EPA Proposes New Ozone Standard

June 25, 2007

 According to the agency, the proposal is based on the most recent scientific evidence about the health effects of ozone – the primary component of smog. The proposed standard is being made under a court-supervised settlement with the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

"Advances in science are leading to cleaner skies and healthier lives," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "America's science is progressing and our air quality is improving. By strengthening the ozone standard, EPA is keeping our clean air momentum moving into the future."

The proposal recommends an ozone standard within a range of 70 to 75 parts per billion (ppb). That is lower than the current eight-hour standard of 80 ppb but higher than the 60 to 70 ppb unanimously recommended by the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee last October.

EPA also is taking comments on alternative standards within a range from 60 ppb up to the level of the current eight-hour ozone standard.

Ozone can harm people's lungs and EPA is particularly concerned about individuals with asthma or other lung diseases, as well as those who spend a lot of time outside, such as children. Ozone exposure can aggravate asthma, resulting in increased medication use and emergency room visits, and it can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

The United States has made significant progress reducing ground-level ozone in the past quarter century. Since 1980, ozone levels have dropped 21 percent nationwide as EPA, states, and local governments have worked together to continue to improve the nation's air.

Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created through a reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound emissions in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are the major man-made sources of these ozone precursors.

EPA also is proposing to revise the "secondary" standard for ozone to improve protection for plants, trees, and crops during the growing season. The secondary standard is based on scientific evidence indicating that exposure to even low levels of ozone can damage vegetation. EPA is proposing two alternatives for this standard: a standard that would be identical to the "primary" standard to protect public health, and a cumulative standard aimed at protecting vegetation during the growing season.

EPA is estimating the health benefits of meeting a range of alternative ozone standards based on published scientific studies and the opinion of outside experts. These findings will be detailed in a regulatory impact analysis to be released in the next few weeks that will include both the estimated costs and benefits. EPA projects that health benefits of the proposed standard could be in the billions of dollars. However, EPA does not consider costs in setting ozone standards.

The agency will take public comment for 90 days following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings. The hearings will be held in Los Angeles and Philadelphia on Aug. 30, and in Chicago and Houston on Sept. 5.

EPA Recommendations on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

You contribute to the release of greenhouse gases as a result of activities such as using energy to drive, using electricity to light and heat homes, and through other everyday actions. The fact sheets can be used by state and local governments to educate their citizens about reducing greenhouse gases.

These fact sheets provide over 25 easy steps you can take to not only to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce air pollution, increase the nation’s energy independence, and save money.


 For example, consider using a power strip that can be turned off when you’re done using your computers, printers, wireless routers, and other electronics.

 Before buying a new or used vehicle (or even renting), look at the fuel economy and emissions of different vehicles.

Draper Energy Faces Fines for Oil and Waste Violations

A New Hampshire facility faces a maximum penalty of $157,500 for allegedly failing to adequately plan for and guard against oil spills as required by the Clean Water Act (CWA). The facility also faces a penalty of up to $32,500 per day of violation for allegedly failing to complete certain chemical reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Draper Energy Co., Inc. operates an office, garage, and oil storage facility in Wilton, N.H., as well as an oil storage and distribution facility in Milford, N.H., which have a combined oil storage capacity of about 280,000 gallons.

According to a complaint filed by EPA’s New England Office, Draper Energy failed to prepare and implement a “Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure” (SPCC) Plan for its Wilton location and failed to fully implement its SPCC plan for the Milford bulk plant, as required by the federal Oil Pollution Prevention regulations.

A joint inspection by representatives from EPA and the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services (NHDES) found that the company failed to construct sufficiently impervious secondary containment around its oil storage containers located in Wilton and failed to keep records of container inspections and staff training. The inspection also revealed that Draper Energy failed to fully implement its 2002 SPCC Plan for the Milford tank farm by failing to promptly correct visible oil discharges caused by leaking pumps and worn tank manhole seals and failing to secure unlocked pump starter controls. The company also failed to maintain records of formal facility inspections and staff training at this location.

Draper Energy stores gasoline at its Milford facility and is located within the well radius of the Town of Milford’s drinking water supply. This sensitive location means that spills at the bulk plant could lead to contamination of a public drinking water aquifer.

