EPA Takes First Steps to Redefine Waters of the United States

August 02, 2017

EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, along with Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, signed a proposed rule on June 27, 2017, to initiate the first step in a comprehensive, two-step process intended to review and revise the definition of ‘‘waters of the United States’’ consistent with the Executive Order signed on February 28, 2017, "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule."

This first step proposes to rescind the definition of ‘‘waters of the United States’’ in the Code of Federal Regulations to re-codify the definition of ‘‘waters of the United States,’’ which currently governs administration of the Clean Water Act, pursuant to a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit staying a definition of "waters of the United States’’ promulgated by the agencies in 2015. As a part of the process, the EPA has determined that wetlands have no quantifiable value.

The agencies would apply the definition of ‘‘waters of the United States’’ as it is currently being implemented. According to EPA, proposing to re-codify the regulations that existed before the 2015 Clean Water Rule will provide continuity and certainty for regulated entities, the States, agency staff, and the public. In a second step, the agencies will pursue notice-and-comment rulemaking in which the agencies will conduct a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of ‘‘waters of the United States.''

Comments must be received on or before August 28, 2017.

Solar Paint Offers Endless Energy from Water Vapor

Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapor and split it to generate hydrogen—the cleanest source of energy.

The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines, and electronics fresh and dry.

But unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulfide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen.

RMIT lead researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke said: “We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air.

“Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate.

“Our new development has a big range of advantages,” he said. “There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapor in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”

His colleague, Distinguished Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen was the cleanest source of energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel.

“This is an extraordinary concept—making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.”

The research has been published as “Surface Water Dependent Properties of Sulfur Rich Molybdenum Sulphides—Electrolyteless Gas Phase Water Splitting” in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

Wool Fiberglass NESHAP Emission Limits Effective Date Extended

EPA has taken direct final action to amend the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for flame attenuation (FA) lines in the wool fiberglass manufacturing industry. This direct final rule provides affected sources a 1-year extension to comply with the emission limits for FA lines. The EPA can provide sources up to 3 years to comply with emission limits in the Clean Air Act standards. FA lines initially were given 2 years to comply with the emission limits. This action will extend the compliance date to the maximum of 3 years while EPA conducts its review. This compliance date extension will enable the EPA to conduct a review of the emission limits for FA lines in light of recently submitted corrected source emissions data.

This rule will become effective on October 25, 2017, unless the EPA receives significant adverse comment by August 28, 2017

New Test Methods for Drinking Water Contaminants Approved

EPA has approved 17 analytical methods for determining contaminant concentrations in drinking water samples collected under SDWA. Regulated parties required to sample and monitor may use either the testing methods already established in existing regulations or the alternative testing methods being approved in this action or in prior expedited approval actions. The new methods are listed along with other methods similarly approved through previous expedited actions in 40 CFR 141, appendix A to subpart C and on EPA's drinking water methods Web site at https://www.epa.gov/dwanalyticalmethods.

Federal Partnership Launches Water Quality Challenge Piloting Low-Cost Nutrient Sensors

A federal partnership launched a technology-accelerating water quality challenge to demonstrate how nutrient sensors can be used by states and local communities to help manage nutrient pollution.

Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costliest, and most challenging environmental problems. It is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. This results in major environmental damage and serious health problems in people and animals. Nutrient pollution and algal blooms also take a toll on the economy, hurting industries and sectors that depend on clean water. Federal, state and local governments spend billions of dollars every year to combat nutrient pollution or prevent its effects.

The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge builds upon the 2014 Nutrient Sensor Challenge, which helped facilitate the development of affordable, high-performing, continuous nutrient sensors and analyzers. The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge calls for demonstrations showing the effective use of low-cost sensors, innovative partnerships to pilot the sensors and data management, and demonstrations of how collected data and information can be part of state and local decision-making. By proving there are successful strategies for incorporating nutrient sensors into existing water monitoring efforts, the Challenge can help states and communities overcome the major barriers to taking action to prevent and reduce nutrient pollution.

