The Environmental Protection Agency a week ago settled with the ExxonMobil Corp. for “allegedly disposing of and improperly handling” polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) off Platform Hondo, both violations of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
“(The) settlement sends a clear signal that companies must follow PCB regulations to protect communities and our environmental resources,” said Wayne Nastri, administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “The EPA will not hesitate to take enforcement actions against companies that fail to properly handle and dispose of PCBs.”
The $2.64 million settlement covers the 400 gallons of PCB-contaminated fluid that leaked out of two large electrical transformers on the platform, one of which leaked for almost two years before the company repaired it. Exxon Mobil replaced both transformers in 2005 with units that contained no PCBs.
According to the EPA, Exxon also failed to make sure the workers cleaning up the fluid had protective clothing or equipment to prevent contact with the chemicals.
PCBs are man-made organic chemicals that have been found to cause cancer in animals and perhaps also in humans. The EPA banned the production of the chemicals in 1978, but PCB-containing materials are still being used today. High-level exposure to the persistent chemicals have been found to affect the nervous, immune and endocrine systems as well as liver function.