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EPA says ADEM not following guidelines

MOBILE — The federal Environment Protection Agency has warned Alabama’s environmental watchdog office that federal guidelines on hazardous waste inspections and penalizing polluters are not being followed by the state.

EPA said the Alabama Department of Environmental Management lacks proper documentation on whether polluters had been fined for violations and does not have a written policy on how fines are calculated, making it impossible to determine if fines were appropriate and imposed in a fair manner.

The federal agency said ADEM had “effective compliance and enforcement programs,” exceeding national averages in many areas.

But it said the state agency needs to adopt a formal written system for issuing penalties and more aggressively go after companies that violate pollution permits repeatedly.

“We completely agree with the EPA’s assessments and are working on those issues,” said ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes.

The EPA report said the state agency issues letters citing violations but does not set a date to be in compliance or explain the penalty for continued violations.

The report cites several instances where letters did not lead to compliance by a violator.

“ADEM repeatedly issued Letters of Violation instead of escalating enforcement by pursuing appropriate enforcement action,” the EPA report said.

Hughes, the ADEM spokesman, said that “the repeated issuance of Letters of Violation will become the exception and not the rule” as the agency addresses EPA’s criticisms.

Hughes also promised that ADEM will become more aggressive in dealing with violators. “We are incorporating changes into our enforcement strategy,” he said.

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