In Stage 1 of the Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge, which closes September 20, 2017, teams will submit action plans. These plans will explain how teams intend to deploy and use sensors and how they will meet Challenge goals. Judges will review the submissions and select up to 10 winning applications. Top entries will receive cash prizes totaling $50,000 and invitations to participate in Stage 2 of the Challenge. In Stage 2, teams will deploy the sensors and collect data as they compete for a share in $100,000 in prizes.

An informational webinar for the Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge will take place August 2, 2017 at 2pm ET: https://www.epa.gov/research/nutrient-sensor-action-challenge-informational-webinar.

The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge is a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS®). Joining the federal collaboration is the Alliance for Coastal Technologies (ACT) which is a partnership organization of research institutions, resource managers, and private sector companies dedicated to fostering the development and adoption of effective and reliable sensors and platforms.

Senators Send Letter to EPA on CASAC Nominations

On July 27, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt regarding needed reforms to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).

Last month, the EPA issued a request for nominations of qualified individuals to serve on CASAC.

In the letter, the senators call on Pruitt to “revisit past CASAC practices to make them compliant with the statute.” CASAC is supposed to provide independent counsel to the administrator on issues specifically listed in the Clean Air Act related to the federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). “In the past, CASAC has failed to address these required statutory obligations,” the senators write.

The Senators cite a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found “CASAC has never provided advice on adverse social, economic, or energy effects related to NAAQS because EPA has never asked CASAC to do so.” The senators also highlight state concerns about inadequate attention to background pollutant levels in the air, especially in the West.

The senators call on Pruitt to ensure that CASAC addresses these issues. “As you review 2017 nominations for CASAC members, we request that you put measures in place to ensure that moving forward, CASAC complies with these statutory obligations. CASAC must be constituted of experts who can provide independent counsel to you in all of the above areas,” write the senators.

Read the full letter here.

Minnesota Violators Fined $450,000 in Second Quarter of 2017

In its ongoing efforts to promote environmental compliance, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concluded 48 enforcement cases in 33 counties throughout Minnesota during the second quarter of 2017.  Penalties from all 48 cases totaled just over $450,000.

Environmental enforcement investigations often take several months, and in highly complex cases more than a year. Although, in rare instances, they can involve courts, they are most often negotiated settlements where the goal is compliance with environmental rules. Fines issued are targeted to match the environmental harm, economic advantage gained or environmental corrective actions.

In addition to these 48 recently-completed cases, the MPCA also has 41 ongoing enforcement investigations, 17 of which were opened as new cases during the second quarter of 2017.  Not all investigations lead to fines or other official action.

Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process.  Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support, and information on the steps and tools necessary to achieve compliance for any company, individual, or local government that requests it.

Click here for a list of enforcement actions.

EPW Committee Passes HELP for Wildlife Act with Bipartisan Support

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered his remarks at a committee business meeting to consider S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act. The HELP for Wildlife Act passed the EPW Committee by a vote of 14 to 7 with broad bipartisan support.

The HELP for Wildlife Act will authorize several important government wildlife conservation programs. The bipartisan legislation will also provide regulatory clarity for sportsmen and farmers. The bill is supported by a broad group of stakeholders. For more information on the bipartisan HELP for Wildlife Act, click here.

Brasso’s remarks:

“The HELP for Wildlife Act is a bipartisan conservation bill designed to enhance recreational hunting and sport fishing activities, ensure commonsense environmental regulations, and protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. I introduced this bipartisan bill with Senators Cardin, Boozman, Klobuchar, Capito, and Baldwin. The bill has also been cosponsored by Senators Johnson, Enzi, King, and Inhofe.

I thank them for working with me in crafting this legislation that over 50 environmental and sportsmen organizations have endorsed, and that the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership called “the strongest legislative package of sportsmen’s priorities in years.”