“Oil spills can do significant damage to the environment, including to neighboring drinking water wells and public drinking water supplies,” said Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA's New England office. “EPA will continue to ensure that facilities handling oils must follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills.”

Since EPA’s inspection and contacts with the company, Draper Energy has been taking steps to bring its facilities into compliance with the Oil Pollution Prevention regulations.

In addition to the CWA violations, Draper Energy violated EPCRA by failing to file emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms with the local and state emergency planning authorities. Any facility that stores greater than 10,000 gallons of gasoline or oil is required to properly notify state and local authorities about the storage of these produces so they can properly prepare for accidents or releases from a facility.

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RHS Lee Fined $10,000 over Hazardous Waste Violations

The EPA recently settled with RHS Lee, Inc. a specialty contracting firm with emphasis in grading, site preparation, excavation, demolition, and trucking for $10,000 for hazardous waste violations on its facility located in Pearl City, Oahu.

In May 2004, the EPA conducted a routine compliance inspection of the RHS Lee, Inc. facility and found the company failing to make a proper determination of its hazardous waste.

“Any operation that generates hazardous wastes needs to manage the waste properly to protect public health and the environment,” said Jeff Scott, director of Waste Programs for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region. “The company also needs to make the proper notification of its hazardous waste activities and also manage its used oil as required by the law.”

RHS Lee, Inc. also failed to respond to a release of used oil, store used oil in containers in good condition, properly mark the used oil storage containers, and store used oil in compliance with spill prevention regulations.

Inspectors also found batteries considered universal waste were not properly managed, stored, or labeled, and exceeded the accumulation time limit requirements for universal waste.

The waste found at the facility has since been disposed at an off island hazardous waste disposal facility.

The EPA’s hazardous waste rules require facilities to properly store, label and seal hazardous waste containers. Facilities also must have properly trained staff, as improperly stored hazardous waste can potentially spill and pose a risk to workers and the environment. Proper disposal of hazardous waste is required at a permitted disposal site with the proper permits and notifications made to the EPA.

The City of Moscow, ID Fined $134,000 for Wastewater Violations

The City of Moscow, Idaho, has reached a $134,000 settlement with the EPA for alleged Clean Water Act violations related to the city’s discharge of wastewater.

The city owns and operates a wastewater treatment facility that discharges treated wastewater into Paradise Creek. The wastewater treatment plant is part of a sanitary sewer system that receives domestic wastewater from residential and commercial sources. The facility serves a population of approximately 22,000.

The discharge from the city’s facility exceeded the fecal coliform bacteria, copper, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS), pH and total residual chlorine effluent limits on numerous occasions. The effluent limits are set fourth in the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Between March 2002 and June 2006, the facility had 871 effluent limit violations.

According to James Werntz, Idaho Operations Office director for EPA, cities like Moscow need to make sure that they are following the requirements set fourth by their NPDES discharge permit.

“EPA will continue to ensure that the water quality in Idaho is protected,” said Werntz. “We are encouraged by the commitment by the City of Moscow to upgrade their facility and prevent future discharge violations.”


What You Can Do About Ozone

Preliminary data from area air pollution monitors indicate that the Kansas City metropolitan area has recently violated the federal ozone standard.

The federal ozone standard is designed to protect people from health effects associated with long-term exposure to the pollutant. Ground-level ozone can irritate the eyes, nose, and lungs, causing inflammation, chest pains and difficulty breathing.

Ground-level ozone is a man-made pollutant formed in the presence of sunlight from a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are emitted from a variety of sources such as cars and trucks, industrial and power plants, and paint and solvent use.

Ozone monitors take readings from the air at several locations around the region between April 1 and Oct. 31 each year, which is the portion of the year when ozone is most likely to form.

EPA is working with state and local air quality partners to review and determine the accuracy of the monitoring data. EPA expects that, if a violation of the ozone standard is confirmed, Kansas and Missouri will immediately initiate actions to implement measures to reduce ozone concentrations in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

You can help reduce ground-level ozone by following these simple tips:

  • Use mass transit and carpools and bike or walk to work, school, or on errands.
  • Remember to take special care during ozone alert days if you have breathing problems.
  • Keep your car or truck properly maintained and see a repair technician if your "check engine" light is on.
  • Refuel after 7 p.m., and don't top off your gas tank. This reduces vapor loss (and saves money) during refueling.
  • Use an electric or push lawn mower. Avoid using gasoline-powered yard machines.
  • Avoid lighter fluid when barbecuing. Use a chimney or electric starter to light your coals.
  • Become more energy efficient. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs and turn the air conditioner up a few degrees.

