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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 4, 2008

Bad bulb disposal burns local Macy’s

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Since Macy’s had been improperly disposing of hazardous waste, the department store has agreed to pay the Environmental Protection Agency $49,725.

Certain types of florescent bulbs have to be handled according to hazardous-waste guidelines, said John Senn, of the EPA’s Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.  Some of the tubular bulbs thrown out by the Macy’s in Crossgates Mall and in Garden City had high enough levels of the metal to warrant special disposal, he said. 

“Through a routine investigation,” Senn said, the EPA found that the stores did not have a system to “properly identify and handle” the used bulbs.  Since the December 2007 complaint, Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. settled with the Agency to pay nearly all of the $55,250 fine originally calculated by the EPA, based on the maximum penalties for the state and federal laws that the department store had allegedly violated, he said.  The company also committed to amending its policy to dispose of the material, he said, a plan that will be adopted by the roughly 78 stores in Region 2.

“We’re pleased that we were able to work cooperatively with EPA Region 2 to resolve this issue,” wrote Elina Kazan, director of Macy’s media relations for the region, in an e-mailed statement.  She would not comment further on the issue.

“Something like this is not atypical,” Senn said of how often stores like Macy’s are fined.

Mercury can lead to health problems in children and adults; it is most associated with impaired neurological development.  Of how individuals can best dispose of spent bulbs, Senn said that some chain hardware stores have begun programs to take back bulbs at the end of their life cycle.  Also, he said, most municipalities hold hazardous waste collection days, when people can safely get rid of old compact florescent bulbs.

“They should not go out in the regular garbage,” he said.

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