Firm Settles Allegations of Pollution Violations at Lynchburg, Va., Pipe Plant

Griffin Pipe's parent company has agreed to pay a $25,857 penalty in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of federal pollution laws.

Jan. 15—LYNCHBURG, Va. — Griffin Pipe's parent company has agreed to pay a $25,857 penalty in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of federal pollution laws.

Amsted Industries Inc. also has installed a new pollution control system at the Lynchburg plant that prevents the dust generated by the plant's melting and metal treatment operations from becoming hazardous waste, the EPA announced Friday.

As part of the settlement, Griffin Pipe Products Co. neither admitted nor denied liability for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Those allegations — first discovered in June 2003 during a routine inspection — included failure to minimize the risk of release of hazardous wastes. Those wastes included dust containing lead and cadmium, ignitable aerosol paint cans, crushed fluorescent bulbs and waste paint.

The initial complaint also said the company was operating without a required hazardous waste storage permit and failed to close or properly label hazardous waste containers.

Bob Ingram, works manager at Griffin Pipe, characterized those alleged violations as "minor," but EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Smith said she couldn't agree with that description.

"The most immediate problem was dust floating around in the plant," Smith said Friday, noting that it was potentially hazardous to workers and the community.

She said failure to label hazards was also a real concern. The reason EPA requires permits and labels is to try to prevent problems that could occur in an emergency, like a fire or flood. Personnel need to be properly trained and able to secure waste quickly, Smith said.

"If an emergency were to occur, what would happen to the community?" she said.

Griffin Pipe, with about 330 employees, manufactures ductile iron pressure pipe for potable and waste water systems. The pipes are made from scrap, mostly crushed automobiles.

Smith said the EPA is happy with the agreement and Griffin Pipe's willingness to do more than required. The new in-duct system exceeds the requirements of federal and state environmental regulations, she said.

Ingram said the company installed the system about seven months ago. It injects a substance into the hot gas coming from the furnace on its way to the baghouse, or dust-collection system, that binds with the dust in the gas as it cools. That essentially means the lead- and cadmium-laden dust is no longer a hazardous waste.

"EPA feels that there's a real benefit to this supplemental environmental project that they're doing," Smith said.

In addition, Ingram said, Griffin Pipe is installing a new $3 million baghouse though that installation is not related to the settlement.

"We knew that ours was getting old and we needed to replace it," he said of the 30-year-old baghouse, which will be replaced this summer.

Ingram said he was glad to hear that the EPA had accepted his company's settlement offer, but that he had not yet been notified of it.

Smith said that Chicago-based Amsted had signed the agreement and had received a courtesy copy of the news release.

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© 2005, The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.