Case Study: Metals Processor Released from $47,000 Form R Fine

If you use EPCRA Section 313 chemicals, you are very familiar with toxic release inventories or TRIs. Regardless of whether you are required to submit your reporting to the EPA, you must always have records of the methodology and supporting calculations that establish your usage. In other words, if you use these chemicals you have to monitor and record your activities.

That reporting and recordkeeping is subject at any time to EPA inspection to confirm the process and information were recorded accurately. If you are placed under scrutiny, having a knowledgeable partner on your side can be especially helpful. Miscommunications can occur that have the potential to cause your organization not only headaches but a large hit to your bottom line too.

The possible costly implications of an EPA inspection came front and center for a client of ours, a metal processor located in Indiana. An inspector arrived on site to review the Form R information from three years prior, including their production records and the SDSs for all materials used. Fortunately, the DECA Environmental Team had been completing their reporting for over 10 years, so we knew their records were accurate. However, as the inspector reviewed the SDSs, an issue arose. Our client uses copper in its processing, which has the potential to contain multiple alloys, including lead. The SDS for copper clearly states that it covers for the multiple products possibly contained within copper. One alloy could contain 5% lead and one could contain 0% lead and use the same SDS. We had never reported for lead because our client had notification from their supplier that the copper they were using was certified as containing 0% lead. The inspector assumed the 5% level which sent the usage over the limits, therefore activating the reporting requirement. The company was slapped with a $47,500 fine from the EPA.

Fortunately, DECA’s Form R reporting methodologies direct us to maintain records for decades, giving us access to the certification information from the supplier from 2004. We presented this information to the EPA inspector while defending our client’s case. The fact is that the client knew the copper they used contained 0% lead because the product they make to contain radiation emitted by x-ray and MRI machines may not contain any lead. However, the EPA was not necessarily going to take their word for it. The paperwork we supplied supporting their claim led to the complete dismissal of the fine.

Our client’s experience reiterates the importance of employing a methodology for calculating your Form R thresholds and maintaining records. The company keeps the records we create for them, but we keep a copy as well and have an organized system allowing quick access to them in times like these. As this case study demonstrates, even when you are following the regulatory standards, miscommunications can occur that affect your bottom line or disrupt your business. It is our goal at DECA to be a good partner – during the good times as well as the challenging ones. As experts in environmental regulations, we know how to work through the regulatory system to ensure you stay in compliance.

Is your Form R reporting methodology ready to stand up to an inspection? Send us an email or give us a call at 317.575.0095 to talk to a DECA Environmental team member about your business.