EPA Reveals Status of New Hazardous Waste Manifest

July 17, 2017

The EPA is on schedule to launch the hazardous waste electronic manifest (e-Manifest) system in June 2018. Manifest users who intend to track their hazardous waste shipments electronically or access manifest data from the e-Manifest system as soon as it becomes available will be required to register with the EPA prior to system launch.

The Agency will hold a three-day Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System Advisory Board meeting on September 26–28, 2017, to address user registration and account activation issues that need resolution prior to launching the e-Manifest system. Specifically, the Advisory Board will provide recommendations to the EPA on the process the EPA should use to register and activate user accounts and electronic signature agreements (ESAs) for the e-Manifest system. The meeting will be held from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202. Information regarding a webcast of the meeting will be available at https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/hazardous-waste-electronic-manifest-system-e-manifest.

The EPA’s background paper, related supporting materials, charge/questions to the Advisory Board, the Advisory Board roster (i.e., members attending this meeting), and the meeting agenda will be available by approximately late August 2017. In addition, the Agency may provide additional background documents as the materials become available. You may obtain electronic copies of these documents, and certain other related documents as they become available at http://www.regulations.gov/ (search for Docket EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0368) and the e-Manifest Advisory Board Website. The e-Manifest Advisory Board will prepare meeting minutes summarizing its recommendations to the Agency approximately 90 days after the meeting. The meeting minutes will be posted on the e-Manifest Advisory Board Website or may be obtained from the docket at http://www.regulations.gov.

Release of Treated Wastewater from Hydraulic Fracturing Contaminates Lake

Hydraulic fracturing has enabled a domestic oil and gas boom in the U.S., but its rapid growth has raised questions about what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that result. Researchers now report that treating the wastewater and releasing it into surface waters has led to the contamination of a Pennsylvania watershed with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study appears in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

In 2015, the unconventional oil and gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” accounted for more than one-half of oil production and two-thirds of gas production in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The method’s market share is likely to increase even further. Although the technique has resulted in a shift away from coal, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it produces large amounts of wastewater containing radioactive material, salts, metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that could pose risks to the environment and human health. A Pennsylvania report estimates that in 2015, 10,000 unconventional oil and gas wells in the Marcellus Shale produced 1.7 billion gallons of wastewater. The facilities that collect the water provide only limited treatment before releasing it into surface waters. Bill Burgos and colleagues at Penn State, Colorado State and Dartmouth wanted to see what impact this strategy of treating and releasing fracking wastewater might be having.

The researchers sampled sediments and porewaters from a lake downstream from two facilities that treat fracking wastewater in Pennsylvania. Their analysis detected that peak concentrations of radium, alkaline earth metals, salts and organic chemicals all occurred in the same sediment layer. The two major classes of organic contaminants included nonylphenol ethoxylates, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogens. The highest concentrations coincided with sediment layers deposited five to 10 years ago during a peak period of fracking wastewater disposal. Elevated levels of radium were also found as far as 12 miles downstream of the treatment plants. The researchers say that the potential risks associated with this contamination are unknown, but they suggest tighter regulations of wastewater disposal could help protect the environment and human health.

The authors acknowledged funding from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, the Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability and its Water Center, the Fulbright Program in Colombia and the Universidad Pontifica Bolivariana.

The American Chemical Society is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Oklahoma to Adopt Solvent Contaminated Wipe Rule

In 2014, the EPA adopted a rule that streamlined the requirements for wipes (rags, towels, pads) that are contaminated with F-listed solvents, equivalent chemicals on the P and U-lists, and those that display the characteristic of ignitability (D001). The rule allows the wipes to be laundered, recycled as fuel, and with some exceptions, disposed of as solid waste. The rule also establishes detailed requirements for the on-site storage and transportation of these wastes. The rule does not go into effect in states authorized to implement the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) until the states adopt the rule, which many have done. Oklahoma recently revised its rules, and the solvent contaminated wipe rule will become effective in the state on September 11, 2017.

EPA to Withdraw Clean Water Act Restrictions for Alaska’s Pebble Mine

The EPA has proposed to withdraw its July 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination that would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the potential “Pebble Mine” in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. The restrictions were implemented to protect water and Alaskan salmon fisheries, which provide thousands of jobs. EPA is seeking public comment on whether to withdraw the Proposed Determination.

