The violation refers to a 2002 court-approved Superfund consent decree during its cleanup at Rodale Manufacturing Superfund Site, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Industrial automation, control & safety systems
The alleged violations led to uncontrolled emissions of air pollutants causing a threat to public health and the environment.
Schneider Electric manufactures energy management and automation systems. Its portfolio includes power management, process and machines management, industrial automation, and control and safety systems.
“We will not tolerate violation of our consent decrees, especially where those violations can result in risks to public health, welfare and the environment,” said Shawn Garvin, regional administrator, EPA.
“The significant penalty in this case shows non-compliance with settlement requirements has serious consequences.”
The company will pay the biggest Superfund penalty in EPA history; 10% of the penalty will be paid to the Pennsylvania DEP.
The Superfund consent decree to remove groundwater contamination at the Lehigh County site includes: a groundwater “pump and treat” system; groundwater monitoring; and air pollution controls to prevent harmful air emissions during cleanup operations.
According to EPA and DEP, Schneider Electric USA was not operating the air pollution control portion as designed dating back to at least 2008. Schneider Electric addressed the problem in 2013 by replacing the groundwater treatment system.
- Failure to maintain air pollution control equipment to collect and treat hazardous air pollutants including trichloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds;
- Failure to alert EPA and PaDEP of its malfunctioning air pollution control equipment;
- Failure to comply with Pennsylvania air pollution permitting regulations; and
- Failure to provide records to agency officials
The site is subject to the federal Superfund law, known as the Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation, and Liability Act. It requires landowners, waste generators and waste transporters responsible for contaminating a Superfund site to clean up the area, or reimburse the government, or other parties for cleanup activities.
The Rodale Manufacturing site was added to the Superfund list of the nation’s most contaminated sites and began cleanup activities in 1991.
The site has a history of electrical component manufacturing - including electroplating, vapor degreasing and metal shaping activities - starting in the 1930s by Rodale Manufacturing Company and continuing when a subsidiary of Square D Company bought the facility in 1975.
Schneider purchased the Square D Company and currently produces electrical distribution equipment including circuit breakers, switches and infrared measurement devices.
Schneider has neither admitted nor denied liability
As part of the settlement, Schneider Electric has neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.
The company said in a statement it replaced the treatment equipment used at the site in 2013 after a malfunctioning air pollution control device was discovered.
The company takes seriously its responsibility to clean up the site and has "worked in good faith" with the government to protect public health and the environment, it said.
"Schneider Electric regrets this matter and has worked with the EPA and [state] DEP to implement several rigorous measures to improve our oversight at Rodale," the statement said.
According to Schneider, its new air pollution control device uses carbon treatment and "effectively eliminates" the potential for air releases at the site while continuing to treat groundwater.
"We set high standards for ourselves, and have applied lessons from this matter as part of our commitment to continuous improvement," it said.
"We remain fully and firmly committed to our communities, our customers, our stakeholders, and our employees and to achieving our goal for global environmental leadership."
The site does not still pose any imminent threat to borough residents, an EPA spokesman said, but cleanup continues under the Superfund process. The cleanup passed the agency's most recent five-year review.