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ECBlend hit with hazardous waste fine

A Medford manufacturer and seller of liquids for e-cigarettes has been fined $29,100 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for multiple hazardous waste violations.

DEQ said Tuesday it found ECBlend LLC, operated by Jason and Carol Williams, had failed to determine whether waste liquids that contained nicotine and were generated by the company were hazardous; illegally stored hazardous waste; and transported hazardous waste without a manifest.

The company intends to appeal the fine.

ECBlend began producing liquids for electronic nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes, in September 2011. The liquid wastes, which contained nicotine, were stored at the company's facility off Knutson Avenue in Medford. The company moved to Ross Lane in 2013, transporting the waste without preparing a manifest, DEQ said. A DEQ inspector in September 2016 found five boxes containing liquid waste generated at the old facility and eight bags containing bottles of the liquid waste generated at the new facility.

During the 2016 inspection, the inspector also found the waste wasn't labeled as hazardous or dated. The inspector also found that company employees weren't provided hazardous waste training. DEQ considers improper management of hazardous waste a threat to public health and the environment.

"Your failure to comply with hazardous waste rules increases the risk that the public or the environment could be harmed by mismanagement of hazardous waste," wrote Sarah G. Wheeler, acting manager for the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in an April 17 letter.

ECBlend CEO Joe Foley said the owners initiated contact with DEQ more than a year ago, asking for advice about proper handling of its nicotine waste.

"I should also note we are currently in total compliance with the regulations and have implemented strict protocols and training to stay that way," said Foley, who was hired after the inspection.

"We believe there is a different interpretation of the facts, and that's what we want to discuss with the DEQ."

The parties have yet to agree on a date for an appeal.

ECBlend is the largest business of its sort in Oregon, employing about 100 people. The company manufactures, wholesales and retails e-cigarette liquids online domestically and internationally and in brick-and-mortar stores in Oregon, Arizona, Washington and Wisconsin.

"We're registered with the Food and Drug Administration, we're inspected by the FDA, deeply engaged in the process, and we follow all the rules," Foley said.

The company is certified by the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association, which Foley indicated may have had something to do with DEQ's action.

"AEMSA sets the standards for e-liquid manufacturing," Foley said. "We're engaged in producing a high quality product that is extremely safe. I don't know specifically, but in a general sense the EPA has been been looking at AEMSA members that have been inspected by the FDA as well."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Workers in the ECBlend pre-mix lab create base mixes in this 2013 photo. [Mail Tribune / file photo]