EPA is consulting on the proposed withdrawal with federally-recognized tribal governments of the Bristol Bay region and with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Regional and Village Corporations with lands in the Bristol Bay watershed. The public comment and tribal consultation process allows EPA to hear from the public before final decisions are made. After the close of the public comment and tribal consultation process, the EPA will decide whether to issue a final withdrawal of the 2014 Proposed Determination. EPA is also requesting public comment on whether the EPA Administrator should review and reconsider a final withdrawal decision, if such a decision is made.

Public comments on EPA’s proposals must be received on or before 90 days from the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. Comments may be emailed to: ow-docket@epa.gov with docket number EPA-R10-OW-2017-0369 in the email subject line.

For more information, including the pre-publication Federal Register Notice announcing this public comment period, visit: https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.

Building a Safer Lithium-ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries have become an indispensable power source for our proliferating gadgets. They have also, on occasion, been known to catch fire. To yield insight into what goes wrong when batteries fail and how to address the safety hazard, scientists report in the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Sensors, that they have found a potential way to track lithium ions as they travel in a battery.

In essence, rechargeable batteries work by shuttling ions back and forth between electrodes through an electrolyte. Often, failure occurs when lithium ions stray from their intended path. To better understand how this happens, scientists have looked for ways to track the ions. Several methods have been proposed, but so far, they have been limited for various reasons, including poor spatial resolution. Fluorescence microscopy, which is often used to probe materials and biological systems, could potentially fill this void. But first, scientists would need to find a fluorescent label that is sensitive to lithium ions. Randall H. Goldsmith and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison set out to do this.

The researchers worked with 2-(2-hydroxyphenyl)naphthoxazole, or HPNO, a molecule that fluoresces when it attaches to lithium ions. They added a “visible pump” to help prevent photobleaching and other damage. In a battery-like environment, the system could image and track lithium ions. The researchers note that their next step would be to test the molecule in a more realistic analog of a battery cell.

The authors acknowledge funding from a University Research Project grant from Ford Motor Company.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations

The EPA has announced an agreement with Jubilant Cadista Pharmaceuticals Inc., which resolves alleged violations of at the company’s pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Salisbury, Maryland. The agreement addresses compliance with environmental regulations that help protect communities and the environment from potential exposure to hazardous waste.

EPA cited Jubilant Cadista Pharmaceuticals Inc. 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, and avoid long and extensive cleanups, by requiring the safe, environmentally sound storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

The hazardous waste included lab solvents and corrosive cleaner waste. Violations included:

  • Storage of hazardous waste on-site in excess of the 90-day storage limitation
  • Failure to clearly label or date hazardous waste containers
  • Failure to keep hazardous waste containers closed
  • Failure to maintain job titles and descriptions for employees responsible for handling hazardous waste
  • Failure to maintain an adequate contingency plan
  • Failure to submit a timely and complete biennial report

As part of the agreement, Jubilant Cadista Pharmaceuticals Inc. will pay a $35,000 penalty. The settlement reflects the company’s compliance efforts, and its cooperation with EPA. As part of the settlement, the company has not admitted liability, but has certified its compliance with applicable RCRA requirements.

Former Suzuki Employee Pleads Guilty to Submitting False Report to the EPA

The U.S. Justice Department has announced that Wayne Powell, a former employee of American Suzuki Motor Corporation headquartered in Brea, California, has pled guilty in a federal court in Detroit, Michigan, to violating the Clean Air Act by submitting a false end-of-year report to the U.S. EPA.

According to the plea agreement, Powell, a Government Relations Analyst for Suzuki, was responsible for submitting documents to the EPA regarding Suzuki’s compliance with motorcycle emission standards. Powell was in charge of submitting Suzuki’s 2012 application to the EPA for a “certificate of conformity,” which allows a vehicle manufacturer to sell vehicles in the U.S. Rather than seek certification of each motorcycle engine family, Suzuki combined the certifications of multiple engine families and averaged their emission standards based on the total number of motorcycles in each family. At the end of the model year, Suzuki was required to submit to the EPA an end-of-year report to show that it was in compliance with emission standards.

The average that Powell created combined emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides for the 23,528 Class III model year 2012 motorcycles that Suzuki imported, distributed and sold in the U.S. The average violated the emission limit. The first end-of-year report Powell submitted to the EPA in 2013 purported to utilize “banked credits” to offset the excess emissions. However, Suzuki had not participated in the banked credit program and therefore had no credits to use. As a result, the EPA informed Powell it could not accept the report. Subsequently, on March 28, 2014, Powell submitted an amended end-of-year report to the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Ann Arbor in which he altered the numbers of four motorcycle engine families, resulting in a calculation that was within the emission limit. The altered numbers were false. Powell also deceitfully represented to the EPA in the email that accompanied the amended report that “the computer software that we use to gather this information did not count all of the units” and that he had “corrected some mistakes on the 2012 report.”

