EPA Bans Fracking Wastewater from POTWs

June 20, 2016

Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction facilities often generate large amounts of wastewater as a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas production. This wastewater may contain potentially harmful pollutants that most public wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat. To protect human health and the environment and the operational integrity of wastewater treatment plants, EPA’s final rule will prevent wastewater pollutants from unconventional oil and gas extraction from being discharged to public wastewater treatment plants.

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on July 8 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US

EPA Revises EPCRA to Coincide with OSHA GHS

In a final rule, EPA has amended the due to the changes in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). OSHA’s HCS was recently revised to conform to the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Under the revised HCS, chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate their chemicals according to the new criteria adopted from GHS to ensure that they are classified and labeled appropriately. Manufacturers and importers are also required to develop standardizedSafety Data Sheets and distribute them to downstream users of their chemicals. These changes in HCS affect the reporting requirements under sections 311 and 312 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA). Based on the new classification criteria that OSHA adopted, EPA has revised the existing hazard categories for hazardous chemical inventory Tier II reporting under EPCRA Section 312 and for list reporting under section 311. The final rule also makes a few minor corrections in the hazardous chemical reporting regulations.

FedEx Ground Fined $3.4 Million for Mishandling Hazardous Materials Shipments

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) settled a civil complaint against FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., (FedEx Ground) in Sacramento County Superior Court for almost $3.4 million and protections that would deter the company from similar conduct in the future.

The DTSC complaint alleges that, since at least November 2008, FedEx Ground failed to properly manage broken or leaking packages that contained hazardous materials, such as acids, solvents, insecticides, batteries and other flammable, toxic, or corrosive materials. The complaint alleges that there have been more than 1,500 instances of mismanagement of these hazardous wastes, resulting in multiple violations of California’s hazardous waste control laws.

“This settlement will promote and preserve the effectiveness of California’s system for managing hazardous waste, thereby safeguarding Californians and their environment,” said Keith Kihara, Chief of DTSC’s enforcement division.

DTSC alleged that FedEx Ground unlawfully transported hazardous waste packages to FedEx Ground hub facilities that were not authorized to accept hazardous waste. The complaint also alleged that:

  • At its three California hubs (one each in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties), FedEx Ground unlawfully received and stored hazardous waste.
  • FedEx Ground transported hazardous waste without hazardous waste transporter registration and without use of a hazardous waste manifest.
  • At its 31 California terminals, FedEx Ground failed to:
    • make hazardous waste determinations
    • obtain required identification numbers
    • fill out hazardous waste manifests
    • send the hazardous waste packages to authorized facilities
    • properly label the hazardous waste packages

FedEx Ground did not admit liability.

In addition to the penalty, the settlement’s injunctive provisions require FedEx Ground to comply with

Fifty percent of the penalties will be distributed into DTSC’s Orphan Site Fund and the remaining funds will be distributed between the Attorney General’s Office and the Sacramento and San Diego County Certified Unified Program Agencies, all of whom played a significant role in the development and prosecution of the case.

Amazon Fined $350,000 for Hazardous Materials Violations

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a $350,000 civil penalty against Amazon.com, Inc., of Seattle, Washington, for allegedly violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations.

The FAA alleged that on October 15, 2014, Amazon offered to United Parcel Service (UPS) a package containing a one-gallon container of “Amazing! LIQUID FIRE,” a corrosive drain cleaner for transportation by air from Louisville, Kentucky, to Boulder, Colorado.

While being transported, some of the Liquid Fire leaked through the fiberboard box. Nine UPS employees who came into contact with the box reported feeling a burning sensation and were treated with a chemical wash.

The FAA alleges the shipment was not properly packaged, was not accompanied by a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods and was not properly marked or labeled to indicate the hazardous nature of its contents. Furthermore, the FAA alleges Amazon failed to provide emergency response information with the package, and that Amazon employees who handled the package had not received required hazardous materials training.

Amazon has a history of violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations. From February 2013 to September 2015 alone, Amazon was found to have violated the Hazardous Materials Regulations 24 other times. The FAA is continuing to investigate Amazon’s compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations applicable to air transportation.

Amazon has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Rescission of Preconstruction Permits Issued Under the Clean Air Act

EPA is proposing to revise a limitation on the rescission of stationary source preconstruction permits that is contained in the federal New Source Review (NSR) regulations. This proposal would amend the EPA’s federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations to remove a date restriction from the current permit rescission provision. Other than removing the date restriction, the proposed rule is not intended to alter the circumstances under which an NSR permit may be rescinded. This proposal would also add a corresponding permit rescission provision in the federal regulations that apply to major sources in nonattainment areas of Indian country. This rule also proposes to correct an outdated cross-reference to another part of the regulations.

