An article yesterday on an Environmental Protection Agency probe of PCB dumping incorrectly suggested that PCBs were found in earthen pits used by Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Corp., in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana. The EPA is studying those pits to see if they contain PCBs. The company says none are there. (Published 2/27/87)
The Environmental Protection Agency, concerned about the dumping of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by gas pipeline companies, said yesterday it has created a special task force to deal with the problem and has expanded an existing investigation to cover 11 major companies.
A week ago EPA officials said that Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. admitted pouring PCB-laden liquids into about 100 pits in at least 10 states along its 10,000-mile pipeline route between Texas and New Jersey. The company has denied any health hazard.
"The task force was assembled because data from the Texas Eastern investigation suggested that a large and complex assessment should immediately be made to ensure environmental safety throughout the nation's gas pipeline system," said EPA spokesman David Cohen.
Another official said, "Obviously this is a big problem. We want to move quickly to be sure there isn't a public health threat."
The EPA said it plans to inspect Texas Eastern's disposal pits within a week and will quickly notify the public if a health threat exists. EPA said the investigation involves criminal and civil laws.
EPA sources said four other pipeline companies also found PCBs in their pits. The sources identified the companies as American Natural Resources Co., Tennessee Gas Transmission Co., Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Corp. and Consolidated Gas Transmission Corp.
Marian Drowll, speaking for American Natural Resources, said the company completed a $10 million PCB cleanup last December at 29 dump sites in 13 states -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. She said the company stopped using a lubricant containing PCB in 1973.
A Tennessee Gas spokesman said the company found PCBs in its pipelines as a result of transporting gas for other companies, and one pit has been cleaned up.
David Cotten, manager of pub- lic relations for Consolidated Gas, said the company has found one earthen pit that received some PCBs as a result of gas purchased from other pipelines. He said the site, at Delmont, Pa., has been cleaned up.
Transcontinental's Gretchen Weis said the company found very low PCB levels at a Pennsylvania site after buying gas from other companies and has arranged for the pollutant's removal and disposal. EPA officials said Transco is also believed to have PCB sites in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.
EPA sources said that six additional companies under scrutiny have denied using earthen pits for disposing of PCBs, but that the agency is concerned about possible contamination by those companies.
They were identified as Algonquin Gas Transmission Co., Columbia Gas System Inc., Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America, Texas Gas Transmission Corp., Transwestern Pipeline Co. and Columbia Gulf Transmission Co.
Since 1978, the Toxic Substances Control Act has required that PCBs be disposed of at regulated landfills or incinerators. Violations are punishable by fines of $25,000 a day and up to a year in prison.