Definition of What Are "Waters of the US" to be Postponed

November 27, 2017

EPA and the Department of the Army have to add an applicability date to the Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” (the “2015 Rule'') to November 22, 2019. On October 9, 2015, the Sixth Circuit stayed the 2015 Rule nationwide pending further action of the court, but the Supreme Court is currently reviewing the question of whether the court of appeals has original jurisdiction to review challenges to the 2015 Rule.

On February 28, 2017, the President signed an Executive Order, “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the `Waters of the United States' Rule.” With this proposed rule, the agencies intend to maintain the status quo by proposing to add the November 22, 2019 applicability date to the 2015 Rule and thus provide continuity and regulatory certainty for regulated entities, the States and Tribes, agency staff, and the public while the agencies continue to work to consider possible revisions to the 2015 Rule.

In this proposal, the agencies stated that they recognize that there may be some confusion because there is an existing proposal to rescind the 2015 Rule and replace it with the previous definition of “waters of the United States,” as well as ongoing pre-proposal stakeholder outreach and engagement about the scope of the Administration’s proposal to substantively reconsider the definition of “waters of the United States.”

EPA Extends Enforcement Discretion for Electricity Generation in Puerto Rico

EPA announced that it has extended enforcement discretion for Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) facilities that have been impacted or damaged by Hurricane Maria through January 31, 2018. The action extends a “no action assurance” issued by the EPA on October 6, 2017, and will continue to provide the utility relief from some Clean Air Act permit conditions and permitting requirements, including emission limits, hours of operation limits, fuel usage restrictions, and restrictions on the shutdown or bypass of pollution control equipment for most of their electric generating units operating in Puerto Rico.

"Extending the enforcement discretion for local power facilities is an important step to ensuring power is restored in communities across Puerto Rico," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Under EPA’s no action assurance letters, the facilities must continue to exercise good air pollution control practices and comply with all other federal, state and local environmental laws. EPA policy allows the Agency to issue no action assurances in cases where it is necessary to avoid extreme risks to public health and safety and where no other mechanism can adequately address the matter. EPA believes that the exercise of enforcement discretion in these circumstances is in the public interest and will help address the emergency circumstances in Puerto Rico.

EPA is working closely with the government of Puerto Rico to assist PREPA with bringing more customers on line as quickly as possible.

EPA continues to coordinate closely with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners as the Agency responds to the impact of Hurricane Maria. EPA is focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

DIRECTV Agrees To $9.5 Million for Hazardous Waste Violations 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced a settlement with DIRECTV to resolve allegations that its California facilities unlawfully disposed of large volumes of hazardous waste – including hazardous batteries, electronic devices, and aerosols – and committed additional violations stemming from the mismanagement of such items. These acts constitute violations of California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law, and of California’s Unfair Competition Law, as such conduct gives DIRECTV a competitive advantage over other regulated entities that are complying with the law. On November 21, 2017, by stipulation of the parties, the Alameda County Superior Court entered a final judgment incorporating the terms of the settlement.

“Unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste can lead to serious health and environmental risks. That is why DA O'Malley and I are holding DIRECTV accountable today,” Attorney General Becerra said. “The California Department of Justice will continue working to protect the health and well-being of our communities. We will prosecute those who violate our environmental laws.”

“My Office is dedicated to enforcing laws that protect the environment and ensure fair business practices. Any company doing business in Alameda County and in California must abide by these laws. The illegal disposal of hazardous waste pollutes our soil and our water and can be harmful to the health of humans as well as the environment,” said District Attorney O’Malley. “I thank the Attorney General for his leadership on these important issues and I am confident that we will continue to make strides in holding businesses accountable and keeping our environment free from toxic pollution.”

As part of the settlement, DIRECTV will be required to pay more than $8.9 million for civil penalties, costs, and projects furthering environmental protection; will be bound by a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law; and will have to spend more than $580 thousand over the next five years to enhance environmental compliance at its California facilities. Additionally, DIRECTV will be required to hire an independent auditor to perform three audits of DIRECTV’s compliance with the injunctive terms of the judgment.

The settlement and final judgment follow an extensive investigation by the two offices. The investigation included a series of inspections of dumpsters belonging to DIRECTV facilities. The inspections revealed that DIRECTV was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes. During the relevant period of the investigation, DIRECTV operated 25 facilities in California, and all 25 facilities were unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste.

