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Judge Rules for EPA in Clean Air Case Against Danbury Company

A federal environmental administrative law judge has ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a clean air enforcement case against the Barden Corp., a ball-bearing manufacturer in Danbury, Conn.

After a two-day hearing, Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan L. Biro ruled for EPA on eight of nine counts of EPA's complaint and ordered the company to pay a penalty of $281,000. EPA sought a penalty of $289,000 for all nine counts.

"Most of our enforcement actions are resolved through negotiations, without going to a formal hearing," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "But if we have to, we will go forward with a hearing, and do what it takes to ensure that companies are meeting their environmental responsibilities. We're pleased that the judge upheld our complaint in the Barden case and validated the hard work of our inspectors and case team."

The case stems from an inspection EPA conducted in 1999, in which the agency found Barden violated Clean Air Act standards for trichloroethylene (TCE) emissions. TCE is a solvent used in six degreasers at Barden's facility. The violations involving these degreasers included failure to post operating requirements near the machines, failure to comply with degreaser hoist rates, failure to submit notification and exceedance reports, failure to maintain operating records, failure to perform emission calculations and failure to comply with emission limits. According to EPA, one of the degreasers emitted over 10 tons of TCE above the allowable limit in 1998.

When inhaled even for short periods of time, TCE can cause headaches, lung irritation, dizziness, poor coordination and difficulty concentrating.

Barden came into compliance after the inspection, but negotiations between EPA and Barden to settle the complaint were unsuccessful. Chief Judge took testimony and arguments from both sides, and issued a binding decision.

The case was the first complaint in the country to go to a hearing over violations of halogenated solvent air emissions regulations.

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