Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that International Petroleum Corporation of Delaware (IPC) was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Gregory M. Sleet to a $1,300,000 fine and $2,200,000 restitution to the City of Wilmington for environmental crimes, including a conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from 1992 through 2012 IPC operated a facility, located at 505 South Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware, which processed used oil and hydrocarbon-containing waste water and then sold the reprocessed petroleum to various companies for reuse. The facility had two components: oil recovery and waste water treatment. The facility’s petroleum processing activities generated waste water, which the company treated at its waste water portion of the facility prior to discharge into a sewer along Market Street owned by the City. It issued IPC a federally-enforceable Clean Water Act pretreatment permit which governed the types and concentrations of pollutants which IPC could discharge into the City’s sewer system. The pretreatment permit required IPC to take representative samples of its waste water on a monthly basis, to determine if it was complying with its permit limitations, and report its sampling results the City every six months.
IPC admitted that its monthly samples were not representative, as it tampered with, and rendered inaccurate, monitoring methods and a monitoring device required by the Clean Water Act and IPC’s federally-enforceable pretreatment permit.
IPC further admitted to violating the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) by transporting hazardous waste without a hazardous waste manifest. In June and July 2012, IPC trucked to South Carolina for disposal sludge (tank bottoms) which IPC had removed from its storage tanks. The tank bottoms contained concentrations of benzene, barium, chromium, cadmium, lead, tetrachloroethene (also known as PCE), and trichloroethene (also known as TCE), which each served to classify the material as RCRA regulated hazardous waste.
“Industrial wastewater can pose serious threats to public health and the environment, so it’s imperative that companies honestly treat and dispose of it properly and sample and report pollutant concentrations honestly,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware Charles M. Oberly, III. “Likewise, companies must handle hazardous waste properly to ensure its proper treatment and disposal.
This case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. The City of Wilmington Department of Public Works and the DNREC Solid & Hazardous Waste Management Section assisted in the investigation. IPC, through its parent company, which purchased the Wilmington plant after the crimes to which IPC pled guilty occurred, cooperated with the investigation.
Additional Radioactive Materials Found in Gas-Well Drill Cuttings
Hydraulic fracturing has boosted U.S. energy production while coming under scrutiny for its potential environmental impacts, mostly related to the wastewater the method generates. Now, a report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters takes a look at solid waste from horizontal gas wells. The study found that some well waste from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania contained radioactive material not previously reported, with the potential for leaching from landfills into the environment.
Drilling horizontal wells for hydraulic fracturing operations results in a large amount of gooey solid waste, or drill cuttings. In 2011, natural gas exploration and extraction in the Marcellus Shale formation produced an estimated 2.37 million tons of cuttings in Pennsylvania alone with almost all of it ending up in landfills, according to a review published in Environmental Practice. A few studies have found naturally occurring radioactive materials in the solid waste, but the research only focused on several long-lived radioactive isotopes including uranium-238 and radium-226. Andrew W. Nelson and colleagues wanted to investigate whether other radioactive isotopes might be in drill cuttings and whether they could impact the environment.
The researchers devised a method to test the drill cuttings from horizontal wells in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. In addition to uranium-238 and radium-226, the researchers report the samples contained elevated levels of the environmentally persistent radioactive isotopes uranium-234, thorium-230, lead-210 and polonium-210. A simulation of leaching over a range of acidity levels suggested that at low pH, uranium isotopes readily leached from drill cuttings, which raises questions as to whether uranium will seep into the environment from a landfill. Other isotopes appeared less leachable under the conditions tested. Leaching for all radionuclides declined as pH increased. The researchers say that because they were only able to obtain three samples from one well, the findings aren’t generalizable. But, they add, their study demonstrates that further testing is needed to understand what is in solid waste from the country’s proliferating horizontal wells and whether it might pose any environmental risks.
What Caused the Flint Water Crisis?
Flint, Michigan, continues to grapple with the public health crisis that unfolded as lead levels in its tap water spiked to alarming levels. Now the scientists who helped uncover the crisis have tested galvanized iron pipes extracted from the “ground zero” house. They confirm in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that the lead that had accumulated on the interior surface of the pipes was the most likely source of the lead contamination.
Flint’s tap water became contaminated with high lead levels after the city turned to the Flint River to supply its water in April 2014. When they switched, officials didn’t use a corrosion-control treatment to maintain the stability of rust layers (containing lead) inside service lines. Within a month of the switch, residents started to report smell and color changes to their water. After her family started getting sick, Flint resident LeeAnne Walters contacted Virginia Tech engineer Marc Edwards and asked him to test her water. All 32 samples from the Walters’ home contained lead concentrations above the EPA action level of 15 micrograms per liter. Four samples were above 5,000 micrograms per liter, the threshold for hazardous waste. And one sample contained 13,200 micrograms per liter.
