Congress Wants Your Input on Climate Change Legislation

March 12, 2007

The letter included a series of questions that focus on the ramifications of greenhouse gas emissions and cap-and-trade policy. Responses are requested by March 19, 2007.

Laundry Must Clean-Up its Hazardous Waste

In a settlement with EPA, the owner of the largest laundry and dry cleaning operation in the U.S. Virgin Islands agreed to revamp operations to ultimately eliminate the use of a hazardous chemical at the facility in Charlotte Amalie. The owner of Island Laundries Ltd. on St. Thomas will also pay a penalty of $10,000 for past violations of federal rules requiring him to identify and properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste. Under the terms of the agreement, McCoy Webster, who is also the operator, agreed to permanently switch to less toxic solvents for dry-cleaning and will spend at least $20,000 to replace and upgrade equipment at the facility.

“We are changing the way dry cleaners operate on the islands,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “Using these new environmentally friendly systems benefits the delicate ecology of the Virgin Islands and may be good for the bottom line as well.”

On Sept. 8, 2004, EPA inspected the Island Laundries facility for compliance with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act () regulations, which govern how business must handle hazardous waste. The agency determined that the facility failed to properly designate wastes as hazardous wastes, stored and treated or disposed of its hazardous wastes without a permit, and failed to minimize the possibility of hazardous waste releases into the environment by mishandling the wastes. Releases of these materials can cause respiratory problems for workers, contaminate ground water and seriously damage marine environments.

The facility also improperly handled fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury. Mercury can be released into the environment when fluorescent bulbs are crushed during disposal.

Fluorescent light bulbs can and should be recycled. As part of the agreement, the owner will no longer discard fluorescent light bulbs in the municipal trash. For more information on the proper disposal of mercury-containing bulbs in the U.S. Virgin Islands, contact John Green, Director of Environmental Programs, Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority at (340) 733-4489.

Web Site Identifies Properties with Superfund Liens

EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region has completed a Web site project to provide the public with information on properties having recorded Superfund liens. The Web site can clarify to prospective purchasers whether a property is within a federal Superfund site and assist in determining the existence or potential existence of a federal Superfund lien. 

Mobil Home Park Caught Dumping Sewage into Salton Sea

The EPA announced it has issued a notice of violation to the owner of a mobile home park in Thermal, Calif., for illegally installing a sewer line that discharges into a drain leading to the Salton Sea.

The mobile home park, Oasis Mobile Homes Estates, is owned by Scott Lawson. It is near Hwy. 86 on the Torres-Martinez Indian Reservation.

The Coachella Valley Water District maintains underground agriculture drains throughout the area that empty into the nearby Salton Sea.

The illegal sewer line – running from open sewage ponds on the mobile home park property to the water district’s system – was discovered on Jan. 26 after water district employees unexpectedly found sewage in an overflow from their agriculture drains.

An official from the EPA along with representatives of the Coachella Valley Water District conducted a follow up inspection on Feb. 6. The pipe has since been removed.

Without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Act permit, the discharge of sewage is illegal under the federal Clean Water Act.

“This is a serious violation of the Clean Water Act, particularly since the sewer line connection was installed without notification,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the Water Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “While the sewer line has been removed, unacceptable risks to public health from sewage nevertheless remain. We will do what needs to be done to ensure the proper handling of sewage.”

This notice of violations requires Lawson to submit a report describing the installation and removal of the sewer line. The report is due by March 30.

In addition, by March 30 Lawson must also submit a plan of the steps to be taken to prevent any future release from the sewage ponds and further ensure there is no public access to sewage ponds.


Rhode Island Adopts New Used Oil Regulations

 The amended regulations, which took effect on March 4, provide businesses that generate used or waste-oil with an alternative and less restrictive method for managing their used oil than previously available. DEM worked with members of industry and local environmental groups to draft and refine the amendments, and presented them in draft form at a public hearing in January 2006. No substantive changes were made as a result of public comment.

DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, Ph.D., said, "The amended regulations provide expanded and superior protective oversight while being less costly for businesses to implement and should facilitate the recycling of used oil." Among businesses that will benefit, he said, are auto service centers, trucking companies, and companies that use oil in their manufacturing processes.

"The regulations add protections above and beyond federal rules to ensure better control of used oil generated in Rhode Island, and are consistent with practices in place in other New England states," Sullivan added.

