EPA cracking down on environmental crime in Nevada
LAS VEGAS – Companies operating in Nevada paid nearly $1 million in federal Environmental Protection Agency fines over the past year, a steep increase that officials said signals a stepped-up enforcement effort to keep pace with the state’s population boom.
Businesses also had to spend $2.5 million making operations more environmentally friendly, compared with zero previously.
“In areas of high growth, we need to make sure companies are doing what they should,” said Wayne Nastri, the EPA’s regional administrator for the area that includes Nevada.
“In terms of our enforcement, EPA is certainly on the beat, so to speak,” Nastri added.
Among the biggest cases, a North Las Vegas furniture maker was required to spend $241,000 to reduce smog emissions, and a homebuilder had to dole out $193,000 to restore wetlands in southwestern Las Vegas.
The agency’s most severe action in Nevada came about 60 miles to the northeast of Las Vegas.
The Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. agreed to pay $525,000 in fines, and install pollution controls worth $2 million for its silica sand mining facility in Overton.
Some of the agency’s penalties were comparatively small but still had the potential to reverberate across an industry, serving as a deterrent, Nastri said.
For example, Las Vegas’ Dollar Tree Stores was fined $4,400 for selling cat flea and tick collars containing a pesticide banned by the EPA because it posed a danger to children, the EPA reported.
“If we find violations and take enforcement action, everybody else will be much more inclined to make sure they’re in compliance,” Nastri said.
Nationally, the EPA estimates that its actions in the past year stand to reduce pollution by 1 billion pounds, and will require $4.8 billion in cleanup efforts, a record for the agency.
Across the country, the EPA, working with state and local agencies, conducts inspections, investigates violations, and takes legal action against polluters.
As a result of the enforcement done in fiscal 2004, the agency estimates that 4 million more Americans will have safe drinking water.
It says 1,300 acres of wetlands will gain protection and 3.4 million cubic yards of contaminated soil will be cleansed as a result of the actions.