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For Release: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ECO-Quality Program Achieves Near Total Compliance

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) ECO-Quality program achieved near total compliance with environmental laws in the city of Albany's South End, DEC Regional Director Gene Kelly announced today. As a result of more than 40 inspections and 11 follow-up inspections of commercial sites in South Albany this past summer, ten of the 11 facilities with operational issues were brought into compliance.

"This program is designed to bring facilities into compliance, not to penalize small businesses," Kelly said. "Local businesses fully cooperated with this program and nearly every business was brought into compliance with environmental laws and regulations. This program helps prevent pollution and improves the quality of life in Albany's south end."

"Environmental Justice communities across the state face a spectrum of environmental challenges," said Melvin Norris, Director of DEC's Office of Environmental Justice. "By helping the small and mid-sized businesses that are crucial to a community's economic vitality come into compliance with environmental regulations, we make it a healthier and safer place to live."

Of all the sites inspected by DEC Environmental Conservation Officers and other program staff, 11 were found to have issues that required a DEC follow-up visit. After DEC provided information to many of the facilities on how to address operational issues, DEC staff re-inspected the 11 sites and found 10 to be in compliance. DEC has initiated an enforcement action against one facility that had significant issues uncovered during an inspection. The facilities inspected included gas stations, dry cleaners, auto repair/dismantling shops and a chemical company. Some of the issues encountered at the facilities included incomplete record-keeping and improper storage and labeling of hazardous materials.

In addition to the site inspections, DEC set up vehicle checkpoints and roving patrols in South Albany to inspect diesel trucks for compliance with clean air and vehicle and traffic laws. Of the 16 vehicles pulled over for complete inspections, six exhaust violations and seven vehicle and traffic law violations were found that resulted in tickets being issued. A number of warnings were issued to truck drivers with less serious infractions.

The South Albany ECO-Quality program is part of DEC's state-wide expansion of an innovative Environmental Justice (EJ) pollution prevention program piloted in three EJ communities in Westchester County beginning in 2010. In the city of Yonkers, the compliance rate more than doubled, jumping from 42 percent to 91 percent. In Mount Vernon, the rate climbed from 36 percent to 86 percent, and in Peekskill, it rose from 45 percent to 83 percent. DEC's report on the pilot program can be viewed at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/83550.html.

DEC's Office of Environmental Justice and Division of Law Enforcement developed the program to prevent violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law that impact the health and quality of life of low-income and minority communities. Informed by relevant public health data, such as asthma hospitalization rates, and community input about local environmental problems and priorities, DEC will expand this program next year to include the cities of Amsterdam and Rensselaer.

Operation ECO-Quality combines enhanced outreach, consultation, and community policing activities to help prevent pollution in some of New York State's most economically disadvantaged communities. EJ is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

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