Kelsey Pieper and other colleagues on Edwards’ Flint water study team have now analyzed the galvanized iron pipes that originally ran from the lead service lines to the Walters’ ground zero house in which the first child with elevated blood lead levels from water was identified. In the tap water, the high lead concentrations strongly correlated with the levels of cadmium, zinc and tin, which were also components of the pipe’s original internal coating. According to the researchers, these results suggest that, without corrosion inhibitors, the Flint River water caused the rust layers (with attached lead) to release from the interior of the iron pipe. The combination of lead pipe followed by galvanized iron pipe, is likely to be a health concern in other cities where this configuration is found. They explain that replacing lead service lines is a good step, but the accumulation of lead on old galvanized iron pipes, is also a potential long and short-term problem.
California’s Plan to Achieve 2030 Climate Goals
California’s Air Resources Board released its proposed plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—the most ambitious target in North America. The plan builds on the state’s successful efforts to reduce emissions and outlines the most effective ways to reach the 2030 goal, including continuing California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.
Achieving the 2030 target under the proposed plan will continue to build on investments in clean energy and set the California economy on a trajectory to achieving an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. This is consistent with the scientific consensus of the scale of emission reductions needed to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations at 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent, and reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change.
"Climate change is impacting California now, and we need to continue to take bold and effective action to address it head on to protect and improve the quality of life in California,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The plan will help us meet both our climate and our clean air goals in the coming decades and provide billions of dollars in investments to cut greenhouse gases, smog and toxic pollution in disadvantaged communities throughout the state. It is also designed to continue to drive creative innovation, generating good new jobs in the growing clean technology sector.”
For the past decade, California has been reducing emissions through a series of actions, innovative solutions and advances in technology. These include cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars and zero emission vehicles, low-carbon fuels, renewable energy, waste diversion from landfills, water conservation, improvements to energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and a Cap-and-Trade Program. The result is improved public health, a growing economy with more green jobs, and better clean energy choices for Californians.
Assembly Bill 32, signed in 2006, set California’s initial goal to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and directed CARB to develop a climate change scoping plan—to be updated every five years—detailing specific measures needed to reach the target. The proposed plan, required by the Governor’s April 2015 Executive Order, updates the previous scoping plan to account for the new 2030 target codified in Senate Bill 32.
The proposed plan continues the Cap-and-Trade Program through 2030 and includes a new approach to reduce GHGs from refineries by 20%. It incorporates approaches to cutting super pollutants from the Short Lived Climate Pollutants Strategy. And it acknowledges the need for reducing emissions in agriculture and highlights the work underway to ensure that California’s natural and working lands increasingly sequester carbon.
Achieving the 2030 goal will require contributions from all sectors of the economy and will include enhanced focus on zero- and near-zero emission vehicle technologies; continued investment in renewable energy, including solar and wind; greater use of low-carbon fuels; integrated land conservation and development strategies; coordinated efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, which include methane, black carbon, and fluorinated gases; and an increased focus on integrated land-use planning to support livable, transit-connected communities.
The proposed plan, which follows the release of a discussion draft in December, analyzes the potential economic impacts of different policy scenarios, including a carbon tax, and calculates the benefit to society of taking actions to reduce GHG emissions. The plan also includes the estimated range of GHG, criteria pollutant and toxic pollutant emissions reductions of each measure.
The analysis in the plan finds that Cap-and-Trade is the lowest cost, most efficient policy approach and provides certainty that the state will meet the 2030 goals even if other measures fall short. The Cap-and-Trade Program funds the California Climate Investments program, which provides funds for community, local, regional and statewide projects aimed at reducing GHG emissions—with at least 35% of proceeds invested in disadvantaged and low-income communities. To date, a total of $3.4 billion in cap-and-trade funds have been appropriated for the California Climate Investments program.
The proposed plan was developed by CARB staff over the past 18 months working with multiple State agencies and departments. This effort was guided by legislation and reflects input from dozens of public workshops and community meetings, and input from CARB’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and many other stakeholders.
The first of three public hearings on the proposed plan will be held at the regularly scheduled Board meeting on January 27. The California Air Resources Board is slated to hold workshops in February and hear an update at the February 16 Board meeting.
The Final 2017 Scoping Plan Update will be released in late March and be considered for approval by the Board in late April.
