EPA might levy $37,500 per day fines against concrete plant

KINGSTON – Owners of a local concrete plant could face fines of up to $37,500 per day for federal water violations dating back more than 30 years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited Torromeo Industries of Methuen, which operates the plant and a sand-, gravel- and stone-mining operation at 18 Dorre Road in Kingston, for numerous violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The U.S. attorney’s office has filed a complaint on the EPA’s behalf in U.S. District Court in Concord, according to Jeff Kopf, an attorney for the federal agency.

Kopf said the company would have to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in fines if it does not correct the problems, including acquiring permits for the discharge of water used for cleaning concrete mixers and other plant operations.

The company also is accused of failing to take adequate precautions to avoid wastewater and storm water from running into wetlands and waterways, including Little River. Torromeo could pay up to $37,500 per day for each violation, Kopf said.

But a five-year statute of limitations prevents the company from being fined for violations before Nov. 2, 2005, even though the problems have existed since the mid-1970s, Kopf said. The family-owned business has served customers in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire for 45 years.

The EPA and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services discovered the violations during a joint inspection of the plant April 9, 2009. Torromeo has been working with authorities to resolve the problems, Kopf said.

“After the initial inspection, we have been very cooperative with the company to address the violations on the ground,” Kopf said. “We have yet to discuss the penalties with them.”

No one from the company was available for comment yesterday.

The EPA said if precautions are not taken to contain the potentially contaminated runoff, it can pick up pollutants such as sediment, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris that harm the environment.

Polluted runoff can hurt or kill fish and other wildlife and affect the quality of drinking water, the federal agency said.

“Stormwater runoff and process water discharges from the sand and gravel and ready-mix concrete industry are a significant source of water pollution,” Curt Spalding, administrator of the EPA’s New England office, said in a statement. “This industry plays a very important role in protecting water quality by taking the appropriate steps to prevent pollution, and we will continue our work to ensure compliance with these practices.”

Kopf said these types of industrial cases are usually settled out of court.

In August 2009, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $2.75 million settlement with Aggregate Industries over similar Clean Water Act violations at many of the national company’s concrete manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

It was the largest-ever penalty given to a concrete plant for storm water violations under the Clean Water Act, the EPA said. Aggregate Industries has a facility in Groveland and plants in Hudson, Manchester, Raymond and Portsmouth among many others in New England.

Kingston Selectman Charles Hart said Torromeo has been a good neighbor in town for many years.

“They have been there a long time, paid their taxes, and helped the town with a lot of things,” he said. “There have been no issues or complaints.”

Hart, who said he had not heard about the problems at the plant, said the company has donated to the town over the years, including donated property and concrete for the Police Department’s firing range, he said.

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