agrees to pay fine for hazardous waste violations
YSI Incorporated has agreed to pay $275,000 in fines for hazardous waste
violations as part of a settlement with the State of Ohio.
The settlement also includes a consent order, which both YSI and the Ohio
attorney generals office have signed, and includes plans for YSI
to investigate and, if necessary, remediate contaminated soil and groundwater
at the companys Brannum Lane facility and its old High Street building,
where the violations occurred. Based on comments by a YSI official and
Ohio EPA officials, much of the work under the new consent order will
be folded into the companys current investigation, which started
several years ago when contaminated groundwater was found at YSIs
Of the total fine, $110,000 would be paid into the States hazardous
waste cleanup fund, and another $165,000 would be used to fund supplemental
environmental projects: $100,000 would go to the States remediation
trust fund; YSI will pay $60,000 half of which is credited toward
the penalty to fund a private technical assistance grant, which
would be made available to one or more local nonprofit organizations;
and $35,000 would be used to fund at least one local environmental project.
Signed earlier this month, the settlement must be approved by Judge Stephen
A. Wolaver in the Greene County Common Pleas Court, where the State filed
its lawsuit against YSI last year.
Two of YSIs neighbors, Fred Arment and Lisa Wolters, who are represented
by Cincinnati attorney D. David Altman, have intervened in the case and
have a 30-day period to comment on the consent order. On Tuesday, Altman
said the neighbors will ask Judge Wolaver to extend the comment period
another 45 days.
In an interview on Monday at YSIs headquarters, Lisa Abel, the companys
director of corporate social responsibility, said she liked that a good
portion of YSIs penalty will be used to fund supplemental
environmental projects, including two local projects. Its
O.K. to put the total penalty in the States coffers, but its
nice to have local benefit, she said.
Though Rick Omlor, the companys president and CEO, was out of the
country on business and unavailable for comment, he said in a press release
announcing the settlement, We believe the amount of the penalty
is fair and we understand that YSI must accept responsibility for this
Altman said that the consent order is deficient on a number
of fronts. The order, for instance, too narrowly defines
the areas where chemicals were disposed at YSI, without getting
enough historic information, Altman said in a phone interview from
his office. He also highlighted other parts of the order, including the
deadlines and definitions, which he said need to be clarified.
As he has before, Altman said that he wants to introduce to the court
documents that will help Judge Wolaver determine whether the consent
order is adequate.
Mark Gribben, a spokesman for the attorney generals office, which
negotiated the consent order and settlement, said that the order is the
appropriate remedy for the situation concerning YSI. He said
that the State issues penalties that are designed to ensure a proper
cleanup is done and to give a company the proper incentive
to make sure similar things dont happen again.
Last May, the State of Ohio filed a suit against YSI, claiming that the
company violated Ohios hazardous waste and water pollution laws
and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. The State
took that action after YSI revealed in May 2002 that it had learned that
a small group of employees dumped 1,1,1-trichlorethane (1,1,1-TCA) onto
the ground at the Brannum Lane facility, contributing to the groundwater
contamination that has been found on and around the property.
Abel said in Mondays interview that YSI also knows employees improperly
disposed of hazardous wastes on the ground in the 1960s and 1970s, before
RCRA was on the books.
People talked about coffee cups or beakers of solvents being
poured out, she said, adding that different groups did different
activities. For instance, Abel said that some employees poured solvents
outside on the ground while others poured stuff down the drain.
The State complaint included nine counts that detail various violations,
including the dumping charge.
As part of the settlement YSI agreed to perform, and fund, several extra
projects, which are called supplemental environmental projects.
One project calls for YSI to provide $60,000 to fund a private technical
assistance grant, which would be used to help local residents interpret
and comment on site-related information and decisions that
are made during YSIs investigation and cleanup. Residents would
be able to hire independent consultants or advisors to help review work
plans and reports and visit the cleanup site.
Abel compared this effort to the Source Water Protection Committee, a
group of local residents who have met to discuss and monitor YSIs
progress. The company has paid for a consultant, Bennett & Williams
Environmental Consultants, to assist the committee in studying and commenting
on YSIs plans and data.
Local nonprofit community groups that are affected or could be affected
by YSIs site are eligible for the funds. YSI will accept proposals
once Judge Wolaver approves the consent order, Abel said. If more than
one proposal is made, the company will try to get the groups to work together
and split the funds, she said. If this is not possible, the company will
ask the Village Environmental Commission to select one group.
YSI would also fund a second environmental community-based project, which
does not have to be related to YSIs investigation. Abel said that
16 ideas were proposed and the State found that five, submitted by eight
people, qualified. YSI will select which project will get the funding.
The consent order also requires YSI to investigate and remediate the contamination
caused by the release of waste material at its Brannum Lane facility.
Since 2001, YSI has been investigating the groundwater and soil contamination
found on and around the Brannum property. Last year, YSI signed an administrative
order with the Ohio EPA that laid out how the company would address the
pollution. As part of the agreement, YSI agreed to provide Village water
to its neighbors.
The company hopes to include that work into the activities it will be
required to perform under the proposed consent order. YSI would like
to be able to make the shift without having to start over, Abel
Everything weve done gets folded into this, she said
of the consent order.
Matt Justice and Debora Depweg, the two Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency officials who will now oversee the agencys intervention at
YSI, were out in the field on Tuesday and were unavailable for comment.
The officials, who work for different divisions within the Ohio EPA, have
said that they plan to work together.
Though not included in the original State suit, the consent order also
addresses a violation involving YSIs old building at 506 South High
During the construction of the companys corporate office building,
in 1995 to late 96 or early 97, Abel said, YSI transported
and stored isopropyl alcohol at the High Street building, which Patrick
Ertel purchased from YSI in 2001 for his publishing business, Antique
Power. The activity, Abel said, was not conducted under Ohio EPA protocols
Abel said that she cant speculate why the chemical,
which is used for cleaning parts, was moved to High Street. She also said
she was not sure who ordered it.
Under the consent order, YSI must investigate whether the building and
property are contaminated. If chemicals are found in the soil or groundwater
above acceptable Ohio EPA limits, the company must remediate the site,
the order states.
Theres no evidence that we have that there was any release
of chemicals into the environment at the High Street building, said
Gribben, the Attorney General spokesman.
The order also includes a provision for public participation, including
holding meetings with Ohio EPA and YSI officials; releasing fact sheets
on the investigation and cleanup; and allowing for public comments on
critical documents, such as a public participation plan and