Two Birds With One Violation: EPA Uses Settlement with Heritage Environmental Services LLC to Upgrade Indiana Schools
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a unique settlement with Heritage Environmental Services LLC over multiple hazardous waste violations issued in 2012 during an inspection of Heritage’s Indianapolis waste disposal facility.
As part of the settlement, in addition to improving its waste handling procedures and paying a $77,385 civil penalty, Heritage agreed to install energy efficient, PCB-free lighting and new drinking water fountains with lead-filtering systems at the Carrie Gosch Pre-K Early Learning Center and the Joseph L. Block Middle School in East Chicago, Indiana. These improvements are estimated to cost Heritage approximately $290,000, which are to begin this month and will be completed by early 2018.
“EPA is pleased that East Chicago children will reap health benefits at their schools thanks to this innovative legal settlement,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These upgrades will reduce students’ potential exposure to toxins.”
The settlement is timely as East Chicago has been plagued with a lead crisis since 2009, when East Chicago’s Calumet neighborhood was designated as the USS Lead Superfund site, due to arsenic and lead soil contamination from a former lead smelter site in West Calumet.
This settlement arrangement is particularly notable because Heritage provides waste management and recycling services and there’s no indication whatsoever that Heritage contributed to lead contamination in East Chicago. Nevertheless, EPA was able to turn Heritage’s violations into a win-win situation for all. Here, “the City of East Chicago is grateful to be the recipient of funds made available by the EPA to help improve some of our schools’ lights,” said East Chicago Schools Superintendent Dr. Paige McNulty. “The EPA has been very helpful in analyzing our schools’ needs and making a plan on how to replace the lights as needed.” And from Heritage’s perspective, it’s not every day that EPA violations result in good press for the offender.