Arizona Water Treatment Facility Fined for Failure to Maintain Chemical Risk Plan

January 10, 2005

The EPA recently fined the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) $7,500 for failing to maintain its plan that outlines how its water treatment plant in Yuma, AZ will respond to accidental chemical releases, as required by the Clean Air Act.

The DOI has already paid the penalty and corrected the violations. The Yuma desalting plant failed to maintain records showing that its chlorine gas system was operating properly and that its employees were properly trained in handling any accidental chemical releases.

As part of a new enforcement policy, EPA offered the DOI a reduced penalty because the agency acted quickly to correct the problems and pay the fine, and because the facility presents a relatively low risk to the public.

EPA regulations require all facilities using hazardous substances above specified threshold quantities to develop chemical risk management plans. The Yuma plant has 4,000 pounds of chlorine on-site, almost double the EPA's threshold quantity. Chlorine is a toxic, greenish-yellow gas commonly used to purify water. Exposure to low concentrations of chlorine can cause intense coughing and breathing problems, while long-term exposure to chlorine can lead to chronic bronchitis.

The facilityÆs plan must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.

The Yuma desalting plant collects and treats drainage water from farms east of Yuma. The plant uses chlorine gas to kill bacteria that may be present in the water. The treated water is then used primarily for agricultural research and development.

What 2005 Cars Get the Best Gas Mileage?

Maybe one day, the question will be - what cars get the best mileage per watt? You can find the mpg listings on EPAÆs Green Vehicles web site.

A Guide to Waste Reduction at Shopping Centers

This guide was created to help shopping centers and retailers increase reuse and recycling, reduce waste disposal, often saving money in the process. It also serves as a resource for local and state recycling coordinators who work with the commercial sector. The guide contains numerous case examples from shopping centers and retailers who are leaders in waste prevention and recycling. You may download the guide in its entirety or chapter by chapter.

Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Boosted as DC, Six States Agree to Nutrient Limits From Treatment Plants

The EPA has reached agreement with six states and the District of Columbia on a permitting approach that will set permit limits on nutrients being discharged from more than 350 municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities throughout the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.

These permit limits would result in the reduction of about 17.5 million pounds of nitrogen and about one million pounds of phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay each year, which will directly help improve water quality.

The discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) from wastewater treatment is one of the most serious problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay. An excess of nutrients in the Bay cause algae blooms in the water, which leads to oxygen depletion and other adverse impacts on water quality. Excessive algae growth can also block sunlight that is critical to support plant and aquatic life.

States and EPA issue permits to all wastewater treatment facilities which regulate the amount of pollutants that can be discharged into waterways after treatment. The permitting approach announced today describes a consistent basin-wide approach to issue permits that include measurable and enforceable limits for nitrogen and phosphorus.

For years, permits have required nutrient removal to achieve localized water quality standards. However, the lack of science-based and achievable water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay has made it difficult for the states and EPA to regulate nutrient reductions needed to protect the Bay.

EPA has been working with states for several years to develop a basin-wide strategy for these nutrient permit limits. This new strategy covers the entire 64,000-square-mile watershed, and describes how states and EPA plan to develop permit limits based on the living resource needs of the Bay. States participating in the strategy include Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The Chesapeake watershed already has 100 municipal and six industrial facilities treating wastewater with nutrient removal technology to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus. No other watershed in the country has more treatment facilities using this technology. As the permitting strategy is implemented, EPA and the states expect the number of plants using nutrient removal technology would increase to more than 350.

Rail Car Accident Causes Fatality and Chlorine Release in Aiken, SC

A Norfolk Southern freight train carrying chlorine gas collided with a parked train the morning of January 6, killing at least one person and injuring at least 70. The accident occurred about 2:30 a.m. in Aiken, SC, which is located about 13 miles northeast of Augusta, Ga.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta dispatched a veteran team of three senior safety experts from the Federal Railroad Administration to the incident scene. They will join five FRA safety inspectors and one operations specialist already on site. The purpose of this nine-member team will be twofold. First, they will assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation by providing expertise critical to its review of circumstances surrounding the crash. In addition, the team, which includes the DepartmentÆs top railroad hazardous materials expert, will conduct a separate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the breach of at least one chlorine tank car to determine precisely how the derailment led to the release of chlorine gas into the area. The DOT indicated that the agency is concerned about the nature of the incident and the tragic loss of life and are committed to a thorough review in order to ensure the safe operation of the railroad and the well-being of residents living in the Aiken community.

Whenever an accident occurs, itÆs a good opportunity to find out what lessons could be learned to prevent it from happening again and to mitigate the effects if it were to recur. Do tank trucks or rail cars deliver hazardous materials to your facility? If not, are they on the rail lines or highways adjoining your facility? What have you done to ensure that an accident like this could not happen at your site? If it happened at this moment, would you be prepared?

EPA Contracts for Environmentally Responsible Computer Disposal

EPA recently awarded the first agency contracts to help all federal agencies in the environmentally responsible disposal of computers and other used electronic equipment.

These Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) for Recycling Electronics and Asset Disposition (READ) services provide federal agencies with a dependable method of properly recycling and disposing of excess or obsolete electronic equipment.

The U.S. Government buys seven percent of the world's computers. In fiscal year 2005 alone, EPA expects federal agencies to spend almost $60 billion on Information Technology equipment, software, infrastructure and services.

