EPA Proposes to Revise Definition of ‘Article’ for TRI Reporting Exemption

November 18, 2008

Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting is required by Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and Section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA). In a proposed new rule, EPA plans to clarify the scope of the exemption from TRI reporting requirements for items that qualify as articles (.

EPA believes that language contained in the regulation and the subsequent guidance should clarify what items qualify as articles and are therefore exempt from TRI threshold determinations and TRI release and other waste management calculations and reporting. In this rulemaking, EPA proposes to clarify that an item may not be considered an article after it has been manufactured if the manufactured item, and all like items considered together, continues to release more than 0.5 pounds of a toxic chemical over the course of the calendar year.

More Time to Comment on Regulation of Perchlorate in Drinking Water

In response to requests, EPA is providing more time for public comment on its preliminary regulatory determination not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water at a national level. The agency is now asking that comments be received by November 28 

A regulatory determination is a formal decision by EPA as to whether it should initiate development of a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA will make a final determination for perchlorate after considering information provided in the public comment period.

 EPA included perchlorate on the first and second CCLs that were published in 1998 and 2005, respectively. On Oct. 10, 2008 , EPA presented supporting rationale and requested public comment on its preliminary determination not to regulate perchlorate. EPA will make a final regulatory determination for perchlorate after considering comments and information provided in the comment period following this notice. The original comment deadline was Nov. 10, 2008. Several stakeholders have requested a reopening to the comment period in order to evaluate EPA’s findings, review the scientific literature, and prepare comments. This action reopens the comment period for 15 days.

Environmental Manual for Biodiesel Facilities

According to the National Biodiesel Board, as of September 2008, there were 176 biodiesel plants in operation nationwide with an annual production capacity of 2.61 billion gallons per year.

“We are taking steps to provide useful tools to help biodiesel facilities comply with environmental regulations,” Region 7 Administrator John B. Askew said. “The manual serves as a road map of federal environmental information. EPA is addressing our nation’s growing energy demand in a way that supports our goals for a clean environment, supports farmers and rural America, and supports greater energy security.”

The Midwestern states are active on America’s renewable fuels frontier. Through the long-term efforts of the agricultural and biodiesel community, rural residents are seeing growth in the construction of biodiesel plants and the supporting infrastructure.

The manual provides practical examples to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. A contact directory of key federal and state officials is included in the manual. EPA Region 7 staff members are available to answer questions about the applicability of environmental requirements to renewable fuel facilities.

An EPA Region 7 biofuels team of engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists developed the manual after seeking input from a variety of stakeholders. EPA’s goal is to work with the biodiesel industry to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.

TCEQ Now Accepting Comments Online for Permitting Actions

“Internet technology has allowed us to reevaluate the way we conduct business at the agency,” Chairman Buddy Garcia said. “Providing an option for electronic comments reduces waste, while providing efficient service.”

The electronic comment option, previously only offered for rulemaking, is now available for hearing requests, requests for reconsideration, requests for public meetings and withdrawals of these requests, for any pending air, waste, water, and wastewater permit application.

“Public participation is vital in every aspect of the permitting process,” Commissioner Larry R. Soward said. “Making it easier for everyone to take part, by offering an online comment option, encourages feedback and allows for almost-instantaneous input in that process.”

Up to 10,000 characters (approximately 2 ½ pages) may be submitted through the eComments system. An attached pdf or MS Word file, up to 5MB, may also be submitted. Each submittal will receive an automatic e-mail, from the TCEQ, verifying receipt. Written public comments will continue to be accepted by mail, hand-delivery, courier, or fax.

Businesses with 10,000 Desktop Workstations Estimated to Waste $1.26 Million in Energy Costs Annually

A recent survey of hundreds of professionals reveals that work station drainage poses a prevalent power consumption dilemma. Through the daily use of workstations consuming power for hours on end, desktops devour millions of dollars worth of energy. In addition, survey respondents report that 69% of them use more than one workstation and 24% stated that they keep their stations powered on 100% of the time. As a result, businesses supporting 10,000 workstations waste more than $1.26 million in energy costs each year.

According to the survey, desktops are kept on during 43% of total non-work hours, including evenings and weekends, meaning desktops are operating yet unused for more than 55 hours a week. This equates to an unnecessary, additional annual electricity cost of more than $73 per desktop, which already consumes nearly $150 each year.

To maximize energy savings, the EPA recommends setting computers to enter system standby after 30 to 60 minutes and monitors to enter sleep mode after 5 to 20 minutes. In addition, reducing the number of workstations for each employee would not only decrease power costs, but hardware costs, application costs, and maintenance costs as well. Converting to laptop use also could be beneficial, as the average annual cost for laptop power consumption is only around $23, which is 16% of the energy cost of a desktop. Deploying docking stations for laptops would eliminate redundant desktops.

Can You Reduce Your Holiday Waste?

According to the EPA, Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than during any other time of year. 

Try these simple ways to create less waste while enjoying the holidays:

  • Decorate a tree that can be reused next year, or, after the holidays, take your tree to a community recycling site.
  • Set your holiday table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware.
  • Make your own holiday decorations using pine cones, dried plants, popcorn, cranberries, paper, and other household items.
  • Package your gifts in baskets, tins, bags, or containers that can be reused, instead of using boxes or bags that often end up in the trash.
  • Save leftovers in recyclable containers and share them with family and friends.