The environmental and sportsmen communities are enthusiastic about the HELP for Wildlife Act for good reason. The bill protects the environment and conserves wildlife and wildlife habitats by creating fish habitat conservation partnerships, and by reauthorizing: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act; the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act; the Chesapeake Bay Program; and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program.

The bill enhances opportunities for sportsmen by ensuring anglers can continue to use lead tackle and by promoting public target ranges for recreational shooting. The bill provides farmers with regulatory certainty by ensuring they are not held liable for bird baiting for hunting purposes when they adhere to USDA and state agricultural best practices.

The bill puts an end to the Endangered Species Act listing of the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes, which will free up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to redirect resources that were being spent on the already fully-recovered gray wolf to other species that are truly in need.

It is time for this committee to take a major step towards furthering conservation efforts in our states in a bipartisan way. I urge my colleagues to stand with the 50-plus environmental and sportsmen’s organizations and constituents that they represent who want further conservation efforts in this country. I look forward to passing this important legislation out of the committee today, and working with my colleagues to pass it on the Senate floor.”

Bill to Ban Chlorpyrifos Unveiled in Senate

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind bill that would ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used agricultural pesticide that has been linked to reduced IQ and attention deficit disorder in children. Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate which comes from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, is used on staple foods like strawberries, apples, citrus, broccoli, and more.

The Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act amends the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act—which oversees food safety—and prohibits all chlorpyrifos use in food. SB 1624 also directs the EPA to partner with the National Research Council to assess the neurodevelopmental effects and other low-dose impacts that exposure to organophosphate pesticides has on agricultural workers and children. In addition to calling for a ban on chlorpyrifos, the bill educates the public about the history of this nerve agent pesticide and the communities that are in harms' way. In addition to Udall and Blumenthal, the bill, S.1624, is co-sponsored by senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). A summary is available here.

“The chemical industry can and must do better than continue to push for the use of nerve agents in our food. This bill comes at a crucial time when scientific integrity and the protection of the public is compromised by industry collusion with the administration,” said Andrea Delgado, legislative director of the Healthy Communities program at Earthjustice. “The most exposed and vulnerable among us are our children, farmworkers and families in rural communities, and they deserve action now."

The bill was unveiled in the presence of more than 30 representatives from health, labor and civil rights organizations from across the country. The delegation met with senators to seek their leadership in banning chlorpyrifos. The group is urging officials to support the bill and protect the health of the millions of workers and children who are exposed to chlorpyrifos every year.

“No family should be facing a life of special needs because of chlorpyrifos,” said the delegation in a statement. “If the EPA refuses to protect the health of our children and agricultural workers, then lawmakers from both sides of the aisle must do their job and back the chlorpyrifos ban bill. The health of our communities depends on it.”

The bill comes days after a court of appeals declined to direct the EPA to act on whether to ban the controversial pesticide.

Chlorpyrifos is linked to long-term damage to children’s developing brains and nervous systems even at low levels of exposure during pregnancy and early childhood. It is also acutely toxic.

In March, the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos claiming the science is “unresolved” and decided it would study the issue until 2022. That decision came weeks after the agency boss, Scott Pruitt, met with the head of Dow Chemical, which sells chlorpyrifos under the name of Lorsban. In refusing a ban, the EPA reversed its own proposal to ban all food crop uses of chlorpyrifos. Groups represented by Earthjustice have appealed the EPA decision directly with the agency, however. Attorney generals from various states, too, have called for a ban in their own appeals to the EPA.

Chlorpyrifos was banned from residential use 17 years ago as it was considered too toxic. But the use of the same pesticide on the country’s food continues even though the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act requires EPA to protect children from unsafe exposures to pesticides.

Fireclay Tile Fined $25,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control has filed a complaint against Fireclay Tile, Inc., a manufacturer of glass and clay tiles and bricks, for multiple hazardous waste violations.

