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PCB-Laced Sludge Brings $35 Million Fine Against GM, Two Disposers

March 18, 1991

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Fines totaling $35 million were announced today against General Motors Corp. and two disposal companies that allegedly handled 30,000 tons of sludge contaminated with cancer-causing PCBs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said General Motors would be fined $14.1 million for generating the sludge at its plant in Massena, while Cecos International Inc. and CWM Chemical Services Inc. would be fined for disposing of it in Niagara County between February 1984 and October 1987.

The EPA contends the sludge should have been burned, not deposited in landfills. GM said it was differed with EPA on some of its conclusions and was preparing a formal response.

Cecos and CWM subsidiaries in Ohio and Alabama could also face fines for accepting part of the sludge, said EPA spokeswoman Melissa Jaeger. She said those subsidiaries were not included in today’s announcement because they are not under the jurisdiction of EPA’s New York office.

CWM and Cecos ran the only two licensed hazardous-waste disposal areas in New York state until last year, when Cecos’ parent company announced it was going out of the business.

CWM, whose landfill north of Niagara Falls is the only remaining toxic waste dump in the state, was fined $7 million for accepting 10,000 tons of the sludge, while Cecos was fined $14.1 million for accepting 16,360 tons of it, Jaeger said.

The rest of the sludge went to a CWM landfill in Emelle, Ala., and a now- closed Cecos landfill in Williamsburg, Ohio, Jaeger said. She said the EPA’s New York office would refer the cases to the offices with jurisdiction over those two sites for further action.

The EPA is willing to consider reducing the fines if the companies agree to do something ″environmentally sound and beneficial″ in return, she said. She said the companies also can request a hearing before an administrative law judge if they feel they have done nothing wrong.

EPA officials faulted GM for attempting to dispose of the wastes and said the sludge should have been tested and rejected for landfilling at the two hazardous-waste facilities.

″The regulations do not allow for industrial sludges to be landfilled when PCB concentrations exceed 500 parts per million,″ the EPA said in a statement. ″Since the GM wastes exceeded this limit, they should have been incinerated.″

General Motors has some ″technical disagreements over sampling and analysis issues″ with the EPA and is drafting a formal response to the complaint, said Ben Ippolito, a spokesman for GM’s central foundry division in Saginaw, Mich.

CWM General Manager John J. Stanulonis said: ″Frankly, we’re surprised at the allegations. We expect to contest them. It is our belief that we did take the material and that we did properly dispose of it in accordance with our permits and procedures.″

Telephone calls to the Cecos landfill office in Niagara Falls were not answered this morning.

EPA officials said the companies have 20 days to file appeals and request a hearing. The agency said in a statement the companies can also request an informal conference to negotiate and settle the complaints.

While polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been banned from most uses in the United States, GM is allowed to use them as a coolant in hydraulic fluid at its forge in Massena in concentrations of up to 50 parts per million.

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