October 17, 2022
The EPA has updated and added new capabilities to EJScreen, the Agency's public environmental justice
(EJ) screening and mapping tool. EJScreen combines environmental and socioeconomic information to identify areas overburdened by pollution. EJScreen 2.1 includes the addition of new data on US territories, threshold maps which provides a cumulative outlook, and supplemental indexes providing additional socioeconomic information.
“EPA’s EJScreen supports the Agency’s work to deliver environmental justice and equips underserved and overburdened communities with the right tools to understand and meaningfully engage in human health and environmental protection,” said Marianne Engelman-Lado, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. “The addition of data covering US territories and our new threshold maps will greatly enhance the use of EJScreen not just at EPA, but across the country.”
In response to community feedback to expand the tool’s reach, EJScreen 2.1 now includes environmental, demographic, and index data for the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although EPA does not have the full set of data for territories that are available for the fifty states, the inclusion of all currently available data for these territories is an important step forward in pushing for complete inclusion of all U.S. communities in the tool.
EPA has also created a set of “supplemental indexes” as an additional method to highlight vulnerable populations that may be disproportionately impacted by pollution. The supplemental indexes use the same methodology and calculation as the EJ Indexes but incorporate a new five-factor supplemental demographic index. The five socioeconomic indicators considered are percent low-income, percent limited English-speaking, percent less than high school education, percent unemployed, and low life expectancy. While EPA will continue to primarily rely on the EJ indexes, which use an average of percent low income and percent people of color, the supplemental indexes can provide an additional perspective on potential community vulnerability and may be more relevant for use in certain situations such as awarding grants.
Additionally, EPA has included threshold maps with the release of EJScreen 2.1
. The threshold maps allow EJScreen users to look across all twelve indexes at once, providing a cumulative outlook on vulnerable populations facing higher pollution burdens. Threshold maps are available for both the EJ indexes and the supplemental indexes and are available for comparison at the national and state level, offering users the capability to take a broader view of the indexes to help highlight areas that may warrant additional consideration, analysis, or outreach. EJScreen 2.1 also features the newest available 2016 – 2020 American Community Survey
(ACS) data and new layers.
Together these enhancements will enable EJScreen users to better identify potentially susceptible populations facing higher pollution burdens and make the tool more transparent and predictable. To assist users with EJScreen 2.1, EPA will provide trainings and opportunities for engagement on the new data and changes to the tool.
EPA Registers First Air Sanitizer for Influenza and Coronavirus
The first antimicrobial product for use in air that can kill both bacteria and viruses has been registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The product, Lysol Air Sanitizer
, was tested against a surrogate virus “and is expected to be effective against similar airborne viruses such as SARS-CoV-2,” according to EPA. The agency stated in a press release
that the product poses no unreasonable risk to health or the environment when used as directed.
The active ingredient in Lysol Air Sanitizer is dipropylene glycol
, which is used in many consumer products, including antifreeze, air fresheners, cosmetics, solvents, and plastic, according to a report on the substance published by the National Toxicology Program in 2004 (PDF
). NTP’s report evaluated toxicological and carcinogenesis studies of dipropylene glycol that focused primarily on ingestion since the chemical is unlikely to be absorbed through the skin. NTP found no evidence of carcinogenic activity.
In 2020, EPA designated (PDF
) dipropylene glycol as a low-priority substance under the Toxic Substances Control Act as amended by the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. A low-priority designation indicates that the risks associated with use of the chemical are low and that an agency risk evaluation is not warranted.
FIFRA requires all pesticides distributed or sold in the United States to be registered by EPA. To attain registration, companies must show that using the product as intended will not cause any “unreasonable risk to [humans] or the environment,” according to the legislation.
The EPA press release states that “the use of antimicrobial products supplements but does not replace standard infection control practices” and counsels individuals to follow CDC and public health guidelines for mask wearing, distancing, and ventilation.
Leaking Hazardous Waste Container Leads to $37,000 Fine for Clean Earth Specialty Waste Solutions
Clean Earth Specialty Waste Solutions, a hazardous waste transportation
company, received a $37,000 penalty from Washington’s Department of Ecology for allowing a storage container to leak corrosive waste.
The leaking roll-off container on arrival at Clean Earth's facility in Tacoma.
