City firm jolted with big fine for waste storage 50 other U.S. companies cited on hazardous-material counts


WASHINGTON -- A $1.2 million fine has been levied against a Baltimore electroplating company, one of 51 firms named yesterday by federal and state environmental officials as part of a month-long crackdown on hazardous waste violations across the nation.

The Environmental Protection Agency said 22 companies and two government facilities in 16 states had been charged in the past month with illegal storage and disposal of hazardous wastes and related violations. The agency filed criminal charges against five companies.

Cited yesterday for allegedly storing hazardous wastes without a permit and other violations and fined $1.2 million were Atlantic Alliance Corp. at 4004 E. Monument St. and its president, Philip Horelick.

Two other Maryland firms were also fined.

The EPA said it was penalizing Mr. Horelick because of what agency officials alleged was an attempt to evade responsibility for past violations.

Atlantic Alliance Corp., formerly Allied Metal Finishing Corp., was fined $50,000 by the EPA two years ago. But the company went bankrupt without paying or cleaning up, said Lawrence Falkin, chief of hazardous waste enforcement for the EPA's Region 3 office in Philadelphia.

The company's principals, including Mr. Horelick, then formed Atlantic Alliance, bought the assets of Allied Metal Finishing and took over the electroplating operation, the EPA said. An inspection last July found violations involving storage of liquid wastes and sludges containing lead, cadmium and other toxic metals.

Attempts to reach Mr. Horelick at the company and at home were not successful yesterday.

Those cited have 30 days to appeal the proposed penalties, EPA officials said.

Ten states, including Maryland, took action against 24 firms on similar charges in what officials described as a coordinated enforcement campaign.

Many of those cited were accused of mismanaging hazardous wastes and of essentially seeking to evade detection by failing to notify authorities or falsifying reports required under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

"These are not just paperwork violations," said Don R. Clay, assistant EPA administrator for solid waste and emergency response. "These are people who have not just been breaking the law but harming the environment at the same time."

Some of the companies cited were dumping toxic wastes on the ground, down sewer drains and in trash bins, or they were storing hazardous chemicals in leaking drums and tanks, officials said.

Potomac Electric Power Co., one of the companies targeted, contended that its transgressions were paperwork violations that did not endanger the environment.

The utility, which serves the Washington area, was hit with a $453,000 penalty for illegally shipping and storing hazardous wastes at four of its facilities, including its Chalk Point and Morgantown power plants in Maryland. Pepco released a statement saying that it had "always carefully and safely disposed of all wastes" at licensed disposal sites. The violations alleged were mainly "documentation discrepancies," the utility said.

Mr. Falkin acknowledged that Pepco's wastes, primarily cleaning solvents, apparently were disposed of properly. But he said that without the keeping of proper records of waste shipments and storage, authorities could not be sure.

The Maryland Department of the Environment also proposed a $3,000 fine against Publishers Printing of Jessup on Monday for illegal storage and disposal of hazardous waste, a flammable solvent used to clean the firm's printing presses.

Ray Dayton, Publishers Printing's vice president, said he had not received the state's citation.

Maryland Environment Secretary Robert Perciasepe said that rules for reporting on storage and handling of hazardous wastes are intended to prevent toxic dumps that may require costly cleanup at government expense.

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