Auto body shops face environment reporting requirements

Auto body shops in the Capital Region will be the first in the state to face detailed reporting requ

Auto body shops in the Capital Region will be the first in the state to face detailed reporting requirements under a new initiative targeting potential environmental hazards.

The new requirements in the Auto Body Shops Environmental Results Program do not reflect a change in environmental laws, but rather a change in the way the state will regulate them, according to Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Several workshops are scheduled for this week and next to help those affected understand the requirements.

Auto body repair establishments subject to the initiative include those that perform collision repair, painting, paint stripping, body work, restoration or student training, according to the DEC.

One element of the program requires body shop owners to fill out an eight-page form reporting on details such as how they dispose of fluorescent light bulbs and whether there are floor drains in the shop.

If there are, the drains have to be tied into a municipal sewer system and only approved fluids can be poured into them. If there is no sewer system, the drains have to be capped so there won’t be any accidental spillage.

Auto body repair shops also have to report on whether they are using state-approved paint sprayers. If not, they have to fill out a “Return to Compliance” form explaining the situation and spelling out a plan to correct the issue within six months.

Robert Fisher of Creative Auto Body in Amsterdam said he’s planning to attend a workshop in Amsterdam on Thursday, but after reading the packet of information he received from the state, he fears the initiative will run some smaller operations out of business.

He said some of the rules he’s reading in his packet appear too restrictive.

Shops can’t sand a car unless their garage doors are shut, for example, and they have to store rags in a sealed container. They also have to contact their waste disposal contractor and inform them items such as masking paper they throw in the trash might be considered hazardous waste.

“Then the Dumpster rates go sky high. The little shops will either pass it onto the customers or close the doors,” Fisher said.

Fisher said he’s incensed over the challenges facing small businesses — a feeling that grew when he learned he has to pay a $50 fee to renew his sales tax collection number.

“They’re charging us money to collect their sales tax. This state is bleeding people right to death,” Fisher said.

Sue Caulfield, executive director of the Capital District Auto Body Association, a local trade group representing more than 60 shops, said the association has been working to inform members of the requirements for about a year.

“The objective, to improve the environment, is certainly worthwhile and the self-audit process is better than the alternative of regimented enforcement,” Caulfield said.

“The real issue is implementing this program under the current economic conditions, which may have a negative impact on the body shop industry,” she said. Caulfield said she attended a workshop in Albany last week and said she believes it will help clear up any confusion body shop owners might have.

Details on the program can be found on the DEC Web site at

Workshops for the program will be held starting at 7 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

* Thursday, June 25, Amsterdam Riverfront Center Community Room, Amsterdam.

* Tuesday, June 30, Hudson Valley Community College Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Troy.

* Thursday, July 2, Otsego Northern Catskill BOCES Frank W. Cyr Center Conference Room, Stamford.

Categories: Schenectady County

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