On Aug. 12, 2021, a metal galvanizing company in Seattle contracted with Clean Earth to manage the business’ dangerous waste, transport it to Clean Earth’s Tacoma treatment, storage, and disposal facility, and dispose of it in accordance with state law. Upon discovering the leaking container, Clean Earth moved it to another location across the street.
The leaking container sat unattended overnight, spilling corrosive liquid akin to battery acid in an area accessible by the public, near a known encampment of people without permanent housing, and a short distance from the popular Burke-Gilman Trail. The following day, Clean Earth transported the container to its Tacoma facility through city streets and down Interstate-5, potentially spreading the liquid waste. It wasn’t until the waste reached its final destination at the company’s Tacoma facility that workers there spotted the leak and reported it to Ecology.
“Clean Earth knew the container was leaking when they moved it off the business’ property and left it overnight, and they didn’t take adequate action to stop the leak before transporting it on public roads,” said Katrina Lassiter, who manages Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “This is a clear violation that not only endangered the environment, but potentially anyone who happened to be traveling on those roads that day.”
Other companies depend on Clean Earth to safely manage their hazardous wastes
, Lassiter said, so it’s critical for the company’s staff to understand and fully comply with state and federal hazardous waste laws.
“Clean Earth disputes the facts as set forth by the State; however, we will clarify these facts and work cooperatively with the Agency to resolve any discrepancies. We maintain extremely high standards to comply with all applicable regulations in the proper management of industrial waste in protecting public health and the environment,” said Kris Iverson, Clean Earth Regional Operation Director-NW. “Clean Earth will work with the Agency for proper resolution of the enforcement action.”
California Hazardous Waste Facility Fined for Numerous Violations
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has entered into a settlement agreement with California Oil Transfer, LLC related to multiple, repeated violations of California’s hazardous waste laws
. The facility will pay $430,000 in penalties for the violations.
The Modesto facility, formerly known as Riverbank Oil Transfer, is a used oil transfer facility permitted to receive used oil, anti-freeze and oily wastewater. Activities include the transfer of hazardous waste used oil
into railcars for transportation to offsite hazardous waste treatment, storage, recycling or disposal facilities.
DTSC identified multiple, repeat violations at the facility, including the unauthorized acceptance, storage and comingling of hazardous waste
; failure to maintain proper records; and exceeding permitted hazardous waste storage volumes.
“These were serious and repeated violations and it is critical that we do everything in our power to protect the community and to hold the company accountable,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “The terms of this settlement can function as an educational tool to help the facility avoid similar violations going forward.”
A complaint was filed in 2021, stemming from DTSC inspections in 2016 and 2017 at the Stanislaus County facility located at 5300 Claus Road in Modesto.
DTSC inspections found that between 2014 and 2016 California Oil Transfer, LLC moved railcars filled with hazardous waste used oil to unauthorized areas without secondary containment at least 78 times.
These inspections also found that California Oil Transfer, LLC exceeded its authorized storage capacity limit of 50,000 gallons of hazardous waste
on 37 different occasions between 2014 and 2016 as a result of the facility’s unauthorized storage of hazardous waste.
View the final judgment here
Montana DEQ Releases PFAS Surface Water Monitoring Report
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently published a report on recent monitoring results for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in surface water. DEQ and the state of Montana recognize PFAS as emerging contaminants of concern, and a working group of state and local agencies completed the Montana PFAS Action Plan in June of 2020 to proactively identify and reduce or eliminate potential PFAS health risks. The “PFAS Surface Water Monitoring Project 2021 Monitoring Report” implements a portion of the Action Plan.
In 2021, DEQ implemented a limited PFAS monitoring effort to better understand whether the chemicals are present in Montana surface waters. The purpose of the monitoring was to measure the prevalence and magnitude of PFAS contamination in a small sample of locations to determine the potential scale of contamination across the state. The report provides an overview of monitoring results—including selected rivers, streams and lakes in Helena, Great Falls, Billings and Bozeman.
