November 13, 2023
Under a recent settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a local food production manufacturer will be required to pay a penalty and fully comply with environmental community-right-to-know requirements regarding its use of anhydrous ammonia within its Lawrence, Mass. facility. Anhydrous ammonia has toxic properties, and this settlement further protects community members, employees, and the environment from the dangers of accidental chemical exposure by making emergency responders and planners aware of the presence of ammonia at the facility.
Artisan Chef Manufacturing, a specialty foods company located in Lawrence, Mass., has agreed to pay a penalty of $63,837 for violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and certify compliance with that statute. Artisan uses anhydrous ammonia in its Lawrence facility for refrigeration purposes. While an effective and efficient refrigerant, EPA regulates the chemical due to its hazardous nature. Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs and can cause vomiting, blindness, or death.
"It's imperative that facilities that use, store or generate hazardous chemicals carefully follow EPA safety practices designed to notify communities and responders of the presence of those chemicals and prevent accidental situations and spills from happening," said EPA New England Regional Administrator, David W. Cash. "Carefully following chemical accident prevention and community notification regulations is necessary to safeguard workers and nearby communities. EPA works to protect all communities, including vulnerable populations who shoulder a disproportionate share of these risks. This settlement will result in accurate information being available to the community, which will enhance public safety."
EPA found that the company allegedly failed to file an EPCRA "Tier II" chemical inventory report for anhydrous ammonia for the 2020 and 2021 calendar years to the Local Emergency Planning Committee, the State Emergency Response Commission, and the local fire department. The company's failure to report put the local community and first responders at risk in the event of an accidental chemical release at the facility. EPA attempted to establish contact with the company several times. Artisan eventually filed its 2020 and 2021 Tier II reports in December of 2022.
EPCRA Tier II submissions are required to adequately inform local officials and responders of the presence of hazardous chemicals in the case of an emergency. This information is also available to the public, upon request, so that members of the public can be informed of the presence of hazardous chemicals in their communities.
EPA Penalizes Boise Company $74,000 for Asbestos Violations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that First Team Restoration Inc. of Boise, Idaho, has agreed to pay a $74,500 penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act.
In May 2021, First Team Restoration Inc., an asbestos abatement contractor, was hired to remove asbestos-containing roof shingles from First Presbyterian Church in downtown Boise. The roof shingles were removed using tools that shattered and crumbled the roof shingles in the process.
EPA alleged that the company violated federal laws for asbestos under the Clean Air Act by:
- Allowing cracked and broken shingles to fall from the roof to the ground resulting in emissions of asbestos dust and debris
- Not applying enough water to control dust and debris
- Not marking a waste trailer with warning signs while it was being loaded
“Federal asbestos laws protect the health of workers and the community during demolition and renovation projects,” said EPA Region 10 Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Director Ed Kowalski. “When you fail to follow those procedures, your job site can become contaminated and put people at risk of exposure to a known carcinogen.”
Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant regulated by EPA to protect public health. Asbestos fibers are commonly found in building materials such as roofing shingles, floor tiles, and heat resistant fabrics. In general, exposure may occur when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air. Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease.
US Department of Labor Places Louisiana Contractor in Severe Violator Enforcement Program
Federal workplace safety investigators have determined a construction contractor could have prevented a 34-year-old steel worker from suffering fatal injuries – after a 60-foot fall at a Hyundai electric car plant in Ellabell – by following legally required safety procedures.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into the April 2023 incident found that workers employed by Eastern Constructors Inc. had been guiding an I-beam in place atop the plant's paint building when the fall occurred. One worker, walking along the top of the building's upper frame lost his balance and fell, resulting in the sharp edge of the structure cutting his safety line. Despite efforts of emergency personnel who arrived soon after, the worker died at the scene.
OSHA determined Eastern Constructors Inc. failed to ensure workers were provided fall arrest equipment that was appropriate for the work conditions and capable of resisting sharp edges, which exposed employees to fall hazards. The company also exposed employees to fall hazards by not taking worn and damaged fall arrest systems out of service.
