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The state Department of Environmental Conservation has beefed up its air quality enforcement staff.

Commissioner John P. Cahill said 15 additional technical employees are working on inspections and enforcement, helping the agency negotiate 35 consent orders this year as part of air enforcement actions with 42 facilities statewide.

The actions include Buffalo General Hospital, which was fined $105,000 last summer and agreed to correct problems with an incinerator.

Across the state, civil penalties totaled $1.7 million and covered every case pinpointed in an audit under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Significant Violator Policy.

As part of its stepped-up enforcement effort, the state environmental agency now has a centralized unit that serves as a single point of contact for all air enforcement issues.

Three attorneys and four engineers have been assigned full-time to the unit, and the number of site inspections has increased from an average of 200 to 300 in recent years to more than 400 so far this year.

A new computer link also gives the agency access to databases at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Robert Morland of Schenectady, a veteran DEC air pollution expert, has been named director of the department's Division of Air.

The effort also includes revised policies, new regional coordinators and integrated site inspection teams.

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