Missouri Voters Approve a Renewable Energy Requirement

Missouri voters have approved a measure that will require the state's investor-owned utilities to draw on renewable energy for 15% of their electricity supply by 2021. The Missouri Clean Energy Initiative, or Proposition C, passed easily, garnering approval from 66% of the state's voters and passing in every county but one. The statutory ballot measure defines renewable energy as wind power, solar thermal power, solar photovoltaic power, small hydropower, a variety of biomass energy sources, and fuel cells powered by hydrogen from renewable energy sources, but it also allows the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to designate new renewable energy sources. The measure requires at least 2% of the requirement to be met with solar energy, and it requires the utilities to offer their retail customers rebates of $2 per watt for customer-owned solar power systems, up to a limit of $50,000.

The ballot measure also allows utilities to buy their renewable power from out of state and to meet up to 100% of the requirement through the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs), which can be bought from renewable energy facilities throughout the country. However, utilities cannot meet the requirements through the voluntary purchase of renewable energy by their customers, an approach known as "green pricing." Utilities that fall short of the requirement have to pay twice the going rate of the RECs needed for compliance; the state will then use that money to buy RECs and to support renewable energy and energy-efficiency requirements. And to limit the impact of the measure on consumers, the cost impact of complying with the renewable energy requirement is capped at a 1% cost increase. The renewable requirement starts at 2% of sales in 2011 and gradually ratchets up to the 15% requirement by 2021. According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), 28 states and the District of Columbia now have a mandatory requirement for renewable energy use.

Simple Test Identifies Toxic Platinum and Palladium Without Time-Consuming Sample Pretreatment

The painstaking process of detecting toxic species of platinum and palladium mixed in with the form of platinum essential to certain pharmaceuticals could be reduced to one simple step, according to a report by University of Pittsburgh researchers posted in the November 14 online edition of the “Journal of the American Chemical Society” (JACS).

A fluorogenic solution developed in the laboratory of Kazunori Koide (Ko-ee-deh), a chemistry professor in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, glows bright green when it comes in contact with the poisonous forms of palladium and platinum known as Pd(II) and Pt(IV), respectively. These two elements are typically broken down into the platinum species Pt(0), which is used in medications to suppress various reactive oxygen species responsible for inflammation and other maladies. But residual amounts of Pd(II) and, particularly, the more toxic Pt(IV) can remain and pose a health risk.

To root out Pd(II) and Pt(IV) requires the removal of other metals and impurities before testing. Koide's method provides a fast, easy, and inexpensive alternative, he said. Moreover, current analysis cannot detect Pt(IV) in Pt(0) samples at levels below 2,000 parts per million, Koide said. His technique can indicate Pt(IV) content as low as 2 parts per million.

“Our method does not require any pretreatment,” Koide said. “Just add the solution to the sample. Our technique detects even minute traces of toxic palladium and platinum in hours instead of days. It could reduce pharmaceutical development time by weeks and help in making a safer product.”

Koide began this project after a major pharmaceutical company contacted him about research he published in “JACS” in 2007 regarding a fluorogenic indicator for detecting palladium/platinum deposits in soil samples. It relied on a colorless fluorescein-based solution that—when exposed to blue light—glows green when it comes in contact with palladium, which coexists with platinum in nature. The Pd(II)/Pt(IV) detector involves the same fluorogenic solution used in a different way.


CWM Chemical Services Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Abby Snyder announced the conclusion of an enforcement action against CWM Chemical Services, LLC—a commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF) operating in Porter, Niagara County. Under the terms of the "consent order" signed by the state and the company, CWM must pay a $175,000 penalty to settle dozens of violations that have occurred over the last several years.

"New York State has stringent oversight requirements in place at CWM," Snyder said. "DEC will continue to hold CWM accountable and closely monitor this facility to help ensure compliance with the state's permit and hazardous waste laws, as well as the corrective actions required as part of this agreement in order to protect the environment and public health."

CWM self-reported many of the permit or hazardous waste violations to DEC, as required under the terms of their operating permit as a hazardous waste facility. In addition, DEC routinely inspects and monitors the facility to ensure that operations are consistent with permit conditions and had found a few of the violations based on these inspections. DEC also requires on-site, independent environmental monitors to scrutinize CWM's compliance and ensure that any violations are corrected as identified. Violations cited at the facility included:

  • A foaming incident associated with the facility's annual discharge of treated wastewater to the Niagara River in October 2007 that was in violation of the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES). Earlier this year, CWM completed modifications to the discharge pipeline, which prevented a recurrence of foaming during this year's batch discharge.
  • Improperly labeled drums
  • Leaking drums within facility buildings
  • Deteriorating condition of drums within facility buildings
  • Disposal of non-hazardous waste without DEC approval
  • Leachate level exceedances
  • Failure to recycle mercury lamps
  • Failure to submit timely paperwork to DEC
  • Stormwater management violations
  • Process tank overflows
  • Waste ignitions in the stabilization tank
  • Failure to comply with waste transporter conditions
  • Other instances of improper storage documented by DEC


CWM has taken the necessary corrective actions and revised procedures to address the violations.