Powell faces a statutory maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

EPA Offers Labeling Relief for Composite Wood Products

EPA has taken direct final action to amend a final rule that was published in the Federal Register on December 12, 2016, concerning formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products. The amendment will allow compliant composite wood products and finished goods that contain compliant composite wood products that were manufactured prior to December 12, 2017, to be labeled as Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title VI compliant. This means that regulated composite wood products and finished goods that meet the required formaldehyde emissions standards could be voluntarily labeled as compliant as soon as compliance can be achieved.

According to a July 11, 2017, Federal Register notice, this will enhance regulatory flexibility and facilitate a smoother supply chain transition to compliance with the rule’s broader requirements, as well as promote lower formaldehyde emitting products entering commerce earlier than under the rule as originally published. In the notice, EPA indicated that the Agency believes that the amendment is non-controversial and does not expect to receive any adverse comments. However, in addition to this direct final rulemaking, elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, EPA also promulgated the amendment as a notice of proposed rulemaking that will be used in the event of adverse comment on the amendments within this direct final action.

This final rule becomes effective on August 25, 2017, without further notice, unless EPA receives adverse comment by July 26, 2017. If EPA receives adverse comment, the Agency will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register informing the public that the rule will not take effect.

Health and Environmental Groups Sue EPA over Delay of Clean Air Protections

Health, environmental, and community groups have sued the U.S. EPA to stop the agency’s delay in implementation of the 2015 smog standard. The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to quickly throw out or block EPA’s illegal delay. The standard is a key life-saving health protection for millions of people in the U.S.

The EPA estimates that, when communities meet the standard, it will save hundreds of lives, prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 160,000 missed school days for kids each year. In June, the EPA announced it was delaying identifying the areas that must clean up their air because they violate the 2015 smog standard. This means polluters will escape the effective pollution controls the Clean Air Act requires.

“EPA’s delay flouts the rule of law,” said Seth Johnson, an Earthjustice attorney who represents a coalition of public health and environmental groups challenging EPA’s delay of the smog standard. “It’s illegal and wrong. It forces the most vulnerable people, like children, people with asthma and the elderly, to continue to suffer from dangerous ozone pollution. The EPA is wrong to put its polluter friends’ profits before people’s health.”

“Health professionals see more patients with asthma attacks and heart attacks on bad air days – and both of these are potentially lethal. Ground-level ozone is the most prevalent air pollutant in the U.S., affecting tens of millions of people. It’s a dangerous health hazard, able to cause permanent lung damage, exacerbate chronic lung and heart diseases, and affect fetal development. It poses a particular threat to asthmatics, children, and the elderly,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Director for Environment & Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility. “EPA needs to move forward quickly with these overdue protections.”

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says he cares about healthy communities. But this delay leaves us questioning: which communities do you care about Administrator? Black and Puerto Rican children suffer from asthma, asthma attacks, and hospitalizations at a higher rate than white children. Black Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma, and more black women have died from asthma than any other group. Every time this Administration delays another lifesaving protection, it becomes very clear whose lives matter to them,” said Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Federal Policy Director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

“This illegal action would expose Americans to dangerous amounts of smog,” said John Walke, Clean Air Director at NRDC. “Without any basis, EPA claims it needs more time, but this move is a dangerous step backward when it comes to cleaning up smog in communities. Just like EPA’s recent attempt to block methane emission reductions from oil and gas operations, this unwarranted delay will meet the same fate and be overruled by the courts.”

“It is critical that EPA implement the ozone standard as required by our nation’s clean air laws. Moving forward with these protections will deliver life-saving pollution reductions and provide families and communities with clear information about the safety of the air they breathe,” said Lead Attorney Peter Zalzal at Environmental Defense Fund.

“The actions of Administrator Pruitt threaten our national parks and the millions of people who visit them each year,” said Stephanie Kodish, director of National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air Program. “When visitors come to national parks, they expect to breathe fresh, clean air but places like Joshua Tree and Yosemite suffer from significant ozone pollution. Needlessly postponing the reduction of that pollution for another year only threatens human health, park plants and wildlife, and the multi-billion dollar tourism and recreation economy these places support.”

