EPA to Require Adding PFAS Chemicals to TRI Reports

December 09, 2019
EPA is soliciting information from the public as the Agency considers proposing a future rule on adding certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the list of toxic chemicals subject to reporting under section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA).
In an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, EPA described what PFAS are, why the Agency is considering adding certain PFAS to EPCRA section 313, what listing actions are being considered, who may be required to report, the current understanding of hazard concerns for PFAS, EPA's hazard assessments on PFAS, and other information available on these chemicals. In considering a chemical for addition to the EPCRA section 313 list, EPA bases its listing decision on the chemical's hazard (i.e., toxicity), not the risk (i.e., toxicity plus potential exposures) related to that chemical.
EPA has requested comment on which, if any, PFAS should be evaluated for listing, how to list them, and what would be appropriate reporting thresholds given their persistence and bioaccumulation potential. EPA also asked for any additional data to inform the Agency's evaluation and determination of which PFAS may meet the EPCRA section 313 listing criteria.
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Don’t Drink this Water
The former operator of the drinking water system in Garden Plain, Kan., was sentenced to a year on federal probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for falsifying a report on the quality of the city’s drinking water, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
Arthur Wolfe, 64, Norwich, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of a making a false statement in a report to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that was required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Wolfe certified a bacteriological report that falsely represented water samples taken at the water treatment plant as samples taken at other locations.
McAllister commended the EPA and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger for their work on the case.
In a similar case, Arthur Wolfe pleaded guilty to falsifying drinking water quality reports (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Sentencing was scheduled for December 2, 2019.
The city of Garden Plain, Kansas, operates a community water system that provides drinking water for close to 1,000 residents. As the Water System Agent for the City, Wolfe falsified bacteriological summary reports for a number of months in 2017. Specifically, Wolfe certified that he took samples from the required sampling areas, when in fact he took them from the water treatment plant.
The EPA Criminal Investigation Division investigated this case.
Proposed TRI Reporting Revisions
EPA has proposed corrections to existing regulatory language for the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program. EPA is proposing corrections that will update identifiers, formulas, and names for certain TRI-listed chemicals and updates to the text that identifies which chemicals the 0.1 percent de minimis concentration applies to in order to remedy a cross-reference to a no-longer-accurate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulatory citation.
According to EPA, these proposed corrections maintain previous regulatory actions and do not alter existing reporting requirements or impact compliance burdens or costs.
EPA Revisions to NSR Permitting Program
Congress established New Source Review as a preconstruction permitting program in the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments. The program intended to ensure the maintenance of air quality standards around the country and that state-of-the-art technology is installed at new plants or existing plants undergoing major modifications.
Under the NSR program, before constructing a new stationary emission source or major modification of an existing source, the source operator must determine whether the new source will emit or the project will increase air emissions above certain thresholds. If so, the operator may need to get a permit from a state government or EPA that may require installation of pollution control technology or other measures.
On December 3, EPA announced several actions to revise New Source Review (NSR) permitting requirements. According to EPA, these actions will modernize and streamline the NSR process, without impeding the Agency’s ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance the nation’s air quality, improve regulatory certainty and remove unnecessary obstacles to projects aiming to improve the reliability, efficiency, and safety of facilities while maintaining air quality standards.
“NSR reforms are a key component of President Trump’s agenda to revitalize American manufacturing and grow our economy while continuing to protect and improve the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler“NSR regularly discouraged companies from investing in and deploying the cleanest and most efficient technologies. Through the Trump Administration's efforts, EPA is providing clarity to permitting requirements, improving the overall process, and incentivizing investments in the latest energy technologies.”
EPA issued final guidance, identifying the sort of measures which EPA may take account of in determining whether a source owner or operator has precluded the general public from having access to its property. Where access is precluded, the portion of the atmosphere above that property is not considered “ambient air” for the purpose of conducting air quality analyses under the Clean Air Act. The guidance updates EPA’s policy to recognize that a variety of measures may be considered effective in keeping the public off a source owner/operator’s property. These measures, which account for advances in surveillance and monitoring, depend on site-specific circumstances and continue to include, but are now not solely limited to, fences or other physical barriers. State, local and tribal permitting authorities have the discretion to apply this guidance on a case-by-case basis. The regulatory definition of “ambient air,” as stated in 40 CFR § 50.1(e) to mean “that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has access,” remains unchanged.
