It can be easy to think, “It won’t happen to me,” but when it comes to following environmental laws, it’s ALWAYS better for a business to think, “It could happen to me.”
Imperial Irrigation District is learning that lesson the hard way. The irrigation district that serves the Imperial Valley in Southern California has settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over violations related to polluting local wetlands.
Under the agreement, Imperial Irrigation District will pay a nearly $300,000 penalty, as well as provide mitigation to offset harm to the environment.
The district is just one in a string of companies and organizations that have faced violations over the past year, resulting in millions of dollars in fines and a public image hit.
If your company generates waste or participates in activities that are deemed harmful to the environment under state or federal laws, it is important to make sure you have the proper protocols in place so that you can avoid the same fate as Imperial Irrigation District and other companies like DISH, Pick-N-Pull and Firestone.
The Case Against Imperial Irrigation District
In November of 2020, inspectors from the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected the construction of drain banks in the area.
The investigation found that Imperial Irrigation District (IID) activities had caused the discharge of sediment into nearly 1 acre of wetlands. The discharge also impacted nearly 20 acres of wetlands by severing the connection with Morton Bay, which drains to the Salton Sea, according to the EPA.
Public utilities like Imperial Irrigation District, as well as companies and organizations, must comply with state and federal laws that are designed to prevent harm to the environment and the surrounding communities. When they do not, they are strapped with fines that for some businesses may be hard to overcome.
In the case of Imperial Irrigation District, the public utility must pay a $299,857 penalty and develop a plan that will remove the sediment in question. IID must also restore the water connection to Morton Bay.
If the company is unable to restore the water connection, it likely faces further substantial costs since it would need to re-establish 63 acres of wetlands at an alternative location as part of the settlement.
How To Avoid Violations
It’s critical to have an effective waste management plan in place no matter what type of waste you generate. While some waste you generate may be directly related to your operations (such as industrial cleaning chemicals or medical waste), other types of hazardous waste may be unearthed and require specialized services such as contaminated soil disposal.
Hazardous waste disposal companies can help ensure your company stays compliant no matter which industry you’re in and what type of waste you generate.
Federal and state disposal laws are constantly changing and evolving, and staying on top of these changing regulations can be difficult and time-consuming. And, if you generate more than one type of waste that is regulated, you are likely subject to different laws tailored to the disposal of that waste.
For example, electronic waste management is very different than dental waste management and industrial waste disposal. Each type of hazardous waste has its own set of regulations associated with it, and different disposal sites will only accept certain types of waste.
All types of hazardous waste have one thing in common, however … the cradle to grave requirements associated with it. The law dictates that generators are responsible for the proper disposal of their hazardous waste streams.
As a hazardous waste generator, you are legally and financially responsible for the waste you generate from the time it is created until it has been properly treated, transported and disposed of. This is why virtually all waste generators use a reputable disposal company.
Working with an experienced and certified hazardous waste disposal company is key to avoiding violations and helping you manage this process so that you can avoid any issues that might arise once waste leaves your facility or worksite.
What A Hazardous Waste Disposal Company Should Offer
In addition to properly disposing of your hazardous waste, the best disposal companies will offer a hazardous waste walk-through of your property. A walk-through is consultative in nature and can help prevent a problem before it becomes costly.
During a walk-through, an experienced team will evaluate your procedures to ensure they are effective and meet all regulations.
Other services a disposal company should offer include:
- The ability to identify waste streams through profiling and testing
- The development of site-specific plans that include training and emergency preparation
- Transportation to recycling and disposal sites
- Preparation of manifests and other required paperwork
- The ability to provide proof that your waste streams were properly disposed of
When searching for a disposal company, make sure it is registered with the state of California as a legal transporter. You can do this by using the California Department of Toxic Substance Control’s Registered Hazardous Waste Transporter Database.
Keep in mind that a hazardous waste transporter registration is only valid for one year, so it’s a good idea to conduct annual environmental audits of vendors handling your waste.
For a list of questions, you should ask a waste disposal company you are considering, check out our article, How To Find A Hazardous Waste Disposal Company In Los Angeles.