EPA Proposes to Remove Title V Emergency Affirmative Defense Provisions From State Operating Permit Programs and Federal Operating Permit Program

EPA is proposing to remove the affirmative defense provisions for emergencies found in the regulations for state and federal operating permit programs. These provisions establish an affirmative defense that sources can assert in civil enforcement cases when noncompliance with certain emission limitations in operating permits occurs because of qualifying “emergency” circumstances. These provisions, which have never been required elements of state operating permit programs, are being removed because they are inconsistent with the enforcement structure of the (CAA) and recent court decisions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The removal of these provisions is consistent with other recent EPA actions involving affirmative defenses and would harmonize the enforcement and implementation of emission limitations across different CAA programs. The EPA is also taking comment on various implementation consequences relating to the proposed removal of the emergency affirmative defense provisions.

EPA Denies Petition To Revise the RCRA Corrosivity Hazardous Characteristic

EPA extended the comment period on the tentative denial of a petition to revise the RCRA corrosivity hazardous waste characteristic regulation, published in the Federal Register on 11 April 2016. EPA tentatively denying the rulemaking petition because the materials submitted in support of the petition fail to demonstrate that the requested regulatory revisions are warranted, as further explained in the tentative denial. The comment period is being extended. Comments must be received on or before 7 December 2016. The point of contact is Gregory Helms, Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, (5304P), EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; 703-308-8855; or helms.greg@epa.gov.

EPA Air Pollution Control Cost Manual Updated

Two chapters of the EPA Air Pollution Control Cost Manual (Control Cost Manual) have been finalized and are available to the public. These chapters, titled “Chapter 1 – Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction” and “Chapter 2 – Selective Catalytic Reduction” are components of “Section 4 – Nitrogen Oxide Controls” and incorporate comments received on draft versions made available in a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) published on June 12, 2015. A response to comment (RTC) document summarizing comments and agency responses is available for each chapter. In addition, cost calculation information is provided electronically for each chapter enabling estimation of costs for installing and operating NOx control measures. The final chapters, RTC and cost calculation documents are available at https://www3.epa.gov/ttn/ecas/cost_manual.html.

Stamas Corporation Fined $90,000 for Stormwater Permit Violations

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) and the Stamas Corporation have agreed to a $90,000 settlement regarding alleged violations of the State Water Board’s construction stormwater permit at the Gold Country Village senior housing development in Nevada County.

The settlement resolves the allegations that the Stamas Corporation failed to install appropriate erosion control best management practices (BMPs), and failed to properly maintain perimeter sediment control BMPs during construction activities. The project involved the construction of an 80-unit senior apartment complex on a five-acre parcel above the South Fork of Wolf Creek in the city of Grass Valley.

“This settlement sends a strong message to developers and contractors that water quality protection at construction sites is a year-round requirement,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. “In this case, the only reason there wasn’t a major discharge of sediment to Wolf Creek is because the rain stopped.”

In spring 2014, inspectors from the Regional Water Board and the City of Grass Valley found the Stamas Corporation had cleared and graded a large portion of the parcel, but did not install erosion control BMPs prior to several rain events despite warnings that such controls were required. Water quality was threatened by runoff from the barren slopes. The City and the Regional Water Board each issued notices to Stamas Corporation for these violations.

In September 2014, City and Water Board inspectors found the site’s perimeter sediment control BMPs were worn and needed repair. The City issued Stamas Corporation a Notice to Comply to correct the deficiencies, and a week later issued a Stop Work Order to compel compliance. The Stop Work Order was lifted a few days later after improvements were made. However, City and Water Board inspections in October 2014 again found additional maintenance deficiencies with the BMPs.

Erosion control BMPs must be installed at all construction sites, such as Gold Country Village, to protect soil particles from detachment and transport by rainfall. These BMPs include measures such as mulch, straw, soil stabilizers, binders, fiber rolls or blankets and temporary vegetation. The permit also requires perimeter sediment control BMPs such as fiber rolls and silt fences to minimize sediment discharges from construction sites.