Ozone, the main component of smog, is a corrosive greenhouse gas that causes asthma attacks and can kill people. Children, asthmatics, and the elderly are especially vulnerable, but smog harms even healthy adults. It can also cause serious harm to plant and wildlife, even on protected lands like wilderness areas and national parks.

In April, the EPA sought time to review the 2015 smog standard, and obtained a delay in the ongoing litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Public health and environmental organizations warned at the time that the EPA was likely to seek to delay and weaken the standard.

The EPA’s delay of the ozone standard follows on its delay of several other important public health and environmental protections, including the chemical disaster rule and protections against methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Earthjustice is representing American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, and West Harlem Environmental Action. In addition their partners in the suit include Clean Air Task Force (representing Clean Air Council and the Ohio Environmental Council), Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Environmental Defense Fund.

Two Plastic Manufacturers Fined for Stormwater Violations

The EPA has reached an agreement with two Southern California plastic product manufacturers to resolve federal Clean Water Act violations. Both companies have corrected the deficiencies and have returned to compliance.

In December 2015, EPA inspections at the two facilities found violations that likely resulted in plastic pellets, known as “nurdles,” entering stormwater drains that discharge to the Tujunga Wash, which flows into the Los Angeles River. Nurdles are plastic beads about 1/5 of an inch in diameter. They are widely used in manufacturing and contribute to plastic debris in the nation’s inland and coastal waters.

“The Los Angeles River provides vital habitat to birds, fish and other organisms that depend on the river for survival,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “It is essential that manufacturers take proper steps to prevent nurdles from polluting surrounding waterways and harming local wildlife.”

EPA inspected the facilities at the request of the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Regional Water Quality Control Board in support of the state’s environmental justice enforcement initiative in the Pacoima/Sun Valley neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles.

Western States Packaging, located in Pacoima, California, also uses nurdles as raw material to manufacture food-grade plastic bags. EPA’s inspectors found that the facility was not operating with the proper stormwater permit. Additionally, EPA observed spilled plastic pellets on paved surfaces throughout the facility without proper control measures in place.

Under this agreement, Western States Packaging, Inc., will pay a $25,000 penalty and Direct Pack, Inc., will pay a $42,900 penalty.

Direct Pack, located in Sun Valley, California, uses nurdles to manufacture plastic packaging products. EPA inspectors discovered the facility was discharging industrial wastewater without the proper permit. The inspection also found that the facility did not use proper capture devices, such as pans or tarps in loading areas, and did not have necessary containment systems to trap plastic material and prevent releases to local waterways. Additional deficiencies included improper storage of chemicals and industrial wastes. Finally, the company failed to promptly repair or maintain equipment and did not accurately report monthly inspections.

Both settlements are subject to a public comment period. The Western States Packaging settlement will be available for comment until July 21st and is found at: www.epa.gov/ca/western-states-packaging-inc-proposed-settlement-clean-water-act-class-i-administrative-penalty. The Direct Pack settlement will be available for comment until July 31st and is found at: www.epa.gov/ca/direct-pack-inc-proposed-settlement-docket-no-cwa-09-2017-0003.

Nurdles that wash into storm drains and out to open water can be eaten by fish, birds, and other wildlife. Ingested plastic can displace food in an animal’s stomach, and may lead to starvation. In the marine environment, plastic debris has been found to absorb persistent toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans and have been shown to travel up the food chain.

Under the Clean Water Act, plastic manufacturers are required to obtain a stormwater permit from the state to discharge industrial stormwater to surface waters. The permit requires the installation of controls and use of best management practices to prevent or minimize the discharges of pollutants in runoff from their operations. Such discharges may contain pollutants such as plastic resin pellets, flakes, or powders.

Vorbeck Materials Corp. Fined $28,200 for Hazardous Waste Violations

Vorbeck Materials Corp., will pay a $28,200 penalty, and donate more than $46,000 in emergency response and communications equipment to a local fire department, to settle alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations at its facility in Jessup, Maryland, the EPA announced recently.

Vorbeck performs research and development, and manufactures high-tech materials, including inks.

The settlement addresses compliance with environmental regulations that help protect communities and the environment from potential exposure to hazardous waste.

EPA cited Vorbeck 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, and avoid long and extensive cleanups, by requiring the safe, environmentally sound storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

EPA cited Vorbeck for violations including:

  • Failure to make a waste determination on waste solvents and contaminated debris
  • Failure to label several containers of hazardous waste
  • Failure to properly manifest hazardous waste shipped off-site
  • Failure to keep containers of hazardous waste closed
  • Failure to maintain an adequate contingency plan
  • Failure to provide a required hazardous waste training program

In addition to the $28,200 penalty, Vorbeck will donate $46,900 in emergency response equipment, including innovative communications equipment, to the Howard County, Maryland, Fire Department’s hazardous material response team.