EPA, State, Settle for $1.7 Million in San Gabriel Valley Clean Up Costs


The settling parties are: Azusa Pipe and Tube Bending Corp., Frederick Tressel, Ronald Tressel, the Trustees of the Tressel Family Trust, the General Services Administration, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Department of the Air Force, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates the EPA’s commitment to make potentially responsible parties pay their fair share," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA’s Superfund Division for the Pacific Southwest Region. “The EPA will continue to oversee cleanup work at this and the other San Gabriel Valley Superfund sites to protect and restore the San Gabriel Basin as a vital source of drinking water for Southern California.”

The parties involved in the settlement will pay $1,515,000 to the U.S. and $180,000 to the state of California for their efforts to direct and oversee clean up of the contamination. The settlement is in addition to eight settlements announced in October 2005, which resulted in repayment of $14.8 million in EPA and state past costs. The groundwater cleanup, one of the largest in the country, has been a cooperative effort involving the EPA, the state of California, and seven local water agencies.

Under a separate EPA order, more than $100 million has been spent at the site to clean up the area’s groundwater. Four large water treatment systems have been constructed, removing contaminants from 30 million gallons per day of contaminated groundwater in and near Baldwin Park, Calif. The four systems provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water to area residents and businesses, benefitting 85,000 households daily.

The Baldwin Park area and three adjoining areas of groundwater contamination were declared Superfund sites in 1984. The Baldwin Park area cleanup addresses an area of groundwater contamination more than eight miles long and 1,000 feet deep.

In the 1940s, companies started using hazardous chemicals that have now contaminated the area’s groundwater. Contaminants include trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), volatile organic compounds used for cleaning and degreasing, and perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel.

K-Tube Fined for $63,100 over Toxic Chemical Reporting Violations

The EPA recently settled for $63,100 with a Poway, Calif. company after it voluntarily disclosed its failure to submit toxic chemical reports, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

K-Tube, located at 13400 Kirkham Way, manufactures precision stainless steel, medical-use tubing.

"Facilities that use toxic chemicals must follow the EPA's reporting rules so that area residents and emergency response personnel are informed of possible chemical hazards in the local environment," said Frances Schultz, Communities and Ecosystems acting division director for EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "This is a good example of how the EPA and industry can work together. K-Tube voluntarily disclosed the violations and corrected them, bringing the company into compliance with federal law and making the information available for public use."

According to the EPA, K-Tube failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amounts of trichloroethylene and chromium compounds released at its facility in 2001-05, and nickel compounds released at its facility in 2002-2005. After discovering these 14 reporting violations in the summer of 2006, K-Tube disclosed them voluntarily to the EPA within 21 days of discovery and corrected them within 60 days of discovery.

Pursuant to the EPA's policy of encouraging voluntary disclosure, K-Tubes's $252,400 penalty was reduced to $63,100.

Federal community right-to-know laws require facilities processing more than 25,000 pounds of chromium or nickel compounds, or otherwise using more than 10,000 pounds of trichloroethylene, to report releases of these chemicals on an annual basis to EPA and the state. Although K-Tube exceeded these thresholds 14 times for the three toxic chemicals at issue in 2001-05, it failed to submit reports to EPA for any of those occasions.

Short term exposure to trichloroethylene may lead to skin rashes, headaches, lung irritation, and difficulty concentrating. Long term exposure to trichloroethylene may lead to nerve, kidney, and liver damage; long term exposure to high levels of chromium compounds may lead to lung cancer, and exposure to high levels of nickel compounds may lead to allergic reactions and kidney damage. Breathing in nickel dust or fumes can be a human carcinogen.

Each year EPA compiles the information submitted to it from the previous year regarding toxic chemical releases and produces a national Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database for public availability. This TRI database estimates the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management, and also provides a trend analysis of toxic chemical releases.

EPA Reaches $10,000 Settlement with Pacific Topsoils, Inc., for Wetlands Violations

Dave Forman and Pacific Topsoils, Inc., located just southeast of Mill Creek, Wash., and the EPA have reached a $10,000 settlement over violations of the Clean Water Act. In 2002, Forman and Pacific Topsoils, Inc. discharged fill material into 0.32 acres of wetlands on the east side of 35th Southeast, near Mill Creek, Wash., without a permit, according to EPA. 