In November 2014, the Attorney General and Alameda DA resolved a similar action against AT&T through a stipulated final judgment. Because DIRECTV was acquired by an AT&T affiliate in July 2015, the parties to this settlement have stipulated to amend the prior AT&T judgment to include terms applicable to DIRECTV.

Copies of the complaint and stipulation for entry of amended final judgment are attached to the electronic version of this release at

Terminix to Pay $5 Million in Fines for Applying Restricted-Use Pesticide to Homes in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Terminix International Company LP (TERMINIX LP) and U.S. Virgin Islands operation Terminix International USVI LLC (TERMINIX, USVI) were recently sentenced for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Islands pest control company illegally applied fumigants containing methyl bromide in multiple residential locations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the condominium resort complex in St. John where a family of four fell seriously ill in March 2015 after the unit below them was fumigated. According to the plea recommendation, TERMINIX LP and TERMINIX, USVI are to pay a total of $10 million in criminal fines, community service, and restitution payments. Under the agreed recommendation, TERMINIX, USVI will pay $4 million in fines and $1 million in restitution to the EPA for response and clean-up costs at the St. John resort. TERMINIX LP will pay a fine of $4 million and will perform community service related to training commercial pesticide applicators in fumigation practices and a separate health services training program.

“The sentences in this case reflect the serious nature of the defendants’ illegal actions and the unacceptable consequences of those actions,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This case should serve as a stark reminder that pesticides must be applied as intended and that those who ignore laws that protect public health will be held accountable by EPA and our law enforcement partners.”

“The tragic incident at issue in this case shows the extreme danger posed by the improper use of toxic pesticides,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Businesses using these products must take appropriate cautions to safeguard the public, or else the consequences can be devastating. We trust that the result in this case shows how imperative it is that users of these products take the time to review, understand, and employ appropriate techniques and uses.”

“This case demonstrates how critical it is to comply with environmental laws and regulations,” said Acting United States Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett for the District of the Virgin Islands. “An entire family suffered horrendous and life-altering injuries. We will continue to aggressively enforce environmental laws to help prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

In 1984, the EPA banned the indoor use of methyl bromide products. The few remaining uses are severely restricted and largely limited to commodity applications for quarantine and pre-shipment purposes. Pesticides containing methyl bromide in the U.S. are restricted-use due to their acute toxicity, meaning that they may only be applied by a certified applicator. Health effects of acute exposure to methyl bromide are serious and include central nervous system and respiratory system damage. Pesticides can be very toxic and it is critically important that they be used only as approved by EPA.

According to the information filed in federal court in the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands, the defendants knowingly applied restricted-use fumigants at the Sirenusa resort in St. John for the purpose of exterminating household pests on or about October 20, 2014, and on or about March 18, 2015. The companies were also charged with applying the restricted-use pesticide in 12 residential units in St. Croix and one additional unit in St. Thomas between September 2012 and February 2015.

According to the factual basis of the plea agreement, TERMINIX, USVI provided pest control services in the Virgin Islands including fumigation treatments for Powder Post Beetles, a common problem in the islands. These fumigation treatments were referred to as “tape and seal” jobs, meaning that the affected area was to be sealed off from the rest of the structure with plastic sheeting and tape prior to the introduction of the fumigant. Customers were generally told that after a treatment, persons could not enter the building for a two- to three-day period.

On or about March 18, 2015, two employees of TERMINIX, USVI, performed a fumigation pesticide treatment at the lower rental unit of Building J at Sirenusa in St. John. The upper unit in Building J was occupied by a Delaware family of four. Via various means, methyl bromide from the lower unit migrated to the upper unit of Building J, causing serious injury to and hospitalization of the entire family. 

EPA regional staff responded immediately to the incident in St. John, securing the scene, performing testing, and addressing the contamination. Within days, the EPA sent out a pesticide use warning to pesticides applicators in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, followed by a broader pesticide notice to regulators in all states, the British Virgin Islands, and to other Caribbean and Latin American countries.

After the government began its investigation, TERMINIX LP voluntarily ceased its use of methyl bromide in the U.S. and in U.S. territories. The government has notified the district court that the defendants have made full restitution to the Esmond family. The family is satisfied with the criminal resolution and has asked that their privacy be respected.

The case was investigated by EPA Criminal Investigation Division working cooperatively with the Virgins Islands government and, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Senior Litigation Counsel Howard P. Stewart of the Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim L. Chisholm of the District of the Virgin Islands are prosecuting the case with assistance of Patricia Hick, EPA Region II Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel.

