U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee has announced that Southern Finishing, Inc., a manufacturer of wood and metal components for the furniture and cabinet industry based in Stoneville, N.C., was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Danville, Va., to pay a $200,000 fine and serve three years on probation, for illegally storing hazardous waste at its facility in Martinsville in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (). Senior Judge Jackson L. Kiser also ordered Southern Finishing to spend at least $250,000 developing and implementing an Environmental Management System, including performing annual audits during probation, to minimize environmental impacts and improve compliance with federal, state, and local requirements.
“We will forcefully prosecute anyone who knowingly violates environmental laws and regulations created to ensure the proper and safe handling of hazardous waste,” Brownlee said.
“The illegal storage of hazardous waste poses a risk to both the public and the environment,” said David M. Dillon, special agent in charge of the EPA Criminal Investigation Division Office in Philadelphia. “In addition to the fine, the company will be required to improve its performance to avoid future violations.”
Southern Finishing had previously pled guilty to an Information charging it with a felony RCRA violation. According to this Information, from January 2002 to April 2004, Southern Finishing accumulated a large amount of 55-gallon drums containing hazardous waste consisting of waste paint, solvents, and finishes, without having a permit to do so. The amount of stored hazardous waste continued to grow even after the company received a June 2003 shipment of metal-coating material that contained hazardous air pollutants and later learned that the federal Clean Air Act prohibited the application of such coatings. The hazardous waste was concealed among labeled drums of other waste and product material, so as to evade detection by regulators. More than 150 55-gallon drums of hazardous wastes were found on-site. Some of the drums were not labeled, some had hazardous waste labels and accumulation dates more than 90 days old, and some were in poor condition (i.e., leaking or punctured), according to the charge filed in court.
RCRA regulates the generation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste to ensure its safe management from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal, that is, "cradle to grave.” Among other things, the statute prohibits the storage of hazardous waste unless an owner or operator of a hazardous waste storage facility obtains a permit pursuant to the implementing regulations. The maximum penalty against a corporate defendant for knowingly violating the relevant RCRA provisions is a fine of up to $50,000 per day of violation or $500,000, whichever is greater.
The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the City of Roanoke Police Department, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennie L.M. Waering and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lastra of EPA’s Office of Regional Counsel.
EPA Seeks Early Input on Standards for Airborne Lead
The United States has made tremendous progress in reducing lead concentrations in outdoor air. Average lead concentrations in the air have dropped a dramatic 96% since 1980, primarily as a result of the ban on lead in motor vehicle gasoline. Also, since the late 1970s, blood lead concentrations for children ages one to five have dropped significantly, from about 15 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL) to less than 2 ug/dL.
EPA has released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). It is not a proposal, but a new part of the NAAQS review process that offers an additional public comment period before the agency issues a proposed rule.
EPA is seeking broad public input on the policy options under consideration as part of the lead NAAQS review. For example, the ANPR seeks comment on available scientific information, on current lead exposures for both airborne sources and other sources, and on a number of lead-monitoring issues. That input will help inform the agency as it develops a proposed rule.
EPA will accept comment on the ANPR for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
EPA is required by consent decree to issue a proposal regarding the lead standards by May 1, 2008, and to issue a final rule by Sept. 1, 2008.
Leading Corporations Cutting Greenhouse Gases
Last week, EPA commended more than 150 businesses for working to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and advance the nation's climate change strategy at the agency's Climate Leaders conference in Boulder, Colo. Currently the largest corporate greenhouse gas goal-setting program in the United States, Climate Leaders has partners located in all 50 states representing 10% of U.S. gross domestic product.
"EPA's Climate Leaders partners are proving that businesses don't need to break the bank to do what's good for the environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "From Main Street to Wall Street, companies are reducing their climate footprints in cost-effective ways—keeping America on track to meet President Bush's greenhouse gas reduction goal."
GHG reductions pledged through Climate Leaders are estimated to prevent the emissions equivalent to more than eight million cars annually.
At the conference, 14 corporate partners will announce reduction goals, and 40 organizations will be welcomed into the program.
In addition, three corporate partners in Climate Leaders are being recognized for recently achieving their long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals and extending their commitment to climate change management by pledging aggressive follow-on goals:
- Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) (Sunnyvale, Calif.) pledges to reduce its global GHG emissions by 33% per manufacturing index (unit of production) from 2006 to 2010. AMD achieved its initial goal by reducing its emissions by 53% per manufacturing index from 2002 to 2006.
- Roche Group U.S. Affiliates (Basel, Switzerland) pledges to reduce its total U.S. GHG emissions by 15% from 2001 to 2010. Roche achieved its initial goal by reducing its emissions by 11% from 2001 to 2006.
- Xerox Corp. (Stamford, Conn.) pledges to reduce its total global GHG emissions by 25% from 2002 to 2012. Xerox achieved its initial goal by reducing emissions by 18% from 2002 to 2006.