Pacific Topsoils, Inc. removed the fill material and restored the site at the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2004. EPA previously had cited Forman and Pacific Topsoils, Inc., for a CWA violation in 1992.

According to Tom Eaton, EPA’s Washington operations director in Olympia, wetlands provide significant wildlife habitat as well as provide benefits to neighboring property owners. Anyone working in wetlands must obey the law or face potential fines.

“Protecting Washington's shrinking wetlands is a top priority for EPA," said Eaton. "Construction in a wetland should be avoided if at all possible; if any construction is proposed, it should only be undertaken with great care after securing the necessary permits.”

Ayer Tire Recycling Firm Penalized for Air Pollution Control Violations

J.P. Routhier & Sons, Inc. of Littleton, Mass., owner of a scrap tire recycling operation at 43 Willow Street in Ayer, has been assessed a $30,039 penalty by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for violating Air Pollution Control regulations.

During an inspection conducted by MassDEP personnel last November, it was determined that the company had installed and operated its internal combustion engines for power over a period of many years without first applying for and receiving comprehensive air quality plan approvals.

In a recently finalized consent order, the company agreed to comply with all applicable regulations, and pay $7,510 of the penalty. The company also has proposed to retrofit its tire shredding operation to utilize electric power distributed from the street in place of diesel engine-generated power, as a supplemental environmental project (SEP). MassDEP has suspended the remaining $22,529, pending completion of the SEP.

"MassDEP is very happy with the company's proposal to go from diesel-generated power to cleaner line power. It is estimated that up to 108 tons per year of nitrogen oxide emissions will be eliminated," said Lee Dillard Adams, deputy regional director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester.

MassDEP's SEP Policy allows for penalty monies to be suspended pending completion of projects that reduce pollution or protect environmental resources.

Ohio EPA Settles with Cleveland Company for Hazardous Waste Violations

Russell Products Co., Inc., has agreed to a $49,000 civil penalty with Ohio EPA to settle hazardous waste violations at its industrial coating operation located at 12128 Sprecher Avenue in Cleveland. The company has corrected the violations and now operates in compliance with Ohio's hazardous waste laws.

During facility inspections in 2006, an Ohio EPA inspector found Russell violated Ohio's hazardous waste laws by storing hazardous waste in quantities exceeding 6,000 kilograms (13,227 pounds) and for more than 180 days without a permit. Other violations included failing to evaluate waste to determine if it was hazardous; label, date, and close hazardous waste containers; conduct inspections of emergency equipment; and have spill control equipment available in the container accumulation area. Ohio EPA did not observe any releases of hazardous waste.

Russell's facility normally generates small quantities of hazardous waste including cleaning and coating line sludges and spent paint wastes. However, in November 2005, the facility generated six containers of hazardous waste, which made Russell an episodic large quantity generator. Between November 2005 and March 2006 – when Russell shipped the hazardous waste off-site – the company failed to comply with the large quantity hazardous waste requirements.

South Carolina Green Building Bill becomes Law

A bill that aims to make South Carolina more energy independent became law last week after the SC Senate overrode Governor Mark Sanford’s veto. The law requires state-funded buildings – either new construction larger than 10,000 square feet, or renovation projects involving at least 50 percent of a building – to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard for energy efficiency. It also requires new or renovated public K-12 schools to meet the LEED Silver standard. Sanford vetoed the bill June 14, saying that “green” construction should be encouraged but not forced.

Braskem Produces Green Polyethylene

Braskem announces that it has produced the first certified polyethylene in the world, based on ethanol from sugar cane, using competitive technology developed at the company's Technology and Innovation Center. The certification was made by Beta Analytic and confirms that the product contains 100% renewable raw material.

Braskem's green polymer – high-density polyethylene, one of the most widely used resins in flexible packaging – is the result of a research and development project in which $5 million has already been invested. Part of this investment was used to set up a pilot unit for the production of ethylene, on which polyethylene is based, from renewable raw materials at the Braskem Technology and Innovation Center. This unit is now producing enough quantities for the commercial development of the product. The target clients will shortly receive the green polyethylene and confirm that it meets quality standards needed to compete on the international market.