Emerald Services, Inc. Fined for Violations of RCRA Permit

EPA Region 10, has reached a settlement with Emerald Services, Inc., a hazardous waste storage and treatment facility in Tacoma, Washington, over violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and violations of the facility’s RCRA permit. This enforcement action was coordinated with the Washington Department of Ecology. The facility is located within the boundaries of the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation.

Emerald Services manages large volumes of hazardous waste, solvents, and antifreeze and re-refines used oil at the Tacoma facility. Emerald was purchased by Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc. on July 8, 2016, and both Emerald and Safety-Kleen are owned by parent holding company, Clean Harbors, Inc. Ensuring that funds will be available if the company’s operations harm people or damage property is an essential element of the “cradle to grave” RCRA hazardous waste management program.  

This settlement resolves several RCRA violations at the Tacoma-area facility. Specifically, the company failed to maintain adequate third-party liability insurance coverage of the facility for the past six years.  As part of the settlement, Emerald Services agreed to pay a $125,800 penalty and amended its current insurance policy to comply with its RCRA permit.

“Having adequate insurance coverage for your business, especially one that stores and handles hazardous waste, isn’t an option, it’s the law,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Compliance and Enforcement Division in Seattle. “Liability insurance is a key requirement of the hazardous waste permitting system, ensuring that commercial hazardous waste handlers operate in a safe manner to protect people’s health and the environment.”

There is a history of spills and incidents at Emerald’s Tacoma facility. In 2013, a 1,900-gallon spill of a highly dangerous fuel oil/asphalt mixture injured a worker. Emerald’s pattern of spills and releases suggests the facility may have a higher probability of future accidents, underscoring the need to have liability coverage for possible bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration.

Violating environmental laws puts public health and the environment at risk. EPA protects communities by ensuring compliance with federal environmental laws. By fairly enforcing environmental laws, the Agency levels the playing field by deterring violators and denying companies an unfair business advantage over facilities and businesses that follow the rules.

Bullseye Glass Required to Cleanup and Pay $15,600 Fine for Stormwater Violations

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reached a settlement with Bullseye Glass Company that includes a $15,600 fine for discharging contaminated water into a drywell on its property and requires immediate cleanup of the contaminated site.

In Oct. 2016, DEQ discovered stormwater runoff from the factory's roof had been discharging into an underground drywell and contaminating soil and groundwater. The stormwater contained the toxic materials cadmium and selenium, which had settled on the roof after the company released them into the air through unfiltered furnaces.

DEQ approved the facility's cleanup plan in Oct. 2017. Bullseye has removed the contaminated drywell and surrounding soil, and is in the process of installing wells to monitor groundwater quality.

American Crystal Sugar Co. Fined for Odor and Environmental Issues

American Crystal Sugar Company has agreed to pay a fine and take steps to prevent hydrogen sulfide emissions at facilities in East Grand Forks and Crookston, following an enforcement action by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The enforcement action addresses violations of the company’s air permit with the MPCA, including exceeding its permitted hydrogen sulfide emission limits at facilities in East Grand Forks and Crookston. Monitoring data showed 280 occasions from 2013 to 2016 when the ambient air around the facilities exceeded the permitted limits for hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide produces a “rotten egg” odor and exposure, even at low concentrations, can cause burning eyes, coughing and shortness of breath.

The company faced MPCA enforcement actions in 2008 for hydrogen sulfide violations that occurred from 2005 to 2007. The company says it spent millions of dollars in improvements at its facilities to reduce hydrogen sulfide and associated odors in response to the 2008 enforcement actions. Since that time, the company says it has continued to make significant investments.

In a stipulation agreement signed with the MPCA in late October, the company agreed to take additional steps to identify and correct all sources that may be contributing to excess hydrogen sulfide emissions. The company will meet yearly with the MPCA to discuss the progress of these efforts. The company also agreed to pay a $135,000 fine.

Other air permit violations addressed in the stipulation agreement include emissions of fine particle pollution, failure to take corrective action when emission thresholds were exceeded, failure to use fabric filters to control emissions, and problems with reporting and documentation.

Earlier this year, the MPCA completed an enforcement action involving the Moorhead facility for violations that included exceeding permit limits for hydrogen sulfide and fine particle pollution and operating a pulp dryer without controlling emissions with a fabric filter. That action included an $8,700 fine.

