Merck Pays $1.5M Fine For Pollution Problems

Merck Pays $1.5M Fine For Pollution Problems

September 29th, 2011 // 12:45 pm @

For violating several federal environmental laws at two Pennsylvania plants, Merck has agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil fine and settle charges brought by both the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice. Since the drugmaker has already resolved the violations, though, the feds have filed papers to dismiss their original complaint.

What did Merck do, and not do? For one, the feds allege the drugmaker did not comply with Clean Air Act emissions reporting and recordkeeping requirements. The government also charged Merck with discharging pollutants in excess of limits in its Clean Water Act permit; failed to notify local officials of hazardous substances released, and failed to properly label and store hazardous waste.

The plants in question, by the way, are located in West Point, Pennsylvania, which is a production nerve center; the other is in nearby Riverside. And the feds found that at various times in 2004 and 207, Merck released approximately 300 pounds of ammonia and tens of thousands of pounds of ethylene glycol from the Riverside facility. But Merck did not properly notify the EPA.

Another problem: the professional engineer who certified in 2005 that Merck’s Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasures program for oil spills was in good order was, herself, not in good order. As it turns out, she had been licensed in North Carolina as a registered professional engineer in 1998, but her license had expired by the time she signed off on the Merck facility .

This is not the first time, by the way, that Merck has run afoul of environmental laws at its Pennsylvania facilities. In late 2007, Merck paid a $20.5 million for violating the Clean Water Act with three chemical discharges in 2006, one of which killed more than 1,000 fish and forced Philadelphia to temporarily shut off drinking water intakes (back story).

This led to a consent decree and also prompted the EPA to follow up with a more extensive investigation into Merck environmental practices. The agency then conducted what it calls a series of multi-media inspections to review both compliance with federal air, water, hazardous waste, spill prevention, and community right-to-know regulations. This led to the latest agreement.

Source: Pharmalot

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