Four Southwest Virginia Companies Cited for Pollutants

Manufacturing produces waste. Even highly regulated industries sometimes violate environmental permit conditions or produce more pollution than permits allow.

Oct. 21—Manufacturing produces waste. Even highly regulated industries sometimes violate environmental permit conditions or produce more pollution than permits allow.

Recently, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's regional office issued orders and leveled pollution-related fines against Roanoke Electric Steel Corp. in Roanoke and Commonwealth Laminating and Coating in Martinsville.

Also cited by DEQ was Crawford Excavating in Moneta.

Separately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month a settlement with American Furniture in Martinsville for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

ROANOKE ELECTRIC STEEL: Late last year the manufacturer of steel products, had problems with a "baghouse" used to filter dust, which DEQ refers to as "particulate matter." The company alerted DEQ that it had deviated from air pollution standards.

The agency subsequently "noted several apparent violations" by Roanoke Electric Steel, located on Westside Boulevard Northwest, of air pollution control law. The alleged violations related to record keeping and training.

DEQ reported that Roanoke Electric Steel had acted quickly to fix problems at the baghouse.

The company did not deny or admit the allegations but agreed to pay a penalty of $2,491.27. Joe Crawford, president of Roanoke Electric Steel, signed a related order last month.

Norman Auldridge, deputy regional director in Roanoke for DEQ's West Central Regional Office, said Roanoke Electric Steel officials "do a good job of trying to stay in compliance."

Auldridge added, "It's not always easy."

COMMONWEALTH LAMINATING AND COATING: In Martinsville, Commonwealth Laminating and Coating coats plastic film for use in window tinting for automotive and industrial applications. According to DEQ, the company is registered with the EPA and the department as "a large quantity generator of hazardous waste." The plant's wastes include solvents and caustic cleaners.

After an inspection in May, DEQ alleged that Commonwealth Laminating had untrained and unsupervised workers managing hazardous wastes. DEQ also alleged other training deficits, an outdated contingency plan for emergencies and other violations.

DEQ reported the company made "substantial effort" after the inspection to comply with regulations. Commonwealth Laminating agreed to pay $14,700 for the alleged violations found during the May inspection.

CRAWFORD EXCAVATING: From 1994 to 2004 the DEQ inspected several times a site in Franklin County after receiving complaints that Crawford Excavating, owned and operated by V.T. Crawford, was disposing of solid wastes there.

Most of the waste was wood waste, according to DEQ, "from land-clearing activities." It also included demolition debris from construction activities, the agency reported.

In July, Crawford agreed to stop storing land-clearing debris at the site and to stop open burning there. DEQ said Crawford will seek a permit to operate a transfer station at the site to process such debris and that he agreed to pay a fine of $3,150.

The Commonwealth Laminating and the Crawford Excavating orders could be revised after a public comment period that ends Nov. 11 for Commonwealth Laminating and Nov. 18 for Crawford Excavating.

AMERICAN FURNITURE CO.: A wholly owned subsidiary of La-Z-Boy Inc., American Furniture has reached a settlement agreement with EPA to pay a $17,000 penalty for excess emissions of particulate matter from a wood-fired boiler at its Martinsville plant.

As part of the settlement, American Furniture also promised to complete a three-year, $220,000 project to cut particulate emissions beyond the requirements of federal and state regulations. The project will reduce "fugitive emissions" of sawdust, used to fuel the plant's boilers, by using pneumatic tubes rather than a front end loader to transport the sawdust from the production line to the boiler.

In January 2003, EPA cited American Furniture for violating limits set by the plant's Clean Air Act permit on particulate emissions. The company shut down its wood-fired boiler and implemented an EPA-approved compliance plan including boiler repairs and modifications. The boiler was restarted in November 2003, and retesting showed it was in compliance with emission limits, said DEQ.

The company has neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged Clean Air Act violations.

Particulate emissions have been linked to asthma and other respiratory ailments, and pose specific risks for children and the elderly. Particle pollution also leads to reduced visibility.

For EPA, "particulate matter" refers to particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope.

© 2004, The Roanoke Times, Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.