Pulling Iron Out of Waste Printer Toner

Someday, left-over toner in discarded printer cartridges could have a second life as bridge or building components instead of as trash, wasting away in landfills and potentially harming the environment. One group reports in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering that they have devised a method to recycle the residual powder in spent cartridges into iron using temperatures that are compatible with existing industrial processes.

Electronic waste is a broad category that encompasses everything from computers and televisions to ink cartridges and refrigerators. According to the European Toner and Inkjet Remanufacturers Association, 500 million cartridges out of the estimated 1.1 billion sold each year end up in landfills around the world. These “empty” cartridges can contain up to 8 percent of unused residual powder by weight and could leach compounds into the soil and underground water sources. In an attempt to reuse this electronic waste, researchers have transformed this substance into oils, gases and even an ingredient in asphalt. Now, Vaibhav Gaikwad and colleagues wanted to develop a brand-new way to re-use residual toner.

The researchers put toner powder in a furnace, heating it to 1,550 °C. This process converted the inherent iron oxide to a product that was 98% pure iron using the polymer resins within the toner powder as a source of carbon. The researchers say that this method would be ideal for industrial applications because iron and steel are typically made at this temperature. In addition, heating the powder at such a high temperature prevents toxic side products from forming, providing an environmentally friendly way to recycle residual toner.

By Saving Cost and Energy, the Lighting Revolution May Increase Light Pollution

Municipalities, enterprises, and households are switching to LED lights in order to save energy. But these savings might be lost if their neighbors install new or brighter lamps. Scientists fear that this "rebound effect" might partially or totally cancel out the savings of individual lighting retrofit projects, and make skies over cities considerably brighter. An international study led by Christopher Kyba from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience lends proof to this hypothesis. According to the paper in Science Advances, the artificially lit surface of Earth at night increased in radiance and extent over the past four years by 2 per cent annually. The scientists used data from the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed especially for nightlights (VIIRS for Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite). The VIIRS Day-Night Band is mounted on the NOAA satellite Suomi-NPP and has been circling our planet since October 2011. Their time series comprises the years 2012 to 2016.

Globally, the increase in light emission closely corresponds to the increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the fastest growth occurring in developing countries. "What's more, we actually see only part of the light increase", says Christopher Kyba whose research is done both at GFZ and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries IGB. Comparisons of the VIIRS data with photographs taken from aboard the International Space Station ISS show that the instrument on Suomi-NPP sometimes records a dimming of some cities even though these cities are in fact the same in brightness or even more brightly lit. The reason for this is that sensor can't "see" light at wavelengths below 500 nanometers (nm), i.e. blue light. When cities replace orange lamps with white LED lights that emit considerable radiation below 500 nm, VIIRS mistakes the change for a decrease. In short: The Earth's night-time surface brightness and especially the skyglow over cities is increasing, probably even in the cases where the satellite detects less radiation. 

There is, however, hope that things will change for the better. Christopher Kyba says: "Other studies and the experience of cities like Tucson, Arizona, show that well designed LED lamps allow a two-third or more decrease of light emission without any noticeable effect for human perception." Kyba's earlier work has shown that the light emission per capita in the United States of America is 3 to 5 times higher than that in Germany. Kyba sees this as a sign that prosperity, safety, and security can be achieved with conservative light use. "There is a potential for the solid state lighting revolution to save energy and reduce light pollution," adds Kyba, "but only if we don't spend the savings on new light.”

Energy from Electric Cars Could Power Our Lives -- But Only if We Improve the System

Power stored in electric cars could be sent back to the grid - thereby supporting the grid and acting as a potential storage for clean energy - but it will only be economically viable if we upgrade the system first. In a new paper in Energy Policy, two scientists show how their seemingly contradictory findings actually point to the same outcome and recommendations: that pumping energy back into the grid using today's technology can damage car batteries, but with improvements in the system it has the potential to provide valuable clean energy - and improve battery life in the process.

Electric cars store excess energy when they are idle. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology makes it possible to transfer that energy back to the grid when the car is not being used. This energy could help regulate the frequency of the electricity supply, reduce the amount of electricity purchased at peak times and increase the power output of the system.

Two recent studies, one by Dr. Kotub Uddin at the University of Warwick in the UK and the other by Dr. Matthieu Dubarry at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, seem contradictory, with one suggesting that V2G degrades car batteries and the other that it improves battery life. But the two scientists worked together to look at how their studies overlap, showing that they actually come to the same conclusion.