Under the old regulations, used oil generators may have been classified as hazardous waste generators depending on the characteristics of their used oil. Under the new regulations, a new category is offered for used oil generators that recycle or reclaim their used oil. Such generators will not need to register with DEM as hazardous waste generators. In addition, used oil generators will be able to store up to two dozen 55-gallon drums of used oil without a time limit, and they will have up to180 days after exceeding the 24 drum accumulation limit to ship excess drums off-site. Generators will also be able to self-transport up to 55 gallons of used oil per shipment to a used oil burning or processing facility, and can burn used oil onsite as an alternative fuel in specific burners. Generators of used oil only will not be required to develop a hazardous waste contingency plan or provide hazardous waste management training to employees.

In addition to easing restrictions on used oil generation, the new regulations also set forth modified provisions governing used oil storage and burning facilities. Temporary storage facilities can store used oil onsite for up to 35 days after obtaining approval from DEM, and burning facilities cam burn used oil meeting certain specifications onsite after notifying and/or obtaining DEM approval, rather than federal approval. Used oil processors and re-refiners will be required to obtain a permit from DEM.

They are also available by calling DEM's Office of Customer & Technical Assistance at 222-6822.

New Framework for Assessing Metals Risks

Many EPA programs make decisions on regulation of metals, particularly controlling releases to the environment and establishing acceptable levels in air, water, or land. To assess better the hazards and risks from metals exposure, the agency has developed a new document that lays out the latest and best science available on metals risk assessment. 

In developing the framework, EPA consulted with the scientific community, the EPA Science Advisory Board, and stakeholders in an open and transparent process. External scientific experts and the public gave important feedback on the document. Topics addressed in the framework include principles for conducting metals risk assessments, environmental chemistry and fate and transport, and assessments related to human health, aquatic life, and land issues. The framework is not a mandate on exactly how a particular program must conduct its assessments, but a set of key principles that will be useful in preparing such assessments.

Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools

. You'll learn how to start a waste reduction program or expand an existing one. The guide will show you how your program can benefit your school, your community, and the environment by reducing, reusing, and recycling your waste

$8,000 Fine for Failure to Clean up PCB Spill


In July 2005, a tenant at the Whittaker-owned facility discovered and reported a leak of PCB-contaminated oil from a transformer at the property. The spill was reported to the Conn. Dept. of Environmental Protection (CT DEP). Subsequent inspections by CT DEP revealed that Whittaker has not cleaned up the spill.

 Federal regulations require that PCB-containing liquids at or above concentrations of 50 parts per million (ppm) be properly disposed of in an incinerator, a high efficiency boiler, or a chemical waste landfill. Under the Spill Cleanup Policy of EPA’s PCB regulations, if Whittaker had properly cleaned up the spill within 48 hours of its discovery, it would have avoided a penalty enforcement action. EPA is seeking a fine of $8,000 for this violation.

Although federal regulations have prohibited the manufacture of PCBs and controlled the phase-out of their existing uses since 1977, the highly toxic substance can still be found in older paints, caulking, electrical equipment, and oil, such as the PCB-contaminated oil in the facility’s transformer. Facilities that have materials that might contain PCBs should arrange for PCB analysis before shipping them for disposal or recycling to help ensure compliance with federal regulations.

$38,000 Fine for Improper Sewage Management

The Village of Gowanda, which spans Cattaraugus and Erie Counties in New York, has spent more than $38,000 to improve how it handles waste from its municipal sludge composting facility and paid a penalty of $1,500 for past violations of the federal Clean Water Act, as a result of a settlement with the EPA. Under the terms of the agreement, the village has purchased a specially designed, fully automated temperature control and recording system enabling it to better operate and maintain its sewage facility. Sewage sludge must be kept at a constant temperature to control pathogens and bacteria.

“We are pleased that the municipality cooperated in fixing a potential public health problem by securing the right equipment to improve operations at its facility,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA regional administrator. “By agreeing to take this extra step, the village not only corrected the violations, but also ensured that it will meet requirements into the future.”

The settlement required the facility to go beyond compliance with regulations by replacing old temperature control equipment with new technology that includes temperature sensors, specialized software, system integration, electrical installation and wiring. The design, engineering, and construction of a new, fully automated temperature control and temperature recording system helps reduce the recurrence of future pathogens and ensures that the sludge the facility processes into composting materials meets the required standards for land use application, which in turn benefits the environment by allowing more sludge compost to be used for fertilizer, and reduces the amount of sludge disposed of at landfills. By agreeing to undertake this environmentally beneficial project, the village was able to reduce its penalties for violations.

The Clean Water Act requires that operators of sewage sludge facilities maintain certain temperatures for the waste as it is processed to enable proper decomposition and prepare it for disposal.  An example of such use is the addition of biosolids to soil to supply nutrients and make soil productive through a process known as land application.

Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic materials, such as leaves, grass, and food scraps, by microorganisms. The result of this decomposition process is compost, a crumbly, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. Composting can greatly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators. Maintenance of certain temperatures is necessary for rapid composting as well as for destroying insect larvae and potentially harmful bacteria. A properly operated and maintained compost facility will ensure that public health issues associated with composting are minimized. Biosolids that are to be land applied must meet these strict regulations and quality standards.

Empyrean International, LLC Assessed $10,000 Penalty for Violating Waste Site Cleanup Requirements

Empyrean International, LLC, of Acton, Mass., has been assessed a $10,000 penalty by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to resolve violations of Waste Site Cleanup requirements at its property, located in Acton.

The violations include failing to notify MassDEP within 72 hours upon detecting petroleum contamination in its water supply well serving the facility, failing to notify MassDEP of the need for an immediate response to clean up the contamination found, and failing to meet the standards for submitting a site close-out report documenting the cleanup of the site.

In 2003, Empyrean submitted to MassDEP a close out report based on a temporary solution to the contamination there. The report was deficient in several required elements. Specifically, it failed to consider the on-site drinking water supply well as an exposure point, it did not adequately delineate contaminants in the bedrock aquifer, and it did not provide a plan of definitive and enterprising steps for achieving a permanent solution at the site. Also, the solution implemented was not the solution selected in an earlier remedial action plan prepared for the site. MassDEP discovered these violations in an audit conducted in 2005, and issued a notice of noncompliance to Empyrean.

The company sampled the drinking water well at its Acton facility and obtained the results on Dec. 15, 2005, indicating that site-related contamination was present in the well. This condition required notification to MassDEP within 72 hours. Empyrean did not report the well contamination to MassDEP, as required. Empyrean submitted a revised close out report in January 2006. Upon review of the revised report, MassDEP identified the notification violation, and determined the revised report did not substantially address the previously identified violations.

"The detection of contaminants in a drinking water well is an important trigger for notification and actions to eliminate exposure," said Martin Suuberg, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester.

In addition to payment of the penalty, Empyrean has agreed to revise their cleanup remedy and submit a revised close out report by 2008. The drinking water supply well at the site has since been disconnected and the facility has been connected to the municipal water supply.

International Perspective is Needed When Formulating Mercury Policies

When it comes to mercury pollution, we're all in it together. That's the assessment of two Minnesota scientists who participated on international panels that reviewed what is known about mercury pollution and its effects. The panels' summaries of scientific understanding were published in the Swedish science journal "Ambio."

The mercury pollution of Minnesota water bodies and the fish in them is a result of mercury being released to the atmosphere around the world, say the two scientists, Daniel Engstrom, Ph.D., of the Science Museum of Minnesota, and Edward Swain, Ph.D., of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Engstrom and Swain have developed mercury expertise during the past 20 years through their cooperative research on mercury pollution, including ongoing research on the factors that control the contamination of fish with methylmercury.

"Because mercury is transported by wind around the globe, what is done in one country to control mercury emissions affects other countries," Swain said. "For example, recycling mercury will accomplish little globally if that mercury is bought and used elsewhere in such a way that it pollutes the atmosphere. That's why countries must consider not only the local impacts of their mercury-control policies, but the impacts on other countries as well."

The reviews that Engstrom and Swain participated in were coordinated by the organizers of the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, held last August in Madison, Wis.

Engstrom was one of nine panelists from four countries who reviewed what is known about the sources of atmospheric mercury deposition to aquatic systems.

"Our panel confirmed some of the work first published from research on Minnesota lakes—that that, on average, three times more mercury now falls from the sky than before the Industrial Revolution," Engstrom said. "Interestingly, one of our findings is that the amount of mercury in the global atmosphere has not changed over the past few decades despite decreased emissions in developed countries; our decreased mercury emissions have been offset by increased emissions from developing countries around the world, particularly those in Asia."

Swain was chairman of a nine-member panel of scientists from five countries who summarized the socioeconomic effects of mercury pollution.

"The mobilization of mercury from deep geologic stores, such as ore deposits and coal, into the biosphere has had many negative consequences," Swain observed. "Our panel concluded that reduction policies should take a global perspective. Although the burning of coal is responsible for the majority of mercury emissions, we in developed countries need to be more aware of mercury as an international commodity. For instance, as we have eliminated the use of mercury in manufacturing and products, such as paint, thermometers, thermostats and batteries, developing countries have increasingly been the recipients of the mercury we reclaim or no longer use. Mercury use in developing countries not only causes local harm, but also results in the mercury eventually returning to us via the atmosphere."

"The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution," a state-of-the-science document that stems from the findings of the expert panels that assembled at the conference in Madison last August, was also published in the same issue of "Ambio." The declaration presents 33 principal findings from the five papers prepared by the panels of mercury scientists.

