October 09, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that will provide EPA, its partners, and the public with the largest-ever dataset of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) manufactured and used in the United States. This rule builds on over two years of progress on the Biden-Harris Administration’s action plan to combat PFAS pollution, safeguarding public health and advancing environmental justice, and is a key action in EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.
PFAS are a category of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. PFAS have characteristics that make them useful in a variety of products, including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foam, as well as in certain manufacturing processes.
The reporting rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a statutory requirement under the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that requires all manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS and PFAS-containing articles in any year since 2011 to report information related to chemical identity, uses, volumes made and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure, and disposal to EPA.
“The data we’ll receive from this rule will be a game-changer in advancing our ability to understand and effectively protect people from PFAS,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “Today we take another important step under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to deliver on President Biden’s clear direction to finally address this legacy pollution endangering people across America.”
In order to effectively research, monitor, and regulate PFAS, EPA is taking action to better understand who is using PFAS, how they are being used, and in what quantities. This rule will produce actionable data that can be used by EPA, as well as state, local, and Tribal governments to craft policies and laws that protect people from dangerous “forever chemicals.”
Since EPA proposed this rule in June 2021, the agency has provided multiple opportunities for public comment and stakeholder input, including a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel in April 2022 and an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis released for public comment in November 2022.
The final rule expands on the definition of PFAS in the proposed rule to include 41 additional PFAS that were identified as being of concern. EPA has determined that at least 1,462 PFAS that are known to have been made or used in the U.S. since 2011 will be subject to the final rule, better capturing the important data the agency needs to protect human health and the environment from these chemicals.
The final rule also streamlines reporting requirements and reduces the burden for those who made or used small quantities of PFAS for research and development purposes and for those who imported PFAS contained in articles into the U.S.
Data is due to EPA within 18 months of the effective date of the final rule, with an additional six months for reports from small businesses that are solely reporting data on importing PFAS contained in articles.
Department of Labor Announces Initiative To Protect Workers from Silica Exposure
The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new initiative focused on enhancing enforcement and providing compliance assistance to protect workers in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries.
"Many workers in the engineering stone industry are experiencing illnesses so severe that they're unable to breathe - much less work a full shift - because of their exposure to silica dust," explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "Among them is a 27-year-old worker in California who went to an emergency room with shortness of breath in 2022 and whose lung biopsy later revealed he had silicosis. Since then, he has been on an oxygen tank and unable to support his wife and three young children financially."
Supplementing OSHA's current National Emphasis Program for Respirable Crystalline Silica, this initiative will focus enforcement efforts on industry employers to make sure they're following required safety standards and providing workers with the protections required to keep them healthy. It establishes procedures for prioritizing federal OSHA inspections to identify and ensure prompt abatement of hazards in covered industries where workers face exposure to high levels of silica dust.
OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identify silica dust exposure as a health hazard for workers involved in manufacturing, finishing and installing natural and manufactured stone, which includes the man-made, engineered artificial or cultured types.
When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles expose workers to the risk of silicosis, an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. Unsafe silica dust exposure can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease.
Industries subject to the prioritized programmed inspections include those engaged in Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing as well as Brick, Stone and Related Construction Material Merchant Wholesalers. Outreach efforts will continue to include additional industries that may work with engineered stone.
A July 2023 study released by the American Medical Association underscores the dangers for workers in these industries. The "Silicosis Among Immigrant Engineered Stone Countertop Fabrication Workers in California" study cited 52 male patients diagnosed with silicosis caused by occupational exposure to respirable silica dust from engineered stone. Of these patients, 20 suffered progressive massive fibrosis, 11 needed lung transplants and 10 died due to their exposures.
As part of the initiative, OSHA is sending affected employers and stakeholders information on the initiative, including fact sheets on dust control methods and safer work practices for engineered stone manufacturing, finishing and installation operations.
ECHA's Screening Finds REACH Registrations in Breach of Update Obligation
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) carried out two campaigns during 2021-2023 to remind companies of their obligation to keep their REACH registrations up to date. As a result, 57 registrations were reported to the national enforcement authorities for further action.
57 of the 689 screened registrations are still in breach of the update requirements under REACH Article 22 after the campaign. This concerns 50 companies in 11 Member States.
The first campaign focused on 148 registrations of substances of very high concern (SVHC) on the REACH Authorization List. Registrants or their downstream users can only use these substances if they have a valid authorization from the European Commission. Uses without an authorization need to be discontinued – unless they are exempted from the authorization requirement.
Registrants of these SVHCs were requested to verify if the uses reported in their registrations were up to date and reflected the current uses in their supply chains. As a result, four registrations were brought to the attention of the national enforcement authorities. 30 companies indicated that they had ceased all manufacture and import of the substance.
The second campaign focused on substances that have an EU-wide harmonized classification and labelling under the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP). The campaign targeted 541 registrations that did not comply with the harmonized classification. After the companies were contacted, 488 of these registrations were updated or the company indicated a cease of manufacture or import. 53 cases were sent to the national enforcement authorities. Industry associations helped raise awareness among their members during the final months of the campaign.
The two targeted campaigns were run to support the Commission’s Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1435, which entered into force in December 2020. This regulation clarifies the deadlines for registrants to update their registrations as per REACH Article 22. Companies must at own initiative update their registrations, for example, following an increase in tonnage band, changes in uses or the classification and labelling of the substance.
EPA Settles with Integrated DNA Technologies Over Air Emissions, Hazardous Waste Claims
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Integrated DNA Technologies Inc. for claims of violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act tied to emissions at the company’s San Diego, California facility. The company has agreed to pay a $15,890 civil penalty and has certified it is now in compliance with the requirements of federal law. Additionally, as part of the settlement, the company agreed to perform a supplemental environmental project valued at $61,388 to purchase equipment for the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s use in safely responding to emergencies involving airborne contaminants.
