Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has agreed to pay a $56,000 fine for the improper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals, officials say.
The fine was issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following an unannounced inspection in January 2009. Inspectors from both the EPA and Washington Department of Ecology were involved.
State and federal officials had worked with the shipyard over the years to improve waste-handling techniques, said Jack Boller, an EPA inspector. During the surprise inspection in 2009, “we started finding things that we thought we had addressed years ago.”
Among the more serious violations was an open-grated floor in the shipyard’s plating shop, where hexavalent chromium was allowed to drip down and accumulate in the basement below.
Officials with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility acknowledged that chemicals dripping into the subfloor should have been cleaned more frequently — but that system is specifically designed to contain and segregate waste, said public affairs officer Mary Anne Mascianica. The system protects the health of employees and prevents releases to the environment, she said.
Since the inspection, the shipyard has improved operating procedures in the plating shop to reduce the likelihood of drips going into the containment system, she said. Any drips that are contained get cleaned up promptly.
The inspectors also made note of an open drum of paint solvent near an open bay door in a storage shed at the pier. Because the pier was over the water, a spill had the potential of releasing the toxic chemical into Puget Sound.
When the inspectors noted the open drum, it was immediately closed up, Mascianica said, adding that there was no danger of it tipping over. Since the inspection, lids have been purchased to make it easier to seal the drums, and employees have been trained about the closure requirements.
The two issues cited by inspectors were considered violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates hazardous waste.