Paper manufacturer fined for bleach spill

Photo Credit: MGN Online

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed an $8,500 penalty on Onyx Specialty Papers, Inc., a paper manufacturing company based in Lee, for violation of hazardous materials spill notification regulations at their facility located at 40 Willow Street in South Lee.

On May 21, 2013, Onyx notified MassDEP of a spill of bleach that had occurred at their facility on September 14, 2010. Onyx indicated that a fitting on a bleach tote had failed at that time, releasing solution to a concrete pad and soil in the vicinity of wastewater processing equipment at the facility.  Onyx stated that at the time of the release, it believed that the Massachusetts reportable quantity for the bleach solution was 100 pounds, and therefore did not notify MassDEP. However, the Massachusetts reportable quantity for this material is 10 pounds.

Massachusetts’ spill reporting regulations require that MassDEP be notified of spills above the reportable quantity as soon as possible, but in no case greater than two hours after having knowledge of the spill.  Onyx became aware of the error in May 2013 after a contaminant potentially related to the un-reported spill was detected in a groundwater monitoring well at the property. Notification to MassDEP was provided shortly thereafter.

Onyx has since improved the bleach tote storage location by installing impervious asphalt surfaces and a berm to contain spills. A drain for the area was also installed and is plugged during chemical deliveries and when equipment is being cleaned, to prevent accidental releases. In a recently finalized consent order, Onyx agreed to pay the $8,500 penalty and to retrain its employees on notification requirements and appropriate response to spills of oil and hazardous materials.

“When a spill of hazardous material occurs, the responsible party must immediately notify response agencies and perform assessment and cleanup of the spill quickly to eliminate any public health hazard and threat to the environment,” said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. “We appreciate that Onyx Specialty Papers has completed cleanup of the release, took proactive steps to improve its chemical handling area, and will be retraining employees to prevent this violation from occurring again.”

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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