OSHA cited Eastern Constructors Inc. for one willful and one serious violation and proposed $160,724 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute. For the company's plain indifference and willful violation, the agency has placed Eastern Constructors Inc. in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"The risks of serious and fatal injuries for people working at these heights are well-known and no step should ever be overlooked during the process of inspecting the worksite for hazards," said OSHA Acting Area Office Director Jessica Bookman in Savannah, Georgia. "Eastern Constructors' failure to protect its employees from the leading cause of death in the construction industry are inexcusable and resulted in tragic consequences."
Since 2016, Eastern Constructors, Inc. has been inspected in response to four other worker fatalities. These inspections resulted in serious and willful violations for hazards related to steel erection, including fall protection. As such, the employer will be added to OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program intended to focus enforcement efforts on noncompliant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.
Based in Geismar, Louisiana, the commercial construction contractor provides services throughout the Southeast and employed 13 people at the Ellabell site.
ECHA’s Investigation Finds Toxic Chemicals Present in Childcare Products
ECHA’s investigation, drawing on information from 48 different sources, shows that substances which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) may be present in childcare products (articles). Metals like cobalt and lead, along with phthalates like DEHP, are the most common CMR substances found in childcare products.
CMRs were most often found in items like car seats, bibs, products related to toiletries, and bedding and mattresses. Children may be exposed to these hazardous substances during use, for example through skin or oral contact, and are particularly vulnerable to the harm caused by chemical substances because of their small size, developing physiology and behaviour.
ECHA’s report provides elements to support the European Commission in the preparation of a potential future restriction. These include information on how childcare articles are defined, what the restriction could cover, potential derogations, recommended concentration limits and timeframes for implementation. The report also includes views from ECHA’s Enforcement Forum on how feasible it would be to enforce such a restriction.
The report will now be sent to the European Commission, who will use it to prepare a draft restriction proposal under REACH Article 68(2). This procedure allows the Commission to prepare a restriction proposal without involvement of ECHA’s scientific committees.
The purpose of ECHA’s investigation is to support the European Commission in preparing a restriction under the REACH Regulation to protect children from exposure to CMR substances in childcare articles. It focused on substances that have a harmonised classification under the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation as a CMR in category 1A (known human carcinogen, mutagen or reproductive toxicant) or 1B (presumed human carcinogen, mutagen or reproductive toxicant).
During the investigation, ECHA organised two public calls for evidence and a consultation on the draft report. The Agency contacted 233 different stakeholders to inform about the work and considered their feedback.
EPA Fines St. Louis Scrap Metal Facility for Alleged Clean Water Act Violations
SA Recycling LLC of St. Louis, Missouri, will pay $68,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the company failed to adequately control stormwater runoff from its scrap metal recycling and processing facility. EPA says that these failures could result in illegal discharges of pollution into the Mississippi River.
“Uncontrolled runoff from industrial facilities not only harms streams and rivers, but it also limits the public’s use and enjoyment of those waters,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “This settlement demonstrates EPA’s commitment to protecting vital watersheds, especially in areas overburdened by pollution, and creating a level playing field with businesses who are complying with the law.”
In the settlement documents, EPA alleges that SA Recycling failed to comply with certain terms of its Clean Water Act permit, including failure to update and implement practices to prevent runoff of pollution, failure to perform inspections, and failure to train employees on stormwater management practices.
In addition to paying the penalty, SA Recycling is correcting the alleged violations through implementation of an EPA compliance order. EPA estimates it will cost the company around $44,000 to comply with the order.
EPA identified that the community surrounding SA Recycling’s facility was a potentially sensitive location for air pollution, lead-based paint, hazardous waste, and wastewater discharges. EPA is strengthening enforcement in such communities to address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of industrial operations on vulnerable populations.
Under the Clean Water Act, industrial facilities that propose to discharge into protected water bodies are required to obtain permits and to follow the requirements outlined in those permits to reduce pollution runoff. Failure to obtain a permit or follow the requirements of a permit may violate federal law.