The papers summarize what is presently known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on humans, and mercury's effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife. Key findings in the declaration were:

  • On average, three times more mercury now falls from the sky than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
  • Unregulated use of mercury in small-scale gold mining is polluting thousands of sites around the world, posing long-term health risks to an estimated 50 million inhabitants of mining regions and contributing more than 10 percent of the mercury in Earth's atmosphere attributable to human activities.
  • The health risks posed by methylmercury-contaminated fish warrant a general warning to the public—especially children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women—to be careful about how much and which fish they eat.
  • Little is known about the behavior of mercury in marine ecosystems and the contamination of marine fishes by methylmercury, the ingestion of which is the primary way most people at all levels of society worldwide are exposed to this highly toxic form of mercury.
  • There is solid scientific evidence of methylmercury's toxic health effects, particularly on the human fetus.
  • To increase the benefits and reduce the risks, consumers should choose fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of methylmercury.
  • The actual socioeconomic costs of mercury pollution are probably much greater than estimated because existing economic analyses do not consider mercury's impacts on ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Methylmercury levels in fish-eating birds and mammals in some parts of the world are reaching toxic levels, which may lead to population declines in these species and possibly in fish as well.
  • The concentration of methylmercury in fish in freshwater and coastal ecosystems can be expected to decline with reduced mercury inputs; however, the rate of decline is expected to vary among water bodies, depending on the characteristics of a particular ecosystem.

"The Madison Declaration summarizes a year-long effort by many of the world's leading mercury scientists to review mercury science findings," said James Wiener, Ph.D., a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and technical chairman for last summer's conference. "The policy implications of these findings are clear. The declaration and the detailed analyses of the five supporting papers clearly demonstrate the need for effective national and international policies to combat the environmental mercury problem."

EQ North Carolina Fined More Than $500,000

The Division of Waste Management has cited the EQ North Carolina facility – site of a fire in Apex last October – for violations of the state’s Solid Waste Management Act and Hazardous Waste Management Rules. DWM is also proposing to terminate the company’s hazardous waste permit.

The compliance order, which comes with an administrative penalty of $553,225, states that EQ North Carolina did not comply with certain permit conditions associated with general facility standards, preparedness and prevention, contingency plan and emergency procedures, and recordkeeping and reporting. In addition, the order states that EQ did not comply with permit conditions associated with prohibitions on storage and certain groundwater monitoring provisions. According to the compliance order, incidents involving chemical reactions, fires and waste releases occurred at the EQ facility prior to the Oct. 5 fire, and none of the events were reported to the Division of Waste Management or entered into EQ’s operating record, as required by state regulations.

EQ may contest the compliance order by filing a written petition for a contested case hearing. If no contested case petition is filed, the administrative penalty must be paid by EQ within 60 days of receipt of the compliance order.

A proposed permit termination has also been issued, with a public notice about this topic and a related public hearing to be published in The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) on March 7, 2007. The proposed permit termination has been prepared for EQ North Carolina under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EQ North Carolina must close the hazardous waste-permitted portions of the facility in accordance with associated rules and the facility closure plan included in the permit.

“Our actions today send a clear message that the state of North Carolina will not tolerate non-compliance with rules and non-reporting of incidents that occur at commercial hazardous waste facilities across the state,” said Division Director Dexter Matthews.

The public can respond to the proposed permit termination through April 23, 2007. All comments received during the public comment period or at the related public hearing will be considered in the decision regarding the proposed permit termination. Comments received after the public comment period will not be considered. Rules governing these actions are found in the N.C. Hazardous Waste Management Rules. These rules adopt the requirements of the RCRA as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984.

TXU Unveils Plan for Two New Power Plants with CO2 Emissions Capture Tech

TXU and the investor groups behind the record-setting buyout of the company announced last month unveiled plans last week to seek bids for two new power plants in Texas using technology that will capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution. The move is part of the ongoing effort by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to press the clean up of the company’s portfolio following an unprecedented set of environmental commitments negotiated as part of the buyout deal.

“Carbon capture technology is a critical ingredient in the global warming solution, and something that any firm planning coal investments needs to embrace,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “The proposal today marks another big step toward achieving the goals we negotiated with the buyout team, and a strong signal to Washington and Wall Street about where the smart money in the utility sector is heading.”

NRDC was one of two groups called in by the two buyout firms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group, to craft a plan that will cut global warming pollution, invest in energy efficiency, and support mandatory national caps on global warming pollution. The two facilities announced are separate from the three conventional coal-fired plants that remain on the table after the buyers agreed to scrap plans for eight additional plants that TXU had been pursuing. Efforts remain underway on several fronts to ensure that any coal plants are built to the highest environmental standards possible.