As a condition of the agreement, Stamas Corporation will pay $45,000 to the Rose Foundation for a Supplemental Environmental Project. The Rose Foundation will use the payment to help the Sierra Fund provide outreach to Grass Valley-area tribal and disadvantaged community members and others with information about state-issued fish consumption guidelines for local water bodies. Stamas Corporation will also pay $45,000 to the State Water Board’s Cleanup and Abatement Account.

Vacaville Fined $170,578 for Discharging Chlorinated Wastewater

California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) and the city of Vacaville have agreed to a $170,578 settlement regarding a 2015 spill of more than 200,000 gallons of highly chlorinated wastewater into a creek.

“This spill had the potential to seriously impact aquatic life in Alamo Creek,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. “Since the spill, the city has made improvements to the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant that should greatly reduce the chance of another incident like this happening again.”

For 46 minutes on October 9, 2015, the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant spilled 211,880 gallons of super-chlorinated wastewater. The discharge took place when the uninterrupted power supply receptacle faulted, causing the computer system to fail and the dechlorination facilities to stop working. In addition, the partially treated waste was not automatically diverted to the emergency storage pond, and instead flowed into Old Alamo Creek. The chlorinated effluent was 143 times over the one-hour chlorine limit, and 2.5 times over the four-day chlorine limit, which are found in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Regional Water Board.

Since the incident, the city has installed a transfer switch to ensure that a loss of power or a fault to the uninterrupted power supply receptacle will not result in a facility-wide power loss. An alarm has been installed to notify staff if there is a failure of the uninterrupted power supply receptacle, and the emergency diversion gate can now be closed through the plant’s computer system. The installation of these backup measures should help prevent future incidents.

As a condition of the agreement, Vacaville will pay $88,289 to the State Water Board’s Cleanup and Abatement Account. The remainder of the funds will be used in a Supplemental Environmental Project, in which Vacaville will install a concrete liner in its emergency storage basin at the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The emergency storage basin is used to hold wastewater whenever it is suspected that the wastewater has not been treated to the standards required by the NPDES permit. The concrete liner will protect the groundwater underlying the emergency storage basin, preventing any constituents in the diverted effluent from impacting groundwater. The total cost of the project is estimated to be over $1 million.

BP Fined for Michigan Air and Water Violations

The EPA announced that BP Products North America, Inc., has agreed to take steps to reduce an estimated 23,500 lb of pollution annually from its petroleum refinery in Whiting, Indiana, and pay more than $275,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, BP operates the nation’s sixth largest petroleum refinery, producing up to 430,000 barrels of oil a day.

“Ensuring BP’s compliance with the Clean Water Act is critical to protect Lake Michigan,” said acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan. “Identifying hazards and maintaining a safe facility will prevent accidental releases from occurring.”

In March 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA responded when BP discharged up to 39 barrels of oil into Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard previously assessed a penalty of $2,000 against BP for the spill.

Following the oil spill, EPA launched a thorough investigation of environmental compliance at BP’s Whiting refinery. EPA found that BP failed to implement its spill prevention, control, and countermeasure plan, and failed to provide appropriate containment to prevent a discharge of oil. BP has agreed to update its plan and pay a $151,899 civil penalty to resolve these alleged violations.

EPA also found that BP exceeded the limits of its wastewater discharge permit in April and November of 2011. BP has agreed to install new monitoring equipment, implement an inspection and cleaning schedule for a wastewater treatment device, and enhance stormwater controls and inspections to prevent unauthorized discharges. BP has also agreed to pay a $74,212 civil penalty to resolve these alleged violations.

BP also agreed to implement enhanced procedures when installing equipment at the refinery and pay a $50,313 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements.

The proposed Clean Water Act Consent Agreement and Final Order resolving civil penalties for alleged violations of the spill prevention, control and countermeasure regulations is subject to a 40-day public comment period.

EPA Honors Winners of the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

The EPA is recognizing landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn climate risk and other environmental problems into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

“From academia to business, we congratulate those who bring innovative solutions that will help solve some of the most critical environmental problems,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. “These innovations reduce the use of energy, hazardous chemicals and water, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments. They even turn pollution into useful products. Ultimately, these manufacturing processes and products are safer for people’s health and the environment. We will continue to work with the 2016 winners as their technologies are adopted in the marketplace.”