"Although both our papers seem contradictory, they are actually complimentary," said Dr. Dubarry. "V2G is not going to be easy, but, if done properly, it has a chance to make a difference for both utilities and electric vehicle owners. We need more research to understand the process better and benefit from the technology."

The two authors agreed that in order to be economically viable, V2G has to be optimized between the requirements of the car owner, the utilities and the capability of the grid. In other words, the needs of the different people and systems involved have to be balanced. The question then became 'can this technology be profitable?'

The previous studies had different approaches to answering this question: Dr. Dubarry showed that using today's V2G technology can be detrimental to the car battery, while Dr. Uddin found a smarter grid would make the process economically viable, and even improve the battery. In the new paper, they critiqued each other's work and found shared conclusions. With improvements to the system, V2G could actually improve electric car battery life and be profitable for everyone involved.

Measuring the impact of the technology on the battery is challenging. After two years of analyzing lithium-ion batteries, Dr. Uddin and his team developed an accurate battery degradation model that can predict the capacity and power fade in a battery over time under different conditions, such as temperature, state of charge and depth of discharge. That means the model can predict the impact of V2G on battery health. Using this model, they created a smart grid algorithm that shows how much charge a battery needs for daily use and how much can be taken away to optimize battery life.

Dr. Uddin says funding is needed to develop new testing standards and control strategies to guide policies that support V2G. One key element to improving the system, he says, will be the measurement of battery degradation.

"The metrics used to define battery degradation may also impact the optimization process," he explained. "A critical component is who is responsible for estimating battery degradation? Utilities are currently taking the lead in the EU, but it might be more economical for the battery manufacturers or car manufacturers to do it. In this case, standards need to be written which define what we mean by 'state of health' when it comes to batteries, and the metrics that are used to determine it."

Food Recovery Challenge Participants Recognized for Outstanding Achievements

EPA recognized the outstanding accomplishments of 16 winners participating in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

“Food Recovery Challenge award winners serve as role models in their communities and for other organizations,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Their hard work and effective efforts to divert wasted food from landfills is paying off through social, financial and environmental benefits. I encourage other organizations to replicate the successful food recovery operations of our Challenge winners.”

In 2016, over 950 businesses, governments and organizations participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Food Recovery Challenge participants include organizations such as grocers, restaurants, educational institutions and sports and entertainment venues, who together diverted 740,000 tons of food from being landfilled or incinerated, saving businesses up to $37 million in avoided waste disposal fees. To prevent and reduce their wasted food, Food Recovery Challenge participants used cost-effective and creative practices that included reducing excess food from educational institutions, sending food scraps off for animal feed and providing in-house food recovery training.

Wasted food is the single largest type of waste discarded each year in our everyday trash; that’s roughly 73 billion pounds. Wasting food adversely impacts our communities and the environment through the fiscal and natural resources used to produce and deliver the food. Approximately 12 percent of American households have difficulty providing enough food for all of their family members. In 2016, Food Recovery Challenge participants helped address food insecurity in our nation through the donation of nearly 222,000 tons of excess, wholesome food, providing the equivalent of close to 370 million meals.

The waste prevention and diversion efforts of this year’s award winners, as well as all Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers, contribute to the actions needed in order for the United States to meet the national goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

EPA recognizes Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers with awards in two categories: data-driven and narrative. The data-driven award recipients achieved the highest percent increases in their sector comparing year to year data. Narrative award winners excelled in the areas of source reduction, leadership, innovation, education and outreach and endorsement.

The 2017 Food Recovery Challenge national award winners are:

Data-driven Improvement by Sector Winners

Grocers:  Sprouts Farmers Markets:  247 (Carlsbad, California)

Colleges and Universities:  University of Houston (Houston, Texas)

K-12 Schools:  Ramona High School (Ramona, California)

Sports and Entertainment Venues:  Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas (Dallas, Texas)

Hotels, Resorts and Lodging:  Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Zion National Park Lodge (Springdale, Utah)

Restaurants and Food Service Providers:  Café de Novo (Dallas, Texas)

State/Tribal/Local Government:  Town of New Paltz (New Paltz, New York)

Non-Profits:  Food Forward (North Hollywood, California)

Food Manufacturing:  Signature Breads, Inc. (Chelsea, Massachusetts)

Newcomer:  Sprouts Farmers Market: 276 (Daly City, California) 

