PCBs in Used Oil Cost Muffler Shop $9,300

A Midas Muffler shop in Bellevue, Wash., has reached a $9,300 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve alleged federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations related to the mishandling of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a broad family of man-made organic chemicals that have been demonstrated to cause cancer and a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. The manufacture of PCBs was banned in 1979.

A used-oil recycler in Seattle discovered the PCB problems after receiving a shipment of 150 gallons of used oil from Midas in October 2007. Midas did not inform the recycler that the used oil contained PCBs. When the recycler tested the oil and found that it was contaminated with PCBs, it notified EPA. The company was forced to dispose all of the used oil as PCB-contaminated fluid.

According to Daniel Duncan, EPA's regional PCB program coordinator in Seattle, facilities that handle used oil that may contain PCBs need to have proper testing, notification, storage, shipping, and disposal practices and follow their obligations under the TSCA. "These federal rules are intended to protect human health and the environment from risks posed by these toxic chemicals," he said. "This is why it's so important for companies to comply with federal regulations, especially here where PCBs and other persistent toxic chemicals pose a threat to Puget Sound. If they don't, they put people and the environment at risk, and they face potential fines for noncompliance."

Midas' alleged violations included a failure to properly mark the contaminated oil container with a PCB label, notify EPA in advance of the shipment of the PCB waste, and prepare a manifest for the shipment of the PCB waste. EPA notes that companies should use either a field screening test kit or send a sample of their used oil to a laboratory for analysis to determine if it contains PCBs. It is important, the agency adds, for companies to make this determination before sending the used oil for energy recovery/disposal. If the used oil is found to have PCBs, the company must isolate the PCB-containing oil from further contaminating other used oil.

Concerns about the toxicity and persistence of PCBs in the environment urged Congress in 1976 to enact prohibitions on the manufacture, processing and distribution in commerce of PCBs, including "cradle to grave" (i.e. from manufacture to disposal) management of PCBs. Rules governing PCBs and additional information on their toxic effects can be found at EPA's PCB homepage at www.epa.gov/pcb/. For Washington State Department of Ecology used oil facts, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0204006.pdf.

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