The settlement reflects the company’s compliance efforts and its cooperation with EPA’s investigation. As part of the settlement, Vorbeck has not admitted liability, but has corrected the violations and certified its compliance with RCRA requirements.

Matheson Tri-Gas Kapolei Required to Close Illegal Cesspools

The EPA has announced an agreement with Matheson Tri-Gas to close three cesspools at its Kapolei facility on Oahu, Hawaii.

In May 2016, EPA inspected the Matheson Tri-Gas facility, a commercial gas supply company in the Campbell Industrial Park, and found two large-capacity cesspools (LCCs) in use. EPA regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act required closure of all existing LCCs by April 5, 2005.

Matheson, which acquired the facility in 2015, will close the two LCCs and convert to a septic system. The company will pay a civil penalty of $88,374 for violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and spend $50,000 on a supplemental environmental project to close an on-site small-capacity cesspool. Matheson expects to complete the closure of all three cesspools and convert to a septic system by the end of 2017.

“Matheson has agreed to not only close and replace its LCCs with approved systems, but will also close an additional small-capacity cesspool at its facility,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA will continue to focus on closing illegal cesspools to protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal water resources.”

Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean. Groundwater provides 99% of all domestic water in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state. Since EPA banned LCCs in 2005, over 3,000 large-capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance. The ban does not apply to individual cesspools connected to single-family homes.

For more information and to submit comments on this specific agreement go to https://www.epa.gov/uic/hawaii-cesspools-administrative-orders#oahu. Additional information on the large-capacity cesspool ban and the definition of a large-capacity cesspool is provided at http://www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii.

Painting and Coating Company Fined for Exceeding Air Permit VOC Limits

Industrial Finishing Services has agreed to correct excessive air pollution emissions at its painting and coating facility in Perham, Minnesota.

During a review of the company’s records in 2016, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff discovered that emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) exceeded permitted limits during periods in 2014 and 2015. They also discovered reporting issues related to the annual report the company submits to the MPCA.

VOCs are released through the production and use of many everyday products and materials. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea, as well as risks of more serious and lasting health effects. Most health impacts are associated with indoor VOCs from product use, but outdoor VOC emissions from industry can also have negative health effects and can lead to the creation of smog.

During the 2016 inspection, MPCA staff also learned the company had not included fine particle emission information in its annual reports for 2014 and 2015 and that the annual report for 2015 was submitted late. In addition, the inspectors found the company failed to follow specific actions associated with the paving of a gravel road to reduce dust emissions.

Industrial Finishing Services will be required to pay a $35,000 penalty, as well as taking steps to prevent future problems. New pollution control equipment installed at the site has greatly reduced the amount of VOC emissions from the facility.

EPA Recognizes Federal Green Challenge Participants Saving Resources and Taxpayer Money

The EPA recently recognized the efforts of federal facilities that took steps to improve efficiency, save resources and reduce costs as part of the Federal Green Challenge (FGC). FGC awards are offered in two categories—data driven and narrative. Data driven awards, given in the six target areas of Waste, Electronics, Purchasing, Energy, Water, and Transportation, are based on the greatest percentage of change over the previous year. Narrative awards are self-nominating and are given in the categories of Innovation, Education and Outreach, and Leadership.

“Federal agencies across the country are doing their part to minimize their environmental impact, in doing so saving American taxpayers millions of dollars,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “Their efforts resulted in an estimated cost savings of $17 million across the federal government.”

Through their involvement, in fiscal year 2016, FGC participants reduced the federal government’s environmental impact by reducing fuel oil consumption by more than 500,000 gallons, sending 310 tons of end-of-life electronics to third-party certified recyclers, saving 9.2 million gallons of industrial water, and diverting over 336,000 tons of waste from landfills.

FGC, now in its fifth year, is a yearlong commitment under EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program in which participants focus on efficiently managing their resources to reduce the costs of building operations, maintenance, and supplies. Specifically, participants track their data in two of six categories for a year 

EPA provides the list of 2017 National and Regional award recipients at https://www.epa.gov/fgc/federal-green-challenge-awards.