The complaint alleges that San Francisco-based Fireclay unlawfully generated, stored, treated and disposed of hazardous waste at its facility in Aromas (San Benito County). The California Attorney General’s Office filed the complaint in San Francisco County Superior Court on behalf of DTSC.

Fireclay produces glass tiles made from solar glass tubes and cathode ray tube (CRT) panel glass. At the facility, the solar glass tubes and CRT panel glass are crushed by a hammer mill and ground into glass particles. The glass particles are then sorted by size using mechanical sieves into plastic containers both outdoors and indoors.

Under the terms of a loan agreement with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Fireclay was required to divert debris and glass, which Fireclay uses as ingredients in its tiles, from landfills. The agreement also required Fireclay to comply with all laws, expressly including the Hazardous Waste Control Law.

The complaint alleges that Fireclay unlawfully treated CRT panel glass and solar glass tubes, which are hazardous wastes. The complaint also alleges that spills of crushed glass particles and glass dust were found throughout the facility and glass particles and dust were disposed of into trash cans and a municipal dumpster.

As part of the inspection, DTSC collected samples throughout the facility and found that all but one of the samples exceeded the regulatory threshold for barium, antimony, and/or zinc.

  • The complaint also alleges that Fireclay:
  • Failed to make hazardous waste determinations on the waste streams generated at the facility
  • Failed to provide hazardous waste and universal waste training to its employees and contractors
  • Failed to properly maintain or operate the facility to minimize the release of hazardous waste into the environment


The violations, if proven, subject Fireclay to civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each separate violation and $25,000 for each day a violation continued.

L.A. Regional Water Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reach Settlement over Clean Water Act Violations

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have reached a settlement agreement over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to two dredge and fill operations conducted by the Army Corps in the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. The alleged violations took place between 2011 and 2012.

As part of the settlement, the Los Angeles Water Board and the Army Corps entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that lays out regulatory processes, guidelines, and best management practices for future work in the Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA), which is managed by the Army Corps. The Army Corps operates six flood risk management facilities, and approximately 34 miles of flood control channels and levees within L.A. County.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that protects the water quality and environment of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries,” said Irma Muñoz, chair of the Los Angeles Water Board. “With this agreement we look forward to an open and communicative process, and to work with the Army Corps on projects in the Los Angeles County Drainage Area that protect the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

The first alleged violations of the Clean Water Act took place at Verdugo Wash, which is a tributary of the L.A. River in Glendale, in an area known as the Glendale Narrows. Between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, 2011, the Army Corps dredged 6.5 acres in Verdugo Wash, including the confluence of the Wash and the L.A. River. The Army Corps did not acquire Clean Water Act Section 401 state water quality certification from the Los Angeles Water Board to do this work, and the Board was not made aware of this project until January 13, 2012.

On December 29, 2012, the Los Angeles Water Board learned the Army Corps removed riparian vegetation along Haskell Creek, a tributary to the L.A. River located in the Sepulveda Basin in December 2012, without state water quality certification. The Army Corps also conducted dredge and fill operations in the L.A. River itself during this time period. The Basin is a 2,000- acre flood management basin and wildlife reserve located on the upper portion of the L.A. River in the San Fernando Valley in L.A. County.

In both instances, the Army Corps used heavy equipment to remove vegetation, and it is alleged that during both dredge and fill operations little was done to mitigate the discharges of oil, grease and other pollutants into these waters. These two activities are also alleged to have discharged sediment into the L.A. River that could affect water quality and aquatic life and wildlife habitat. Excessive discharges of sediment can limit sunlight from entering the water and in turn inhibit the growth of aquatic plants and destroy spawning habitats for bottom-dwelling organisms and larval fish.

