CITY HALL A dozen local businesses that generate or store hazardous materials such as used oil and antifreeze have failed to comply with local and state laws meant to protect the public from exposure to toxins, city officials said.
The businesses, the majority of which are auto repair shops, received warnings letters this week from the Consumer Protection Unit of the City Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, advising them to comply by Feb. 2 or face stiff penalties, including fines as high as $2,000 per day for each violation.
City officials said the failure to comply with local and state laws continued despite multiple notices and numerous contacts with business owners. The laws require permits, fees, and hazardous material inventories. Some businesses failed to pay for their permits.
“Our goal is to protect the safety of our community and the environment from the hazards of everyday chemicals,” said Senior Environmental Analyst James Conway. “In order to do so, we need the full participation and cooperation of the business community with these state and local requirements. Unfortunately, when businesses decide to operate without a valid permit and fail to properly disclose the chemicals they are using, they are unnecessarily placing their own employees, residents, and emergency response personnel at risk.”
Conway said the violations were discovered during routine checks and inspections. Conway would not release the names of the businesses warned, preferring to give them one last chance to comply before exposing them. In addition to auto repair shops, the businesses include a dry cleaner, property management company and car wash.
“We want to give businesses a last chance to work with us,” Conway said. “This is a regulatory program [paid for by permit fees], so we understand that we don’t want to give businesses a bad name. Some of them have complied with most of the requirements but still missing portions of it.”
To comply, businesses must show city officials what measures have been put in place to make sure violations do not occur again. Those who fail to comply will face misdemeanor charges, said Gary Rhoades, an attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit.
“We will be monitoring them carefully,” Rhoades said.
It is critical for businesses with hazardous materials to file a chemical inventory, Conway said, because if a fire breaks out or some other emergency, public safety officials need to know what they are dealing with before entering a structure.
Businesses with underground storage tanks that have failed to comply will be contacted next week as part of the enforcement effort, Conway said.