Fourteen companies announced aggressive new greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals:
3Degrees Group Inc., San Francisco, Calif.; Abbott, Abbott Park, Ill; Applied Materials, Santa Clara, Calif.; Casella Waste Systems Inc., Rutland, Vt.; Coors Brewing Co., Golden, Colo.; Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas; Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee; Lincus Inc., Tempe, Ariz.; Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J.; National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo.; PPG Industries Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.; Tetra Tech EM Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; Travelers Cos., St. Paul, Minn.; and Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Forty companies are joining Climate Leaders as new partners:
ACE Group of Cos., Philadelphia, Pa.; Aggregate Industries, Rockville, Md.; Alticor Inc., Ada, Mich.; Applied Materials Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.; Benziger Family Winery, Glen Ellen, Calif.; Best Buy Co. Inc., Richfield, Minn.; Burt's Bees Inc., Durham, N.C.; Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif.; Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Cytec Industries Inc., West Paterson, N.J.; Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas; DPR Construction Inc., Redwood City, Calif.; EarthColor, West Orange, N.J.; Genesis Microchip Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.; Genzyme Corp., Cambridge, Mass.; Honeywell Inc., Morristown, N.J.; Hunter Panels, Portland, Maine; Kohl's Department Stores, Menomonee Falls, Wis.; Kroenke Sports Enterprises, Denver, Colo.; L.L. Bean Inc., Freeport, Maine; Lincus Inc., Tempe, Ariz.; Mantria Corp., Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; Millipore Corp., Billerica, Mass.; MTC Limousine & Corporate Coach Inc., Bedford Hills, N.Y.; NCR Corp., Dayton, Ohio; OSRAM SYLVANIA, Danvers, Mass.; Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio; PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y.; Petaluma Poultry, Petaluma, Calif.; Random House Inc., New York, N.Y.; Sprint, Reston, Va.; Tate Access Floors, Jessup, Md.; Tetra Tech EM Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich.; The Este Lauder Cos. Inc., New York, N.Y.; The Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C.; Tiffany & Co., New York, N.Y.; Trane, Piscataway, N.J.; U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C.; VF Outdoor Inc., San Leandro, Calif.
EPA Requires California’s Imperial Valley to Reduce Particulate Emissions
The EPA has ordered Imperial Valley, Calif., to submit an air quality plan detailing how it intends to reduce particulate matter, having exceeded national particulate matter standards for almost 10 years.
The EPA will work with the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the Air Resources Board to develop a State Implementation Plan revision no later than Dec. 31, 2008.
"Imperial Valley continues to be challenged by complex air quality problems," said Deborah Jordan, the director of the Air Division for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. "Today's rule will provide a solid foundation on which the air district and state can build an effective clean air plan."
In Imperial Valley, elevated particulate matter levels can result from many sources, including transport of pollution from Mexico; unpaved roads; waste burning; development; and agriculture.
Scientific studies have linked breathing particulate matter to significant health problems, including asthma, respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and premature death. Particulate matter is also associated with increased hospital and emergency room visits for people with heart and lung disease, school and work absences, and reduced visibility.
Imperial Valley is located in the Southeastern portion of California and borders Mexicali, Mexico. While there are higher concentrations of particulate matter closer to the U.S.-Mexico border, particulate matter violations occur at monitoring locations to the north as well.
The EPA expects the rule to be published within the next two weeks.
New Mexico Environment Department Helps Businesses Reduce Environmental Impacts While Saving Money
New Mexico Environment Department’s Pollution Prevention Program offers free waste assessments to business owners around the state who are looking for ways to reduce their environmental footprint while saving money. Those assessments can help businesses identify ways to conserve energy and water or create efficiency in their operations.
“By implementing a few changes, businesses can save thousands of dollars a year in disposal, electricity, and other costs,” said New Mexico Environment Department Deputy Secretary Cindy Padilla. “Simple changes can also help businesses be more environmentally conscientious.”
NMED’s Pollution Prevention Program staff helped one business reduce its solid waste and disposal costs by 78% by suggesting that the business reuse its packaging. Staff also helped other businesses implement recycling plans that reduced garbage disposal costs and institute water conservation methods by installing drought-resistant landscaping and mopping floors less frequently.
Program staff—along with other participants in the U.S. EPA Region 6 Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Albuquerque—recently conducted a waste assessment for the Acoma Sky City Casino Hotel. Hotel managers agreed to the waste assessment after members of the roundtable expressed their interest in it.
The New Mexico Environment Department Pollution Prevention Program works with businesses throughout the state to offer free waste assessments, pollution prevention training, and technical assistance. Business owners interested in obtaining a free waste assessment and an analysis of how their company can reduce its waste stream may call Michelle Vattano at 505-827-0677.
Arizona Mine Fined $28,950 for Toxic Chemical Reporting Violations
The EPA has settled with an Arizona mining company for $28,950 for failing to submit required toxic chemical reports, a violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Silver Bell voluntarily disclosed its failure to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amounts of cobalt processed between 2001–2003 at its facility located at 25000 West Avra Road in Marana, Ariz., and promptly corrected the violations. In accordance with the EPA’s general policy of working with industry and encouraging voluntary disclosure, the penalty for these violations was reduced because Silver Bell voluntarily reported the violations to the agency.
“Facilities that process chemicals such as cobalt must report the use of the chemicals so residents and emergency response personnel are informed of possible chemical hazards in the community,” said Nathan Lau, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.
If accidentally released, breathing high concentrations of cobalt can result in significant decrease of respiratory function, lung congestion, edema (swelling) and hemorrhaging in the lungs.
. This database estimates the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated, recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management, as well as provides a trend analysis of toxic chemical releases.
California Companies Get Reduced Penalties for Self-Disclosure of Environmental Violations
Ten California companies that voluntarily disclosed and corrected environmental violations had penalties waived by the EPA, the result of EPA policies that have been successful in getting companies to make good-faith efforts in self-policing their own environmental compliance.
The recent self-disclosure cases had potential penalties ranging from $8,700 to $196,000 for environmental violations that the agency determined caused no serious or actual harm to human health or the environment. Altogether, the 10 companies avoided $668,100 in penalties.
“This is a win for communities, for business, and for the EPA,” said Nate Lau, the EPA's Communities and Ecosystems Division associate director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Checking for compliance, promptly disclosing violations found, correcting them, acting to prevent future violations, and making the information available to surrounding communities are the responsible actions for companies to take.”