“We are working with the TXU buyers every day to help make sure the company achieves the full promise of its commitments,” said David Hawkins, a former EPA official now in charge of NRDC’s Climate Center, who played a pivotal role in shaping the environmental agreement.


$21,000 Penalty for Discharging Storm Water without Permit


The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined JPS Holdings of Normandy Park $21,000 for discharging stormwater from the Christelle Ridge construction project in Renton without a permit.

Ecology gave repeated written and spoken warnings to the company to put stormwater controls in place at the site and to apply for the permit. The company did not obtain a Construction Stormwater Permit, which outlines proper pollution controls, from Ecology until ordered to do so.

Ecology sampled water flowing off the 3.5-acre site on three separate days. On two of those days the water flowing off-site was too muddy to get an accurate measurement. Water from the site drained via a roadside ditch into May Creek, a salmon-bearing stream that flows to Lake Washington. The cleared site is on a steep slope.

"The proper controls, required to be in place when under permit coverage, could have kept water flowing off the site within state standards," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, water quality manager in Ecology's Bellevue-based Northwest Region. "The requirement to have a stormwater permit applies equally to all construction projects one acre or larger."

JPS applied for its permit on Nov. 29, 2006, in response to an immediate-action order from Ecology, issued Nov. 17. The order required JPS Holdings to stop work at the site, put pollution controls in place, and apply for permit coverage. The project received the permit last month, after a 30-day public comment period.

Funding for Clean Water Passes in the House

Three bills vital to protecting our nation’s waters and ensuring healthy communities on the banks of U.S. rivers and lakes were considered by the U.S. House of Representatives this week, according to clean water policy experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The bills, the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (HR 720), the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007 (HR 700), and the Water Quality Investment Act (HR 569), authorize nearly $16 billion over four years for clean water infrastructure. Such projects include rebuilding wastewater systems in communities where, in the case of heavy rains, sewers overflow into rivers and streams. In communities incapable of funding new systems, not only does the health of their citizens suffer, but also the well being of those living downstream.

H.R. 720 would:

  • Reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund at $14 billion from fiscal year 2008-2011.
  • Authorize a study on potential funding mechanisms and resources available to establish a clean water trust fund.

H.R. 569, which passed in the House, would:

  • Authorize $1.8 billion in grants to address sewer overflows and other wet weather issues.

H.R. 700, which also passed in the House, would:

  • Amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to increase the amount of authorized appropriations for the pilot program for alternative water source projects.


The Senate is expected to hold hearings and introduce its own bills later this year.

DNREC Adopts Policy on Default Background Concentration of Arsenic

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Division of Air and Waste Management has adopted a policy that modifies the remediation standards guidance for the default background concentration of arsenic under the Delaware Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act (HSCA).

The default background concentration for arsenic in soil is set at 11 parts per million, which was initially established as the interim concentration in DNREC's June 22, 2005 Proposed Arsenic Risk Management Plan. The default background concentration for arsenic is used in some
cases as a cleanup goal for contaminated soil as opposed to a site-specific background level.

The policy was developed after an extensive public review and comment process. According to Division of Air and Waste Management Director James Werner, the policy and remediation standards guidance "reflect nearly two years of comprehensive technical review and analysis by DNREC staff in response to Governor Minner's directives to ‘review...and propose appropriate standards and policies’ for arsenic in soil.”

The technical review was conducted in coordination with other Delaware state agencies and state, federal, and international scientific analysis. The policy provides the technical guidance to DNREC staff for conducting cleanups under the HSCA regulations, which provide the overall requirements for ensuring protection of public health and the environment under the statute.

As noted in the policy, the technical guidance is particularly important for arsenic because it is a naturally-occurring mineral for which average background soil concentrations exceed the soil concentrations associated with the acceptable cumulative lifetime incremental health risk established in the HSCA regulations of 10E-5, or one in one hundred thousand.

The revised policy is published in the March 1 Delaware Register of Regulations. DNREC will review the default background remediation standards, including the information for arsenic, at regular intervals that will not exceed five years.

The documents are also available for review at the following Division of Air and Waste Management offices: Richardson and Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, phone, (302) 739-9400; 391 Lukens Drive, New Castle, phone, (302) 395-2600; and 715 Grantham Lane, New Castle, phone, (302) 323-4542.

EPA Posts Incident Database on Antimicrobials Use in Ductwork

EPA has placed in the public docket a list of incidents linked to the use of antimicrobials in ventilation systems. The agency's Office of Pesticide Programs had opened the docket for comments on a "Do-Not-Use-In-HVAC-Systems" statement proposed for hard-surface antimicrobials on Sept. 22.