The Los Angeles Water Board’s complaint sought a court order declaring the Army Corps’ discharge activities without state water quality certification violations of the Clean Water Act, and directing the Army Corps to comply with the Clean Water Act, including ceasing all dredge and fill operations and discharges of pollutants into the L.A. River and its tributaries unless it obtains a valid state certification for each operation, or demonstrates compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Under the MOU, the Army Corps agrees to notify the Los Angeles Water Board by October 31 of each federal fiscal year with a list of the planned LACDA projects and the operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and rehabilitation activities for that year. Depending on the project, the Corps will also provide between 45-75 days advance notice prior to commencing the activity. Along with the notifications, the Army Corps will work collaboratively with the Board and use accepted best management practices to reduce the amount of pollutants and sediment discharged into the L.A. River and its tributaries.

States Sue EPA for Blocking Chemical Accident Safety Rule

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 11 state Attorneys General, recently filed a lawsuit against the EPA for delaying a vital rule meant to protect communities, workers, and first responders from dangerous chemical accidents. The rule—the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements or the “Chemical Accident Safety Rule”—makes critical improvements to Congressionally-mandated protections against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at more than 12,000 facilities across the country—including over 200 in New York—that store and use toxic chemicals.

The lawsuit is led by Attorney General Schneiderman and signed by the Attorneys General of New York, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Click here to read the lawsuit.

“Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree. Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s simply outrageous to block these common sense protections—and Attorneys General will keep fighting back when our communities are put at risk.”

The coalition of Attorneys General is challenging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent delay of the rule by an additional 20 months as exceeding EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act, and as arbitrary and capricious.

According to the EPA, in the last ten years, there have been over 1,5oo accidents at chemical plants, including 30 in New York. Nationally, these accidents caused 58 deaths; 17,099 people to be injured or seek medical treatment; almost 500,000 people to be evacuated or sheltered-in-place; and over $2 billion in property damage.  High-profile incidents included those at BP Refinery in Texas in 2005 (15 people killed, 170 injured), Chevron Refinery in California in 2012 (19 workers endangered, 15,000 people sought medical treatment), Tesoro Refinery in Washington in 2010 (seven people killed), West Fertilizer Facility in Texas in 2013 (15 people killed), and Williams Olefins Plant in Louisiana in 2013 (two workers killed, many more injured).

The number and severity of accidents over the last decade make clear the need to update the safety and security of the nation’s chemical facilities. On January 13, 2017, the Obama administration finalized the Chemical Accident Safety Rule to update “Risk Management Plan” regulations mandated by Congress in 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act. The amended rules would necessitate additional safeguards in accident prevention programs to protect communities and prevent future accidents—requiring “root cause” analyses and third-party audits following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives; emergency response procedures, mandating annual coordination with local first responders, annual notification drills, and periodic field exercises; and increased public access to facility chemical hazard information, in addition to public meetings within 90 days of an incident. In fact, despite Administrator Pruitt’s delay of the rule, the EPA published a June 2017 fact sheet explaining how these improvements “will help protect local first responders, community members, and employees from death or injury due to the chemical facility accidents.”

The more than 12,000 facilities covered by the regulations include chemical manufacturers, petroleum refineries, pulp and paper mills, chemical and petroleum wholesalers and terminals, wastewater treatment plants, agricultural chemical distributors, midstream gas plants, and food storage facilities with ammonia refrigeration systems. The over 200 facilities located in New York include facilities such as Amrex Chemical (Binghamton), Arch Chemicals (Rochester), Durez Corp. (Niagara Falls), FMC Industrial Chemicals (Tonawanda), MPM Silicones (Waterford), International Paper (Ticonderoga), JCI Jones Chemicals (Warwick), Momentive Specialty Chemicals (South Glens Falls), PVS Chemical Solutions (Buffalo), Surpass Chemical (Albany), and Twin Lakes Chemical (Lockport). 

When adopted, the rule’s effective date was March 14, 2017. Facilities were provided one year from the effective date to comply with the emergency response procedures, and four years to implement the accident prevention program and public information disclosure requirements. EPA determined that this lead-time was necessary for facility operators to understand and implement the rule’s provisions.