The information is then compiled into a national database called the Toxics Release Inventory and made available to the public.
In the cases announced, each company discovered the violations on its own and reported the violations to the EPA. Because the companies satisfied all conditions of the EPA’s self-disclosure policies and gained no economic benefit, the EPA waived potential penalties.
The recent self-disclosure cases include:
Facility name: Allfast Fastening Systems
Location: Industry, Calif.
Business: Manufactures fastening systems primarily for aerospace industry
Violations: Failure to report copper, nickel, and nitric acid for calendar years 2002 and 2003
Potential Fine: $121,900
Arch Mirror West
Location: Newark, Calif.
Business: Manufactures glass products
Violations: Failure to report xylene and lead for calendar year 2003
Potential Fine: $12,900
BJB Enterprises, Inc.
Location: Tustin, Calif.
Business: Manufactures polyurethane and epoxy resin mixtures/compounds
Violations: Failure to report mercury compounds and diisocyanates for calendar years 2001–2003
Potential Fine: $76,800
Location: Rocklin, Calif.
Business: Manufactures laminate composed of paper and resins
Violations: Failure to report formaldehyde and phenol for calendar years 2001–2002
Potential Fine: $92,400
Location: Orange, Calif.
Business: Metal stamping and electroplating
Violations: Failure to report chromium, nickel, and cobalt for calendar year 2002; chromium and nickel for calendar years 2003 and 2004
Potential Fine: $42,300
Impressions, Polishing and Plating, Inc. (No longer in operation)
Location: Orange, Calif.
Business: Electroplating, polishing, anodizing, and coloring
Violations: Failure to report lead compounds and nitric acid for calendar years 2004–2005
Potential Fine: $17,500
Location: Rosemead, Calif.
Type of Business: Chemicals and chemical preparations
Violations: Failure to report 4,4 isopropyldenediphenol for calendar years 2004 and 2005.
Potential Fine: $8,700
Net Shapes, Inc.
Location: Ontario, Calif.
Business: Produces metal castings for aerospace, defense, and commercial use
Violations: Failure to report nickel and chromium for calendar years 2001–2004; cobalt for reporting years 2001–2002 and 2004
Potential Fine: $196,000
Peterson Systems International
Location: Duarte, Calif.
Business: Manufactures polyurethane products
Violations: Failure to report methylene chloride for calendar years 2001 and 2002
Potential Fine: $11,000
Location: Elk Grove, Calif.
Business: Manufactures laminated plastic plate and sheet
Violations: Failure to report MEK for calendar year 2002, methanol for calendar year 2003, and copper and methanol for calendar year 2004
Potential Fine: $88,600
The policy excludes criminal acts, violations resulting in serious actual harm to public health or the environment, and repeat violations.
California Establishes Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently set in place two important building blocks in California's fight to slow the impacts of global warming when it approved a greenhouse gas emissions limit for 2020 and adopted regulations requiring mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases for large facilities.
Both items were required under AB32, California's landmark climate change legislation. AB32, also known as The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in September 2006 and requires that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level establishes the actual number of tons of emissions that California is required to reach. The board also adopted the state's first-ever rules and requirements for the largest facilities in California to report their annual greenhouse gas emissions.
"The items the board adopted today are a clear demonstration that we continue to meet our statutory deadlines under AB32. Thanks to meticulous work by ARB staff, we now have a rock-solid calculation of the total number of tons of greenhouse gases emitted by California in 1990—and a firm goal for us to reach by 2020," said Chairman Mary Nichols. "The mandatory reporting requirements are a crucial part of the state's efforts to reach that goal. We are now giving businesses and industry the clear guidance they need to calculate and report their greenhouse gas emissions for their largest facilities."
1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Invnetory—2020 Emissions Limit
California's ARB staff has spent the past year assembling an inventory of the state's 1990 emissions using a variety of data sources, including inputs related to fuel combustion, industrial processes, and agricultural practices. That figure is 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Preliminary estimates indicate that 2020 emission projections could be 600 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent if no actions are taken to reduce greenhouse gases—the so-called 'business-as-usual' scenario. This means that California must prevent 173 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being emitted by 2020 in order to meet the 1990 level as required by AB32.
ARB staff used accepted international guidance to develop the inventory and calculated the total emissions of six greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (by far the largest single gas with 89% of the total), methane, nitrous oxide, and three gases used mainly in industrial applications. Each greenhouse gas has a different global warming potential. A ton of methane, for example, has 21 times the global warming potential as a ton of carbon dioxide. The final figure of 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide was arrived at by giving each gas its global warming potential weight (by comparison, 200,000 passenger cars driven for a full year produce about one million tons of carbon dioxide.).
ARB staff reviewed more than 10,000 separate calculations to arrive at the total, and efforts included an eight-month review of a previous inventory for 1990 levels developed by the California Energy Commission in 2006. Major sectors such as transportation, electrical power, industry, petroleum refining, agriculture, and forestry included 270 subcategories, each with its own data sources and subject-specific calculations.
The inventory revealed that in 1990 transportation, with 35% of the state's total emissions, was the largest single sector, followed by industrial emissions, 24%; imported electricity, 14%; in-state electricity generation, 11%; residential use, 7%; agriculture, 5%; and commercial uses, 3%.
A series of early actions, tailpipe regulations, and the development of fuels with less carbon in them are estimated to provide reductions totaling 66 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. ARB staff are currently developing a Scoping Plan to develop programs and measures to address the remaining 107 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in order to reach the total of 173 million tons by 2020. That plan will be submitted to the board in November 2008.
Mandatory Reporting Requirements.
