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Newtown CVS Among Stores Cited For Environmental Violations By State



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Newtown CVS Among Stores Cited For Environmental Violations By State

By John Voket

A Queen Street pharmacy is among 110 state CVS stores cited by the state’s lead environmental agency for either improper handling or discharging photo processing chemicals beyond the limit of what is allowed in its state permit.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a comprehensive settlement with CVS in Connecticut November 23, under which this major national retail chain is paying penalties of $268,900 for numerous violations of environmental regulations at its stores as well as making major improvements in its environmental practices. 

According to a DEP spokesperson, the Newtown location’s over-limit discharge, or failure to monitor its discharge of a silver-based solution used in photo processing equipment, occurred on one or more occasions.

Additional violations, which occurred at other CVS stores in other communities, included improper discharge of wastewaters containing pharmaceuticals. 

DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella said, “This case shows the importance of monitoring compliance with laws designed to protect natural resources and the public health. CVS simply failed to ensure the proper handling of wastewater from processing photos and failed to ensure the proper and safe disposal of pharmaceutical products. The company is now taking steps to change its business practices and come into compliance with the law.  

“Discharging waste water from photo processing without making proper use of systems designed to capture and recycle silver and silver byproducts can result in excessive amounts of this chemical being discharged into the environment. These byproducts then pose a threat to the waters and natural resources of our state,” Commissioner Marrella said. 

“In addition, we know that disposing of pharmaceuticals into septic and sewer systems is not the best practice and can have a negative impact on aquatic life,” the DEP commissioner added. “We are learning that even after wastewater is treated, trace amounts of pharmaceuticals can make their way into our waters where they have a negative impact on aquatic life.”

Under the agreement, CVS will pay $223,900 to the state’s General Fund and $45,000 for a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP).  These SEP funds will be used by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) to study the potential for reducing the amount of storm water that enters the sewer systems in New Haven and Bridgeport. 

The sewer systems in these cities — which collect both storm water and domestic sewage — become overwhelmed during heavy rains, which can release untreated sewage into rivers, streams, and Long Island Sound.

Violations Outlined

CVS Pharmacy, Inc, is a Rhode Island corporation, and the parent company of Connecticut CVS Pharmacy, LLC.  The LLC owns and operates approximately 140 stores in Connecticut offering on-site film development, pharmacy, and over-the-counter health and beauty product services.    

In 2009, DEP inspected ten CVS locations and discovered violations associated with:

*The discharge of wastewaters from photographic processing to on-site septic systems or sanitary sewers without a permit; and

*The discharge of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical-laden wastewaters to on-site septic systems or sanitary sewers without a permit.

One store also failed to have on file required maintenance records of the silver recovery systems that treat wastewater from their photographic processing machines.  

CVS also reported additional violations of permit effluent limits for silver at 31 stores between July and September of 2010.

Working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DEP also obtained information from CVS on its practices regarding the handling of wastewaters from photographic processing at other Connecticut stores.  This information, obtained in January and February 2010 showed that:

*19 nineteen CVS stores were discharging these types of wastewaters without a permit during the past three years;

*101 stores were not monitoring the influent and effluent of the silver recovery system in accordance with state permit requirements;

*20 stores discharged wastewater on one or more occasions that violated the permit limits for silver effluent. 

Mike DeAngelis, a spokesperson for the company, issued a statement reiterating that CVS/pharmacy has reached an agreement with the State of Connecticut to ensure that its stores follow proper procedures for the disposal of photographic processing chemicals and wastewater generated from its photo processing service and rinsing of certain types of pharmaceuticals. 

Changes at CVS

Under the terms of the Consent Order signed with DEP, CVS ceased discharging silver-bearing photographic processing wastewater at all of its Connecticut stores and will undertake the following corrective actions at all of its Connecticut stores:

*Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure proper disposal of unused/expired/waste concentrated photographic processing chemicals, over-the-counter medications, pharmaceuticals or pharmaceutical-laden wastewaters, and wastewaters generated from rinsing photographic processing equipment;

*Post signs near all sinks and drains designed to ensure proper disposal of the items listed above;

*Provide employee training regarding the SOPs and signs.

Prior to resuming the discharge of photographic wastewaters at any store, CVS will:

*Develop SOPs to ensure all existing and future stores obtain the required discharge permits for photographic wastewaters, and comply with permit requirements including sampling, recordkeeping, identifying effluent violations and corrective actions, proper operation and maintenance of the silver recovery treatment system, and the proper disposal of photographic processing wastewaters;

*Train employees regarding permit requirements and the SOPs;

*One year from the issuance of the Consent Order, notify DEP of those CVS stores where it elects to resume discharging.  Permits for other stores will be surrendered.

After implementing the above correction actions, CVS will also conduct audits at all of its Connecticut stores and certify to DEP that all of its stores are in compliance with the corrective actions, permit requirements and state laws.

“It is important to note that this agreement does not involve any allegation that prescription pharmaceutical products were improperly poured down the drain,” Mr DeAngelis said, adding that CVS understands “the need for a healthy environment, and are committed to fostering a culture of environmental responsibility within our company and throughout our supply chain.”

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