Could the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recover cleanup fees from carriers that used a tank cleaning facility that is now on the EPA's Superfund list?
That was one of the regulation questions discussed during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Cleaning and Environmental Council Seminar March 30-31 in San Antonio.
Ron Farley and Katy Willis of Burr and Forman LLP, Lindee Greer of WorkSteps, and Gary Carroll and James Hall of the WCM Group Inc updated the audience on current rules and regulatory actions.
Farley said that the EPA issued letters to about 140 carriers in an attempt to learn if they used the tank cleaning facility now on the Superfund list. The agency is attempting to recover $2.3 million for cleanup costs. The EPA eventually will determine which carriers used the facility, access their liability, and notify them accordingly, he added.
Superfund is an EPA environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites and was enacted in the wake of the discovery of toxic waste dumps in the 1970s. The law allows EPA to clean up such sites and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups, according to the agency's information.
Farley advised carriers to be familiar with the tank cleaning facilities they used and verify their financial viability, examine how they operate and if they are following appropriate environmental procedures, and monitor them periodically. In addition, carriers should obtain and maintain records that indicate what materials the facility removes from the carriers' tank trailers.
Meanwhile, the investigation has prompted further EPA interest in tank cleaning facilities, Farley said.
Carroll noted that environmental inspections are becoming more sophisticated with the use of technology. Some states are using infrared cameras to identify facility emissions. EPA also has put out a new memo defining the time involved for “immediate” reporting of releases. “Don't forget that there also are state and local requirements for reporting,” he added.
In addition, Carroll advised tank cleaning facilities to be sure their laboratories are using the analysis procedures required by EPA.
Hall provided tips on handling drums and barrels and preventing stormwater runoff. Keep them elevated for better condition visibility, he said. He reminded managers that violations with drums can lead to fines of $25,000 per day.
Turning to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, Willis said that an appeal now in progress will determine if companies will continue to be cited in incidents involving subcontractors.
She also reported that another OSHA case emphasizes the importance of avoiding workplace violence. Company policies should be directed at incidents such as fighting or other confrontations that threaten employees.
Willis noted that new regulations are in effect that require employers to pay for their employees' personal protective equipment (PPE). The final rule (29 CFR Parts 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918 and 1926) stipulates that the employer must pay for required PPE, except in the limited cases specified in the standard.
Greer pointed out that a good health program in place offsets the risks for on-job injuries. “It's all about being preventive, not just reactive,” she said.
When employers are considering job applicants, they should determine if those individuals are capable of handling the physical demands of the jobs. “With good objective data collection, you can create a system of injury prevention that can save dollars in the long run,” she said. “Don't hire people who aren't strong enough to do the job.”
Tests can be conducted after employees are hired if applicants understand from the beginning of the process that the jobs are contingent on them being able to perform the physical requirements. She pointed out that after new hires are declared fit for duty, the medical information available to employers is limited.
In addition, employers should be alert for employees having problems with the essential functions of their jobs. Intervention before further injury occurs contributes to a healthy employee and a faster healing process, she said.