The docket for the draft, Pesticide Registration Notice was re-opened on Dec. 29 (71 Federal Register 78433) in the hope that the public would provide additional response. So far, however, there haven't been many more comments, although some of the respondents have expressed strong opposition to the draft guidance. It remains to be seen if the incident database, which was posted on Feb. 1 – and which has 35 entries – will spur the public to submit more comments.

However, it isn't clear that the database is complete. For example, it doesn't mention the DuPage County (Ill.) incident in which hundreds of employees had to be evacuated when, a registrant says, applicators used a strong antimicrobial in the building's ductwork. The incident may have been excluded from the database because some factors other than antimicrobials were implicated in the illness reports.

New EPA Guidance to Assist State and EPA Regional Underground Injection Control (UIC) Programs

 "We are taking the proactive step of releasing early guidance to help ensure that underground injection of CO2 is done in an environmentally responsible manner to protect underground sources of drinking water and public health," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for Water.

"The data we collect from pilot projects will help us as we work to develop a long-term management framework for commercial-scale geologic sequestration." The practice is part of a portfolio of technologies and technical approaches under consideration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. EPA is recommending that pilot, and other small geologic projects designed to test various technologies and assumptions related to the safe and effective injection of CO2, be permitted by the UIC Program as Class V Experimental Technology Wells or as Class II wells where the injection is being conducted to enhance oil and gas recovery. The guidance will assist UIC program directors and permit writers as they evaluate applications for the appropriateness of injection sites, the area of review, well construction, operation, monitoring, and site closure in order to protect underground sources of drinking water and public health.

New Energy-Efficiency Bill Draws Broad Support from Business, Conservation Groups

A new energy-efficiency bill introduced last week, with strong bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and welcomed by business and conservation groups, would provide consumers and businesses relief from volatile energy prices and curb global warming pollution.

The EXTEND the Energy Efficiency Incentives Act of 2007 enhances and extends the energy efficiency and solar energy tax incentives enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Increasing energy efficiency reduces natural gas consumption, helping to decrease prices while also reducing pollution and saving consumers and businesses money on their energy bills.

The Senate EXTEND Act is sponsored by Sen. Snowe (R-Maine), and cosponsored by Sens. Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kerry (D-Mass.), Bunning (R-KY), Bingaman (D-N.M.), Salazar (D-Colo.), Coleman (R-Minn.), Smith (R-Ore.), Allard (R-Colo.), and Cornyn (R-TX). The House EXTEND Act is sponsored by Rep. McDermott and cosponsored by Reps. Markey (D-Mass.) and Weller (R-Ill.).

The broad coalition of groups supporting the new bill includes: Alliance to Save Energy, Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), Portland General Electric, Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), Real Estate Roundtable, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and Sierra Club.American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Exelon, Edison Electric Institute, National Association of State Energy Officials, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E).


Conservation Group Calls Baucus-Crapo Endangered Species Tax Bill Historic

The conservation group Center for Biological Diversity praised legislation S. 700, introduced by a group of bipartisan senators, which would provide tax credits, tax deductions, and income exclusions for various recovery-based actions on behalf of endangered species and their habitats.

"While we must ensure that this new tax program remains publicly accountable and that the administration does not abuse its discretion in picking incentive sites, this proposed legislation has the potential to revolutionize wildlife conservation on private lands and make the Endangered Species Act even more successful. This may be the first tangible sign that a fresh breeze is blowing on Capitol Hill," said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Since an earlier version of this bill was introduced late in the 109th Congress, a wide variety of conservation, scientific, sportsmen and related groups have worked with Senators Baucus (D-MT), Crapo (R-ID), Collins (R-ME), Lincoln (D-AR), Grassley (R-IA), and Lieberman (I-CT), among others, to further improve the bill. Specifically, conservation groups have sought to ensure that all tax benefits authorized under the bill would be explicitly tied to recovery objectives under the Endangered Species Act, and that the legislation would provide mechanisms to assess the success of the tax incentive program in a transparent fashion.

For the first time ever, financial awards will be available to landowners who actively seek to implement an endangered-species recovery plan. Further, under the bill, the Government Accountability Office will be requested to assess the overall efficacy of the tax-credit program; this will be important for fiscal accountability and should be expanded to the deductions and exclusions under the bill, particularly with regard to assessing global warming's growing effect on domestic conservation measures.