The mandatory reporting regulations require annual reporting from the largest facilities in the state, accounting for 94% of greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and commercial stationary sources in California. (Transportation sources, which account for 38% of California's total greenhouse gas emissions, are not covered by these regulations but will continue to be tracked through existing means.) The standards and approaches to reporting were developed in close consultation with the California Climate Action Registry, as required by law. The stakeholder process included 5 public workshops and 15 technical workgroup meetings, as well as numerous other meetings and teleconferences and extensive coordination with other state agencies.
There are about 800 separate sources that fall under the new reporting rules and include electricity generating facilities, electricity retail providers and power marketers, oil refineries, hydrogen plants, cement plants, cogeneration facilities, and industrial sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year from on-site stationary source combustions such as large furnaces. This last category includes a diverse range of facilities, such as food processing, glass container manufacturers, oil and gas production, and mineral processing. Backup generators, schools, and hospitals are excluded from the requirements.
Affected facilities will begin tracking their emissions in 2008, to be reported beginning in 2009, with a phase-in process to allow facilities to develop reporting systems and train personnel in data collection. Emissions for 2008 may be based on best available emission data. Beginning in 2010, however, emissions reports will be more rigorous and will be subject to third-party verification. Verification will take place annually or every three years, depending on the type of facility. ARB is also developing a training and accreditation plan for third-party verifiers.
EPA-Funded Research Explores Connection Between Respiratory Illnesses, Air Quality, and Weather in New York City
Local air quality affects how you live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day or even hour to hour. The New York University School of Medicine (NYUSM) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDHMH) just received $494,551 in grant funding from the EPA to develop models to predict respiratory illnesses, including asthma attacks, using near real-time weather data, air quality conditions, and emergency room visits in New York City.
“This type of research is integral to enhancing our understanding of how various factors come together to impact people’s health,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA and our regulatory partners are working to rid our air of pollution, but informing the public is also a key element to fighting pollution. Knowing more about the relationship between air quality, weather conditions, and when people fall ill can greatly advance our ability to advise people on how best to protect their health.”
“Through this study, we hope to better track the impact of air pollution and weather on the health of New Yorkers,” said Dr. Thomas Matte, an environmental epidemiologist at the NYCDHMH. ”New York City is a leader in using data to drive public health actions, and we hope this project will lead to better public communication that reduces health risks when poor air quality or extreme weather events are forecast.” Dr. Matte added that the study will also enhance the city’s ability to track health benefits from air quality improvement initiatives being launched as part of PlaNYC, a comprehensive plan to enhance New York’s physical environment.
Researchers will take advantage of the NYCDHMH’s syndromic surveillance system that tracks visits to the emergency room on a daily basis. Syndromic surveillance systems are monitoring systems used by health care providers to record symptoms and health-related data before a diagnosis is made. These systems provide an early warning system for the medical community by identifying health patterns and signaling when there might be reason to suspect that a specific outbreak is occurring.
Scientific investigators will systematically study the sequence of events among weather conditions, air pollution buildup, and health effects indicators. The aim is to develop health effects models that are useful for predictions of air pollution health impact days based on real-time environmental and health data. The EPA-funded study will also examine the influence of special events, such as Asian dust storms and Canadian forest fires, to evaluate how they impact health and the model predictions.
Ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation, and aggravating asthma. When ozone levels are high, more people with asthma have attacks that require a doctor’s attention or use of medication. One reason this happens is that ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens such as pets, pollen, and dust mites, which are common triggers of asthma attacks and lead to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits.
Sources of fine particles, which are less than 2.5 micrometers or about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair, include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes. Fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose serious health risks, including aggravating the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems in healthy individuals.
$7 Million in Grants Adds Fuel to the Methane to Markets Partnership
The agency expects to award approximately 40 cooperative grant agreements ranging from approximately $100,000 to $700,000. The Methane to Markets partnership is an international initiative to reduce global methane emissions by promoting capture-and-use projects in oil and gas systems, coal mining, landfills, and animal waste management.
EPA is requesting proposals for projects that directly identify, characterize, or implement methane capture-and-use projects. Examples include technology transfers and demonstrations, feasibility studies, training and capacity building, and databases of potential sites.
EPA seeks proposals from a wide variety of institutions, including international governments, universities, and public or private non-profit organizations to advance project development in the following Methane to Markets Partner countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, and Vietnam. EPA will also consider regional proposals including other countries as long as at least one of the countries listed above is included.
The total grants cannot exceed $7 million. The estimated project period for awards is September 2008 through September 2011. Proposals are due by Feb. 22, 2008, at 4 p.m., Eastern time.
Washington Department of Ecology Issues $500,000 Fine for Hanford Tank Waste Spill
The Washington State Department of Ecology has issued a $500,000 penalty against the Department of Energy—Office of River Protection for a release of radioactive hazardous tank waste to the soil at Hanford's tank farms. The waste endangered workers and brought a halt to cleanup of the leaky underground single-shell tanks.
The spill occurred on July 27, 2007, when contractor CH2M HILL Hanford Group was pumping waste from a single-shell tank (No. 241-S-102). Workers tried to unblock a pump by running it in reverse. This resulted in a high-level waste spill to the ground.
"Over 80 gallons of highly radioactive tank waste spilled to the environment," said Jane Hedges, manager of Ecology's Nuclear Waste Program. "Before the spill was discovered, a series of poor decisions put workers in grave danger from exposure to the tank waste and vapors. This accident calls into question the adequacy of the safety culture, which is so critical at the tank farms."
Ecology is issuing this penalty under the Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order, also known as the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA). The TPA is the guiding document under which the state has authority to enforce cleanup and management requirements for mixed hazardous waste at Hanford.