Soon after the Chemical Accident Safety Rule was finalized, a number of oil and gas and chemical industry associations and companies—including the American Chemistry Council, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute—petitioned the Trump EPA to reconsider the rule. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt subsequently granted these requests and delayed the rule’s effective date for 90 days.

On June 14, 2017, Administrator Pruitt further delayed the Chemical Accident Safety Rule’s effective date for an additional 20 months until February 19, 2019. The Trump administration’s decision to delay the rule for almost two years directly contradicts the June 2017 EPA fact sheet which outlines the pressing need for, and the dramatic safety benefits of, the rule. The 20-month delay would extend the date at which chemical facilities must comply with the rule’s emergency response requirements to 2020, and with its accident prevention program and public information disclosure requirements to 2023.

In the suit filed recently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the coalition of Attorneys General is challenging the June 14 rule—and its 20-month delay of the Chemical Accident Safety Rule’s effective date.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Laura Mirman-Heslin and Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.

Norton Sound Seafood Products Fined $51,050 for Wastewater Discharge Violations

The EPA has reached an agreement with the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, owners and operators of the Norton Sound Seafood Products Company, over alleged wastewater discharge violations at their Nome, Alaska plant.

During a 2016 inspection, EPA found many violations of the company’s seafood processing discharge permit, including:

  • Failure to adequately monitor its grinders, waste conveyance system, the sea surface, and the nearby shoreline
  • Failure to identify the discharge location and chemicals used in their tote washing process
  • Exceeding the dimension requirements for seafood processing waste residues
  • Failure to complete all reporting and record keeping required under the permit


The agreement resolves the alleged violations and includes a $51,050 penalty. By regularly inspecting facilities of all sizes, EPA helps maintain a “level playing field” among all permitted processors and insures that permit violators do not enjoy an unfair economic advantage over their permit-abiding competitors.

Seafood processors are required to have current wastewater discharge permits to protect the waters that receive their ground waste, which often includes entrails, bones, fins, shells, and other unmarketable trimmings. At the Norton Sound facility, strong tidal and river currents help disperse the waste, but that is not always the case. Larger processing facilities can generate enormous volumes of seafood waste that, if not managed properly according to their permit, can cause serious harm to the underwater environment. In some cases, processing waste also accumulates on the sea surface and shoreline. Such accumulation can attract pests, scavengers and create noxious odors.

Growing unnoticed beneath the surface, piles of waste can accumulate, suffocating underwater life by cutting off oxygen. Broad areas of the bottom are sometimes carpeted with a thick layer of viscous, gelatinous goo, a result of anaerobic decomposition. In the worst cases, these fish processing waste “dead zones” can cover acres of seafloor.

 By properly managing waste and meeting their discharge permit limits, seafood processors can safeguard the marine environment and profit from America’s recognition of seafood as an important part of a healthy diet.

Jerry Brown Company Fined $23,000 for Release of Diesel Fuel from Storage Tanks

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA combined efforts to protect Spoon Creek, a small stream midway between Salem and Eugene along the I-5 corridor, from a February 2016, spill of red dyed diesel fuel. The joint cleanup and enforcement action has culminated in two separate agreements with the Jerry Brown Company, Inc., a petroleum distribution company based in Eugene.

The agreements resolve alleged violations stemming from the release of agricultural diesel fuel from the company’s storage tank in February 2016. The leak contaminated the farmer’s soil surrounding the tank, his nearby field, and Spoon Creek near Halsey, OR.  As a result of this joint action, nearly 3,000 cubic yards of diesel-soaked soil was removed for disposal and water quality near the site was monitored for just over a year.

After the company notified DEQ on February 22, 2016, DEQ responders arrived at the grass seed farm to find that an estimated 900 gallons of red dyed (designates off road use) diesel had leaked from the 1,000-gallon aboveground storage tank. EPA and DEQ believe that the leak occurred sometime after a fuel delivery to the farm on February 11, 2016. The fuel leaked from the bottom of the tank, seeped into the soil around the tank and followed channels and rills across the property to Spoon Creek, just northeast of the property.  EPA was notified by DEQ and sent a responder to the scene for reconnaissance purposes and to support DEQ.  

