May 11, 2022

Oregon DEQ Fines J.H. Baxter over Storm Water & Hazardous Waste

The company has taken strides to come into compliance with regulations since the original fines were issued in 2021

oregon water
Photo 43468989 © Svitlana Imnadze | Dreamstime.com

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality updated outstanding penalties for a treatment plant in west Eugene that has now been shut down.

According to The Register-Guard, the penalties are in place due to new allegations of storm water discharge and hazardous material storage rules violations.

DEQ notified J.H. Baxter & Co. on May 4 that it had amended an existing notice of penalty to include improper storm water discharge and hazardous material storage issues. According to the updated notice, DEQ also increased some existing fines which now amount to outstanding penalties exceeding $305,000.

Violations include:

  • On Feb. 25, 2019, and Apr. 8 to 9, 2019, J.H. Baxter violated its storm water discharge permit by allowing untreated storm water to overflow from a retention pond into a ditch draining into Amazon Creek. The quantity of water released on Feb. 25, 2019 is unknown and more than 50,000 gallons were spilled April 8 to 9, 2019. A penalty of $14,335 for the permit violations was assigned.
  • J.H. Baxter in February and March of 2020 violated its permit by discharging wastewater that exceeded the allowable limit on copper. DEQ assigned a penalty of $8,800 for the permit violations.
  • J.H. Baxter failed to provide training updates in 2019 for employees involved in handling hazardous waste. DEQ assigned a penalty of $5,100.
  • J.H. Baxter failed to make timely determinations that waste it created was hazardous, including the 1.7 million gallons of process waste incorrectly evaporated on site. DEQ assigned a penalty of $25,200.
  • J.H. Baxter failed to maintain its facility to minimize the possibility of releasing hazardous waste because a secondary containment area was structurally deficient. DEQ assigned a $3,900 penalty for the violation.
  • J.H. Baxter improperly stored hazardous waste at its site for longer than the allowed 90 days between October 2019 and April 2020. DEQ assigned a penalty of $27,600.
  • J.H. Baxter allowed its storm water pond to overflow from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 5, discharging an unknown quantity of untreated water into Amazon Creek. DEQ assigned a penalty of $14,400.

DEQ amended hazardous waste treatment violations from 2015 to 19 regarding the use of wood treatment equipment to boil off hazardous process waste, increasing the fines by $24,000.

According to DEQ spokesman Dylan Darling, the new violations are resolved and pose no risk now, reported The Register-Guard.

The company has taken strides to come into compliance with regulations since the original fines were issued in 2021, which led to a reduction to original fines, reported The Register-Guard. 

DEQ and J.H. Baxter will meet for an appeals hearing on the violations and fines in August, reported The Register-Guard.

Beyond this, the company was directed to clean nearby yards contaminated by chemicals from the plant. According to the company's letters to DEQ, it does not have the funds to conduct proper cleanup, so DEQ will cover the upfront cost of soil replacement at nearby residences and then later recuperate its expense from the company.

DEQ placed a lien on J.H. Baxter's Eugene facilities and the cleanup of some yards will occur before summer. DEQ alleged new violations at the plant and assigned new penalties totaling $82,000, reported The Register-Guard.

The company has been ordered to update its plan to prevent storm water system overflows and verify that an alarm system for storm water overflow is installed and running properly.

Sampling results for two chemicals for a hazardous waste determination must be provided as well. 

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