Atlas SN Fined $32,000 for Violating Cleanup Regulations Following Diesel Fuel Spill
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) assessed a $32,000 penalty against Atlas SN, Inc., of Illinois for violating oil and hazardous materials cleanup regulations for a diesel fuel release at 81 Main Street in Douglas, Massachusetts.
The spill of more than 10 gallons occurred in April of 2014 from a truck owned by the company. At the time, MassDEP informed company officials that they needed to clean up the spill and file the proper reports and permits to address the spill situation. Over the next two years, the company failed to submit the required documents to MassDEP, including those that showed what was done to remediate the spill and whether the site was now cleaned up and closed out.
Despite negotiations with representatives of the trucking company, MassDEP was unable to reach an agreement with the company and the penalty of $32,000 was instituted.
"Businesses operating within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must provide all necessary documents and submittals to MassDEP until and including a demonstration of no significant risk to public health, safety, welfare and the environment from a reported oil release is achieved," said MaryJude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "They are obligated to do so by the deadlines in the regulations in the interest of public health, safety, welfare and the environment."
New Study Adds to Concerns About Chemicals Found in Minnesota's Rivers
A new study of Minnesota’s rivers and streams finds that several commonly used pharmaceuticals and other commercial chemicals are present in most of the state’s flowing waters. Water samples containing some of these chemicals were found to have measurable effects on fish exposed to them.
The study is an update of work the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has done for several years to sample lakes and rivers for chemicals of emerging concern that may adversely affect aquatic ecosystems and human health. Past work has demonstrated that pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), and similar contaminants that are "endocrine active compounds," are frequently present in Minnesota’s surface water. These contaminants are typically detected at only part per trillion (ppt) concentrations in water. However, the new study adds weight to other work that has shown some of these chemicals can be harmful to fish and wildlife at very low levels, both to individual organisms and to populations.
The purpose of this study was twofold. First, it was designed to expand our understanding of the extent to which these chemicals of concern are present in rivers and streams throughout Minnesota. Second, it investigated, on a genetic level, how the chemicals that were detected in those water samples are likely affecting fish and wildlife. Thus, unlike previous studies, this investigation combined monitoring of these emerging contaminants in water with a powerful "effects analysis" showing how those chemicals are affecting aquatic organisms.
For this study, water from 50 river and stream locations across Minnesota was analyzed in 2014 for 146 PPCPs, and other contaminants. Forty-seven of the 50 lakes were found to contain at least 1 chemical, and 38 of the 125 chemicals analyzed—including antidepressants, alkylphenols, hormones, illicit drugs, and antibiotics—were detected at least once.
Among the pharmaceuticals detected, iopamidol, an X-ray contrast agent, was the most frequently detected, found at 78% of the locations sampled. The antidepressants sertraline, amitriptyline, and fluoxetine were detected in water from 48%, 44%, and 10% of the locations, respectively, and the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and erythromycin were detected in water at 24% and 14% of the locations, respectively. Metformin, a medication used to treat type II diabetes; triamterene, a diuretic; and carbamazepine, an anticonvulsive medicine, were detected at 18%, 16%, and 14% of the locations, respectively. The insect repellent DEET, the plastic component bisphenol A, the corrosion inhibitor benzotriazole, and benzotriazole breakdown products were also widespread.
Shannon Lotthammer, director of the MPCA's Environmental Analysis & Outcomes division, said, "This work is an important part of our efforts to understand how best to address chemicals in the environment, including pollution prevention, safer chemistries, proper disposal of leftover medicines, and other issues. In addition, we are faced with the challenge of considering how these types of contamination compare to more conventional pollutants in terms of urgency for action."
Overall, this study reveals that PPCPs, and other chemicals of emerging concern can be found in most of the state’s river and stream water. The predictions made by EPA’s ToxCast database, together with the laboratory analysis of genetic expression when fish were exposed to water samples containing these contaminants, suggest that the pharmaceuticals and other chemicals of concern in river and stream surface water have impacts on genes that are associated with reproduction, development, growth, and tumor formation.
While it is too early to determine if adverse effects are actually occurring in fish populations based on these molecular-based effects studies, these chemicals are clearly causing changes in gene expression that have the potential to cause adverse physiologic or reproductive effects.
New Measurement Unit Definitions Are Coming
Next year, scientists expect to change the way we define the basic units with which we measure our universe. An article by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) written for teachers will help ensure high school physics students are hip to the news.
The brief, six-page article, which appears in this month’s issue of The Physics Teacher, is designed to be a resource for teachers who are introducing the International System of Units (SI) into their classrooms. The SI, as the modern form of the metric system, has seven fundamental units, including the meter and the second. It is expected that in 2018, for the first time in history, all seven of these units will be defined in terms of fundamental constants of the universe such as the speed of light or the charge of a single electron. Only recently were all the relevant fundamental constants known with sufficient certainty to make such a redefinition possible, and the authors are eager to help students realize the change’s importance.