Federal Investigation Finds Rana Meal Solutions Again Failed To Protect Employees from Machines
For the third time in five years, federal investigators have found a nationwide provider of ready-made pasta, sauces and meals failed to follow workplace safety requirements to prevent workers from coming into contact with moving machine parts.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigating a report by Rana Meal Solutions LLC that an employee suffered a finger amputation determined the incident occurred on a hot pasta sauce line at the company's Barlett manufacturing facility. At the time, the employee was trying to find a piece of a broken ball valve lodged in the system.
"Once again, our inspectors found Rana Meal Solutions LLC ignoring federal safety requirements to make sure dangerous machines are guarded or fully de-energized before they are maintained or serviced," explained OSHA Area Director Jacob Scott in Naperville, Illinois. "In 2019 and 2020, OSHA found the company exposed employees to the risk of severe injuries and now, in 2023, their failure to follow industry and federal safety standards led one worker to suffer a painful, disfiguring injury."
OSHA cited the company for two repeat and eight serious violations and assessed $272,792 in proposed penalties. Specifically, inspectors found Rana Meal Solutions did not make certain employees followed lockout/tagout procedures while servicing and maintaining sauce line equipment and other machines. Investigators also learned the company did not perform and document annual inspections of machine specific lockout procedures, a violation for which OSHA cited the company in 2020.
In addition, OSHA inspectors cited Rana Meal Solutions for the following serious safety violations:
- Not installing a guardrail to prevent employees from falling into dangerous machinery from above.
- Storing chemicals in a room without adequate mechanical ventilation, a raised sill or a grated trench to drain spilled chemicals safely.
- Not fully implementing a confined space safety program, including the issuance of entry permits.
- Not developing, documenting or using lockout/tagout procedures for several machines. Investigators found the company did not retrain employees periodically on proper procedures and failed to use group lockouts when several employees serviced and maintained equipment.
- Failed to inspect slings each day before their use.
- Not affixing alloy chains with permanent, durable information on size, grade, rated capacity and reach.
- Lacking adequate machine guarding.
- Not enclosing chains and sprockets completely to protect employees from injuries.
Based in Barlett, Rana Meal Solutions LLC manufactures perishable Italian food products in two manufacturing buildings there and operates a distribution center nearby. The company ships its products nationwide.
OSHA's machine guarding and control of hazardous energy webpages provide information on what employers must do to limit worker exposures to machine hazards.
Oregon DEQ Settlement with Schnitzer Steel Requires Pollution Controls
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reached a settlement with Schnitzer Steel, recently renamed Radius Recycling, that includes a requirement for pollution controls to be installed by the end of the year and fully operational by March 31, 2024. This settlement is based on air quality violations related to the facility’s metal shredder.
Schnitzer Steel originally installed the shredder in 2007. Since then, new studies have demonstrated the amount of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and hazardous air pollutants metal shredders emit is much greater than previously understood.
“This settlement is part of a pattern of enforcement actions across the U.S. to ensure that metal shredder emissions are properly regulated under the Clean Air Act,” said Kieran O’Donnell, Office of Compliance and Enforcement manager. “Schnitzer Steel’s commitment to install an enclosure and emission controls at its Portland shredder signals a positive change to protect human health and the environment.”
The settlement includes an agreement, called a Mutual Agreement and Final Order, between DEQ and Schnitzer Steel. That agreement requires Schnitzer Steel to:
- Pay $500,000 in civil penalties, $400,000 of which will go towards a supplemental environmental project that will benefit air quality near the facility.
- Finish installation of the shredder enclosure and pollution controls by the end of the year and have them fully operational by March 31, 2024.
- Submit an updated air contaminant discharge permit application, including a more rigorous evaluation of emissions called major New Source Review.
- Conduct source testing to measure the shredder’s emissions once pollution controls are working.
- Perform a Cleaner Air Oregon risk analysis as a new source.
Once Schnitzer Steel submits a complete air quality permit application, DEQ will review it and draft a permit that complies with air quality regulations and go through a public process.
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