EPA Proposal Would Require Replacement of All Lead Pipes by 2034

December 11, 2023
A proposed rule published yesterday in the Federal Register would require nearly all water systems in the United States to replace lead service lines within 10 years. EPA, which proposed the rule, estimates there are approximately 9.2 million lead service lines in use across the nation. The rule would also lower the action level for lead in water from 15 µg/L to 10 µg/L.
The American Water Works Association issued a statement strongly supporting the EPA rule, although AWWA noted the cost of replacing a single lead service line is more than $10,000 and that the total cost of the rule could exceed $90 billion. To support the rule, $15 billion is appropriated for lead service line replacement by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
If finalized, the rule would put into motion on a grand scale the kind of work activities that cities like Newark, New Jersey, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have experienced from local programs targeting the removal of lead service lines. Newark launched its effort in 2019, three years after elevated levels of lead were found in the water at 30 city schools. According to CDM Smith, the firm that managed Newark’s replacement program, at one point work crews in the city were replacing as many as 100 lines per day. Even with progress slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, all 23,000 of Newark’s lead service lines were replaced within three years.
A NIOSH health hazard evaluation published in 2021 discusses lead exposures to workers charged with replacing lead service lines. NIOSH personnel observed two crews of four workers employed by a municipal water department. Workers typically attached a new copper line to the existing lead line and extracted it, pulling the new one into place. In some cases, removal required workers to blow a steel cable through the existing line with compressed air, resulting in discharges of large amounts of aerosolized lead. NIOSH found lead on employees’ hands, inside work gloves, in work trucks, and in workers’ locker rooms. Some workers wore their respirators incorrectly.
A separate NIOSH “workplace solutions” document published this year highlights ways to reduce workers’ lead exposure during water service line removal and replacement. A few tasks that can result in lead exposures to workers include cutting or handling lead pipes, excavating lead-contaminated soil, and changing filters on vacuums used to collect lead dust.
Comments on the proposed rule are due Feb. 5, 2024.
Heritage-Crystal Clean to Pay $1.1 Million for Violations of Hazardous Waste Regulations
EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Heritage-Crystal Clean, LLC (HCC) to resolve pending claims of the United States on behalf of the EPA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), and the State of Indiana for violations of requirements governing management of hazardous waste, as well as a violation of used oil management requirements, at current or former HCC facilities located in Indianapolis, Indiana; Shreveport, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania; and Denver, Colorado.  Under the settlement, HCC commits to pay civil penalties totaling $1,162,500 and to implement various measures to ensure that HCC facilities will not treat, store or dispose of parts-washing solvents that qualify as hazardous waste unless and until HCC receives a hazardous waste permit authorizing it to manage hazardous waste.  Plaintiffs estimate that the compliance measures required under the settlement will cost at least $1,628,502. 
“Companies that manage hazardous wastes for other companies are required to ensure that those wastes are handled properly, which Heritage Crystal Clean repeatedly failed to do,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to fair and robust enforcement of our hazardous waste laws to ensure that our communities and the environment are protected from mismanaged hazardous wastes.”
“While federal law encourages responsible recycling of hazardous waste, recyclers must still comply with legal requirements designed to ensure the health and safety of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “This settlement reflects our commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste recycling operations are conducted in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and its regulations.”
In January 2022, a 21-count complaint was filed against HCC in federal district court in the Northern District of Illinois under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and applicable state law. The complaint states that in the course of providing parts-washing services to customers throughout the United States, HCC accepted some used solvent that qualified as hazardous waste, but HCC did not transport and manage those solvents in accordance with applicable hazardous waste management requirements.  In particular, the complaint states that HCC (1) transported hazardous waste without required hazardous waste manifests, (2) stored hazardous waste at various HCC facilities without required permits, (3) failed to make required hazardous waste determinations after mixing used solvents from different parts-washing customers, (4) failed to comply with certain requirements for reducing air emissions from certain hazardous waste tanks and equipment, and (5) failed to maintain adequate secondary containment for certain hazardous waste tanks. The complaint alleges that some used solvents managed by HCC were hazardous waste because HCC needed to subject the material to systematic gravity separation to make the used material suitable for resale. Plaintiffs contend HCC evaded hazardous waste requirements by improperly claiming that the unusable solvents were products instead of wastes.