“It’s a historic moment,” said NIST physicist Peter Mohr, one of the article’s authors. “Back in the 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell—one of history’s great scientific visionaries—dreamed of a measurement system based on universal constants. Now that we are on the verge of realizing his dream, we want to explain why these constants have a relationship to SI units in a way high school students can understand.”
The article, written in everyday English, begins with a brief history of measurement units and shows how their limitations over past centuries have led to the need to redefine them. The kilogram, for example, is currently defined by a metal artifact, which has a mass that has apparently been changing over time. This prompted an international effort to redefine it in terms of electrical energy. Most of the article comprises brief summaries of each unit’s relation to universal constants, allowing teachers to show physics students these relationships right from the beginning of a course, when units are generally taught.
“One of the things that makes good sense for me is the unit of electrical charge,” said co-author Sandy Knotts, who recently retired after a career of teaching physics at Perkiomen Valley High School in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. “Now we can start out using the measurement of the electron rather than the ampere.”
At present, the ampere is defined in relation to the force between two parallel electrical wires of infinite length. “That’s something that doesn’t exist in nature,” Knotts said. “Whereas an electron is an electron.”
Teaching the relationships this way is intended to help eliminate potential confusion in the early weeks of a physics course. The redefinition also has the advantage of allowing students (and scientists) to do work with a clear relationship to the universal constants.
“Defining the constants precisely provides a practical way to establish SI units,” Mohr said. “That allows you to do experiments and get answers in terms of these constants.” This changeover in unit definitions may be the last one physics students will need to absorb for a long time, Mohr added.
“The definitions are such that they’re not dependent on technology,” he said. “We may come up with better ways to measure, but the definitions themselves won’t have to change.”
International Award for Mobile App that Lets Public Report Non-Emergency Environmental Incidents
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s WARN NJDEP mobile device app, launched late last year, has been awarded an AVA Digital Gold Award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.
“On behalf of all of our staff who are out in our communities every day protecting the environment, we are very pleased to have been recognized for developing this innovative app, which allows residents to report non-emergency environmental issues directly from their Smartphones or other mobile devices,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “This app is a demonstration of the Christie Administration’s ongoing efforts to engage the public as partners in strong environmental protection.”
The AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes outstanding achievement by creative professionals involved in the conceptualization, direction, design and production of media that utilize digital arts, technology and information to engage target audiences.
The WARN NJDEP mobile app, launched this past November, complements the DEP’s telephone hotline, 877-WARNDEP (877-927-6337), which has been in operation for many years. The app can be downloaded through Google Play, the Apple app store and the Microsoft app store. Enter WARN NJDEP in the search bar.
The app is not intended for reports of life-threatening and/or environmental emergencies. These should be reported by calling 9-1-1, local police or the DEP’s hotline. Also, the app is NOT to be utilized by regulated entities as an acceptable method for fulfilling notification requirements to the DEP.
20150708-NJ_WarnDEP_LOGO_1024x1024Examples of non-emergency incidents that may be reported through the app include improper storage or disposal of waste and other materials, odor complaints, smaller sewage leaks, smoke and dust complaints, underground storage tank incidents, and wetlands or stream encroachment issues.
The WARN NJDEP mobile app was developed in partnership with the New Jersey Information Division of NICUSA, Inc., a company that helps New Jersey government entities develop web-based services to improve information and communications.
The app allows users to provide essential information on the type of environmental incident, the date and time of the incident, whether it is ongoing, and a brief description of what happened. The app utilizes GPS technology for pinpoint location of environmental incidents and allows users to submit photos as part of their reports to the DEP.
Users may provide their contact information, although they may choose to report incidents anonymously, as has been the case for years through the DEP hotline number system. The app provides a one-touch link allowing the user to call the DEP’s Communications Center and directly speak to a dispatcher, if that is the user’s preference.
The DEP’s Communications Center is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year and receives some 100,000 calls annually on a wide range of incidents, such as nuisance wildlife complaints, wildfires, hazardous material releases, and wetlands and other land-use violations. The center works to assign cases within the DEP or to appropriate county and local agencies.
Astro Chemicals Inc. Fined $5,000 for Failing to Report Hazardous Materials Incident
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $5,000 penalty against Astro Chemicals, Inc., a chemical supply company based in Springfield, for violating hazardous materials spill notification regulations related to a spill at its facility at 64 Shaw’s Lane.