The consent order was signed and became effective Nov. 12, 2008. A consent order is an enforcement action that consists of a legal document signed by DEC and the respondent (in this case, CWM). The order typically includes a civil penalty and, if necessary, a remedial schedule to complete activities defined by the order.

Pennsylvania Business Owner Receives Prison Sentence in Hazardous Waste Case

On November 12, EPA announced that Moshe Rubashkin, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for illegally storing hazardous waste at a textile factory in Allentown, Pa. Rubashkin pleaded guilty to the charge last February. His son, Sholom Rubashkin, 29, also of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty on Jan. 7, 2008, to one count of making a materially false statement to the EPA and is awaiting sentencing.

The convictions stem from the defendants’ ownership and operation of Montex Textiles, a textile dyeing, bleaching, and weaving business formerly located in Allentown. When the business ceased operations in 2001, numerous containers of hazardous waste were stored at the site without the necessary environmental permits. After local authorities responded to two fires at the site, EPA and the City of Allentown initiated a major cleanup of the property in October 2005 including disposal of numerous containers of hazardous waste and hazardous substances.

“Hazardous wastes must be stored and managed properly to ensure the safety of the community and the environment,” said David Dillon, special agent in charge for EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Philadelphia. “Today’s sentence shows that individuals who fail to dispose of wastes safely and legally will be prosecuted.”

In addition to the prison term, Rubashkin was ordered to jointly pay restitution with his son, Sholom, in the amount of $450,000. Sholom Rubashkin’s sentencing has been continued until Dec. 29, 2008. U.S. District Court Judge James Knoll Gardner also ordered Moshe Rubashkin to pay a $7,500 fine. This case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and Office of Inspector General.

Maryland Reports Highest-Ever Number of Enforcement Actions and Penalties for Fiscal Year 2008

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) released its 12th annual Enforcement and Compliance Report, which found that between July 2007 and June 2008 MDE had a total of 2,699 enforcement actions, the highest number since reporting began in 1998. Also in Fiscal Year 2008, MDE collected a total of $3.9 million from environmental polluters, the most ever collected in a single year by the agency.

“Enforcing Maryland's environmental laws—and publicizing them widely—is a highly effective deterrent for would-be violators,” MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson said. “Under the O'Malley-Brown Administration, a top priority for the Department of the Environment has been restoring our agency’s emphasis on enforcement, so I am pleased that today we can report MDE’s enforcement actions, inspections, and penalties are much stronger. This benefits everyone—citizens and regulated entities who comply with environmental regulations.”

Governor Martin O’Malley added funds to MDE’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget to hire additional regulatory personnel related to wetlands and air enforcement.

Highlights of the report include that, in Fiscal Year 2008:

  • Enforcement actions increased 34% over FY 2007 and the number of compliance assistance actions increased by 12.6%
  • Significant violations decreased from 6,409 to 4,814
  • Penalties collected from environmental violators totaled $3,968,775, including a $1 million settlement with Constellation Energy for fly ash contamination


“Maintaining a steady and consistent baseline of enforcement is critical to ensure compliance with state law, regulations, and permits that protect public health and the environment,” Secretary Wilson said. “We are proud of all of MDE’s inspectors and the incredibly important work they do. In these tough fiscal times, resources may be tight, but that only increases the incentive to be more efficient and strategic in enforcing the state's environmental laws.”

In February 2007, MDE began an initiative to prioritize resources to enhance enforcement. This included a review of ongoing enforcement actions to determine timeliness, development of a department-wide internal operating procedure, and the use of the “MDEStat” management process. To maximize the deterrence value of every enforcement action, each month the agency releases a full list of environmental enforcement actions to the media and on MDE’s website.

MDE’s annual Enforcement and Compliance Report includes data from MDE’s enforcement and compliance programs in the Air and Radiation Management, Waste Management, and Water Management Administrations, as well as the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Office of the Attorney General. Environment Article §1–301(d) enacted in 1997 requires the MDE to report annual performance results for 15 regulatory programs and the penalty dollars collected and deposited into several funds. In addition to the required information, this report also includes information on MDE’s enforcement programs and additional data about the activities and facilities subject to regulation under the Environment Article. 

In addition to increasing enforcement actions under the O’Malley-Brown Administration, MDE has worked to protect Maryland citizens and the environment by enacting new regulations to reduce pollution from vehicle emissions, agriculture, stormwater runoff, as well as continuing to reduce pollution from wastewater treatment plants and septic systems. The agency has also worked to provide a road map to reduce greenhouse gases through the Maryland Climate Change Commission’s Climate Action Plan released in August 2008.

Companies Will Pay $325,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations at Virginia Facility

EPA has settled hazardous waste violations at a Manassas, Va., facility with BAE Systems IESL, Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corporation. Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Nashua, N.H., leases space at its Manassas, Va., location, to BAE.

EPA cited the companies for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal law governing the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA is designed to protect public health and the environment, as well as to avoid costly cleanups by requiring the safe, environmentally sound storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

Following a May 2006 compliance evaluation inspection at the facility, the following violations were identified:

  • Operation of a hazardous waste storage facility without a permit
  • Failure to comply with facility contingency plan requirements
  • Failure to comply with new tank system design and installation requirements
  • Failure to comply with tank system inspection requirements
  • Failure to comply with air emission standards equipment marking requirements
  • Failure to comply with air emission standard equipment monitoring, test method, recordkeeping, and emission requirements

Both companies cooperated with EPA during the investigation and have certified that they are now in compliance with all relevant RCRA provisions. The settlement requires the companies to pay a civil penalty of $325,000. As part of the settlement, the companies have neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.

Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. Fined $120,000 for Selling Banned Propellant

The nation’s largest $1 discount variety store chain will pay a $120,000 civil penalty for distributing and selling an estimated 1.8 million aerosol cans of novelty string confetti that contained an ozone-depleting propellant, under terms of a legal settlement EPA has announced.

Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., headquartered in Chesapeake, Va., and that operates more than 3,200 retail stores in 48 states, has agreed to pay the civil penalty to resolve allegations that the company violated provisions of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

According to a consent agreement and final order filed, Dollar Tree Stores purchased for re-sale approximately 3.7 million cans of a product known as Zany String between September 2004 and May 2005. About 1.8 million cans of Zany String were sold from the company’s stores, and another 1.6 million cans were later recovered and disposed of properly by the company, the legal agreement says.

Analysis of the contents of Zany String showed that the cans used a propellant known as R-22 Freon, a Class II Ozone Depleting Substance that is currently banned for certain uses, including aerosol products, under CAA provisions . R-22 is a type of hydrofluorocarbon, or HCFC, that is broken down by ultraviolet solar radiation, which leads to depletion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

Tire Retreading Company Fined $97,000 Under CERCLA

This is a cost recovery action brought pursuant to CERCLA with the United States seeking recovery of unreimbursed past response costs and prejudgment interest incurred by the U.S. EPA for a removal action at the Carl’s Tire Retreading Site near Grawn, Mich. Under the three proposed consent decrees, three defendants will pay a total of $97,000 to the Hazardous Substance Superfund.

The Department of Justice will accept comments relating to the three proposed consent decrees through Dec. 12, 2008.

Mall Fined for PCB Violations in Elevator Shafts

The Rhode Island Mall, in Warwick, R.I., has paid $36,100 for violating federal regulations covering the storage and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls ().

An EPA complaint alleged that the mall engaged in unauthorized use and discharge of PCBs in several freight elevators, a violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). PCB contamination was identified in the pits underneath the four freight elevators at the mall, and PCB oil was found at levels exceeding 50 parts per million in the hydraulic fluids at each elevator location.

Under the settlement, Rhode Island Mall will also remediate the PCB contamination in the elevator bays and will come into compliance with federal PCB regulations. Highly toxic PCBs were commonly used in hydraulics (such as elevators) before use of PCBs was banned in the United States in 1978. Owners of buildings with elevators need to ensure that their elevator oil does not contain PCBs.

PCBs are persistent in the environment and are suspected carcinogens. In addition, exposure to PCBs can cause liver problems and skin rashes.

Property Manager Fined for Lead-Based Paint Hazards

EPA has settled violations of a federal law requiring disclosure of information on lead-based paint hazards with property owner, Kurt A. Blake, and rental agent, Quality Property Management Inc., of York, Pa.

This law requires sellers and landlords of residential housing built before 1978 to disclose to purchasers and tenants the presence of known lead-based paint hazards (or lack of knowledge of hazards). Landlords must provide a lead hazard information pamphlet; provide a standard warning statement in the lease on the dangers of lead-based paint; and include disclosure and acknowledgment language in leases.

According to EPA, Quality Property Management Inc., which manages rental properties for Kurt A. Blake, did not provide the required lead hazard information and lead hazard disclosures to tenants in two leases signed in 2006 on rental properties located in York, Pa.

Quality Property Management Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $11,284. The owner of the two properties, Kurt Blake, will pay a penalty of $1,128 as well as spend a minimum of $10,156 to complete a lead-based paint abatement project. The project will include completing a risk assessment at the two properties and replacing any windows, sashes, door frames, and other components identified in the assessment as containing lead-based paint.

EPA Fines Computer Recycler $10,300 for Illegally Exporting Electronic Waste

“Electronic recyclers, freight forwarders, and shipping brokers must be aware of the federal regulations required for legally exporting electronic waste,” said Jeff Scott, director of Waste Programs for the EPA’s Southwest region. “These regulations exist to ensure that exported cathode ray tubes are recycled in an environmentally sound manner that is protective of human health.”

In January 2008, Jet Ocean consigned 441 computer monitors with CRTs—listing the cargo as “mixed metal scrap”—for shipment to Hong Kong, where it was rejected by Hong Kong customs authorities.

In March 2008, the EPA was alerted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Long Beach to the arrival of Jet Ocean’s returned shipping container of “scrap metal.” Jet Ocean’s shipment of CRTs was eventually recycled in Florida.

New regulations took effect in January 2007 requiring exporters shipping broken or unbroken CRTs to another country for recycling to notify the EPA and receive written consent from the receiving country before shipments can be made.

Cathode ray tubes are the video display components of televisions and computer monitors. The glass in these units typically contains enough lead to require managing it as hazardous waste under certain circumstances. About 57 million computers and televisions are sold in the United States annually, although many new models may not contain cathode ray tubes.