As part of the settlement, HCC must perform compliance measures at multiple HCC facilities to achieve and maintain compliance with RCRA. As one element of the compliance program, the proposed settlement requires HCC to implement measures to ensure one type of used solvent referred to by HCC as “106 solvent” is acceptable for re-use without prior reclamation and that it is legitimately reused.  The settlement will also prohibit gravity separation (removing water and solids while recovering the valuable solvent component) of used 106 solvent in order to meet re-use solvent customer product specifications or to otherwise render the material suitable for re-use.  Used solvents that are legitimately reused for their solvent properties without prior reclamation are not subject to regulation as hazardous waste. 
Another central element of the proposed settlement is a sampling program to determine whether another type of parts-washing solvent—referred to by HCC as “142 solvent”—exhibits hazardous waste characteristics.  HCC must promptly remove from its facilities any 142 solvent drums and consolidation containers that exhibit hazardous waste characteristics, and HCC must thereafter manage such characteristic wastes in accordance with applicable hazardous waste management requirements. 
The proposed settlement also requires HCC to apply for a RCRA permit at its Indianapolis facility.  Pending issuance of the permit and construction of certain hazardous waste management units, the settlement requires HCC to implement specified interim measures at the Indianapolis facility, including frequent inspections of tanks and containers, as well as elimination of open venting of tanks containing used 142 solvent.
Finally, the proposed settlement includes numerous other provisions, including provisions that require HCC to distribute educational materials to parts-washing customers in specified circumstances, and provisions for HCC to retain a third party to conduct audits at designated HCC facilities to ensure future compliance.
The five HCC facilities included in this settlement are recognized by EPA to be located within communities with potential environmental justice concerns. Nearby communities will benefit from the improved controls and new work practices that will be implemented at HCC facilities as required by the consent decree. These new controls and practices will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce risk of exposure to hazardous wastes managed at these facilities.
U.S. Department of Labor Urges Employers to Protect Workers from Hazards this Holiday Season
To make sure the holiday season is truly joyful, the U.S. Department of Labor reminds employers and workers not to overlook workplace safety and health.
For a sad reminder of how an on-the-job tragedy can leave families, friends and co-workers grief-stricken, look no further than Akron, Ohio, where a 25-year-old worker — hanging holiday lights on a backyard tree — suffered severe electrical shock injuries and later died after the fiberglass extension pole he used on Nov. 7, 2023, made contact with a high-voltage power line.
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers resources to help keep workers safe year-round and as they carry out an array of holiday-related jobs, from working with lighted decorations to serving customers in packed retail stores and from making rush deliveries to picking and packing orders in warehouses.
"The holiday season is a time for celebration and reflection for many, but they are also occasions when employees face safety hazards found atop ladders or roofs putting decorations in place, in busy warehouses and retail stores meeting heightened customer demands, and working outdoors as winter approaches," explained OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. "To make the holidays happy for all, employers must stress workplace safety and health and train employees to prevent serious and fatal injuries."
To assist employers and workers, OSHA offers a timely video, "9 Tips to Protect Workers During the Holidays" and other information focused on keeping workers safe during the holiday season in retail, warehousing, delivery and other seasonal jobs, including special restrictions for young workers.
OSHA's stop falls website offers safety information and video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about fall hazards and proper safety procedures.
Safety Failures Lead to Worker Fall
A federal investigation into how a 35-year-old worker suffered severe leg burns, degloving of their foot and other injuries after falling into corrosive chemicals in May 2023 has found that an Ohio meat processing plant's safety failures exposed employees to hazardous conditions.
OSHA determined the employee at Sugar Creek Packing Co. was changing bearings on a fan motor when they fell into a tree hangar machine used to sanitize and clean hanging meat racks at the company's Washington Court House plant.
OSHA found Sugar Creek lacked required energy control procedures, commonly known as lockout/tagout. The company also failed to make sure employees wore chemically resistant clothing and were trained to perform servicing and maintenance activities on the plant's tree wash, belly press and drench cabinet. Such procedures and training would have protected workers from contact with hazardous chemicals and machine parts.
The company has a history of workplace injuries and violating federal safety regulations dating back to 2014. OSHA cited Sugar Creek Packing in 2019 and 2022 for similar hazards found in the May 2023 inspection at its facilities in Washington Court House and in Fairfield.
