Enforcement

Cingular Wireless and New Cingular Wireless Audit Policy Settlement

(Washington, DC - February 10, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced an agreement with New Cingular Wireless to resolve violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA). New Cingular Wireless voluntarily disclosed reporting violations to EPA, which related to the presence of sulfuric acid, diesel, and lead at 642 cellular facilities in 35 states and Puerto Rico, after performing a comprehensive audit of their operations.

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Overview of Company

New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (NCW) was created in October 2004 through the merger of AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC.  NCW is thus the corporate successor of AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless. 

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Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Violations

This settlement resolves violations at legacy Cingular Wireless sites from 2001 to 2003, and violations at NCW sites from October 2004 to 2006. 

In March 2005 and May 2007, NCW notified EPA pursuant to EPA’s Audit Policy that it had possible noncompliance with reporting requirements related to the presence of sulfuric acid, diesel, and lead at multiple facilities under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

NCW submitted Final Audit Reports on October 10, 2005 for 131 legacy Cingular Wireless sites and on April 18, 2008 for 511 NCW sites.  The violations at the NCW sites were the result of battery technology upgrades in 2004, 2005 and 2006 that were not properly tracked in data systems. 

The violations disclosed for that time period qualified for Audit Policy penalty mitigation.  Of the 511 sites, 32 were also reported to be legacy Cingular Wireless sites with violations of EPCRA occurring in the years 2001 through 2003, and these violations did not receive Audit Policy penalty mitigation, but did receive penalty mitigation in accordance with the EPCRA Enforcement Response Policy (ERP).

NCW disclosed the following violations to EPA:

  • EPCRA § 311(a), 42 U.S.C. § 11021(a), and the regulations found at 40 C.F.R. Part 370, when NCW failed to submit Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for a hazardous chemical(s) or, in the alternative, a list of such chemicals, for 525 facilities, to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and the fire department with jurisdiction over these facilities.
  • EPCRA § 312(a), 42 U.S.C. § 11022(a), and the regulations found at 40 C.F.R. Part 370 at 641 facilities, by failing to prepare and submit emergency and chemical inventory forms to the LEPC, the SERC and the fire department with jurisdiction over each facility.

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Location of Violations 

The violations NCW identified at its 642 facilities are in the following states and territories:  Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

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Settlement Agreement Provisions

The parties reached a settlement agreement that resolves the disclosed EPCRA violations.  All of the violations disclosed by NCW have been corrected and the company has made improvements to its battery inventory, recordkeeping and management systems to prevent the reoccurrence of these violations. 

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Human Health, Environmental Concerns and Pollutant Reductions Controls

  • Sulfuric acid - in lead-acid batteries is an Extremely Hazardous Substance under EPCRA. Sulfuric acid can impact human health in cases of skin contact, eye contact, ingestion, or inhalation.  Liquid or spray mist may produce tissue damage particularly on mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth and respiratory tract.

Skin contact may produce burns.  Inhalation of the spray mist may produce severe irritation of respiratory tract, characterized by coughing, choking, or shortness of breath.  Severe over-exposure can result in death.  Inflammation of the eye can occur, and is characterized by redness, watering, and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or, occasionally, blistering.

  • Lead acid batteries - have the potential to leak, spill or break during normal conditions of use, including foreseeable emergencies.  In addition, lead acid batteries have the potential to emit hydrogen which may result in a fire or explosion upon ignition.  

Bringing NCW into compliance with EPCRA will prevent and/or reduce potential releases of sulfuric acid and lead at regulated sites and ensure that first responders know what hazardous materials they must deal with at these telecom sites. 

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Civil Penalty

Under this settlement, NCW will pay a civil penalty of $125,728.

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Consent Agreement and Final Order

This Consent Agreement and Final Order was approved and entered by the Environmental Appeals Board and became effective on February 09, 2012.

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Information on Telecom Industry Enforcement

To learn more about EPA enforcement in the telecom industry please read this June 2000 Enforcement Alert

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For more information, contact:

Jeanne M. Duross
Attorney-Advisor
Special Litigation and Projects Division
U.S. EPA
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20460
(202)564-6595
Jeanne M. Duross (duross.jeanne@epa.gov)

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