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Federal Prisons to Get Environmental Checks


More than a dozen federal prisons -- housing an estimated 20,000 inmates in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia -- will undergo an environmental check to see if they are meeting regulations for controlling air and water pollution, hazardous waste and other environmental risks.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons will voluntarily audit 16 of its prison facilities in the EPA’s mid-Atlantic region, joining a growing number of companies and organizations that have agreed to ‘self-police’ their environmental compliance and disclose violations they may find.

Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh lauded the federal Bureau of Prisons. “Correctional institutions have many environmental matters to consider in protecting the health of inmates, employees and the communities where they’re located. By volunteering to check its facilities and fix problems that may exist, the bureau is demonstrating its environmental responsibility.”

Under the audit agreement, the Bureau of Prisons has agreed to disclose all EPA-enforceable regulatory violations discovered during the audit and to correct the violations within 60 days. The Bureau of Prisons has contracted with an environmental company, Aarcher, Inc., headquartered in Annapolis, Md., to perform three initial audits at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Waymart, Pa., Federal Correctional Institution Loretto in Loretto, Pa., and Federal Correctional Institution Cumberland in Cumberland, Md. Aarcher will use these facilities to develop the criteria for conducting all the audits as well as protocols and checklists. The Bureau of Prisons will then conduct audits at the remaining 13 facilities using its own personnel or a contractor.

Under EPA’s audit policy, prisons that come forward to report their violations can reduce, and in some cases, eliminate penalties as long as: 1) the violations cause no direct harm to public health or the environment; 2) violations are corrected immediately; and 3) the facility has an overall good track record. EPA’s audit policy has been a successful incentive in getting various business and industry sectors to check for compliance with all environmental laws.

Potential environmental hazards at federal prisons are associated with various operations such as heating and cooling, wastewater treatment, hazardous waste and trash disposal, asbestos management, drinking water supply, pesticide use, and vehicle maintenance.

Inmate training programs, offered at most institutions, also have their own unique environmental challenges. A dry cleaning operation, for example, would use perchloroethylene, a hazardous material, to clean fabric. A furniture refinishing shop or a woodworking shop would use methylenechloride to strip off old varnish or polyurethane to protect the raw wood. Both of these are hazardous materials that need special handling.

Federal prisons to be audited:

U.S. Penitentiary (USP) - Canaan, Waymart, Pa.
Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Loretto, Loretto, Pa.
FCI Cumberland, Cumberland, Md.
Allenwood Federal Corrections Complex – three facilities, White Deer, Pa.
USP Lewisburg, Lewisburg, Pa.
FCI McKean, Lewis Run, Pa.
FCI Schuylkill, Minersville, Pa.
Federal Detention Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
USP Lee, Pennington Gap, Va.
FCI Gilmer, Glenville, W. Va.
FCI Beckley, Beaver, W. Va.
Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, W.Va.
FCI Morgantown, Morgantown, W.Va.
USP Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, W.Va.


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