R.I. Shipyard Faces Penalties for EPA Violations

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A shipyard in Providence, R.I., Promet Marine Services Corp., faces significant penalties for violating federal clean air and clean water laws.

EPA has filed a complaint stating that Promet violated federal laws by discharging polluted water into the Providence River and by not getting the required air and water permits for its pressure washing, painting and related operations.

Promet, which works on commercial, Coast Guard, military, and other marine vessels, is located in an area that fails to meet federal air quality standards for ozone and yet failed to comply with the Rhode Island “State Implementation Plan” for improving air quality. According to EPA, Promet was required to get a permit before it began to build or modify its facility at 242 Allens Ave.

Promet also failed to apply for an operating permit required under the Clean Air Act, and violated federal air quality requirements outlined in the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Ship Building and Repair facilities. The Shipbuilding NESHAP requires the company to follow certain notification and recordkeeping rules and to use only marine coatings that contain volatile organic hazardous air pollutants below specified limits.

EPA New England inspected Promet’s facility in 2007 and 2008. In June 2008, EPA issued a “notice of violation” and an administrative order to the company that cited substantially the same air violations as are alleged in EPA’s complaint issued this month. The order required Promet to comply with the law within 120 days.

According to EPA, Promet did not come into compliance until November 2009 and, although the company has applied to the R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management for its required air permits, those permits have not yet been issued.

Promet’s violations of the Clean Water Act involved pressure washing vessel hulls outdoors. Before July 2008, process waste waters from these activities discharged to the Providence River without a permit, in violation of the requirements of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System regulations. After July 2008, Promet installed a waste water recycling system intended to eliminate the discharge and put the company in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

By pressure washing, Promet discharged pollutants, including copper, lead, zinc and solids that impair water quality and can harm human health and the environment.

Many of the coatings used by Promet contained hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds. Exposure to HAPs and VOCs can cause health problems, and VOCs contribute to ground-level ozone formation, which is a primary constituent of “smog.”

In its complaint, EPA New England is asking for penalties up to the maximum allowed under each statute.

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