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General Electric to pay $2.25m for violating environmental laws

Staff writer |
General Electric has agreed to pay a $2.25 million civil penalty to resolve a complaint alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws.

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The fine is in connection with its use of an incinerator at a manufacturing facility that it once owned and operated in Waterford, New York, announced the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

According to allegations in the complaint, GE owned the Waterford facility from 1947 through 2006 and continued to operate it through early 2007. GE manufactured various products at the facility, including sealants made of silicone.

The silicone manufacturing process generated hazardous waste. GE sought and received permits from DEC to dispose of the hazardous waste onsite, subject to compliance with the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

GE disposed of hazardous waste in a rotary kiln incinerator that included an automatic waste feed cut-off system designed to shut down the incinerator if GE deviated from operating parameters designed to ensure compliance with the CAA and RCRA.

Unbeknownst to federal and state authorities, GE used a computer program to override the incinerator’s automatic waste feed cut-off system, allowing GE to continue to burn hazardous waste in the incinerator in violation of its CAA and RCRA permits.

On at least 1,859 occasions during the period of September 2006 until February 2007, GE employees manually overrode the automatic waste feed cut-off system, thereby potentially exposing the public and the environment to harmful hazardous air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and furans.

Though its employees were violating federal and state law, GE submitted routine compliance reports to the United States and the state of New York falsely attesting to compliance with RCRA, the CAA and permits issued pursuant to those statutes.

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