Early in the morning of July 19, 2016, Astro personnel discovered that several drums of divinylbenzene, a combustible and reactive chemical, had reacted, expanded and/or breached the drums, likely due to elevated temperature in the warehouse. Astro cleaned up a small amount of divinylbenzene that spilled onto the warehouse floor, and ventilated the building. Astro also took steps as directed by the manufacturer of the divinylbenzene, Dow Chemical, to stabilize the drums, but did not contact Springfield public safety officials or MassDEP regarding the incident.
On July 21, MassDEP received an anonymous complaint through the EPA regarding the incident, and responded to the site to investigate. Based upon its review, MassDEP determined that notification of the threat of release of divinylbenzene should have been provided to MassDEP within two hours of Astro becoming aware of the incident. Subsequent to MassDEP’s inspection, Astro submitted all documentation required by MassDEP regarding the threat of release. Astro also indicated it will no longer store this material at its warehouse.
In a consent order, Astro agreed to pay the $5,000 penalty, and to retrain its employees on notification requirements and appropriate response to spills of oil and
“A reactive chemical such as this has the potential to cause significant damage, which is why it is very important that MassDEP and public safety officials be notified when there is a release or a threat of a release,” said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. “Responders can provide technical advice, monitoring and cleanup capabilities.”
Rutland AD 1 Fined $21,410 for Violating Air Pollution Control, Solid Waste Regulations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $21,410 penalty on Rutland AD 1, LLC, for violating air pollution control regulations at Jordan Farms Organics Recyclery, an anaerobic digestion food waste processor located at 51 Muschopauge Rd. in Rutland.
MassDEP inspected the facility in May of 2016 and found that the company had failed to obtain an Air Quality Plan Approval prior to installing a new engine generator, three receiving tanks, and a biofilter.
In a consent order, the company agreed to comply with the applicable regulations related to air quality controls and solid waste handling and pay the penalty. Up to $2,141 of the penalty will be suspended if the company fulfills all of the requirements it has agreed to and has no further violations for the next year.
"It is important that companies comply with the requirement to get approval prior to construction, so that MassDEP can ensure that all environmental standards will be met," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "In addition, it can help companies save resources by not having to correct work that was done prior to getting the approval."
New Initiatives to Protect New York Consumers and Waterways from Unsafe Disposal of Unused Prescription Medicines
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced two new initiatives to encourage the proper management and disposal of products potentially harmful to public health and the environment. The Pharmaceutical Take-back Program is a $1 million pilot program promoting the proper disposal of unwanted or unused prescription medicines that covers the costs of consumer drug collection boxes and disposal for two years.
The State's second initiative, the Environmental Audit Incentive Program, offers incentives to pharmacies to better identify, manage, and properly dispose of certain materials currently regulated under the federalResource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including some medicines, batteries, ignitable liquids, and lamps containing mercury.
"Over the last year, DEC has worked with pharmacies, groceries, and other businesses to protect consumers and the environment from the unsafe and irresponsible disposal of prescription medicines and other materials such as batteries," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC's new initiatives for pharmacies demonstrate Governor Cuomo's commitment to protecting the environment and New Yorkers while working cooperatively with the business community. I'd like to thank Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright and the New York State Assembly for their leadership in ensuring this funding was included in the historic 2016 $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund."
Unused medicines that are not safely disposed of and destroyed can reach bodies of water and adversely impact aquatic life. There are also real concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. According to recent reports by the Center for Disease Control, one U.S. citizen dies every 14 minutes from a drug overdose, or 100 deaths per day. Unintentional prescription opioid overdose kills more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined, and drug abuse has surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of injury and death. The U.S. government has declared this public health threat an epidemic.
Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Prescription drugs provide great medical benefits to those who need them. But when they're no longer needed, they should be properly disposed of to help prevent prescription drug abuse. Providing a safe and easy way for consumers to dispose of unused prescription medicine through their local pharmacy can make people and the environment safer and healthier."
The 2016-17 State Budget included $1 million through the Environmental Protection Fund for the statewide pilot take-back program, which will be used to cover the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of pick up, transport, and destruction of all collected waste pharmaceuticals by a DEA-registered reverse distributor for a period of two years. Pharmacies that would like to participate in this program are encouraged to apply on-line at the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program web page on DEC's website. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2017.
Pharmacies have been subject to RCRA requirements for years, but widespread compliance issues have become apparent. Under DEC's unique Environmental Audit Incentive program for pharmacies, participants will sign an audit agreement and be given time to adopt best practices. Participating pharmacies will then audit their operations, disclose violations to DEC, and take corrective action to address identified violations within a specific time frame. Program incentives include streamlined but equally protective regulatory requirements and a waiver of penalties for violations that fall within the scope of the agreement.