Waste Management Acquires LampTracker

Waste Management, Inc. announced last week that it has acquired the LampTracker(R) business, the nation’s first provider of mail-back recycling for fluorescent lighting, from shareholders of Mercury Waste Solutions, LLC. This business, which will be operated through Waste Management's WM LampTracker subsidiary, will provide collection and safe recycling of fluorescent bulbs using integrated on-line tracking capability and a unique shipping container design. WM LampTracker also offers this service for the recycling of batteries, electronics, and other wastes commonly referred to as universal wastes.

"As North America's largest recycler, Waste Management continues to be a leader in developing new and advanced recycling services and technologies in areas like this where we see shifting public sentiment driving growth," said Carl Rush, vice president of the Organic Growth Group of Waste Management. "Waste Management’s acquisition of the LampTracker(R) business exemplifies our ongoing commitment to recycling and environmental stewardship."

It is a total-care approach to storage, handling, transport, and recycling of fluorescent lamps. WM LampTracker offers the exclusive VaporLok foil bag that has been specially engineered and custom-manufactured to safely contain residual mercury vapors during the storage and transportation of fluorescent bulbs. In addition, the tracking system not only offers on-line convenience but also integrates with major shippers' tracking systems.

Products Released to Help Small Systems Meet Regulations Controlling Arsenic in Drinking Water

EPA has released eleven Arsenic Rule Compliance Success Stories, a series of case studies highlighting public water system experiences in meeting the revised drinking water standard. These community and non-residential water systems utilized innovative or lower cost approaches to meeting the revised 10 ppb maximum contaminant level for arsenic. The lessons learned from these utilities will assist the 1,700 public water systems still seeking a sustainable Arsenic Rule compliance solution.

Water systems need to be aware of the potential effects that treatment changes can have on their ability to provide safe drinking water. EPA also has developed a new fact sheet to helps owners and operators understand and respond to issues that may arise with arsenic and their distribution system when treatment is installed or modified.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant that may increase a person’s risk of getting cancer if consumed regularly over a long period of time. In 2001, EPA lowered the MCL for arsenic in drinking water from 50 to 10 ppb to further protect public health.


CaliforniaMoves Swiftly to Further Address Climate Change Emissions

The California Air Resources Board (ARB or Board) approved early action measures to address climate change emissions as set forth in the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). "Global warming is one of the most serious issues we face today," said ARB Chairman Dr. Robert F. Sawyer. "These early actions will realize prompt emission reductions while a more comprehensive plan is developed."

The early actions include three specific greenhouse gas control rules. These are to be adopted and enforced before January 1, 2010, along with 32 other climate-protecting measures the Board is developing between now and 2011. The report divides early actions into three categories:

  • Group 1 - GHG rules for immediate adoption and implementation
  • Group 2 - Several additional GHG measures under development
  • Group 3 - Air pollution controls with potential climate co-benefits

The three adopted regulations meet the narrow legal definition of "discrete early action GHG reduction measures:"

  • A low-carbon fuel standard – reducing carbon intensity in California fuels
  • Reduction of refrigerant losses from motor vehicle air conditioning system maintenance – restricting the sale of "do-it-yourself" automotive refrigerants
  • Increased methane capture from landfills – requiring broader use of state-of-the-art methane capture technologies


The approval does not restrict the Board from making additions to the early actions list should new climate change emission reduction methods present themselves at a later date.

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 established a statewide target for greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 and requires the ARB to adopt a plan and individual measures to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The act mandates that California's greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, an ambitious 25% percent cut in emissions compared to business as usual. The ARB must adopt a comprehensive blueprint for achieving that goal by the end of 2008 and complete the necessary rulemaking to implement that plan by the end of 2011. In the meantime, the act requires "discrete early action measures" to ensure steady progress in mitigating climate change. As narrowly defined in the law, the discrete early actions must be regulations adopted and enforceable no later than January 1, 2010. However, there are many other near-term actions identified by ARB and stakeholders that appear feasible or that are already underway that will contribute achieving to the state's ultimate GHG reduction goal.


Trivia Question of the Week

Computers left on at night in the US cause the release 14.4 million tons of carbon dioxide and cost US companies how much in wasted energy costs per year?

a. $500 million
b. $758 million
c. $1.7 billion
d. $19.9 billion