The Government disposes of approximately 10,000 computers every week, a significant number of which are ending up in storage closets, warehouses and landfills, or overseas where generally the environmental standards are lower. Electronic equipment contains toxic materials such as lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium, and beryllium, which, if mishandled, could be released into the environment. This complex waste stream poses challenging management issues and potential liability concerns for federal facilities.

The GWAC is composed of eight contracts awarded to small businesses; three are in the eastern U.S., and two in the western U.S., and three are nationwide. The contractors are Molam International, Marietta, Ga.; Supply Chain Services, Lombard, Ill.; UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries), Washington, D.C.; Asset Recovery Corp., St. Paul, Minn.; Hesstech LLC, Edison, N.J.; Liquidity Services Inc., Washington, D.C.; Global Investment Recovery, Tampa, Fla.; and Hobi International, Batavia, Ill.

Contractors must maintain an audit trail to the equipment's final destination to ensure that reclamation and recycling efforts are documented. The contracts will also maximize revenues from usable electronic equipment currently in storage through a share-in-savings (SiS) program. Under SiS, the contractor will attempt to identify opportunities to save costs associated with recycling efforts and share those savings with federal agencies to offset the latter's recycling costs.

In a related issue, the EPA is also working to increase the number of consumer electronic devices collected and safely recycled in the United States under a program called "Plug-In To eCycling." Plug-In is one component of EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge, a national effort to find flexible, yet more protective ways to conserve our valuable resources.

Municipal Stormwater Case Studies

To assist the 5000 municipalities that are currently building programs to prevent and control stormwater pollution, EPA has developed 17 case studies that highlight successful municipal approaches to the six minimum measures that are outlined in the NPDES Stormwater Phase II regulations. Most of the case studies are drawn from local governments that implemented the Stormwater Phase I requirements in the 1990s. The stormwater case studies can be viewed at

Permitting for Environmental Results, NPDES Profiles Released

EPA is implementing a nation-wide assessment to improve the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit programs. To fulfill a major milestone in the "Permitting for Environmental Results (PER) Strategy," the states and EPA have worked closely to develop a detailed assessment of each NPDES program. EPA has released 33 NPDES profiles. The remaining profiles will be released in early 2005. The NPDES profiles can be viewed at

Teris El Dorado Explosion El Dorado, AR

Early on the morning of January 2, the National Response Center notified the EPA Region 6 Phone Duty Officer that there had been numerous explosions and fires at the Teris hazardous waste incineration facility. Located in El Dorado, AR, the facility operates rotary kilns for solid incineration and thermal oxidation for liquid incineration. Teris is a Program 1 RMP Facility, and is subject to the RMP regulations.

EPA personnel were dispatched to the scene to coordinate with the Arkansas State On-Scene Coordinator, local Fire Chief and Teris Representative. Members of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Office of Emergency are coordinating with EPA. ASPECT performed air monitoring and collected aerial information within 24 hours. Arkansas CST was requested earlier to provide additional air monitoring but was called down by ADEQ when local ADEQ representative and fire chief said that the scene was under control.

Numerous drums containing magnesium continue to explode. The El Dorado Fire Chief and local ADEQ representative are allowing the facility to burn itself out due to potential of water reactive material on-site.

After initially closing numerous roads and highways around the facility and evacuating approximately 2600 people, the local fire department lifted the evacuation order on January 3.

For additional information, see EPAÆs the Pollution Report (POLREPs).

Environmental Checkups Scheduled for all NY/NJ VA Healthcare Facilities

According to a recent agreement between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the VA will conduct comprehensive environmental compliance audits of all of its 16 hospitals and associated clinics in New York and New Jersey within two years. The hospitals provide services to more than a half million veterans in New York alone.

The VA will conduct comprehensive environmental audits of its healthcare facilities in Buffalo, Batavia, Bath, Rome, Syracuse, Canandaigua, St. Albans, Montrose, and Castle Point, as well as 29 community-based clinics throughout the region. Also covered under the agreement are VA hospitals in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. In New Jersey, facilities in Brick, Lyons, and East Orange will also be audited. The VA has completed its review of hospitals in Albany and Northport, and will submit final reports to EPA in the near future.

The new agreement is part of EPA's Healthcare Compliance Initiative, an innovative environmental program that helps hospitals and healthcare facilities comply with EPA regulations. After performing self-audits, participants must report violations to EPA and take action to correct them. In return, EPA provides some relief from monetary penalties. To date, more than 1,100 violations have been identified and corrected by healthcare facilities that have participated in EPA's initiative.

The EPA audit agreements cover all major federal environmental programs including air, water, pesticides, underground storage tanks, solid and hazardous wastes, hazardous substances and chemicals, environmental response, emergency planning, community right-to-know requirements and toxic substances control.

EPA established the self-audit program because many healthcare facilities were either not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement effective compliance strategies. As part of the Healthcare Compliance Initiative, EPA's regional office contacted all the hospitals in its jurisdiction and provided free workshops and an informational web site to alert them to their duties under the law. Hospitals were urged to join the Agency's voluntary self-disclosure program.

EPA SNAP Program Transition to Non-Ozone Depleting Solvents

EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program recently released a report entitled "The U.S. Solvent Cleaning Industry and the Transition to Non-Ozone Depleting Substances."

This peer-reviewed report reflects information gathered from more than eighty source documents and forty experts in industry and the military. It describes the historical amount and patterns of usage of Class I ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and ODS stockpiles for Class I and II substances. Additionally, the report details the few remaining uses of existing stocks of Class I ODS used in solvent cleaning, as well as alternative technologies, cleaners, and substitution trends seen in industry.