Ecology investigated the circumstances surrounding the spill, including the equipment design, incident notification, and emergency response. A series of administrative and engineering failures were found to have contributed to this accident.
The Department of Energy conducted its own "Type A" investigation, which identified several major contributing causes (engineering reviews and testing, work controls, industrial hygiene, radiological protection, medical response, and emergency management). A "Type A" investigation is conducted following the most serious of accidents at Department of Energy facilities.
Ecology's penalty cites two violations. The first involved inadequacies in the design of the waste retrieval system. "The Raw Water System used to provide dilution water for the pump had no backflow equipment to prevent waste from backing up into it," said Eric Van Mason, inspector for Ecology. The system is designed to supply water, not to transfer or contain waste. When the pump was run in reverse, tank waste traveled into a rubber hose above the ground. The rubber hose ruptured, resulting in the spill.
The second violation involved inadequate engineering reviews. The Tank Waste Retrieval System design was not adequately or fully reviewed in accordance with state regulations.
"The inspection found that too few staff were on the job to manage the incident during the graveyard shift,” Van Mason said. “Inspections determined that lighting was inadequate in the pump pit area, and poor positioning of the S Tank Farm video camera also contributed to the delay in response to the accident."
Hedges, who leads the state's oversight of the Hanford cleanup, said: "We are troubled by the length of time it took CH2M HILL and the Department of Energy to determine there was a release of radioactive tank waste. There was a delay of more than seven hours from the time the first high radiation readings were discovered. This is completely unacceptable."
As a result of this accident, all work related to retrieving the liquids from Tank 241-S-102 has been stopped. Additionally, all tank waste retrieval work throughout the tank farms has been suspended until the contributing factors can be identified and resolved and work can resume safely.
The Department of Energy has already missed several deadlines for retrieval of waste from the 149 single-shell tanks. "Radioactive tank waste is the greatest human health and environmental risk at Hanford," said Hedges. "Getting the waste out of the aging, leaky Hanford tanks is the state of Washington's top cleanup priority. The mismanagement of the retrieval work that caused this spill has set back the already delayed tank retrieval work even further."
$18,758 Penalty for Air Pollution Control and Hazardous Waste Violations
Northland Industrial Truck Co., Inc., which sells, services, and leases material-handling lift equipment at 239 Cherry Street in Shrewsbury, Mass., has been assessed penalties totaling $18,758 for violating Air Pollution Control and Hazardous Waste Management regulations.
During an inspection conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) personnel in July of 2006, it was determined that the company generated odors when operating its wastewater evaporation system, failed to follow good engineering practices with regard to its evaporator stack height, and failed to comply with waste oil management requirements.
In a recently finalized consent order, the company agreed to correct all violations, pay a $5,900 penalty, and complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) totaling $12,858 that includes the purchase and donation of first-responder equipment to the Shrewsbury Fire Department.
"This company violated MassDEP regulations and needed to ensure the proper operation of its evaporator and properly manage its waste oil," said Martin Suuberg, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "MassDEP commends the town's Board of Health for working together with MassDEP to investigate the odors emanating from the company and resolve this matter."
Simple Ways to Dispose of Household Hazardous Products
Rather than guessing about what to do with those old prescriptions and mysterious bottles in the back of your medicine cabinet, or the unlabeled containers left by the previous owner of your home, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is recommending easy ways to dispose of potentially hazardous wastes.
- Start by taking an inventory of your home's easily identified usable products. Tighten the lids on those items you use regularly and return them to a storage location out of children's reach. Bring any products you can't identify to a household hazardous waste collection site. The trained staff can make sure that all materials are disposed of safely.
- Expired or unwanted medications may be disposed of in the trash after taking a few simple steps. Start by scratching off personal information on the label. Pour a small amount of water into containers of pills or capsules to partially dissolve them. For liquid medications, add table salt, flour, or a non-toxic spice, such as tumeric or mustard, to discourage anyone from ingesting them. For tablets in a blister pack, wrap the pack in multiple layers of duct tape. Finally, place the medication container in another, opaque container with a lid, such as a plastic margarine tub, to conceal the contents. Keep the materials away from children and place the materials into the garbage as close as possible to your trash pick-up day.
- Bathroom-related products that can go into the trash include old cosmetics and skin creams. The same is true for water-based glues, joint compounds, empty aerosol cans, alkaline batteries, and fertilizers.
- Products that may be poured safely down the drains connected to a municipal wastewater treatment system include: bleach, ammonia-based cleaners, disinfectants, drain cleaners, hair dyes and wave solutions, toilet bowl, tub and tile cleaners, and rust removers. Make sure to pour each separately and flush the line with water, before pouring a different product down the drain. Potential—and serious —problems could result if you mix any product with another in a sink or toilet. People living in homes connected to a septic system may dispose of these items in the garbage.
- Products requiring disposal at your local household hazardous waste collection site include: alcohol-based lotions such as perfumes and aftershave, solvent-based cleaners, oil-based paint, hair removers, nail polish and polish removers, window cleaners, floorcare products, and oven cleaners. The same is true for most items stored in a garage or workshop, such as paints and stains, paint thinner, roofing tars, driveway sealer, motor oil, filters and other automotive products, charcoal lighter fluid and other fuels, fertilizers with weed killer, insect killers, mothballs, pesticides, pool chemicals, non-empty aerosol cans, shoe polish, and spot removers.
Easier ways to solve disposal dilemmas include: switching to safer alternative products that are water-based instead of solvent-based, buying pump-spray containers instead of aerosols, buying the right amount of the right product for the intended job, giving away unused products to others seeking them, and taking advantage of product-exchange programs whenever possible.
