From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published January 11, 2011 06:01 PM

Prison Air Pollution

Prisons are where they keep criminals. What has that to do with the environment? The answer is that prisons need to be heated and like industrial boilers or even home heating systems they must burn fuel and in the combustion release potential air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and the Department of General Services for alleged Clean Air Act violations at boiler plants generating power, heat and hot water at four correctional facilities. This settlement secures air pollution reductions and additional reporting requirements for correctional facilities in Muncy, Bellefonte, Huntingdon and Somerset, Pennsylvania.


“Today’s settlement will improve the air quality in four Pennsylvania communities,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. “It’s important that all sources of air emissions, including prisons, comply with environmental regulations to ensure that the standards are met in nearby communities.”

Under the terms of settlement, each of the four facilities is making changes at its boiler plant to reduce emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides. Under the agreement, the Department of Corrections will pay a civil penalty of $300,000.

As a result of this settlement:

- A baghouse to control particulate matter will be installed at the Rockview facility;

- New gas-fired boiler units at the Laurel Highlands facility will be constructed;

- Coal-fired boiler units at the Muncy facility will be shut down and replaced by an existing natural gas- fired boiler;

- The Huntingdon facility is required to either add particulate matter controls, or convert to gas-fired boiler units.

This settlement has reporting obligations to ensure the prisons stay on schedule with the terms of the agreement. Should the facilities’ boilers fail to meet the requirements, they will be subject to stipulated penalties, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per day contingent on the type and length of the violation.

Such problems with prisons is not that uncommon. US Region III (M-d Atlantic States) has over 100 prisons which have been found to commonly violate RCRA (Hazardous waste), SPCC (Spill control and containment)and other environmental regulations. The Office of Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice has targeted overcrowded, older facilities with industrial shops suspected of causing environmental damage.

In 2004 the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) settled a multi-facility enforcement action, which EPA initiated after finding significant violations during a multi-media inspection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Greensville County, Virginia in May, 2003.

EPA conducted 14 follow-up inspections at various VADOC-operated prisons throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, and discovered non-compliance with environmental regulations at many of the facilities.

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