Pharmacies interested in entering the audit program and/or the pilot pharmaceutical take-back program must return a signed agreement to DEC no later than May 1, 2017. More information can be found on DEC's website.
"Increasing the availability of drug collection options is an important investment. Keeping pharmaceuticals out of the wrong hands and out of our water is a win-win for public health and the environment," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
"We know from experience that drug take-back programs work," said Scott Cassel, CEO of the Product Stewardship Institute. "The 2016 drug take-back pilot we ran at five New York pharmacies collected an impressive quantity of leftover medicines, improved resident awareness of the risks posed by leftover drugs, and increased foot traffic for our participating pharmacies. Four out of five pharmacies agreed to continue collections."
"We would like to thank the Department of Environmental Conservation for their collaborative approach to RCRA compliance," said Michael Rosen, President and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State. "The industry has been afforded an excellent opportunity to confirm its programs are in accordance with proper standards. We look forward to additional partnerships in the future."
"Pharmacists across New York State share the concerns of DEC regarding the proper disposal of prescription medications and commend them for funding a statewide pilot take-back program to cover the cost of compliant medication drop boxes and related destruction costs," said Kathy Febraio, Executive Director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. "This program will increase protection of the environment and improve public safety without placing an undue burden on community pharmacy."
"We appreciate the collaborative manner in which State officials have engaged with stakeholders around RCRA education and compliance," said Mike Duteau, RPh, President, Chain Pharmacy Association of New York State. "In particular, we thank the State Department of Environmental Conservation for spearheading this effort and look forward to continuing to partner around this and other important issues in New York State."
"Commissioner Seggos is offering pharmacies and grocery retailers an opportunity that in my experience of over 40 years as a federal environmental regulator and environmental consultant is simply unprecedented," said Richard Walka, Senior Vice President of Dvirka and Bartilucci Consulting Engineers. "Through these initiatives, pharmacies will be able to come into compliance with RCRA, advance a much needed program to keep unused medicines out of the environment, and protect their bottom line from costly mismanagement and the penalties associated with traditional regulatory enforcement mechanisms."
"The most convenient place for the public to dispose of expired or unwanted drugs is the same pharmacy where they were purchased. King Kullen pharmacies launched a safe disposal program at their 11 pharmacies and collected over 3,000 lb of drugs in 2½ years. DEC's well-crafted plan will substantially increase safe options for the public, and protect our drinking and coastal waters, as well as public health. Most importantly, DEC's program will help address the emerging issue of pharmaceutical contamination in water and help prevent the threat of these contaminates from increasing. Our morning coffee should have coffee, milk, and sugar, not codeine and anti-depressants," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
"The Business Council of New York State applauds the tireless commitment and significant effort that Commissioner Seggos and the staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put into the development of these two new initiatives which will aid in protecting public health and the environment," said Darren Suarez, director of government affairs for The Business Council of New York State, Inc. "The special audit initiative developed by the DEC will protect the environment, and significantly reduce the uncertainty that hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare-related facilities have faced trying to comply with the RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste regulations. Well-crafted environmental auditing is a proven tool in protecting human health and the environment by identifying, correcting, and ultimately preventing violations of environmental law and regulations."
Specialty Minerals Inc. Fined $10,750 For Violating Environmental Discharge Regulations
Specialty Minerals, Inc., (SMI) of Adams has been assessed a penalty of $10,750 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for violating hazardous waste, wastewater and wetlands regulations associated with a wastewater seep discovered at its facility located at 260 Columbia St. The company is a producer of industrial mineral products, such as calcium carbonate.
On April 1, 2016, SMI personnel notified MassDEP that a seep/spring existed at the base of the kiln-waste disposal area and that February 2016 sampling showed a pH in the range of 12.0 to 13.0 pH units. The elevated pH was the result of groundwater coming into contact with the kiln waste pile; wastewater with a pH exceeding 12.5 is regulated as hazardous waste. The seep continued as surface water flowing downstream and discharging to a large wetland area.
MassDEP confirmed the pH results of 13 at the origin of the seep and determined the pH decreased to 12.0 at the wetland. The high pH water constituted a violation of groundwater and surface water discharge regulations and a release of a reportable quantity of hazardous materials that negatively impacted wetland resource areas. Regulation requires that MassDEP be notified in a timely manner after discovering a release, and SMI failed to notify MassDEP in February.