Schools Fined for Asbestos Violations

In separate consent agreements with EPA, the Board of Education of Dorchester County Schools, St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, Md., the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church preschool and kindergarten in Baltimore, and Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church School in Kingsville, Md., have settled alleged violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), the federal law requiring schools to inspect and manage asbestos-containing building materials.

The three individual schools and the one school district were cited for AHERA violations, including the failure to include all school buildings in the management plan, failure to conduct an initial inspection of all school buildings to determine if there was any asbestos located in the facility, failure to submit an asbestos management plan, failure to conduct reinspections of all friable and nonfriable asbestos every three years, and failure to provide annual notification of the management plan to parents, teachers, and employee organizations.

EPA did not find that students or other building occupants were exposed to asbestos as a result of the alleged violations. The schools that were cited have now certified their compliance with AHERA requirements.

Under AHERA, EPA may agree to reduce or eliminate penalties due to the schools’ cooperation with EPA, compliance activities, and expenditures. The four Maryland settlement agreements are:

  • EPA inspected St. Timothy’s School, Stevenson, Md., and cited it for failing to maintain copies of updated management plans in the school, failing to inspect the athletic complex, and failing to provide annual notification to parents, teachers, and employees. The school has spent at least $17,195 to come into compliance, so there is a zero-penalty amount.
  • EPA inspected 13 schools in the Dorchester County Public School district, headquartered in Cambridge, Md. The violations vary from school to school but include failure to conduct reinspections of nine facilities every three years and failure to make management plans available for inspection. Dorchester County Public Schools has spent at least $55,250 to comply with AHERA regulations, so there is zero-penalty amount.
  • EPA cited First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Baltimore, Md., for AHERA violations discovered during inspections by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which included failure to have an initial inspection conducted at the facility to determine whether there was any asbestos in the facility prior to its use as a school and failure to submit an asbestos management plan for the facility. EPA determined the civil penalty to be $5,500. The school has spent $3,000 on compliance and agrees to an additional penalty of $2,500.
  • EPA cited Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kingsville, Md., for failing to include the parish hall, a school building used for recreational activities, in the management plans. The school has spent $5,682 to come into compliance, so there is a zero-penalty amount.

Asbestos was once widely used in building materials due to its insulation and fire-retardant properties. Damaged or disturbed asbestos may release fibers, which, if inhaled, create a risk of asbestosis, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. However, intact, undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not pose a health risk, if managed in accordance with AHERA safeguards.

November 15th Was America Recycles Day: Are You Making a Difference?

 Recycling is not a new phenomenon. According to the National Recycling Coalition, 70% of U.S. cities prior to the 1920s ran programs to recycle certain materials. During World War II, industry recycled and reused about 25% of the waste stream.

More recent statistics indicate that the nation’s composting and recycling rate rose from 7.7% of the waste stream in 1960 to 17% in 1990. Currently, the number hovers around 33%. The higher we go, the more energy we save.

 Each person produced 4.6 pounds of trash per day, of which 1.5 pounds were recycled or composted. Recycling has increased slightly over 2006, when people recycled and composted around 82 million tons of the 251 million tons of total municipal solid waste produced.

If you think your contribution doesn’t matter, you are mistaken. Last year, the amount of energy saved from recycling aluminum and steel cans, plastic and glass containers, and newsprint and corrugated packaging was equivalent to the amount of gasoline used by almost 11 million cars or the amount of electricity consumed by 17.8 million Americans in a year.

Americans throw away about 28 billion bottles and jars every year. Just by recycling one glass container, enough energy is saved to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours. It all comes back to you! Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Recycling provides economic benefits as well by reducing costs to businesses and creating jobs. The American recycling and reuse industry is a $200 billion enterprise involving more than 50,000 recycling and reuse establishments, employing more than 1 million people, and generating an annual payroll of approximately $37 billion.

Nov. 15, 2008, was the 11th anniversary of America Recycles Day, a day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products. More than 35 states held America Recycles Day events, with state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and large industry partners promoting recycling efforts. America Recycles Day is supported by the National Recycling Coalition and sponsored by EPA.

Trash can or recycling bin? It’s our choice. What if all of us made the effort to increase our recycling rate over the national average?

Conference Will Focus on Green Land Development Techniques

National experts will convene in Concord, N.H., early next month to present the latest innovations on low impact development methods—methods for developing land in ways that allow stormwater to be retained, infiltrated, or reused on-site. 
Use of low-impact development practices such as pervious pavements, rain gardens, and green roofs has increased dramatically in the last decade around the country. These techniques can save developers substantial amounts of money while also helping to protect rivers, lakes, and drinking water resources. Savings are generally due to reduced costs for site grading and preparation, stormwater infrastructure, site paving, and landscaping. A new national EPA study found that development projects that include these practices often achieve significant cost savings.

“EPA has looked carefully at low impact development, and it’s remarkable that the vast majority of projects are able to save between 15% and 80%—while making choices that were better for the environment,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. EPA is a co-sponsor of the conference.

Some low-impact development practices such as pervious pavement (that allows water to percolate through the pavement into a filter layer below) have been used successfully at a number of sites in New England, including hospitals in New London, N.H., and York, Maine, a shopping center in Amherst, N.H., and at a new park-and-ride lot in Randolph, Vt.

“Low-impact development is a way for developers and builders to achieve a competitive edge in the current market, while helping the environment at the same time,” said Glynn Rountree, an environmental policy analyst with the National Home Builders Association who will be speaking at the conference.