“Failure to prevent emissions tied to hazardous waste and leaky equipment can pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. It’s imperative that companies meet their obligations to properly manage hazardous waste,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “This settlement helps protect workers, emergency first responders, and the environment in the greater San Diego region.”
Integrated DNA Technologies Inc. develops and manufactures custom synthetic DNA that supports the life sciences industry and is a large quantity generator of hazardous waste. During a 2022 inspection, EPA determined that the company violated federal law by failing to comply with hazardous waste regulations related to air emissions standards for equipment leaks and tanks.
Hazardous waste that is improperly managed poses a serious threat to human health and the environment. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed in 1976, was established to set up a framework for the proper management of hazardous waste. The act requires effective monitoring and control of air emissions from hazardous waste storage tanks, pipes, valves, and other equipment.
EPA Penalizes American Seafoods Company Almost $1M for Clean Water Act Violations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency penalized American Seafoods Company LLC of Seattle and the owners of its fish-processing vessels nearly $1 million for significant violations of the Clean Water Act committed while harvesting and processing fish in the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon and Washington coast.
EPA cited the companies for hundreds of violations including discharging waste in the protected Heceta/Stonewall Banks complex along the Oregon coast, failure to monitor its discharges and missing or inaccurate information in required annual reports.
Discharge of seafood processing waste in prohibited areas and within the 100-meter depth contour of Washington and Oregon exacerbates already existing low-oxygen conditions which negatively impact most fishes, crabs and other marine life.
EPA evaluated the compliance of the Oregon and Washington seafood processing industry and found that American Seafoods Company and the owners of its vessels stood apart from the other Oregon and Washington offshore fish processors in the number and severity of violations. The vessels are the American Dynasty, American Triumph, Northern Eagle, Northern Jaeger and Ocean Rover.
In an Administrative Order on Consent effective Aug. 17, EPA requires the companies to conduct corporate-wide, systemic improvements to ensure compliance with its permits. In separate Consent Agreements, EPA also requires the companies pay $999,000 in penalties.
“In amassing hundreds of violations from illegal discharges to sloppy and even non-existent record-keeping American Seafoods Company demonstrated a clear disregard for the fragile and valuable resources that sustain its business,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle. “When issuing a permit, EPA confers to the permit holder the responsibility to protect our nation’s resources. We expect the company-wide, systematic overhaul of its operations will re-focus American Seafoods Company on the true value of its permit, the importance of tracking compliance with the permit, and the resources that permit entrusts it with protecting.”
Judicial Settlement with Transocean Deepwater Drilling, Inc. Resolves Clean Water Act Violations
The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a consent decree with Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc (Transocean) for alleged violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Gulf of Mexico - Outer Continental Shelf General Permit (general permit) and Sections 301 and 309 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The complaint alleges that Transocean did not obtain coverage under the relevant general permit before discharging, discharged pollutants in excess of effluent limits, and submitted inaccurate discharge monitoring reports, among other violations. Transocean will pay a civil penalty of $507,000.
“The Gulf of Mexico remains a critical natural resource for coastline communities and for marine life, safeguarding this resource has been one of the Biden Administration’s top priorities,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. In 2022, EPA invested $53 million towards the Gulf of Mexico to improve water quality, restore habitats, enhance community resilience, and increase environmental education in communities. By enforcing Clean Water Act standards and by funding restoration projects, we continue to protect one of our nation’s oldest resources and hold companies accountable for failing to compile with environmental laws.”
As part of the settlement, Transocean must comply with the CWA and its implementing regulations, as well as the general permit. To achieve compliance, Transocean must continue development and implementation procedures to track its vessels and mobile facilities engaged in oil and gas exploration and production activities in the Gulf, submit timely and accurate reports, and perform all required inspections and monitoring. In addition, Transocean is required to establish procedures for cooling water intakes that ensure fish and other aquatic species do not become trapped in filter screens.
Pursuant to the settlement, Transocean must hire a third-party auditor to review compliance plans and must demonstrate to EPA that it has completed all Third-Party Audit Corrective Actions. Transocean also must submit annual reports to EPA to demonstrate compliance with requirements set forth in the consent decree. The settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on September 6, 2023 and is subject to a 30 day public comment period before final court approval of the consent decree. The proposed consent decree and the public notice may be viewed online. The public comment period ends on October 12, 2023.
Once the consent decree has been approved and entered, Transocean will have 30 days to pay the civil penalty to the United States. For more information about EPA’s central and western Gulf of Mexico offshore program, visit EPA’s public website
Department of Labor Cites Irvington Contractor Who Exposed Roofing Workers to Fall Dangers
Federal workplace safety inspectors have cited an Irvington contractor who exposed employees to potentially deadly falls by allowing them to do roofing work atop a two-story home in Bergen County without required fall protection in March 2023.
U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors opened an investigation after observing employees of JM Brother Construction LLC working at heights up to 23 feet with no adequate fall protection system in place in Hasbrouck Heights. In addition to the fall hazards, OSHA determined the company exposed workers to struck-by hazards by allowing them to ride without seat belts in an area of the company's cargo vans not intended for passengers. The company also failed to protect employees from head impact injuries and allowed employees to use a ladder unsafely.
The agency cited the contractor for one willful and three serious violations and assessed $77,684 in proposed penalties.
"Our investigation found JM Brother Construction jeopardizing the safety of its workers by failing to provide required life-saving fall protection," said OSHA Area Director Lisa Levy in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. "Falls remain the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry, making it imperative that employers comply with federal safety laws before a worker suffers potentially debilitating injuries or worse."
JM Brother Construction LLC is a general residential construction company that provides siding, roofing, chimney, gutter and masonry services.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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