would have probably had to incur the cost of litigation, and we would have had to end up building some sort of a facility anyway to deal with the waste that we generate while we are waiting for it to be disposed of.”
EPA compliance officer Jack Boller said he was not sure how long the borough had been storing materials in such a manner, but said it has made “significant” changes in both storage and management since the violations were issued.
Boller said EPA representatives have not been back to the facility to inspect it yet.
“They have confirmed everything through photos and a lot documentation to confirm what they’ve done and what they are now doing,” he said.
The new building will allow the borough to temporarily hold hazardous wastes before disposing of them in a safe manner, Boller said. The building will allow the borough to better contain a possible spill incident, he said, and monitor the temperature of the wastes. Previously the wastes were exposed to the elements, increasing the chance of a spill incident, he said.
“They were managing all the waste they generated outside on a pad, and some of it was on the paved pad and some of it was off the paved pad,” he said. “It was just out in the weather, which as you know the weather in Alaska can be pretty nasty in the winter.”
There has been no testing of the ground soil for hazardous materials in the area to date, Boller said.
“Mostly what was (stored) there was oil and that is not going to leech into the ground so much because oil is not soluble in water,” he said. “If it was there, it is mostly going to be on the surface.”
The EPA establishes guidelines for how long hazardous materials may be stored at a site before it must be shipped to a permitted waste management facility for disposal depending on the amount collected, Boller said.
“That could be a landfill or it could be a treatment facility to treat it to make it non-hazardous,” he said, noting there is no such facility in Alaska.
It would not be legal for the borough to store the materials at the Central Peninsula Landfill unless it obtained a hazardous waste permit, which he said is a “very long and expensive process.”
“Basically they need to properly identify it and make arraignments to get it offsite to the appropriate facility based on what they have,” he said.
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.