Results of the 2021 monitoring project indicate that PFAS are moderately prevalent in some of the areas where sampling was conducted and PFAS concentrations range in magnitude depending on site location. Multiple PFAS were detected in areas of the state near or downstream of confirmed and potential sources of the contaminants. The detected PFAS are associated with the use of fire-fighting foams, food packaging, surfactants used in industrial processes, stain resistant fabrics, metal manufacturing and other uses. The monitoring data indicates that PFAS may be entering surface water from sources such as wastewater treatment plants, industrial facilities, military installations, airports and urban runoff. DEQ’s preliminary monitoring suggests that further studies will be necessary to identify and address sources of PFAS contamination.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “most people in the United States have been exposed to some PFAS.” PFAS are a group of thousands of human-made chemicals that have been used in many consumer and household products since the 1940s. PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down and can stay in the environment, and in our bodies, for long periods of time. To view more PFAS information from EPA, visit: https://www.epa.gov/pfas
Research is ongoing, and only a few of the thousands of PFAS have been studied for their potential to affect people’s health. Current science suggests that exposure to certain PFAS may lead to health problems including changes in the liver, immunological effects, increased cholesterol levels, cardiovascular effects, reproductive effects in women, developmental effects in infants and children, and an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers. The EPA and other federal agencies continue to study the health effects of exposure to low levels of PFAS over long periods of time, and EPA is taking steps to address PFAS contamination across the country.
New York Facility Sued Over Harmful Emissions
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and Attorney General Letitia James recently filed a lawsuit against Norlite, LLC (Norlite) to force the company to stop polluting the air with contaminants from its Cohoes facility
(leaves DEC website). Norlite, a Tradebe subsidiary, has a history of environmental violations and has previously been subject to multiple enforcement actions and penalties from DEC, including orders to cease and desist further violations. Recent air quality monitoring conducted by the state found the facility is emitting contaminants at levels that increase the risk to the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community. In the complaint filed recently, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and DEC allege Norlite has failed to protect the health and safety of neighboring residents and mitigate air pollution-causing emissions.
"Norlite's operations repeatedly demonstrate a willful disregard for New York state law and the health of the Cohoes community," said DEC Commissioner Seggos. "DEC's comprehensive data collection and scientific evidence of Norlite's harmful off-site impacts, along with the facility's ongoing noncompliance with required actions to protect local residents and the environment resulted in this major legal action, and I commend Attorney General James and DEC's experts for working together to bring justice to this community."
"Pollution from the Norlite plant has put the health and welfare of those living in its shadow in danger," said Attorney General James. "Despite this unrelenting harm, Norlite has consistently refused to take the appropriate measures necessary to control emissions and protect neighboring families. With today's filing, Commissioner Seggos and I are taking action to protect the surrounding community by demanding an end to this flagrant noncompliance. Everyone should be able to open their windows and spend time outside without fear – we are committed to ending Norlite's dangerous pollution and restoring safe, clean air to the neighborhoods that have suffered."
Norlite is an aggregate manufacturing and hazardous waste
incineration facility located at 628 South Saratoga Street in the city of Cohoes, roughly 100 feet away from Saratoga Sites Apartments - a 70-unit public housing complex that as of May 2022 was home to approximately 150 residents. An estimated total of 660 people live within a half-mile of the facility; 32 percent are people of color.
Industrial operations at Norlite generate an estimated 56 tons of dust per year, which migrates into the surrounding community and pollutes the air, endangering residents' health. This "fugitive dust" has been found to contain microscopic particles and crystalline silica, which when inhaled at elevated concentration can increase the risk for lung, heart, and nervous system diseases in sensitive individuals. Exposure to crystalline silica presents a public health concern as it is linked to Silicosis and lung cancer in industrial settings.
DEC conducted an intensive monitoring program at the facility in 2021 and 2022, which determined that levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the air in the community surrounding Norlite exceed levels established to protect against harmful health impacts. The monitoring also confirmed Norlite to be the primary cause of the elevated levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the local community's air.
In addition to suffering harmful emissions, residents of Saratoga Sites Apartments have been forced to limit time outside, keep windows and doors closed, and invest in air conditioning units and fans due to the excessive "fugitive dust" from the facility.
The lawsuit includes numerous environmental violations issued by DEC for operations up to September 12, 2022. DEC's enforcement actions include multiple consent orders and penalties against Norlite dating back to 1990, and New York state will continue to closely monitor the facility, collect additional data, and hold the facility accountable for any and all violations that occur during this legal process.
Savannah Space Remediation Company Cited After Repair Technician Suffered Fatal Electrocution
A federal workplace safety investigation into how an employee suffered a fatal electrocution while digging a shallow drainage trench under a home has found that a Savannah crawl space remediation company might have prevented the incident by following required safety standards.