Some developers and engineers in northern New England have been hesitant to use these techniques for fear they may not work well in cold climates. This topic is one that will be given significant attention at the conference.

State Working to Prevent Declining Prices for Recyclables from Causing More Landfill Waste

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) is pledging to work with California cities and counties, as well as the many recyclers, brokers, and processors who are trying to cope with the rapid decline in commodity prices for recycled paper, metals, and plastic goods.

CIWMB staff are monitoring market trends and prices and examining regulatory and nonregulatory options to keep these materials from being disposed. The CIWMB will hold a special public meeting in Sacramento in early December to explore measures it can enact to ease the current situation. The board will hear from brokers and others about possible short-term and long-term solutions.

"We're aware of the potential dilemma facing our state's recycling infrastructure," Board Chair Margo Reid Brown said. "We cannot undo the incredible progress our local cities and counties have done to reduce our waste in landfills. By working together, I'm confident we can develop short-term measures that will get us through these challenging times, while ensuring we remain true to our overall environmental goals."

Keeping waste paper and cardboard out of California landfills is one of the strategies being used to combat global warming. Paper products and other organic materials decompose in landfills and generate methane, which scientists say is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

California's environment may face a potential set-back as the depressed global economy and an excess in global inventory have reduced prices being paid for recycled newspapers, old corrugated cardboard, and plastics around the world. Prices being paid to recyclers have, in some instances, fallen more than 50% in one month. An aggressive recycling program is why California leads the nation in diverting more than half of its solid waste away from landfills. The state converts an estimated 52 million tons of solid waste each year into new, higher-value products that add billions of dollars to California's economy.

Local jurisdictions are scrambling to find additional storage space to accommodate the steady flow of old newspapers and cardboard being set aside for recycling by California residents, businesses, and industry.

"We must consider the health and safety of California as we look for short-term relief in the current situation and for long-term solutions, such as locating new manufacturing and energy-producing facilities in California," Brown added.

The current drop-off in recycled paper exports could help encourage the development of additional local and regional markets for converting these recycled materials into new products or as a source of energy and fuel.

China is the primary export market for U.S. recycled paper products, but there has been a global slowdown in demand for Chinese-made products using recycled materials imported from the United States.

EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Program Announces Grant Recipients

Could a cup of coffee jump start both you and your car in the morning? Is it possible to run a college dormitory in Africa on locally available fuel sources?  The P3 program also provides key technical assistance in moving the developed and developing world toward sustainability. EPA has awarded 43 P3 grants for a total of $890,000 to student teams representing 40 universities in 24 states (

As part of the 43 P3 Phase I grants and 6 Phase II grants to winning teams from last year, a team from Appalachian State University is designing a coffee wastewater treatment system that produces ethanol and bio-gas for possible use as car fuels. Gonzaga University students are building an educational center and dormitory in Kenya, where students will learn how to implement sustainable water filtering technology and identify local energy sources.

“The beauty of the People, Prosperity and the Planet program is that it harnesses one of our most abundant natural resources: student brain power,” said Dr. George Gray, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “Through innovation and creativity, these student teams turn environmental challenges into opportunities that protect the environment, build new businesses, and create new careers.”

The University of California–Davis was one of the 2008 P3 Award winners. The students designed and constructed an efficient means of producing plastic from wastewater. Bacteria used in wastewater treatment processes have been shown to store a compound that can be made into a biodegradable plastic within their cell walls. The production process to create it is less polluting than the process to create plastic from petrochemicals.

An American Association for the Advancement of Science panel will evaluate the projects and make recommendations to EPA, who will choose the winners. The P3 Award includes the possibility of additional funding up to $75,000 that gives students an opportunity to further develop their sustainable designs and move them to the marketplace. The next P3 Award Competition will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Sustainable Design Expo, April 18–20, 2009.

Public Workshop on Small Business Emission Reductions Toolkit

Providing cost-effective strategies to assist small businesses in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and saving money will be an integral part of the California Air Resources Board's (ARB) implementation of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). The ARB will be holding a public workshop to discuss a draft toolkit that will facilitate voluntary GHG emission reductions for small businesses. This toolkit will include information on cost-saving actions to reduce GHG emissions, incentive programs, California case studies, a climate calculator, decision support tools, an award program, and an online peer-networking forum.

The workshop will be held from 9:30to 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2008, at the Byron Sher Auditorium in the California EPA Headquarters at 1001 I Street, Sacramento, Calif., and will also be broadcast via webcast.

A key objective of the workshop is to obtain public comments on elements of the toolkit. The toolkit is intended to help small businesses decide how to best reduce GHG emissions and save money in the process. The toolkit will be web-based to reach a broad audience. ARB staff partnered with Next 10, Berkeley Institute for the Environment, the California Energy Commission, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to develop the draft elements of the toolkit.

During the webcast, the audience will have the opportunity to submit questions and comments by e-mail.

Think About Protecting Environment in Switch to Digital TV

The switch to digital TV broadcasting is coming in February 2009. For most people, that will not mean having to purchase a new TV set. If you do get a new television, however, the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) encourages you to protect the environment and the public's health by donating or reusing your old set, or safely recycling it.