"Although the authors of this bill have not yet ensured that habitat management and protection plans, as well as related final agency funding decisions and monitoring documents, will be unquestionably subject to the Freedom of Information Act—a problem that has arisen under some Farm Bill conservation programs—there is a commitment by some to see such non-controversial language added during the Senate Finance Committee consideration of the bill, which also must pass the House of Representatives," explained Snape. "Barring weakening amendments, and the inclusion of the public's right to government documents, we expect to support this bill."

States Take on E-Waste Problem

Bills to solve the problem of what do to with the mounting piles of electronic waste are already under consideration in 21 state legislatures, plus the city of New York. Bills are expected to be introduced soon in at least three more states, meaning that half of the U.S. states are currently actively trying to solve the e-waste problem in some way.

Electronic waste is a major problem across the country, especially as technology becomes cheaper to produce, and thus more "disposable." The EPA estimates that of the 2.63 million tons of electronic waste that was disposed of in 2005, only 12.5 percent of it, or 330,000 pounds, was recovered for recycling. The other 87.5 percent ended up in landfills or incinerators.

The Computer Take Back Campaign estimates that more than 315 million computers will soon become obsolete and may be destined for landfills. Those computers alone contain a total of more than 1.2 billion pounds of lead. About 40 percent of the heavy metals, including lead, mercury, and cadmium, in landfills come from electronic equipment discards.

The most controversial issue facing state policymakers in dealing with e-waste is deciding whether manufacturers or consumers will pay for e-waste recycling programs. Four states have already passed laws to create e-waste recycling programs: Maine, Maryland, California, and Washington State. Three of them created "producer responsibility" programs, mandating that the manufacturers pay for collection and recycling e-waste.

Only California has passed a law charging consumer fees, called advanced recycling fees (ARFs), at the time products are purchased. While producer responsibility advocates acknowledge that consumers ultimately pay under either approach, they assert that producer-financed takeback programs can leverage design changes, making electronics more recyclable and less toxic.

Of the 21 states/cities with bills pending, 15 have introduced producer responsibility bills: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland (where the bill would expand an existing program), Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and New York City. Four of these states have also introduced ARF bills: Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

Robin Schneider, vice-chair of the Computer TakeBack Campaign, said, "We see the momentum swinging strongly in favor of the producer responsibility solution in the states. We support this approach because it meets two important goals—making more recycling happen, and giving the manufacturers an incentive to make their products less toxic and more recyclable. If we don't address both goals, then we are not solving the problem."

There are recent signs that industry support is dwindling for charging consumers for e-waste recycling. Samsung and IBM recently withdrew from a coalition of television companies who lobby against producer responsibility bills, and in favor of ARF bills. Calling itself the "Electronics Manufacturers Coalition for Responsible Recycling," the coalition is lead by Panasonic, Sharp, and Philips. IBM testified at a committee hearing in favor of the producer responsibility bill in Minnesota last Thursday, where in the past they have opposed the same language.

"We are glad to see that Samsung and IBM have withdrawn from the ARF coalition," said Sheila Dormody, Director of Clean Water Action, Rhode Island. "Next, we'd like to see Sony and LG take the same step, to join with Dell and HP and show consumers that they are responsible companies who want to promote producer takeback, not fight it."

At least three bills will be introduced in Texas to establish producer takeback recycling for e-waste.

Petition Asks California to Regulate Carbon Dioxide

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the state of California to regulate carbon dioxide pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. The petition marks the first step towards regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, cement kilns, oil refineries, and other industrial sources due to the adverse effects of carbon dioxide pollution on the ocean.

Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, and not only contributes to global warming but also causes ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs CO2, which reacts with seawater to make it more acidic—thus altering the chemical composition of the ocean. Approximately half of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production over the past 200 years has been absorbed by the oceans.

Carbon dioxide pollution has already lowered average ocean pH by 0.11 units, with a pH change of 0.5 units projected by the end of the century under current emission trajectories. These changes are likely to have devastating effects on the entire ocean ecosystem.

The primary known effect of acidification is impairment of calcification, the process whereby animals such as corals, crabs, abalone, oysters, and sea urchins make shells and skeletons. Many species of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which form the basis of the marine food web, are also particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Laboratory studies have shown that at carbon dioxide concentrations likely to occur in the ocean in the next few decades, the shells of many marine species dissolve, killing the organisms. Absent significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification will accelerate, likely ultimately leading to the collapse of oceanic food webs and catastrophic effectss on the global environment.

“Ocean acidification is as grave a threat to the health of our planet as global warming,” said Miyoko Sakashita, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity who specializes in ocean issues. “Fortunately, the Clean Water Act provides the tools to regulate carbon dioxide pollution, which will help address not only ocean acidification but also global warming.”

