An Emmaus, Penn. energy management has learned a very costly lesson about the importance of complying with Environmental Protection Agency standards. Schneider Electric USA has been hit with a $6.87 million fine — the largest of its kind and the third-largest ever issued by the EPA — for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of a 2002 court-ordered Superfund consent decree to treat and remove contaminated water at the Rodale Manufacturing site.

“We will not tolerate violation of our consent decrees, especially where those violations can result in risks to public health, welfare and the environment” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin in a statement. “The significant penalty in this case shows that non-compliance with settlement requirements have serious consequences.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP) will receive 10 percent of the fine
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Schneider Electric Remains Mum

Under the terms of the settlement, Schneider Electric has not admitted or denied guilt. The company issued a statement noting the 2013 replacement of the treatment equipment used at the Rodale site, after discovering a faulty air pollution control device. Prior to this, the EPA claims the company had failed to properly operate the air pollution control since at least 2008.

“Schneider Electric takes seriously its responsibility to remediate the Rodale Manufacturing Site and has worked in good faith with the government to continue to protect public health and the environment,” the company said in a statement. “Schneider Electric regrets this matter and has worked with the EPA and Pa. DEP to implement several rigorous measures to improve our oversight at Rodale.”

Since Rodale Manufacturing Co. opened in 1930, the Emmaus, Penn. site has had a number of owners. A French-owned company, Schneider Electric purchased the prior owner, Square D, in 1991 — the same year it was designated a Superfund site. Federal Superfund law mandates those responsible for contaminating a Superfund take the necessary measures to clean it up or pay the government or a third-party to do so.

EPA Accuses Schneider Electric of Several Violations

The EPA claims Schneider Electric violated multiple terms of the Superfund consent decree, including:

• Failure to maintain air pollution control equipment to collect and treat hazardous air pollutants, including trichloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds.
• Failure to alert EPA and PaDEP of its malfunctioning air pollution control equipment.
• Failure to comply with Pennsylvania air pollution permitting regulations.
• Failure to provide records to agency officials.

In May, the EPA said the site is no longer an imminent threat to residents. Cleanup efforts passed the most recent five-year review conducted by the Agency.

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