MassDEP ordered SMI to cease the discharge and issued an Authorization of Emergency Action to create a temporary system to collect the water at the seep and discharge it to SMI's wastewater treatment facility, which is designed to treat high pH wastewater. SMI worked cooperatively with MassDEP and completed the temporary collection system on May 20.
SMI and MassDEP then entered into a consent agreement requiring SMI to design and construct a permanent collection system for the discharge, assess whether there are additional environmental impacts from the discharge and mitigate as necessary, and restore the wetland. MassDEP assessed a penalty of $10,750, but agreed to suspend $5,750 of the penalty provided SMI remains in compliance with the requirements of the agreement.
"MassDEP appreciates that SMI worked cooperatively, however timely reporting would have resulted in ceasing the discharge sooner and limited the impacts to the environment and threat to public safety," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "MassDEP, if contacted immediately upon the discovery, could have provided technical and regulatory guidance to cease the discharge."
Wilson Oil Cited for SPCC Violations
EPA has settled with Wilson Oil, Inc., (doing business as Wilcox & Flegel Oil Co.) for alleged Clean Water Act spill prevention violations at its Longview Terminal facility in Longview, Washington.
EPA determined after a 2015 inspection that the company had failed to implement an adequate Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan and lacked adequate secondary containment for large oil storage tanks in one of the Terminal’s tank farms. Since the inspection, the company constructed new secondary containment for that tank farm and upgraded their SPCC plan.
As part of the settlement, the Company will pay a $44,069 civil penalty and will implement a Supplemental Environmental Project worth approximately $125,000.
The supplemental project calls for purchasing and installing equipment to remotely monitor liquid levels in both the aboveground oil storage tanks and secondary containment at two of their oil storage and distribution facilities. Monitoring data will be available—password protected—via the Internet. If a monitoring alarm is triggered, pre-designated personnel will receive email alerts. Triggers would include high or low liquid levels in a storage tank, liquid in a containment area, or signal connection disruption. The new equipment is expected to be installed, online and in operation by mid-2017.
Asbestos Violations Lead to 20 Month Prison Term
James Powers, 59, of Falls Church, Virginia, was sentenced to 20 months in prison to be followed by 36 months of supervised release after earlier pleading guilty to violating the Clean Air Act for his role in a scheme to improperly remove asbestos from a historic building in the District of Columbia.
The sentencing, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia.
Powers pleaded guilty on September 7, 2016, to a charge of failure to remove asbestos prior to renovation. He was sentenced by the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson. Powers was also sentenced to perform 250 hours of community service.
Asbestos, a once-popular fireproofing insulation, is now known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma in people who inhale the fibers released when asbestos is disturbed. Congress has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The Clean Air Act requires that renovation in asbestos-containing properties follow specific protocols designed to safely remove asbestos from the property prior to any renovation or demolition activity, so as not to expose workers to the risk of deadly respiratory diseases.
The development project at issue involved renovating the historic Friendship House, located at 619 D Street SE in Washington, D.C., into condominiums, a development known as the Maples. According to a statement of offense submitted as part of the guilty plea, in March 2010, Powers formed a partnership with a local real estate development firm to purchase and renovate the property. An asbestos survey of the property documented asbestos throughout the property, including in floor tiles, wall board and pipe insulation.
After the survey, the partnership received bids from licensed professional asbestos abatement and renovation firms in the area. Despite knowing that the building contained asbestos, Powers hired Larry Miller, 59, of Palmetto, Georgia, a general contractor from Atlanta with no training, certification, or experience in asbestos abatement, to conduct interior demolition and renovation of the building. The written contract with Miller specifically excluded removal of asbestos from the property. Powers told Miller that the asbestos would be abated by another contractor after Miller’s work and did not fully inform Miller about the extent of asbestos in the property. Powers represented to his partners that a qualified entity would conduct appropriate asbestos abatement at the property. He e-mailed them a proposed asbestos abatement contract from a corporation that, unbeknownst to his partners, was simply an alter ego for Powers.
During the period between August 2011 and October 2011, according to the statement of offense, Miller and his crew of workers conducted interior demolition at the Maples, without any asbestos abatement having occurred as required under the Clean Air Act. Powers also contracted with a waste disposal company to haul construction debris from the Maples off-site. Powers failed to inform the waste disposal company that the construction debris contained asbestos and the debris was not taken to a site qualified to receive asbestos waste.
Even after an inspection by local environmental authorities revealed asbestos in the building, Powers had Miller and his crewmembers proceed with demolition. Over the course of the project, the workers disturbed substantial quantities of asbestos, exposing themselves to a substantial risk of serious illness later in life.
