The City of Tacoma has agreed to pay nearly $525,000 in environmental penalties and mitigation expenses for improperly disposing of refrigerated appliances between 2004 and 2007.
In a court-ordered agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday, the city will pay $225,000 in penalties for the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nearly $300,000 for new pollution-reduction projects.
According to a consent decree issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, the city’s Solid Waste Management Division processed more than 14,600 appliances to recover refrigerants between October 2004 and August 2007. Because of a flawed purging process, an estimated 4,600 pounds of refrigerant was released to the environment.
According to the EPA, the CFCs released were equivalent to 32 million pounds of carbon dioxide, or about 530,000 roundtrip commutes between Tacoma and Seattle.
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The releases violated the federal Clean Air Act, which prohibits the release of CFCs to the environment.
CFC refrigerants are a leading cause of ozone depletion, which contributes to climate change and has negative human health effects , such as increasing the risk of skin cancer.
“Every pound of CFCs that enters the environment is a blow to the earth’s protective ozone layer and a setback in controlling climate change,” said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. “We expect any facilities that handle refrigerants to have sound practices for recovery.”
The city agreed to take corrective action and conduct additional monitoring beyond the regulations to ensure it recovers the maximum amount of refrigerant from the disposal process.
In addition to the penalty, the city agreed to fund several projects worth about $300,000 to reduce air pollution in the Tacoma area. The projects include:
• Replacing a diesel garbage truck with one powered by diesel hydraulic hybrid technology.
• Buying an electric hybrid “yard mule,” a small tractor used to move trailers around at the landfill. This vehicle runs largely on electricity, saving fuel and reducing diesel emissions.
• Retrofitting 10 semi trailers with equipment that reduces diesel emissions.