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June 1, 1987---
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The federal Justice Department (DOJ) and the state of Louisiana are seeking fines up to $2.2 billion from Browning Ferris Industries (BFI), charging the waste giant with serious and repeated violations of RCRA (federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act). Specifically, two BFI subsidiaries (CECOS International and BFI-Chemical Services, Inc. [BFI-CSI]) are charged with 40 RCRA violations in the operation of a commercial hazardous waste facility in Livingston, Louisiana. BFI-CSI owned and operated the 382-acre facility from 1978 to 1983, then sold it to CECOS, which now handles all of BFI's hazardous waste activities. The case against BFI was developed by DOJ, by federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and by the state of Louisiana; federal charges involve RCRA violations and Louisiana authorities are charging BFI with additional violations of Louisiana air and water laws.

Government investigators uncovered more than 2800 RCRA violations during six years of inspections at the facility. In its complaint, DOJ charges that BFI improperly disposed of liquid and incompatible wastes, including ignitable and reactive wastes. The complaint further charges that from 1980 through 1986 BFI failed to take proper samples of wastes to determine what the wastes contained prior to treatment, storage or disposal.

The complaint says BFI failed to maintain proper operating records of its business at the site, failed to maintain an up-to-date emergency contingency plan for the site, failed to provide training for emergency response teams, failed to maintain necessary emergency response equipment, failed to maintain closure and post-closure plans, failed to submit certification that six cells of a major landfill were properly closed, and failed to maintain surface impoundments in a proper manner.

The complaint asks that BFI be required to pay $25,000 per day per violation. If BFI were fined $25,000 per day for 40 violations over a six-year period, the fine would total $2.2 billion. This would be by far the largest fine ever sought against a company for environmental violations. The administrator of the federal EPA, Lee Thomas, commented, "This is a particularly important case because of the large number of violations of federal and state laws found, the seriousness of those violations, and the fact that they occurred over many years. The substantial penalties we are seeking reflect EPA's strong commitment to enforcing the law...."
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.

Descriptor terms: waste disposal; justice department; la; fines; browning ferris industries; waste disposal; rcra; compliance; cecos international; bfi-chemical services; bfi-csi; landfilling; record keeping; enforcement;

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