After a dangerous eruption of hot petroleum material, and a second spill a few months later, Emerald Services Inc. faces a $68,000 penalty from the Department of Ecology.
Emerald operates a facility in Tacoma that handles dangerous waste solvents, antifreeze and re-refines used oil.
In October 2013, an eruption spilled 1,900 gallons of recycled fuel oil/asphalt flux, a highly dangerous material, and injured a worker. Following that incident, a second spill occurred at the facility’s re-refinery in January 2014, spilling 150 gallons of the same material.
During the investigations following the incidents, Ecology found that Emerald misreported the nature and severity of the first incident, and training programs were not in place for personnel. Ecology found that designated safety personnel were located a significant distance away, which may have affected worker safety during the evacuation after the 2013 incident.
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“We work on spill prevention with facilities across Washington as a part of our ongoing work toward preventing and reducing toxic threats,” said K Seiler, program manager for Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “Unfortunately we’ve seen a number of incidents at this site over the years. Training for waste management and spill prevention should have already been in place.”
Since 2006, Emerald has received penalties totaling more than $150,000. Two of the violations in this current penalty are related to contingency planning for emergencies, and training staff how best to respond during a spill. Another violation stems from a failure to report to Ecology when the facility resumed operations after the 2013 incident, as well as misreporting the nature and severity of the spill to Ecology’s response team.
“We are reviewing the proposed penalty and all the circumstances with regard to the incidents, our immediate response and follow-up actions,” said Dean Kattler, Emerald's Chief Operating Officer. “As a family-owned environmental services company, Emerald takes health, safety, and environmental protection and compliance very seriously. We appreciate that Ecology acknowledges the improvement in our employee training between the first and second incidents.”
The company has the right to appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.