Congress has ordered all television stations to switch to digital broadcasting ("over the air") in February 2009. However, any TV will continue to work just as before if it is connected to a cable or satellite service.

If you have an older TV and you currently get your programs free (through an antenna or "rabbit ears"), you will need a digital-to-analog converter box.

The Department of Commerce is offering each household up to two $40 coupons for the purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxes. 

"If digital conversion is the reason to get that high-tech, HDTV or plasma screen you've always been wanting, please think about the fate of the old TV you now consider a ‘has-been'," said Laurie Davies, Ecology's Solid Waste Program manager. "Electronic products contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals. For example, a TV's cathode ray picture tube contains about four to eight pounds of lead."

Making sure electronics like televisions don't end up in the garbage, in landfills, and ultimately in the environment is the one way to protect people and the environment from the serious health effects of toxic chemicals.

If your old TV is working and in good condition, someone else may be able to use it. There are several ways to pass on electronic items for reuse:

  • Contact charities or nonprofits in your area to see if they would be able to use or resell your computer or TV.
  • Call your local solid waste or public works office to find out what options are available in your community for donating or reuse.
  • Sell your item through local classifieds or use an online website.

If the old TV is just too old for reuse, then plan to recycle it responsibly. Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, Washington residents can recycle TVs and computers for free all across the state through the new E-Cycle Washington program.

Under the program, electronics manufacturers will pay for recycling TVs, computers, monitors, and laptops. The law allows households, schools, small businesses, small governments, special-purpose districts, and nonprofits to drop off electronics for recycling at one of more than 200 collection sites.

"There will be no need to rush to collection sites on January 2," Davies said. "E-Cycle Washington is a permanent recycling collection program. It will be operating throughout 2009 and beyond."

For those who do not want to wait until January 1 to recycle their TVs or computers—or if you have other items to recycle—contact Ecology's 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253) toll-free hotline  to find recycling locations in Washington state. These recyclers may charge a fee to accept items for recycling.

Massachusetts to Require 'Emission Performance Label’

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Laurie Burt announced that motorists will soon have an easy way to identify new vehicles that help cut down on smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

 Massachusetts is among the first states proposing to adopt the label developed by the state of California under its Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) program.

"Which car you buy makes a difference not only in how much it costs you to keep it running, but also how many greenhouse gas emissions you put into the atmosphere," Secretary Bowles said. "The Emission Performance Label will help motorists find vehicles that combat global climate change as well as get them where they want to go."

"More than 72,000 tons of global warming gases are emitted each day by the millions of cars and trucks that traverse the roads of Massachusetts," Commissioner Burt said. "One way to reduce those pollutants is to drive lower emission vehicles, and this simple ranking system will steer climate-conscious drivers in the right direction."

This announcement follows a historic legislative session in which Governor Deval Patrick worked with legislative leaders to enact six major pieces of legislation addressing energy and environmental challenges, including a new law requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources up to 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Under the Clean Air Act, California has the authority to establish vehicle emission standards stricter than federal rules, but must receive a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the standards. Other states can choose to adopt the California standards and Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the California LEV program for passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles in 1991. State law requires Massachusetts to update its emissions program to conform to California's, as long as it is stricter than federal standards.

Earlier this year, the EPA denied California's waiver, thereby preventing Massachusetts and nine other states from enforcing limits on greenhouse gas emissions—emissions associated with global climate change—through their vehicle pollution standards. Massachusetts and other states have joined with California to appeal this denial by the Bush Administration.

Approval of the waiver is not required for adoption of the Emission Performance Label, which includes a rating on greenhouse gases on all new vehicles.

The label, which is identical to the one developed by California, scores each vehicle's smog and global warming emissions on a scale from 1 to 10, with the highest scores being the cleanest vehicles. The smog score is based on the smog-forming emissions from the vehicle's operations. The Global Warming score is the emissions of greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide and other pollutants—from the vehicle's operation and fuel production. The average new car has a score of 5 on both scales.

The Emission Performance Label was recently unveiled at McGee Toyota in Hanover. The labeling requirement will go into effect early next year following a public comment period.

"Our dealership is seeing more consumer interest in 'greener' vehicles, and this Emission Performance Label will help us educate consumers and provide the information they are asking for," said Rob McGee, owner of McGee Toyota. "Consumers today are definitely more conscious of the environmental impact of their vehicles."

MassDEP will solicit public comments before the labeling requirement is finalized. A public hearing will be held Wednesday, December 10, at 1 p.m. at MassDEP's Boston office, 1 Winter St., and testimony may be presented orally and/or in writing at the hearing.

Written testimony also will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2008.

El Paso Water Utilities is EPA’s Newest WaterSense® Partner

WaterSense, a partnership program launched in 2006 by the EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water.

“Using a little ‘water sense’ can go a long way,” EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said. “Retrofitting just 20% of Texas households with water-efficient fixtures and appliances could save 53 billion gallons per year—more than enough water to supply El Paso County for a year.”

El Paso Water Utilities has been at the forefront of water conservation initiatives. It’s comprehensive conservation program—which includes education, rebates, and incentives—and rate structures that promote conservation, makes it one of the premier WaterSense partners.

