Emissions settlement announced with Conn. industrial launderer

Nick Rees Feb. 18, 2010, 4:03pm

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced a settlement over toxic substances emitted by a Waterbury, Conn., industrial laundry facility that threatened public health.

"G&K spewed dangerous chemicals into the air that endangered neighbors - particularly people who may be elderly, very young, pregnant or suffer from respiratory and other medical conditions," Blumenthal said. "Acting with none of the legally mandated anti-pollution measures installed, G&K violated its state permits and regulations. This settlement pays back the public for illegal emissions, and protects the public from future harm."

G&K Services Co. was sued by Blumenthal in 2008 on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection. Blumenthal won an order to block the company from laundering soiled shop towels, which contained various solvents, oils and greases that contained volatile organic compounds.

Residential homes in close proximity to G&K complained about nuisance odors emitted by G&K. A state investigation then confirmed that the unsafe emissions, which were potentially carcinogenic and neuro-toxic, could be irritating and damaging to lungs, eyes and skin.

"This settlement compels G&K to compensate the public for airing its dirty laundry - literally spewing toxic industrial laundry emissions that created a public health threat and nuisance," Blumenthal said. "Even more than the money, this settlement stops G&K from laundering industrial towels in Connecticut until it strictly adheres to state anti-pollution regulations."

G&K was found to be in violation of its DEP permits and state regulations through its failure to install proper pollution control equipment on its washers. G&K was also found to have failed to obtain required permits for the construction and operation of its industrial dryers, which are considered a stationary source of air pollution and have the potential to emit over 50 tons of volatile organic compounds per year.

Facilities such as G&K's, if properly controlled, may be allowed to release chemicals in small amounts that, when mixed with outdoor air at a proper height, will not create a public health risk. G&K's uncontrolled emissions, however, posed a significant public health threat.

G&K, under a stipulated judgment, will pay $1.8 million. Of that, $1.189 million in penalties will be paid to the state General Fund, $111,000 to the DEP for unpaid fees and $500,000 to the city of Waterbury for environmental projects reviewed and approved by the DEP to benefit Waterbury citizens.

The judgment also revokes G&K's licenses to operate certain industrial washers at the Waterbury site and blocks the company from continued violations of the state's air pollution and waste management regulations. The Waterbury facility's wastewater permit has also been revoked.

Blumenthal obtained a court order in April 2008 to block G&K from laundering shop and print towels at its Connecticut locations, though the Waterbury facility has still collected shop towels to be trucked to an out-of-state laundering facility. The Waterbury facility, until it meets legal standards and obtains proper permits, will remain prohibited from launder shop and print towels.

G&K must also retain TRC Companies Inc., a qualified consultant, within 30 days of today's judgment to assist in the preparation of applications and documents and to oversee the company's compliance efforts with the agreement and environmental obligations. If the proper permits are obtained, the consultant will monitor and inspect G&K's operations for at least three years.

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