ABF Freight System Inc to Pay Civil Penalties for Clean Water Act Non-Compliance

ABF freight truck on the road, mountains visible behind it.

(Credit: https://talkbusiness.net/)

by | Mar 23, 2023

A freight carrier with more than 200 transportation facilities, including 47 in the United States and Puerto Rico, has resolved allegations of violating the Clear Water Act (CWA). ABF Freight System Inc (ABF), under this settlement, will enhance and implement a comprehensive corporation-wide stormwater compliance program.  This program will be implemented at all facilities outside of the ones located in Washington.  Additionally, ABF will pay a civil penalty of $535,000, a portion of which will be directed to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the state of Nevada, and the state of Maryland.

The Complaint

The case alleges that ABF failed to comply with certain considerations of the CWA permits, including:

  • spills that had not been cleaned
  • failing to implement spill prevention measures
  • failure to minimize contamination of storm runoff
  • failing to monitor stormwater discharges as required
  • failing to provide required training to their employees

ABF conducted an internal audit at nearly all facilities between 2013 and 2014. As of April 2015, ABF voluntarily disclosed to the EPA their failure to obtain industrial stormwater permit coverage at multiple facilities. The EPA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the States of Maryland and Nevada, also conducted 15 inspections between October 2016 and April 2019. These inspections also observed noncompliance with CWA at permitted and No Exposure Certification (NEC) facilities.

Addressing Noncompliance 

ABF established a consent decree to address the infractions discovered through the audits. The decree requires ABF to continue implementing and enhancing its corporate-wide stormwater compliance program.

Requirements include:

  • memorialize stormwater roles and responsibilities
  • begin comprehension-based employee training with contractor awareness
  • stormwater pollution management and prevention
  • implementing standard operating procedures
  • tracking facility-specific correcting actions

Per the decree, ABF will also be required to monitor and oversee permitted and NEC facilities.

Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance stated, “Through this settlement ABF will implement an enhanced, comprehensive stormwater management program at transportation facilities they operate across the country.” He added that “This settlement exemplifies EPA’s commitment to working with companies like ABF who notify EPA of noncompliance and then work to improve compliance with the Clean Water Act to help ensure the protection of local water resources.”

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division added that companies comply with the CWA provisions to prevent waterways from being contaminated by industrial pollution.  U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas said that this agreement will ensure that ABF takes the required steps to ensure water quality is not diminished by their operations. He added that this wouldn’t have been possible without state, local, and federal agency cooperation.

Impact of Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff from industrial facilities can accumulate and carry pollutants such as chemicals, trash, sediment, and oils. These substances can have detrimental environmental impacts throughout the country. Pollution from runoff often causes changes in hydrology and affects natural habitats. Leading to a decrease in aquatic biodiversity and sedimentation or erosion. It is critical that facilities requiring permit coverage appropriately apply for it and adhere to stormwater regulations to ensure impacts to the natural environment are minimalized.

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