Narrative Category Winners

  • Source Reduction:  Cherokee Point Elementary School (San Diego, California)
  • Leadership:  City of San Diego (San Diego, California)
  • Innovation:  Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival (Honesdale, Pennsylvania), and San Diego International Airport (San Diego, California)
  • Education and Outreach:  Spoiler Alert (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Endorsers:  Corporate Waste Consultants (Greentown, Pennsylvania)


All 105 Counties in Kansas Meet Updated EPA Ozone Standard

EPA recently announced that the air quality in all105 Kansas counties meets the most recent ozone standards. In a letter to Governor Sam Brownback, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated, “This is good news for the citizens of Kansas. I encourage you to continue your efforts to maintain air quality that meets the 2015 ground-level ozone standards.”

The EPA strengthened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) on October 1, 2015, based on scientific evidence about ozone’s effects on public health and welfare. The EPA updated these standards to improve public health protection, particularly for at-risk groups which includes children, older adults, people with lung diseases such as asthma and people who are active outdoors. The change is also intended to improve tree, plant and ecosystem health.

KDHE has 20 air monitors across the state and works to protect the public and environment from air pollution.

Hazardous Materials Leaking from Marine Vessels Sunken by Hurricanes

EPA is continuing its response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in coordination with other government agencies. The Agency reported that it is focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

“Our role is to assist both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to minimize environmental damage from boats leaking gasoline, fuel or other contaminants,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “We are doing this in a way that respects the vessel owner’s rights while still protecting people from spills and hazardous substances that might be onboard the vessels.”

EPA is supporting Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Coast Guard in marine vessel recovery work. Teams continue to locate, assess and retrieve sunken, damaged and derelict vessels around Puerto Rico and the USVI.  EPA is assisting with the recycling and disposal

of recovered oil and hazardous materials from the vessels.

EPA’s support role includes recording the vessel’s location and collecting information such as the name of the vessel and identification number, condition, impact to surrounding areas and/or sensitive/protected habitats (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs) for future recovery missions and owner notifications.  A higher priority is placed on vessels found to be actively leaking fuel or hazardous materials, where containment and absorbent booms are placed to decrease contamination.

Once the damaged vessels are brought to shore, or are processed on a staging barge, EPA will be handling various hazardous materials for recycling and disposal, including petroleum products (oil, gas or diesel fuel), batteries, and e-waste, which can harm the environment if they’re not removed from the waters. EPA will also recycle or dispose of any “household hazardous wastes”, such as cleaners, paints or solvents and appliances from the vessels. It is important to properly dispose of these items to prevent contamination to the aquatic ecosystem.

Vessels are being tagged by assessment teams with a sticker requesting that owners contact the U.S. Coast Guard to either report their vessel’s removal, or to request U.S. Coast Guard assistance in its removal. There is no cost, penalty or fine associated with the removal of the vessels.

As of November 16, 2017, 

  • 340 vessels were identified as being impacted in Puerto Rico
  • 589 vessels were identified as being impacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands


Rover Pipeline Spilled Contaminants in Ohio Stream

Ohio EPA has cited Rover Pipeline, LLC for spilling contaminants into the Black Fork of the Mohican River, Ashland County. The Notice of Violation is Rover’s fifth since the company received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September to resume drilling construction at certain locations in Ohio. These latest violations are summarized in a letter Ohio EPA sent to Rover this week, requesting that the company pause horizontal drilling activities, review its contingency plan and ensure readiness to respond to future inadvertent returns.

For more than four months, Rover had been under federal orders prohibiting the company from continuing horizontal drilling at new Ohio locations due to numerous environmental violations. Among those was the release of more than two million gallons of industrial waste (drilling mud contaminated with diesel fuel) into a high-quality wetland in Tuscarawas County, subsequently dumping that same material into local quarries near sources for public drinking water, as well as other storm water and air pollution violations.

In this latest incident (resulting in Rover’s 19th notice of environmental violations in Ohio this year), the company’s construction activity caused 200 gallons of bentonite-based drilling fluid to be released into a tributary of the Mohican River near the Ashland-Richland County border. The unauthorized release of the drilling fluid, a pollutant, into waters of the state is a violation of ORC 6111. Rover reported the inadvertent release to Ohio EPA.

Currently, Rover also is in violation of Ohio EPA’s July 7 orders, which among several other directives, required the company to file for a construction storm water general permit. The company has refused to comply with the order or pay an appropriate civil penalty. The Agency has referred the case to the Ohio Attorney General.

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