Proper household hazardous waste disposal is worth the effort—people and the environment are better-protected from unintentional pollution, our groundwater is safer for drinking, and fish and other aquatic wildlife are less likely to be affected. When in doubt about what to do with any potentially hazardous product, call your county's solid waste office or the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at 1-800-657-3864.
Bakery Fined $70,250 for Air Violations
The Alfred Nickles Bakery will pay a $70,250 civil penalty for violations of its air pollution permits at its Lima facility. The company has corrected the violations and has obtained modified permits to reflect current production levels.
The Navarre-based company operates a commercial bakery that produces breads and sandwich buns at 1950 North Sugar St., Lima. The use of yeast in the recipes results in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (ethanol) from the fermentation process that occurs during baking in the company's ovens. The company has a federal permit for large air pollution sources, known as a Title V permit. The company also has state permits for the ovens.
To limit emissions, the company's production was limited in its air pollution permits. Production in two ovens exceeded those limits for extended periods of time between 2003 and 2005.
As a result of the production limit violations, VOC emission limits also were exceeded from August 2004 to June 2005 on both the hearth oven and the 400-bun oven.
Nickles failed to notify Ohio EPA of some of the violations and did not document the production limit exceedances and reporting violations in its permit compliance certification report for 2003.
From the time the permit was issued in May 2002 until being corrected in October 2004, the company failed to properly maintain operations records for each oven in a format required by the permit; and it failed to timely submit complete Title V compliance certification reports for calendar years 2002 and 2003.
In correcting the violations, the company asked for modifications to its permits, increasing production limits on the hearth oven to 2,750 pounds per hour and on the 400-bun oven to 4,250 pounds per hour. Ohio EPA approved the modifications.
The company will pay $46,200 to Ohio EPA's Environmental Education Fund and air pollution control programs. The remaining $24,050 will fund two environmentally beneficial projects: $14,050 will go to Ohio EPA's Clean Diesel School Bus Program and $10,000 will fund a pollution prevention study at the company's Martins Ferry facility.
Pennsylvania DEP Assesses Civil Penalty Against Former Franklin County Sewage Officer
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined a former sewage enforcement officer for Montgomery Township, Franklin County, $18,700 for violating the Sewage Facilities Act. Specifically, DEP says Jack Reed improperly tested and evaluated sites for on-lot disposal systems.
“Sewage enforcement officers are essential to DEP’s oversight and regulation of on-lot disposal systems and local sewage management,” said DEP Southcentral Regional Director Rachel Diamond. “They represent the sole regulatory point-of-contact for system design, installation, inspection, and operation matters.
“In order to protect the public’s health and safety, they must maintain a high degree of professionalism and conduct. Unfortunately, Reed did not live up to these standards in many cases.”
Reed served as enforcement officer from March 2002 until October 2006. He voluntarily surrendered his certification on Sept. 30, 2006. Once a certification has been surrendered, all of the officer’s previous work is subject to review.
During those reviews, which took place between October 2006 and April 2007, representatives from DEP and the township’s alternate officer documented violations at 16 different properties. Those violations included improper slopes, insufficient soil depths, and the use of inappropriate testing techniques for determining the suitability of a site for an on-lot sewage system.
The department is working with municipal officials and property owners to address these violations.
The Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act 537 requires municipalities to enforce on-lot sewage system requirements, including the evaluation and permitting of new systems. These duties are carried out by sewage enforcement officers, who are trained by DEP and must pass a state-administered test in order to receive certification from a state board.
$150,000 Penalty for Alleged Violations of Terrain Alteration and Wetland Laws in New Hampshire
Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte and Commissioner Thomas S. Burack of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) announced that the Sullivan County Superior Court (Arnold, J.) approved a settlement between the state and Paul G. Blouin to resolve violations of the state’s wetland and terrain alteration laws. The settlement includes a total civil penalty of $150,000 and a requirement to restore the impacted wetlands to the state’s satisfaction.
In its lawsuit, the state alleged that Blouin violated state laws by stumping, dredging, and filling a large area of forested wetland to create a trout pond, useable adjacent uplands, and an access road on his property in Unity, New Hampshire. The total estimated impact to wetlands and streams was more than 183,000 square feet, or more than four acres. The settlement agreement requires the defendant to pay a $20,000 cash penalty, restore the impacted wetlands, and provide financial surety for the completion of the restoration. The remaining cash penalty, in the amount of $130,000, will be suspended for a period of three years.
Attorney General Kelly Ayotte stated, “This agreement signifies the importance of restoring wetlands to ensure their preservation for all of New Hampshire’s citizens. We are pleased that Mr. Blouin has agreed to take responsibility for his actions.”
Connecticut Joins Multi-State Petition Urging Federal Regulation of Aircraft Emissions
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that Connecticut has joined California and several other states in a petition to the EPA calling for regulation of aircraft emissions.
Blumenthal said aircraft emissions are a vital concern in Connecticut—particularly due to generally new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight paths that route more large planes over southwestern Connecticut, damaging the region's environment. Blumenthal sued the FAA last month for failing to even acknowledge, let alone consider, the impact of the new flight paths on Connecticut.
The petition urges the EPA to take immediate action to adopt rules setting emissions standards to control and limit the emissions of greenhouse gases from aircraft. Aircraft emissions contribute 3% of the country's total carbon dioxide emissions—more than the emissions attributable to almost any individual nation in the world, according to a United Nations report. Others signing on to California's petition include New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and New York City.
