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Merck pays $1.5m penalty for US pollution

Published on 04/10/11 at 09:44am

Merck & Co has fallen foul of US regulations on environmental controls at two manufacturing plants and agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines to settle the charges without admitting any wrongdoing in the case.

The civil action - brought by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice - concerned Merck's West Point and Riverside facilities, both in Pennsylvania, and focused on violations of the USA's Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

The settlement came to light after the DoJ published papers noting that the original complaint had been dismissed. According to the complaint, Merck "failed to take necessary preventative measures and follow reporting requirements under federal environmental regulations".

Specifically, the two facilities violated emissions reporting and record-keeping, discharged pollutants in excess of limits laid out in the CWA, failed to notify local officials of hazardous substances released, and failed to properly label and store hazardous waste.

The complaint was based on various inspections conducted in 2006 to review both facilities’ compliance with federal air, water, hazardous waste, spill prevention, and community right-to-know regulations.

The inspections were prompted by a discharge of potassium thiocyanate from West Point which led to the deaths of around 1,000 fish in a nearby creek, and required drinking water to be temporarily shut off in areas of Philadelphia. That case was at the centre of a $20.5 million fine and consent decree levied on the company towards the end of 2007.

Since then, "the company has taken corrective actions to correct the alleged violations, and has implemented best management practices for continuing environmental compliance", said the EPA in a statement.

Phil Taylor

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