"Despite multiple employee injuries and repeated OSHA citations, Sugar Creek Packing Co. continues to ignore federal regulations and industry-recognized safety requirements to protect employees from harm, including amputation and other hazards," explained OSHA Area Director Ken Montogomery in Cincinnati. "The company's recent workplace safety failures allowed an employee to suffer painful and preventable injuries. Sugar Creek must end its indifference toward worker safety immediately before another tragedy occurs."
The agency cited the company for two repeat and six serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. OSHA has assessed Sugar Creek with $277,904 in proposed penalties.
Specifically, OSHA inspectors found the Washington Court House plant failed to do the following:
  • Protect employees from falling into dangerous equipment.
  • Provide chemical-resistant personal protective equipment and eye protection and require its use.
  • Require that a hazard assessment be performed before repairing the machine.
  • Follow required lockout procedures and periodically review them for effectiveness.
  • Train employees on protective measures and avoiding chemical hazards.
  • Properly label chemical containers and provide an eye-drenching station.
Founded in 1966, Sugar Creek processes meat products for some of the largest and best-known food brands in the U.S. and abroad. The company employs more than 2,000 people at six manufacturing facilities in Blue Ash, Dayton, Fairfield and Hamilton, Ohio; Cambridge City, Indiana; and Frontenac, Kansas.
EPA Reaches Settlement with R.J. Torching for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations
The EPA reached a settlement with scrap metal recycler R.J. Torching, for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the agreement, known as a consent decree, R.J. Torching will install a pollution capture and control system at its facility on G-5167 North Dort Highway in Flint, Michigan. This system is expected to significantly reduce visible emissions of inhalable metallic particulate matter from the facility and will better protect human health and the environment. The company will also pay $150,000 in civil penalties.
R.J. Torching is a scrap metal recycler that uses high powered torches to cut large metal objects such as automotive manufacturing machines. EPA alleges that the company violated visible emissions limitations, illegally conducted open burning, and failed to properly operate air pollution control devices. EPA also alleges that the company violated a 2015 administrative settlement to use a specified air pollution cleansing device when needed, to comply with applicable Michigan visible emission requirements.
R.J. Torching’s torch-cutting operations can generate significant amounts of pollution, which can lead to a variety of health problems. EPA has also worked with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to issue violation notices addressing the company’s excess torch-cutting emissions at its facilities in Flint and Battle Creek, Michigan.
In 2019, R.J. Torching installed a movable enclosure to better contain torch-cutting emissions at the Flint facility. The current settlement will require R.J. Torching to use the enclosure to house the company’s torch-cutting operations and construct a new pollution control system to capture the emissions and remove particulate matter from the air through a fabric filter system. It will also require air pollution testing, and improved monitoring and compliance with a more stringent air emission standard to mitigate past harm to the environment.
The facility is located in an area with environmental justice concerns, according to data from EPA’s EJSCREEN tool. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental laws, regulations, and policies. 
The settlement is subject to a public comment period and final court approval.
Massachusetts Concrete Contractor Cited for Safety Violations After Employee Fatality
A federal investigation has found that an East Freetown concrete contractor could have prevented an employee maintaining a soil screener from suffering fatal injuries on Sept. 6, 2023, by following required safety regulations.
An investigation by OSHA found John Oliveira & Sons Stamp Concrete, Inc. instructed the employee to remove a soil screen on a conveyor, after which the employee was crushed between the conveyor and its frame because the company failed to ensure the conveyor's power source was disabled to prevent its unintended startup as the employee performed maintenance.
"John Oliveira & Sons Stamp Concrete Inc.'s failure to employ well-known safeguards needlessly cost a worker's life," said OSHA Area Director James Mulligan in Braintree, Massachusetts. "Employers must develop and rigorously maintain equipment and each element of their energy control plans to identify and minimize hazards and protect workers' safety and health."
OSHA investigators found that the company did not do the following:
  • Have an energy control program to isolate the conveyor's power source and prevent an unintended startup.
  • Provide locks, tags or other hardware to isolate, secure or block machines and equipment from their energy sources to prevent sudden starts or moves.
  • Adequately maintain the soil screener, which had numerous defects and missing parts.
  • Forbid employees from riding in a front-end loader's bucket, exposing them to crush and fall hazards.
  • Record each work-related fatality, injury or illness case on the OSHA Form 300 or equivalent.
OSHA cited the company for six violations, including three willful and two serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. The agency assessed $200,905 in proposed penalties.
News Links  
Trivia Question of the Week