"Cutting pernicious aircraft pollutants—EPA's legal right and responsibility—is more important now than ever before in Connecticut because of unnecessary air traffic over our communities," Blumenthal said. "EPA has the authority—and profound obligation—to regulate aircraft emissions that threaten public health and enable global warming. Connecticut is particularly vulnerable to harmful aircraft emissions because the FAA has mindlessly routed more large planes over lower Connecticut, failing to consider alternatives or environmental damage to the region. Aircraft emissions pose a significant threat—more potent than ground-level emissions—to our atmosphere and air quality.
"The EPA should reroute its own policy path and recognize legal reality—its mandatory responsibility, as the U.S. Supreme Court has declared, to regulate CO2 emissions. We will fight vigorously to ensure protective nationwide standards for aircraft emissions—as we have fought, and continue to fight, for state rights to regulate auto emissions."
California Proposes New Regulations to Reduce Diesel Pollution
California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols highlighted two port-related emissions reductions programs that, if passed by the full board later this week, will dramatically reduce diesel particulate matter pollution from ships and trucks throughout the state by 2014.
The first regulation requires operators of certain types of ocean-going vessels to shut down their diesel auxiliary engines while docked at the state's busiest ports in favor of using shore-based electrical power. The second regulation is aimed at cleaning up emissions from the aging fleet of dirty diesel trucks that hauls goods around the clock to and from ports and rail yards throughout the state.
"These first-of-their-kind measures will continue our work to slash port-related emissions," Nichols said. "Residents from San Pedro to Oakland will breathe easier as a result of our aggressive actions to clean up diesel emissions from ports throughout the state. We owe it to the long-suffering port communities to continue our quest of reducing all the emissions we can from ships, trucks, and trains."
ARB adopted strategies in December 2005 that require cleaner engines in cargo-handling equipment and clean fuel on ships. Combined with the measures before the board this week, ARB regulations will reduce diesel particulate-matter emissions from container and cruise ship terminals by almost two-thirds by 2010 and by an estimated 75% by 2014. Overall diesel soot emissions will decline by 1,800 tons per year in 2014.
The new regulation will require certain fleet operators of container, passenger, and refrigerated cargo ships ("reefers") to turn off their auxiliary engines—which power lighting, ventilation, pumps, and other onboard equipment—while a ship is docked for most of its stay in port. The rule will affect almost 95% of the ship visits in these three categories. Once docked, operators would then be expected to receive their electricity from shore-based sources or meet percentage reductions through other means. Ports affected by the regulation are those most visited: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Hueneme in Ventura County.
A 2005 ARB exposure study at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach shows that more than two million people live in areas around the ports with predicted cancer risks of greater than 10 in a million due to emissions from docked ocean-going vessels. From that study and other data, ARB estimates that about 61 premature deaths per year can be attributed to exposure to diesel exhaust generated from ships in port.
Container, passenger, and reefer vessels call at California ports almost 6,000 times each year, accounting for nearly 85% of the emissions from all docked ships. In 2006, approximately 1.8 tons per day of diesel particulate matter and 21 tons per day of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a key ingredient of smog, were emitted from the diesel-fueled auxiliary engines of docked ships. The regulation is expected to reduce diesel and smog-forming emissions from docked container, passenger, and reefer ships by nearly 50% relative to levels otherwise expected to be emitted in 2014, and 80% by 2020.
Next year, ARB expects to introduce a similar rule that will reduce emissions from bulk ships, tankers, and vehicle carriers.
ARB staff estimates that California has about 20,000 port or "drayage" trucks that frequently visit the ports and rail yards and have the greatest impact on local air quality. Drayage trucks are a significant source of diesel particulate matter, contributing three tons per day statewide. With regards to the smog precursor NOx, port trucks emit 61 tons per day.
The regulation is expected to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions from drayage trucks from baseline 2007 levels some 86% (2.6 tons per day) by 2010. Emissions of NOx are expected to be reduced from 2007 baseline levels by 62% (42 tons per day) by 2014.
ARB estimates that the proposed regulation will prevent 1,200 premature deaths from 2009 through 2020, with benefits being the most dramatic in the communities where port trucks are heavily concentrated.
Phase one of the new regulation requires all pre-1994 drayage truck engines be retired or replaced with 1994 and newer engines by the end of 2009. In addition, trucks with 1994–2003 engines will need to be either replaced or retrofitted to achieve an 85% reduction in diesel particulate matter by the same deadline. The second phase of the regulation requires all drayage trucks to meet 2007 emissions standards by the end of 2013.
The rule also requires compliant trucks working at the 14 ports and 11 rail yards affected by this regulation to be entered into a special registry by late 2009. (Affected ports are Benicia, Crockett, Hueneme, Humboldt Bay (Eureka), Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Redwood City, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Stockton. Affected intermodal rail yards are: Oakland Union Pacific (UP) and Oakland Burlington (BNSF); Hobart BNSF; LATC UP; Commerce UP; Commerce Eastern BNSF; Richmond BNSF; ICTF UP; San Bernardino; Stockton Intermodal BNSF; and Lathrop Intermodal UP.)
Next year, the board will consider a similar measure that will focus on reducing emissions from in-use private heavy-duty diesel truck fleets.
In addition to substantially helping local communities, the port truck regulation, if passed, will help the entire Los Angeles region meet federally mandated air quality standards by 2014. In terms of greenhouse gas, it will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55,000–89,000 tons per year (3%–5%). The shore power regulation is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 40% by 2020, equivalent to about 200,000 tons per year.
New York Announces Environmental Excellence Awards
An aggressive school "go green" program that features the creative use of earthworms, an energy innovation that boosted a North Country yogurt plant, and some old-fashioned elbow grease applied to invasive plants in the Adirondacks were just some of the projects cited in the 2007 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis.