“El Paso Water Utilities is proud to join EPA in their Water Sense Program,” said Ed Archuleta, El Paso Water Utilities President and CEO. “We have been practicing and promoting water-efficiency programs for nearly 20 years, and this will assist us in taking us and other utilities to the next level in water use awareness and continued sustainable success.”

El Paso Water Utilities is effectively using reclaimed water to reduce demands on the potable water supply system. Over the past several years, a series of projects have increased the use of recycled water. Several distribution lines for reclaimed water have been installed on the West Side. Large turf irrigators such as Coronado Country Club and city parks are using reclaimed water for irrigation. Since 1960, El Paso Water Utilities programs have promoted the use of reclaimed water for other activities, such as golf course irrigation, aquifer recharge, power plant cooling, and various industrial uses.

El Paso Water Utilities is involved in many activities to increase public awareness, including monthly conservation messages on the backs of bills, media advertising, and displays at citywide shows, fairs, and festivals. Staff members also make presentations to civic groups, school groups, and youth organizations. A mascot, Willie, increases the visibility of the conservation message.

Rockwell Collins of Iowa Receives Top Honor at EPA Region 7’s 2008 Performance Track Member Conference

A global aerospace and defense manufacturer’s operations in Coralville, Iowa, has received the top honor at EPA Region 7’s 2008 Performance Track Member Conference.

Rockwell Collins’ Coralville Operations was recognized for the Most Significant Environmental Impact for All Projects Over a Three-Year Period (2005–2007). Specifically, the firm was cited for reducing its use of hazardous materials in manufacturing by 1.6 million pounds, reducing its carbon footprint for non-transportation energy use by 4,859 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, reducing its water use by 2.6 million gallons, and increasing its purchasing of recycled content paper from zero to 7,900 pounds in three years.

 Representatives of the 31 Performance Track member organizations in Region 7 gathered this past week at the region’s headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., for their annual conference.

In addition to top recognition for its activities in Coralville, Rockwell Collins’ operations in Coralville, Decorah, and Manchester, Iowa, were honored in 3 of 12 other Performance Track award categories announced at the conference. Recognized for Most Significant Environmental Impact for a Single Project During the Three-Year Period (2005–2007) in the following categories are:

  • Water Use Reduction—E.I. Dupont, of Fort Madison, Iowa, for reducing its water use by 175.3 million gallons.
  • Land & Habitat Restoration—Rockwell Collins, of Manchester, Iowa, for partnering with Pheasants Forever to plant a mixture of natural grasses and wildflowers in a 1.3-acre plot, establishing cover for wildlife and providing a walking trail around the perimeter.
  • Public Outreach—Environmental Results in the Community—3M Company, of Valley, Neb., for formal communications to local officials about Performance Track, environmental policies, and progress; as well as promotion of radon testing and awareness, and the publication of a quarterly in-house newsletter about environmental issues.
  • Public Outreach to Community & Customers—Lake of the Ozarks Marina, of Camdenton, Mo., for responding to public reports of littered shorelines; collecting, sorting, and recycling trash; adopting and maintaining a heavily used six-mile stretch of lake shoreline; instructing houseboat renters about good environmental practices; and promoting Performance Track concepts through annual celebrations of National Marina Day.
  • Air Emission Reduction—Firestone Agricultural Tire Company, of Des Moines, Iowa, for reducing hazardous air pollutants from marking and striping inks, from 7.8 tons to zero in three years.
  • Energy Use Reduction—Non-Transportation—Rockwell Collins, of Coralville, Iowa, for reducing its carbon footprint for non-transportation energy use by 4,859 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in three years.
  • Energy Use Reduction—Transportation—Monsanto Company, of Muscatine, Iowa, for reducing its use of diesel fuel by 11,744 gallons in three years.
  • Hazardous Material Use Reduction—Firestone Agricultural Tire Company, of Des Moines, Iowa, for reducing the use of hazardous material in its production process from 99.4 tons per year to zero in three years.
  • Priority Chemical Use Reduction—Vermeer Corporation, of Pella, Iowa, for reducing the use of priority chemicals in its manufacturing process by 1,292 pounds.
  • Environment-Friendly Material Procurement—Rockwell Collins, of Decorah, Iowa, for increasing its purchasing of recycled content paper from zero to 3,866 pounds in three years.
  • Hazardous Waste Reduction—3M Company, of Nevada, Mo., for reducing its hazardous waste generation by 220 tons in three years.
  • Non-Hazardous Waste Reduction—Vermeer Corporation, of Pella, Iowa, for reducing its non-hazardous waste generation by 443 tons in three years.

The Performance Track Program in Region 7 began with 13 members in the year 2000, and has since expanded to include 31 members in the region. Nationally, the program now includes more than 340 members.

Environmental Justice Small Grants Workshop Scheduled

EPA Region 7 will hold a one-day Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Workshop to help organizations apply for EPA grants. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, at EPA Region 7 headquarters, in Kansas City, Kan.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

The Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG) Program is designed to help communities understand and address their exposure to multiple environmental harms and risks. The long-term goals of the EJSG Program are to help build the capacity of the affected community and create self-sustaining, community-based partnerships that will continue to improve local environments in the future.

The workshop will cover criteria for grant applications, preparation of the grant application, the review and selection process, and the award notification process. There will also be an overview for new grant recipients on their responsibilities and successful project management. The information shared at the workshop is broad and will help i