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Johnson Laminating Disputes EPA Charges

On May 1, EPA filed a complaint against Carson, Calif.-based Johnson Laminating and Coating Co. for hazardous waste management violations. Johnson Laminating disputed the allegations, claiming the company was only acting in an efficient manner after reducing the amount of waste it generated.

According to EPA, a routine inspection in January 2007 uncovered violations including storing hazardous waste without a permit, failure to close hazardous waste containers, failure to maintain a complete contingency plan and failure to maintain adequate aisle space.

“The violations found at the Johnson Laminating facility are significant and if left uncorrected could lead to serious harm to the workers and the surrounding environment,” said Rich Vaille, EPA’s Waste Management Division associate director for the Pacific Southwest region.

Federal and state regulations limit the storage of hazardous waste to 90 days. EPA claims Johnson Laminating stored hazardous waste for longer than the required time limit, and said the company faces fines up to $32,500 per day per violation if it fails to comply.

Johnson Laminating Responds

Scott Davidson, president of Johnson Laminating, told that the January 2007 inspection revealed five issues, four of which resulted in combined fines totaling $2,000. The final issue involving the time frame of hazardous waste storage carried a much more significant fine.

Davidson explained that EPA said the company was acting without a permit as a storage facility by storing waste for longer than the 90-day time limit. He acknowledged that Johnson Laminating is a generator of waste, not a waste storage facility. The company creates waste and then ships it to be used for other products.

When Johnson Laminating took steps to reduce the amount of waste it produced, waste accumulated more slowly, and the company waited to ship it until enough was generated. Davidson said they were striving to be more efficient by only shipping when they had a full amount.

EPA, however, said this accumulation meant that Johnson Laminating was acting as a waste storage facility. Since Johnson Laminating does not have a permit to operate as a storage facility, the company could face a fine of anywhere from $65,000 to $350,000.

In Davidson’s view, EPA is charging a small company working to reduce its waste. He said, “My answer to them was, ‘Would you prefer for me to be generating more waste?’”

Even so, after EPA’s inspection, Davidson said Johnson Laminating appropriately responded by ensuring that the waste was removed within the 90-day time period. He stressed that the company’s waste storage procedures now are in compliance with EPA regulations.

“As soon as they brought it to our attention, we immediately changed,” he said.

Davidson added that he is in the middle of contesting EPA’s charges.

“They’re trying to strong arm a small business,” he said. “They’re trying to cave in a small business, and I want to stand up to it.”

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