Miller pleaded guilty on Nov. 19, 2015, to one count of negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act. He is awaiting sentencing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a maximum sentence of not more than one year of imprisonment, a fine of up to $100,000 and a term of supervised release and/or probation.
After the acts described in the statement of offense, a licensed asbestos abatement firm conducted abatement at the Maples. The District of Columbia Department of the Environment subsequently conducted inspections and found the property to be free of all asbestos-containing materials.
NRDC Sues EPA Over Withdrawal of Mercury Protection Rule
The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the EPA for illegally rescinding a rule that would protect the public from more than five tons of mercury discharges each year.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here, NRDC said EPA broke the law by withdrawing the mercury protection rule without public notice or an opportunity for comment. The White House ordered agencies to withdraw a broad array of rules issued by the Obama Administration to protect public health and the environment.
In its complaint, NRDC contends EPA cannot withdraw the mercury protection rule based on the Trump Administration’s fiat because the rule is final. EPA issued the rule in December to limit substantially the amount of mercury dental offices across the nation discharge regularly.
Aaron Colangelo, litigation director at NRDC said, “The Trump White House ordered the EPA and other agencies to violate the law. That puts Americans at greater risk of exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin, which can do harm even in tiny amounts. EPA’s withdrawal of the mercury rule is not just illegal, but senseless. The rule imposes minimal burden, drew widespread praise from dental providers and benefits public health and the environment.”
Mercury can disrupt brain function and harm the nervous system. It is especially harmful to pregnant women, babies, and young children, even at tiny levels of exposure. One way mercury gets into air and water is through amalgam cavity fillings washed down the drain at dental offices. Most of the 130,000 dental offices in the US still use or remove amalgam fillings. Fewer than half of those would need to install equipment to reduce mercury discharges under the rule into wastewater treatment plants, as many have already complied under mandatory state programs. Installing that equipment would cost about $800 per office.
EPA issued the Mercury Effluent Rule on December 15, 2016 and withdrew it after January 20, 2017 in response to a White House memo. For more information on the mercury rule, please see this blog by NRDC's Mae Wu.
Delaware Revises Proposed Amendments to Aboveground Storage Tank Regulations and Reopens Comment Period
DNREC’s Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances has reopened the public comment period and revised proposed amendments to Delaware’s Regulations Governing Aboveground Storage Tanks, as set forth in 7 DE Admin. Code 1352. The 30-day public comment period regarding the revised proposed amendments will be from February 1 through DNREC close of business March 3.
The Department has revised the proposed amendments based on comments received prior to the December 21, 2016, end of the initial public comment period. The revisions also correct formatting errors found in the original proposed amendments. The purpose of the proposed regulatory action is to clarify technical requirements applicable to aboveground storage tank (AST) systems and specify applicable industry-based reference standards published by the American Petroleum Institute and other trade organizations. Additionally, the regulations propose minimum distances for locating new ASTs near private and public wells consistent with requirements set forth by DNREC’s Well Permitting Regulations. Also, actions required in terms of both reporting and corrective action when AST releases occur have been updated to provide greater clarify and specificity.
The revised proposed regulations were published in the February 1, 2017 edition of the Register of Regulations and can be viewed on the DNREC website athttp://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/tanks/Pages/AST-Program.aspx
TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling $1,122,871
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved penalties totaling $925,122 against 34 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations. Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: two air quality, one Edwards Aquifer, one industrial hazardous waste, two industrial wastewater discharge, two multimedia, one municipal solid waste, seven municipal wastewater discharge, eleven petroleum storage tank, three public water system, and four water quality.
One order was issued in one petroleum storage tank case following hearings at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
Included in the total are fines of $315,000 against BASF Total Petrochemicals in Jefferson County for air emissions violations in 2014 through 2016. Of the total, as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project, $157,500 will be paid to the Houston-Galveston Area Council for the Clean Vehicles Partnership Project, to replace old higher-emission buses with new lower-emission buses, or to retrofit or convert old buses with emissions-reducing equipment.
In addition, on January 31, the executive director approved a total of 69 penalties, totaling $197,749.
ORNL Speeds Up Battery Production
A new process developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory could alleviate a bottleneck in battery manufacturing and deliver higher capacity batteries for electric vehicles and consumer devices. The formation process—where batteries undergo repeated cycling to stabilize and activate them for use—is one of the most time- and energy-intensive production steps. The researchers’ new fast-formation protocol could substantially shorten that time, reducing it by up to 90% and saving costs and energy. The ORNL method, published in the Journal of Power Sources, also conserves lithium, which improves battery capacity. “The process is applicable to all lithium-ion batteries and can be tuned for other chemistries as well,” said principal investigator David Wood.