With the response already underway, EPA’s responder arrived to witness puddles of fuel still pooled across a wide area, which was waterlogged from recent heavy rains. Oil sheen was documented along a one and three quarter-mile section of Spoon Creek. Spoon Creek flows through Walton Slough and into the Calapooia River, some 10 miles downstream. The Calapooia River is a tributary to the Willamette River.

“Oregon’s rivers, lakes and groundwater are among its greatest natural resources and DEQ and EPA work diligently to safeguard them,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “This settlement is an example of the close working relationship between DEQ and EPA and the agencies’ continuing commitment to protecting the waters of Oregon.”

Both the Calapooia and the Willamette River downstream, are home to several threatened and endangered species, including Chinook salmon, winter steelhead, Oregon chub and Pacific Lamprey.  Fortunately, no oiled fish, birds or other wildlife were seen during an initial site survey led by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The company paid a $9,900 penalty to EPA and a $13,200 penalty to DEQ as part of the agreements. The Jerry Brown Company, Inc., also shouldered the cost of a cleanup crew at the site (numbering up to 20 personnel) over approximately one month.  The company also paid an estimated $100,000 for removal and disposal of approximately 2,800 cubic yards of diesel saturated soil. 

Following the initial joint response, DEQ quickly took the oversight lead for the company’s cleanup effort and ultimately de-mobilized from the site on March 1, 2016. Under the agreement with DEQ, the Jerry Brown Company, Inc., also committed to performing a year of water quality monitoring at the site. The final samples are scheduled to be pulled this month (July 2017).  A few initial detections of spill-related fuel have given way to no detections over the past several months.

“Oregon DEQ had this spill managed right out of the gate,” said Jeff Kenknight, manager of EPA’s Water and Wetlands enforcement unit in Seattle. “By working together to safeguard Oregon’s water quality, we can use federal tools and authorities where they can do the most good. This kind of teamwork means Oregon’s treasured rivers, lakes and streams get the protection they deserve.”

$27,100 Fine for Asbestos Removal Violations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a fine of $27,100 to Mr. Robert Clum of Pittsfield for illegally removing asbestos at a residence at 65 Circular Avenue in Pittsfield in August of 2016.

This removal and disposal of asbestos pipe insulation potentially exposed residents to asbestos fibers. Mr. Clum did not have a Massachusetts contractor's license to do the asbestos work nor did he notify MassDEP regarding the planned asbestos removal.

Mr. Clum was hired by the homeowner to remove asbestos-containing boiler pipe insulation in the basement of the two-family home. He performed the work without using required work techniques to prevent an air-borne release of asbestos. Subsequently, a proper asbestos abatement was performed by a licensed contractor under the oversight of the MassDEP.

"In this case, an elderly resident was clearly taken advantage of by an individual unqualified to remove asbestos material," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "It is essential that asbestos abatement be performed by a licensed contractor to ensure that there is no risk to human health and safety or the environment."

Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP Regional Office for assistance here.

Environmental News Links 

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Connecticut DEEP Says Updated Energy Strategy Will Continue Moving State Toward Cheaper, Cleaner, More Reliable Energy

Christie Administration Accepting Nominations for Annual Recycling Awards Program

How the Climate Crisis Could Become a Food Crisis Overnight

U.S. House Hacks Away at Renewable Energy, Efficiency Programs

New Lookup to Tell You What’s in Your Water

Trump Rolls Back Fracking Protections on Federal Lands

Maryland Plans Lawsuit Against EPA Under Clean Air Act

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Trivia Question of the Week

How many gallons of gas are used in the U.S. each year running air conditioning in cars?

a. 7 million

b. 700 million

c. 7 billion

d. 70 billion