In all, DEC named six award winners for 2007, with the winning projects coming from industry, local governments, and an environmental advocacy group. "The winners come from a wide array of sources. But what they all have in common is creativity and resourcefulness, and a desire to make a positive impact on the environment,'' Grannis said. "In their separate ways, they have made a significant contribution to the protection and stewardship of our natural resources."
This year's winners are:
Ecovation and Breyers Yogurt Co., North Lawrence Facility. The yogurt plant teamed up with Ecovation, an Ontario County-based company, to deploy a "bio-gas" production system to treat factory waste. Essentially, the process converts dairy waste into a methane-rich gas. The process spurred Breyers to install a new energy facility to help power the plant. Now, the plant is on track to replace about 30% of its annual fuel oil usage with renewable "bio-gas." In addition, it is accepting dairy byproducts from other nearby dairy plants, such as acid whey from a cheese plant and condensed lactose from another facility, reducing waste generation in the surrounding community. Breyers also joined with Clarkson University to research the energy conversion process not only to improve the plant but also to provide information to other facilities.
Delphi Thermal Systems, Lockport. The automobile parts and electronics supplier developed an alternative metal alloy that allowed it to do away with a chromium coating used for air conditioning evaporators. The benefits? It eliminated the generation of a hazardous waste sludge and it allowed the company to raze an industrial wastewater-treatment plant. It also removes a significant pollution issue that had to be addressed at a vehicle's demolition. Delphi also was able to close and remove chemical and petroleum storage tanks associated with the old coating material.
Syracuse City School District. The district has implemented a “Going Green'' agenda in 30 schools that involves recycling and tracking of materials, and education efforts. Cafeterias switched to paper bags from Styrofoam trays and, in the 2006–2007 academic year, 500 tons of paper were collected and recycled. The district also employed "vermicomposting" to reduce cafeteria waste. This involves using ventilated bins containing earthworms and various types of bedding material (paper, peat moss, or other) to turn kitchen waste into a dark, nutrient-rich soil conditioner. As a result of its efforts, the district estimates it has saved 8,500 trees, 231,500 gallons of oil, and 350,000 gallons of water.
Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board. Faced with a malfunction that produced greenhouse gas leaks, sapped efficiency, and posed a potential explosion risk, the board chose a non-conventional solution. It constructed a new dual-membrane cover to replace a defective cover for a unit known as an anaerobic digester, which breaks down organic materials into methane and other gases. This marked the first application of this technology in the state. The result: The dangerous conditions were eliminated, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced, and electricity purchases at the facility declined 26%.
The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Chapter. The group has developed its Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, aimed at detecting, eradicating, and managing infestations of invasive plants. Working with state agencies, other nonprofit groups, academic groups, and volunteers, TNC has made presentations, developed public-service publications, produced videos, and made other efforts to spread the news about the dangers of invasive species. TNC's efforts also involve elbow grease and shoe leather. Volunteers have served as monitors for 182 waterways and have ripped out tons of garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, and other invaders from Adirondack roadsides.
IBM East Fishkill. Despite not being legally obligated to do so, the IBM semiconductor plant put online a new wastewater treatment system that reduced the discharge of nitrates by 67%. Using a distillation process, the new system recovers and recycles ammonia-laden wastewater, which in turn directly reduces the amount of ammonium hydroxide and nitrates produced at the plant.
DEC established the Environmental Excellence Awards in 2004 to recognize ingenuity, creative partnerships, and leadership efforts that achieve noteworthy environmental, social, and economic benefits for New York State. The program has now honored 25 winners.
Xerox Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions 18% and Saves $22 Million
With an 18% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2002, Xerox topped its 10% reduction target and is now boosting its goal to a 25% decrease by 2012. In addition to preventing the emission of 87,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006, the equivalent of taking more than 18,000 cars off the road, Xerox's GHG reduction program saved the company $18 million last year.
The results were validated by the EPA and fulfill Xerox's commitments for participation in the EPA's Climate Leaders program. Achieving the reduction required Xerox to invest in equipment and process upgrades, but the company expects to reap long-term financial and environmental benefits.
"Our long-term experience has shown us that when we act in ways that benefit the environment, we make sound business decisions that not only benefit Xerox but also our customers and shareholders."
How Xerox is Doing It
Xerox joined the EPA Climate Leaders program in 2003 and originally committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 10% from the baseline year of 2002. Analyzing its GHG emissions, Xerox found they were nearly all associated with energy use—indirect emissions from purchased electricity and steam and direct emissions from combustion of fossil fuels like natural gas and from burning gasoline and diesel fuels from vehicles, including the fleet of cars and trucks used by sales and service employees. To meet its greenhouse gas reduction target, it launched a companywide energy reduction program called "Energy Challenge 2012."
The projects implemented resulted in significant greenhouse gas reductions:
- 24% reduction in GHG emissions from use of company vehicles
- 27% reduction of GHG emissions associated with burning natural gas
- 13% reduction in GHG emissions from electricity use
Not only did the conservation efforts help the environment, they also helped Xerox save money. Energy consumption during the period declined by 21%, driven by a 12% reduction in electricity use, a 27% reduction in natural gas purchases, and a 30% reduction in gasoline and diesel fuel consumption. According to Calkins, Xerox's energy expenses last year would have been 21% higher had it not been for its conservation measures. As a result, the company saved $18 million in 2006.
With its original target now met, Xerox has set a tough new goal that will drive performance for the next stage of its GHG reduction program and will spur additional GHG innovation. The company aims to reduce emissions by 25% by 2012 from the 2002 baseline year.
Smart Energy Management
Xerox believes its existing energy-saving initiatives offer opportunity for further GHG reduction, making it possible to step up the 2012 goal. Some of these initiatives include:
- Xerox's largest single energy