OSHA investigators determined the 32-year-old lead repair technician employed by East Coast Crawl LLC – operating as Crawlspace Medic of Savannah – came into contact with an electrical line on April 18, 2022, as they installed a drain to remove accumulating water.
OSHA cited the company for not making sure to deenergize electrical lines before allowing employees to work and dig within the danger zone, which exposed workers to electrical shock hazards. East Coast Crawl also failed to train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, did not provide personal protective equipment for working in a confined space, and failed to identify all permit-required confined spaces. OSHA has proposed $31,284 in penalties
"Working in confined spaces presents hazards that can be fatal if they go unrecognized and are not appropriately mitigated," explained OSHA Acting Area Director Jerred Stevens in Savannah, Georgia. "Employers have a legal responsibility to provide and ensure their employees have a safe workplace, but East Coast Crawl failed to follow federal safety requirements, and this worker’s family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve."
EPA Announces Federal Plan to Lower Sulfur Dioxide Levels, Improve Air Quality in Detroit
The EPA recently released a Federal Implementation Plan to improve air quality in the Detroit metro area by lowering emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2
). The expected result is cleaner, healthier air for children, the elderly, people with asthma and everyone in Wayne County. It also means less haze and acid rain which can harm sensitive ecosystems.
“EPA’s plan to cut sulfur dioxide levels is especially good news for vulnerable populations and overburdened communities in Detroit and Wayne County,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “The SO2 plan is an important step forward as EPA and Michigan accelerate our combined efforts to make sure the greater metro area is on track to meet newer federal air quality standards designed to better protect respiratory and heart health.”
Under the Clean Air Act, areas that do not meet current federal air quality standards must take action to cut emissions of pollutants. In recent years, EPA’s air quality modeling has shown potential SO2 problems near Zug Island where U.S. Steel and other industries are located. The new federal plan includes limits on U.S. Steel’s SO2 emissions.
Since 2013, when Wayne County failed to meet the 2010 air quality standard for SO2, EPA and Michigan have been working together to lower emissions from power plants, steel mills and other local industrial facilities. Requiring the Carmeuse Lime facility to lower its SO2 emissions and DTE Energy’s decision to shut down its River Rouge and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants contributed to emissions reductions in the area. These measures have improved Detroit's air quality, and air monitors in Detroit have shown levels of SO2 below the standard for six years. The federal plan is expected to further improve Detroit’s air quality and will ensure that SO2 concentrations in the entire area will permanently remain at levels protective of health.
“EGLE greatly appreciates its partnership with EPA. Even while this plan was being developed, the state has taken aggressive, positive steps to reduce SO2 emissions – and the data shows these efforts are paying off in cleaner, healthier air,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. “This plan gives us the regulatory tool we need to request the region be reclassified as meeting Clean Air Act standards for SO2.”
EPA and EGLE are also collaborating to address other air quality concerns in Southeast Michigan, including ground-level ozone and emissions from local facilities. EPA is committed to advancing environmental justice and delivering benefits to underserved communities.
EPA held a 45-day public comment period on its June 1 proposed plan. The agency held a virtual public hearing on June 16.
EPA Fines Asphalt Sales Company in Olathe, Kansas, for Alleged Clean Water Act Violations
The Asphalt Sales Company in Olathe, Kansas, will pay $82,798 in civil penalties and improve pollution controls to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
According to the EPA, the company failed to adequately control stormwater
runoff from its asphalt production and demolition landfill facility. EPA says these failures led to illegal discharges of pollutants into Cedar Creek.
“Uncontrolled runoff from manufacturers and landfills not only harms streams and rivers, but it also limits the public’s use and enjoyment of those waters,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “EPA’s enforcement actions demonstrate our commitment to protecting vital watersheds and creating a level playing field with businesses who are complying with the law.”
In the settlement documents, EPA alleges that the Asphalt Sales Company failed to comply with certain terms of its Clean Water Act permit, including failure to construct and/or maintain adequate stormwater controls; allowing stormwater to bypass existing stormwater controls; and failure to conduct and/or document required inspections of the facility.
In addition to paying the penalty, the company agreed to submit a plan to EPA outlining how it will return to compliance, including the installation and maintenance of effective stormwater controls at the facility.
Under the Clean Water Act, industrial facilities that propose to discharge into protected water bodies are required to obtain permits and to follow the requirements outlined in the permits to reduce pollution runoff. Failure to obtain a permit or to follow the requirements of a permit may violate federal law.
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