Chilkoot Lumber Company and owner fined $9,500 for leaking PCB transformers in Haines, Alaska

Release date: 08/08/2011

(Seattle—Aug. 8, 2011) Chilkoot Lumber Company, located in Haines, Alaska, and its owner, Edward Lapeyri, will pay $9,500 for improperly storing and failing to repair leaking transformers that contained toxic PCBs, according to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Chilkoot Lumber Company had several old electrical transformers and capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls—commonly known as PCBs—on its property. The company ceased lumber operations in 1991, but improperly stored the unused transformers and capacitors until 2009, when a hired contractor properly disposed of them. Due to years of improper storage, many of the transformers containing PCBs developed leaks. “The danger in leaving dormant industrial equipment lying around is that it can leak toxic chemicals like PCBs and contaminate soil and groundwater,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “Proper storage and disposal of old transformers and capacitors containing PCBs reduces the likelihood that they will pose a public health or environmental risk.” EPA inspectors identified five transformers with PCB concentrations between 50 and 500 parts per million, three transformers with concentrations over 500 parts per million and three capacitors each containing four gallons of 100 percent PCBs. The devices—some of which leaked small amounts of PCBs—were stored in locations that did not comply with EPA regulations, including storage inside an old shed and outside with no covering. PCBs are known carcinogens and can harm the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Congress banned PCBs in 1979, but they may be present in products and materials produced before the ban including electrical transformers, capacitors, oil used in motors, oil-based paint, plastics and insulation. In addition to improper storage violations, the company also failed to register its PCB transformers, maintain inspection records and mark PCB-containing items as required under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA previously brought a Clean Water Act enforcement action against a fish processing company owned by Lapeyri that operated on the same property.

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