Friday, April 27, 2012

BNSF Resolves Soil Contamination Charges

BNSF Railway has agreed to pay a fine to settle charges that it mishandled contaminated soil at a construction site in the North Portland area in 2009.

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced April 25 that BNSF has been assessed a $37,500 penalty for the mishandling and transportation of contaminated soil from a construction project near the McCormick & Baxter Superfund, a former wood treating facility on the banks of the Willamette River.

According to the EPA, a BNSF contractor excavated and removed at least 36 cubic yards – equivalent to three truckloads – of soil containing the hazardous waste pentachlorophenol.

The EPA alleges that the contractor then failed to properly characterize the excavated waste, didn’t lawfully store and manage the waste on site, and didn’t properly transport the contaminated soil from the site to a disposal facility equipped and permitted to handle such waste.

Each failure was a violation of federal hazardous waste law, according to the EPA. And although a contractor performed the work the responsibility for ensuring that all construction projects are performed in a safe and lawful manner was BNSF’s according to the environmental agency.

“Managing and transporting contaminated soil safely requires that you pay attention to detail and strictly comply with all federal, state and local laws,” Edward Kowalski, director of the EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, said. “Major corporations and their contractors are well aware of the rules and the importance of properly managing hazardous waste.”

Pentachlorophenol is a restricted use pesticide that has been used industrially for decades as a preservative for railroad ties, wharf pilings and other devices made of wood. Exposure to high levels of the chemical has been shown to cause liver damage, harm the immune system, and have damaging reproductive and developmental effects.

In signing the penalty agreement, BNSF did not admit to any of the allegations, according to the EPA.