E.O. Manufacturing, a West Haven company specializing in industrial machinery, has been violating toxic waste laws for at least a decade, despite fines and legal action—a record that has earned it a spot on a national hazardous waste ‘watch list.’
The state claims that the Horton Place facility, which is adjacent to a middle school, was handling and managing hazardous wastes improperly. Although the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Attorney General’s office initiated action against E.O. more than three years ago, the company continues to dodge penalties and remediation orders.
Asked why the company remained out of compliance, both agencies said they are considering additional legal action against the firm.
E.O. Manufacturing is one of five Connecticut companies on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national hazardous waste watch list. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), three of the other companies on the list have no outstanding hazardous waste violations, and the fourth has shut down and is pending resolution in court.
The EPA has listed E.O. Manufacturing as being in “significant noncompliance” of federal hazardous waste laws since at least April 2009. The EPA began making the watch lists public last fall, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Public Integrity.
While hazardous waste violations can involve long and complex litigation and cleanup, E.O. Manufacturing’s decade-plus case is unusual, officials said.
“The key stumbling block to resolution of this matter has been lack of cooperation from E.O. and that company’s failure to comply with agreements with this agency or court orders,” said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEEP. “It does take time to bring these matters to a close when there is a lack of good faith and cooperation in a case like this, and we have to keep returning to court to force compliance.”
Reached at his office, Peter Lemere, president of E.O. Manufacturing, defended his company but would not comment on the record, saying he wanted to consult with his attorney.
The first time the state officially ordered E.O. Manufacturing to fix its toxic waste problem was on Jan. 24, 2000, according to court records. At that time, at least four areas of soil were found to be contaminated with cadmium from E.O.’s electroplating operations, according to the DEEP. Cadmium is a heavy metal that the EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen.
Inspectors had also noted 13, 55-gallon drums of unidentified waste stored behind the building, and 12 five-gallon containers of unidentified waste sitting on a concrete landing.
When the company did not clean up the waste, the case went to the Attorney General’s office. Both sides signed a stipulated judgment in April 2008. The settlement ordered E.O. Manufacturing to pay $15,000 in fines, remediate the contaminated soil, identify and clean up the containers of mystery waste, hire a consultant to inspect the site, inventory all wastes and unused materials, and properly dispose of any additional hazardous waste. The firm also was ordered to investigate possible groundwater and surface water contamination, and to create a plan for water and soil sampling. If the company didn’t follow the terms of the agreement, it was to pay an additional $60,000 penalty.
E.O. Manufacturing complied with some terms of the agreement, but still has “operational violations” concerning the handling and management of hazardous wastes, according to the DEEP.
“We believe the company is still out of compliance when it comes to items like required record keeping, management of containers and finalization of emergency plans,” said Schain. “These types of requirements are important safeguards at a location where hazardous wastes are being produced.”
On a recent visit to the site, a reporter saw what appeared to be several water-sampling wells outside the fence surrounding the property. There was no visible evidence of hazardous waste.
The May V. Carrigan Middle School is located directly behind the building, along with several houses. The school’s principal declined to comment, deferring to West Haven School Superintendent Neil Cavallaro.
Cavallaro was not aware of any health-related problems with EO Manufacturing, but said he would raise the issue with the West Haven heath and building departments.
Records show DEEP initiated, then delayed, a contempt hearing in late-2008, in order to give the company additional time to clean up the site. But the company still has not finished the required work nor paid any of the $75,000 in fines, according to the DEEP.
Schain says “additional legal action is now being evaluated,” though neither DEEP nor the Attorney General’s office would describe what legal actions are under consideration. “There are a number of ways we can proceed,” said Susan E. Kinsman, spokeswoman for the Attorney General.
Schain said both DEEP and the AG’s office would pursue “actions that will result in compliance, payment of penalties by E.O., and adherence to requirements by E.O. that are designed to protect natural resources and the public health.”
The facility is located in a concrete building surrounded by a chain-link fence, in a largely industrial area off Route 1 in West Haven. According to the EPA, the area within a one-mile radius of the facility is predominately low-income and composed of minorities, with a 57.4 percent minority population, and 32.2 percent of the households earning less than $25,000 a year.
Margaret Lohmiller contributed to this story.