PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- New England Gas Co. could face stiff fines as a result of the mercury spill two months ago in Pawtucket, federal officials said.
An official with the Environmental Protection Agency said the agency will take enforcement action against the gas company for its failure to store the mercury properly, according to The Providence Journal.
''Certainly, we know that the material was there improperly, and the EPA will certainly take enforcement action," said David McIntyre, chief of the EPA's New England regional office's emergency response and removal groups.
Two months ago, vandals broke into a storage shed belonging to New England Gas Co., smashed one jar containing mercury and took another to their apartment complex, causing a spill that contaminated the complex and setting off a cleanup that's still under way.
State and federal officials are investigating whether the firm broke the law by storing mercury in the shed.
Kenneth Rota, chief of the hazardous-waste compliance unit of the New England regional EPA office, said the gas company could face fines of more than $30,000 a day for every day it can be shown that the mercury was being kept in the shed illegally.
Rota said that under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the gas company was required to obtain a permit for the mercury storage. Getting the permit would have entailed a public hearing. Pawtucket city officials said no public hearing was ever held.
The mercury came from natural gas regulators that had been taken out of service and were being cleaned for disposal, Christopher Medici, a spokesman for the gas company, said during an Oct. 21 press conference.