A local automotive gasket manufacturer is pledging to do better after being fined nearly $80,000 for multiple violations by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Eric Sedensky, facilities and operations manager at American Leakless Company LLC, said company officials were surprised to learn they had violated any rules, but that it boiled down to a misunderstanding of the rules. Now that they know more, they've already corrected the issues and started working with other companies to make sure it doesn't happen again, he said.

"We did not have very good information on how the waste we were generating was supposed to be handled," Sedensky said. "... We recognize that we did not do this in the best possible way."

In all, 17 violations were listed in a public notice that appeared in the Nov. 18 edition of The News Courier. Most of the violations related to the management of methyl ethyl ketone, a solvent commonly found in the manufacturing of plastics or textiles and in household products like varnishes and paint remover.

ADEM contended that a July 2 inspection and review of ALC uncovered waste containing MEK being labeled as non-hazardous and treated as such. Waste and rags contaminated with the chemical were being sent to unauthorized facilities for treatment, the waste was being stored onsite longer than allowed and in areas or containers that weren't properly marked, and employees weren't given the necessary training for handling such waste.

Furthermore, ALC was processing some of the waste through one of its machines to reduce the amount of waste it had. Sedensky said the company thought they were doing the right thing and did not consider it "treating" waste, but ADEM disagreed, marking it as another violation.

The review also found incomplete or missing documents, including uniform hazardous waste manifests, weekly inspection reports of hazardous waste accumulation areas and a contingency plan for the facility. Some of the documents, like the contingency plan, were necessary because ADEM determined ALC to be a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, and ADEM noted ALC had identified itself as a small quantity generator.

According to ADEM, any generator of hazardous waste that produces between 220 and 2,200 pounds of the waste in a calendar month is considered a small quantity generator. Sedensky said ALC typically produces about 2,000 pounds and has produced far less than usual during the pandemic, but that they are currently working as though the facility is always a large quantity generator.

"(ADEM) said to stop, so we did," Sedensky said. He added changing how they handle, store and dispose of MEK has "increased the amount of waste, but we're perfectly willing and wanting to be in compliance."

ALC is often seen supporting other environmental efforts in the Athens-Limestone area, having received praise multiple times for its work to support Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful by donating for Wacky Quacky Ducky Derby prizes and the Earth Day & Outdoor EXPO. Sedensky said knowing how much they want to help the environment left them feeling that much more besmirched by the ADEM penalty.

"We're only disappointed in ourselves," he said. "We immediately got into compliance and got the people here to help us get where we need to be. We feel confident that we will be an upstanding member going forward."

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