Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

EPA Knew of Texas Eastern Pipeline Contamination in '85/Documents Reveal

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

EPA Knew of Texas Eastern Pipeline Contamination in '85/Documents Reveal

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency knew about PCB contamination at specific sites along the Texas Eastern Corp. pipeline as early as the autumn of 1985, but took no immediate action to protect public health at the sites, according to internal agency documents.

Agency officials had said that they were unable to act more quickly to deal with the contamination because they had insufficient information from the company.

But EPA officials interviewed over the weekend conceded that, in retrospect, it appeared that the agency should have moved faster to protect the public from the contamination and at the very least to have notified the state and local governments of the potential dangers.

The documents also show that the head of the agency's toxic substances program, Assistant Administrator John A. Moore, believed that the pipeline company might have "knowingly and willfully" violated the Toxic Substances Control Act. In a memorandum that he wrote on June 30, 1986, to Richard H. Mays, the agency's acting head of enforcement, Moore asked that the issue be reviewed for a possible criminal investigation.

Agency enforcement officials are now taking civil administrative action against Houston-based Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline, which acknowledged burying PCBs, polychloinated biphenyls, at 51 sites along its right of way. But agency officials have said they were not considering criminal charges against the company because there was no evidence that it had willfully violated the law.

Several agency officials said that they had not ruled out a criminal investigation of Texas Eastern and that such an investigation remained a distinct possibility.

The Texas Eastern pipeline runs from the Texas-Mexico border to the New York City area. On Feb. 24, the company released a list of 12 states where it acknowledged burying PCBs. In addition to New Jersey, they were: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. …

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