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Navy in Hot Water Over Toxic Wastes : Violations: Base on Point Loma cited for improper waste handling. Camp Pendleton was cited earlier.


For the second time in a week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited a San Diego military installation for improperly handling hazardous waste, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

Acting on information gathered during a surprise inspection in July, EPA officials issued several citations Monday to the Naval Submarine Base at Point Loma, including some in areas managed by the Public Works Center and the Naval Ocean Systems Center.

The violations include the improper mixing of incompatible hazardous wastes, the failure to transfer leaking waste to a secure container and numerous violations of hazardous waste transport regulations, Dave Schmidt, an EPA spokesman, said.

The EPA gave the base and the two on-base facilities 105 days to correct all the violations and to train hazardous-waste workers there to follow proper procedures, Schmidt said.

Cmdr. Mark Neuhart, a Navy spokesman, said Tuesday that the Navy has already corrected more than 75% of the deficiencies cited. The Navy will meet with EPA officials in early January to discuss further improvements, he said.

The EPA has not recommended imposing a fine because the government has long held that military bases and other federal facilities are exempt from penalties associated with solid- and hazardous-waste laws.

Schmidt described the notice of noncompliance as preventive, designed to stave off serious emergencies. Schmidt, who could not identify which chemicals were involved, said the violations thus far had not resulted in any significant releases of toxics into the environment.

"We want to keep it that way, and that's why we're enforcing these regulations," said Schmidt, who described the Navy's conduct as "sloppy."

"They were routinely not following the rules," he said. "With hazardous waste, if you don't follow the rules, you're probably going to have an accident somewhere down the line."

In a similar action last week, the EPA cited Camp Pendleton for 11 violations of hazardous-waste laws, including failure to properly label and store hazardous waste, lack of permits and lack of emergency training for Marines who work around the toxins.

Inspectors found some hazardous waste containers that were unlabeled and others that were not sealed properly. They also found faulty emergency equipment, such as an eyewash station that did not function.

Schmidt said Tuesday that the back-to-back citations were not coincidental. They resulted, he said, from the same July 26 trip during which EPA inspectors made surprise visits to both sites.

"They inspected those facilities on the same trip," he said. "It's another example of the EPA trying to economize."

Jeff Zelikson, director of hazardous-waste management for EPA's Western regional office, said the citations were intended to remind military officials that, although their bases are not subject to fines, they are also not above the law.

"Military bases must comply with the same hazardous-waste regulations as private industry," he said in a statement. "Carelessness with toxics, whether it's military or civilian, poses a threat to public health and the environment."

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