While the EPA has taken the position that carbon dioxide cannot be regulated as a “pollutant” under the Clear Air Act, the agency already lists pH as a “pollutant” in its Clean Water Act regulations. Because CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH of seawater, carbon dioxide emissions therefore can and must be regulated under the act.

The petitions, submitted to California’s Regional Water Quality Control Boards, seek the listing of all ocean waters under the jurisdiction of the state as “impaired” due to the lowering of pH from the absorption of carbon dioxide pollution. Under the Clean Water Act, states must create a list of water bodies that are being degraded or not attaining water quality standards and set limits on the input of pollutants into these bodies of water to prevent further degradation. In this case, the Clean Water Act would require limits on carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to ocean acidification.

Tire Chips Used in Wastewater Treatment

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have announced that contractors can now use tire chips in on-site wastewater treatment systems. The announcement comes as a result of a joint effort between the two departments and consultation with the Missouri Clean Water Commission. Under law, the Department of Health and Senior Services has developed standards for the size and location of sewage tanks and soil absorption trenches. The Department of Natural Resources regulates all other sewage lagoons and discharging sewage treatment facilities.

Under the new standards, tire chips between one-half-inch and four inches may act as a replacement for gravel or crushed-stone aggregate in on-site wastewater treatment systems. The chips act as a kind of filter, allowing microbes to handle the potentially harmful chemicals and organisms found in residential wastewater.

"It's great that we have found yet another beneficial reuse for tires," said department Director Doyle Childers, "By creating end markets for these materials, it is far easier to make sure they are managed in a manner beneficial to the environment."

When improperly disposed of, tires can present several threats to human health and the environment. Tires make ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can carry diseases like West Nile virus and equine encephalitis. Fires from waste tires release hazardous substances into the air and possibly into groundwater sources and can burn for months or even years. To date over 14.4 million tires from 655 dump sites have been cleaned up.

For questions concerning on-site wastewater treatment system installation and the substitution of tire chips for aggregate, please call your local health official or the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' On-site Sewage Program at (573) 751-6095.

Several scrap tire processors, both inside and outside of Missouri, can supply tire chips to meet the required specification. 

For questions about tire chips or suppliers, or to request a hard copy of the fact sheet, contact the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at (573) 526-3909 or toll-free at 1-800-361-4827.

New Senate Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

On March 8, the US House of Representatives approved the creation of a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on a vote of 269 to 150, with 44 Republicans voting in favor. Following the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement:

“Global warming may be the greatest challenge of our time, setting at risk our economy, environment, and national security. With the creation of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on a strong bipartisan vote, the House is giving these issues the high visibility they deserve.

“Energy independence and climate change are issues of national security and national urgency, and the new committee will play a key role in informing Congress and the public, developing policy initiatives, and assuring we make real progress toward reducing our dependence on foreign fuels.

“In the House of Representatives, debate on global warming has been stifled for 12 years; we can’t wait any longer. With American ingenuity and a commitment from Congress, we are moving in a new direction to permanently address global warming and make our nation energy independent.”

Kirtland Air Force Base Fined $144,835 for Hazardous Waste Violations

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Air Force for $144,835 to resolve 14 hazardous waste violations at Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque. The department found several violations at the facility during an inspection conducted between September 23 and October 2, 2003. Violations included failure to identify all underlying hazardous constituents in waste that was shipped from the base to an incinerator out of state.

“The characterization of waste is an important part of careful hazardous waste management because it ensures waste treatment and disposal facilities handle only wastes they can safely manage. That protects the health and safety of workers and nearby residents,” said NMED Secretary Ron Curry. “The settlement requires Kirtland to train employees to properly manage and characterize all hazardous wastes generated at the base.”

Department inspectors found some waste from Kirtland contained heavy metals and chlorinated solvents that were shipped to the ENSCO hazardous waste incinerator in El Dorado, Arkansas. The burning process can create dioxin, which is a carcinogen.

Other violations at Kirtland included failure to properly manage lamps containing mercury, failure to remove combustible material within a certain distance from a permitted open burn unit, and failure to maintain personnel training records at the permitted open detonation treatment unit.

Kirtland generates, stores, and treats various wastes during the maintenance of military airplanes and other equipment. Those wastes include spent solvents, waste jet fuel, parts washer sludge, paint wastes, and explosive materials.

The department, which alleged Kirtland violated its state hazardous waste permit and Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, issued three compliance orders to Kirtland on May 25, 2005. 

Trivia Question of the Week

The US DOT provides exceptions that allow which of the following materials to be shipped by ground without a hazardous material shipping paper:

a. Shipments in quantities that do not require placards
b. Hazardous waste that will be recycled
c. Commercial shipments of consumer commodities
d. Sample of materials being sent for hazmat classification