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners will be honored at a ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on June 13. The winners and their innovative technologies are:

  • Professor Paul Chirik of Princeton University is being recognized for discovering a new class of catalysts that are used to produce silicones, found in silicone rubber, tires, shampoos, furniture fibers, and paper coatings without using hard-to-obtain platinum. This could reduce the mining of ore which reduces costs, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste. This technology could cut energy usage by 85 billion BTUs/year, waste generation by 8.5 million kg/year and carbon generation by 21.7 million kg/year.
  • Verdezyne of Carlsbad, California, is being recognized for developing a yeast that produces a chemical used to make high performance nylon 6,12 for hairbrushes toothbrushes, adhesives, coatings, fragrances, and automotive and aviation oils. In addition to using a plant-based feedstock and having lower GHG emissions, this process is also safer because it does not use high temperatures or concentrated nitric acid. The product has qualified for the USDA Certified Biobased label.
  • Newlight Technologies of Costa Mesa, California, is being recognized for developing a plastic made from methane-based GHG. It is now used to make bags, cell phone cases, containers, furniture, and other products, and has been adopted by Dell, Hewlett Packard, KI, Sprint, Virgin, the Body Shop, and other companies. This plastic is net carbon negative. It is less expensive and has equal or greater performance than traditional petroleum-based plastic products. It is commercially successful, with contracts for almost 30 billion lb of product and a 50 million lb per year expansion plant that is already sold out.
  • CB&I, The Woodlands, Texas, and Albemarle are being recognized for developing and commercializing safer technology to produce alkylate, a clean gasoline component produced at about 30 billion gallons per year, 60% of which is produced in North America. CB&I, Albemarle, and Neste have replaced the traditional toxic and corrosive liquid acid catalysts with safer technology that has a lower environmental impact.
  • Dow AgroSciences, LLC, of Indianapolis, Indiana, is being recognized for developing and commercializing Instinct®, an additive that reduces fertilizer nitrate leaching ground and surface waters. It also reduces atmospheric nitrous oxide emissions. Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems. Reducing nutrient run-off from agricultural operations is a high priority for EPA. Retaining applied nitrogen longer in the plants’ root zones is optimal for crop utilization and yield, and for reducing run-off. In 2014 alone, the Dow AgroSciences technology added about 50 million bushels of additional corn—equating to about $205,500,000 additional production revenue for U.S. corn growers—and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by about 664,000 metric tons.

During the 21 years of the program, EPA has received more than 1600 nominations and presented awards for 109 technologies. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million lb of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion lb of carbon dioxide equivalent releases into the air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2016 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2016 winners. The 2016 awards event will be held in conjunction with the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.

Maryland Green Registry Leadership Awards Winners Honored

Five Maryland organizations received leadership awards Tuesday night at the World Trade Center in Baltimore during the seventh annual Maryland Green Registry awards celebration, held in partnership with the Registry and U.S. Green Building Council Maryland.

The awards were presented by Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles to C-Care, LLC in Linthicum Heights, College of Southern Maryland in La Plata, EA Engineering, Science and Technology, Inc., PBC in Hunt Valley, IKEA Distribution Services, Inc., in Perryville and Straughan Environmental, Inc., in Columbia. Winners were chosen based on their commitment to continuous environmental improvement within their facilities and the environmental results achieved to date. More information on each winner’s achievements are detailed on the Maryland Green Registry website.

In addition, the Registry announced that its 490 member organizations saved $104 million last year by implementing sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices at their facilities such as reducing energy usage, waste reduction and water conservation. As part of their online member profile, Maryland Green Registry members share at least one quantitative environmental measurement. The results are collected to demonstrate that even small efforts among a group of committed organizations can lead to impressive outcomes. The results also emphasize the importance of measurement to the successful management of environmental impacts at any type and size of organization.

“Maryland is open for business, and the Hogan Administration is eager to welcome and support green business leaders,” Grumbles said. “The organizations we are honoring are true leaders in showing the way toward an environmentally sustainable future and a thriving economy in Maryland. The two go hand in hand, shown by the $104 million in annual savings for Green Registry members.”

The following results were achieved by Registry members on an annual basis between 2015 and 2016: 537,000 lb of hazardous waste reduced; 12.1 million lb of nonhazardous waste reduced; 710 million lb of non-hazardous waste recycled; 9.629 million lb of material composted; 2.75 million gallons of wastewater reduced; 567,000 gallons of fuel saved; 10 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduced; 474 million kWh of electricity saved; 154 million gallons of water conserved; and 2.76 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) reduced.

The Maryland Green Registry was created to promote and recognize sustainable practices by organizations throughout the state. The free program offers tips and resources to help organizations set and meet their own goals on the path to sustainability.