Charles River Water Quality Earns a “B” Grade in 2016

The Charles River runs for 80 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, Massachusetts. EPA has given a grade of “B” for water quality in the Charles River during 2016. This is a slight reduction from the “B+” grade awarded for water quality in the Charles during 2015.

EPA and state and local partners have worked to improve water quality in the Charles River for over two decades. This is the 22nd year EPA has issued a Charles River Report Card. The grade of “B” reflects EPA analysis of bacterial contamination in water samples taken monthly from the lower Charles River by the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) at ten sampling stations between Watertown and Boston over the 2016 calendar year. CRWA collects monthly water quality samples throughout the length of the Charles. In 2016, the Charles met the Massachusetts’ bacterial water quality standards for boating 86% of the time and for swimming 55%of the time. The Charles River grade is determined according to the following criteria:

  1. almost always met standards for boating and swimming
  2. met standards for almost all boating and some swimming
  3. met standards for some boating and some swimming
  4. met standards for some boating but no swimming
  5. did not meet standards for boating or swimming

The grading is also based on a comparison to previous years’ grades and whether the water quality has improved. The slightly lower grade for 2016 is likely related to the fact that seven out of ten sample events occurred during or immediately after a rain event, despite the overall drought conditions that occurred throughout the region during most of the year.

The lower Charles River has improved dramatically from the launch of EPA’s Charles River Initiative in 1995, when the river received a D for meeting boating standards only 39% of the time and swimming standards just 19% of the time. These improvements were due to a significant reduction in the amount of sewage discharged into the River over the last twenty years from Combined Sewer Overflows (“CSO”) and illicit discharges through storm drains Illicit discharges often consist of cracked and leaking sewer pipes or improper sewer connections to the storm drain system.

EPA plans to continue its collaboration with state and local governments, private organizations and community advocates, as the goal of a consistently healthy river becomes closer to an everyday reality. For the third year, EPA has launched a water quality monitoring buoy in front of the Museum of Science in the Charles River Lower Basin. This buoy measures water quality in near real time, and the data can be viewed on EPA’s Charles River Website as well as viewed as part of an exhibit on the Charles in the Museum of Science.

Aside from illicit discharges, stormwater containing phosphorus, and the algae it produces are some of the major pollution problems remaining. These are problems that every citizen can help tackle. A major load of phosphorus comes from fertilizer and runoff from impervious surfaces like roads and rooftops. Citizens have been the driving force behind the Charles River Initiative and they can continue to help improve water quality in the River while monitoring progress themselves.

For more information about EPA’s ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the Charles River, go to www.epa.gov/charlesriver.

EPA to Host Drinking Water Preparedness Best Practice Webinar July 19

EPA’s Office of Water will present a Best Practice Webinar on Promoting Preparedness to Protect a Town’s Drinking Water on July 19, 2017, at 3:00 pm Eastern Time. The presenter will be Jeri Weiss from EPA Region 1, and she will be discussing the Best Practice from the Agency’s FY 2016 National Water Program Performance, Trends, and Best Practices Report.

EPA Region 1 worked with residents of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, and collected stories of the impacts of extreme weather events in their community. They used the stories and visual reminders of past hurricanes to highlight the need to develop an adaptation plan focusing on the threat to the town’s drinking water system from a storm surge inundating its drinking water wells.

NOAA Report: Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases Increased 40% Since 1990

NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), which tracks the warming influence of long-lived greenhouse gases, has increased by 40% from 1990 to 2016—with most of that attributable to rising carbon dioxide levels, according to NOAA climate scientists.

The role of greenhouse gases on influencing global temperatures is well understood by scientists, but it’s a complicated topic that can be difficult to communicate. In 2006, NOAA scientists introduced the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index as a way to help policymakers, educators, and the public understand changes in the direct climate warming influence exerted by greenhouse gas levels over time.

“The greenhouse gas index is based on atmospheric data, so it’s telling us what is happening to Earth’s climate right now,” said James Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division.

NOAA bases the AGGI on precise measurements of long-lived atmospheric gases in samples collected from a network of sites around the globe. The index is proportional to the change in the direct warming influence exerted by long-lived greenhouse gases since 1750, which is the accepted date for onset of the industrial revolution.

The five primary gases tracked by the AGGI are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and two chlorofluorocarbons that were banned by the Montreal Protocol because they damage Earth’s protective ozone layer. These five primary greenhouse gases account for about 96% of the increased climate warming influence since 1750. Fifteen secondary greenhouse gases also tracked by the AGGI account for the remaining 4%.

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