FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEEPA (202) 564-4355
THURSDAY, JUNE 28, 2001DOJ (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
U.S. REACHES CLEAN WATER AGREEMENT WITH AMTRAK
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department today announced that Amtrak, the nation's largest passenger rail operator, has signed an agreement to carry out environmental audits at its facilities nationwide and undertake other environmental improvements, including projects to restore wetlands and reduce PCBs in locomotive transformers. The agreement settles claims that Amtrak violated numerous requirements of the Clean Water Act, including its storm water provisions, at nine Amtrak sites in New England.
The company also will pay a $500,000 civil penalty and spend $900,000 on environmental projects in New England under the settlement filed today in U.S. District Court in Boston.
"This Amtrak settlement is a good example of industry and government working together to achieve a high level of environmental compliance," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "I commend Amtrak for its cooperation in this settlement and for the aggressive steps it has taken to correct the environmental deficiencies in its operations."
The agreement requires Amtrak to undertake comprehensive environmental compliance audits at 51 of its facilities and to voluntarily disclose and correct environmental problems that are discovered. The audits will comprehensively evaluate the compliance status at Amtrak facilities and facilitate prompt identification and correction of violations.
The settlement stems from environmental violations discovered by the EPA in the late 1990s at Amtrak facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The agency cited Amtrak for violating the Clean Water Act's storm water provisions and for other infractions.
Storm water discharges from rail maintenance facilities can carry oil, grease and metals into storm drains, ultimately compromising the health and quality of streams and waterways. The EPA has identified storm water runoff as a leading cause of impaired water quality in the United States.
"Amtrak will undertake a broad management plan to comply with all federal environmental laws and minimize pollution that could be released into our water, air or soil," said John Cruden, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment Division of the Justice Department.
The agreement with Amtrak is the federal government's second nationwide settlement addressing storm water violations. On June 7, the United States announced a settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to resolve claims that the retailer violated storm water requirements at 17 locations across the country.
Amtrak also has begun to implement a company-wide environmental management system, at a cost anticipated to exceed $11 million. The program includes the development of an environmental audit program, a company-wide environmental information system, enhanced environmental compliance training, and increased environmental compliance staffing. Amtrak already has created 27 new environmental positions - a three-fold increase from staffing levels at the time the EPA first discovered the Clean Water Act violations.
The violations include a failure to have required storm water permits, pollution prevention plans and necessary spill prevention plans, and a failure to sample its effluent according to discharge permit requirements. The EPA also found violations of discharge permit effluent limits and determined that Amtrak failed to obtain a discharge permit from the Narragansett Bay Commission in Rhode Island.
The settlement requires Amtrak to implement an environmental project to improve tidal flows at seven culvert locations along Amtrak's Shore Line rail route, between Branford and Stonington, Conn. The work, which will include excavating creek channels, removing obstructions, and repairing and upgrading culverts, is expected to benefit coastal wetlands by improving tidal flushing. Many of those wetlands have been compromised over the years by a lack of tidal flushing. The project, which will cost about $400,000, will begin within 60 days and will be completed by October 2002.
Amtrak also will spend about $500,000 to retrofill 13 locomotive transformers in order to dramatically lower their concentrations of PCBs. The work will be directed at reducing PCBs in the environment and, in particular, minimizing the potential environmental impact from a rail mishap or spill. When the work is complete, concentrations of PCBs in Amtrak's transformers will be up to 20 times lower than the 1,000 parts per million allowed under federal law.