EPA has also recently issued a final guidance that revises the Agency’s interpretation of when multiple air pollution-emitting activities are located on sufficiently “adjacent” properties to one another that they should be considered a single source for the purposes of permitting. To determine what activities comprise a single source under the NSR and Title V air permitting programs, three factors must be satisfied: the activities must be under common control; they must be located on contiguous or adjacent properties; and they must fall under the same major group standard industrial classification (SIC) code. In this guidance, for all industries other than oil and natural gas production and processing for which there is a separate set of rules and to which this guidance does not apply, EPA adopts an interpretation of “adjacent” that is based on physical proximity only. The concept of “functional interrelatedness” would not be considered by EPA when determining whether activities are located on adjacent properties. This interpretation should help clarify and streamline the permitting process.
EPA also recently issued a proposal to address minor errors that have accumulated over time in four NSR regulations. While these minor errors, such as outdated cross references and typographical errors, have not materially impeded the effective operation of the NSR program, EPA believes that it is important to remove such errors from the regulations in order to provide regulatory certainty and clarity. The proposed corrections are all considered to be non-substantive and are intended to provide clarity and precision to the NSR regulations without altering any NSR policy or changing the NSR program as a whole.
EPA is also proposing to remove from the NSR regulations various provisions, such as certain “grandfathering” provisions, that, with the passage of time, no longer serve any practical function or purpose. EPA will be taking comment on this proposal, which will be published in the Federal Register.
Fertilizers Spread Forever Chemicals Across U.S.
Fertilizers produced from sewage are a major source of chemical contamination of American croplands and backyard gardens, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Ultra-high levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), called “Forever Chemicals” because they do not breakdown and bioaccumulate in the food chain, are found in sewage sludge repurposed as fertilizer.
Testing of commercially available biosolid-based fertilizers in 2014 detected very high levels of PFAS. One of these fertilizers comes from a public agency, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), whose BayState fertilizer contained roughly 34,000 parts-per-trillion of 17 different PFAS. In contrast, this is almost 500 times the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory limit for just two of those compounds, PFOA and PFOS. As reported in the Boston Globe today, MWRA tested the materials in March 2019 and found the fertilizer contained more than 18,000 parts per trillion of three PFAS chemicals.
PFAS in fertilizer raises public health concerns because the toxic substances –
  • Migrate to both groundwater and surface waters, some of which are sources of drinking water. After a single biosolids application, PFAS can be detected in groundwater months later;
  • Accumulate in crops used for consumption by both livestock and humans; and
  • Risk exposing workers and consumers handling PFAS-laden fertilizers.
“These fertilizers are another open pathway for dangerous PFAS penetration of our water supply and food chain,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “Ironically, public agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection are working hard to stem PFAS contamination, but a sister agency, the MWRA, may be a major source of contamination through biosolid fertilizers.”
Sewage sludge is often treated for land application as fertilizer in a form referred to as biosolids.
In the U.S., millions of tons of biosolids are applied to lands each year to improve soil productivity to stimulate plant growth. Despite meeting EPA standards, these biosolids can still contain pollutants harmful to the environment and human health, as documented in a recent report by EPA’s Inspector General.
“Unfortunately, EPA lacks a regulatory handle for keeping PFAS and other hazardous but unregulated chemicals out of biosolid fertilizers sold to the public,” added Bennett. “EPA’s abdication means that states will have to fill the legal void and impose safeguards to protect our food and water.”
A new movie, entitled Dark Waters, depicts the dire public health consequences of PFAS contamination based upon an actual case.
Jaron Coleman Admitted Diesel Dump
Jaron Coleman pleaded guilty to violating the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act for dumping thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and causing a nearby school to shutdown (33 U.S.C. §§ 1319(c)(2) (A), 1321(b)(3)). On April 19, 2018, Coleman, working for Eco Energy, dumped approximately 3,000 gallons of fuel on the ground near a gas station in Thomasville, Georgia, after he realized he had loaded the wrong product for a delivery. The fuel migrated to an adjacent storm water drainage system that flows directly into a creek. The unnamed creek is a tributary of Good Water Creek Ochlockonee River, a traditionally Environmental Protection Agency initiated a cleanup. Officials evacuated the Garrison Pilcher Elementary School after discovering large amounts of diesel fuel nearby.
The EPA Criminal Investigation Division investigated this case.
$100,000 Fine for Water Permit Violations
A court sentenced Crete Core Ingredients, LLC, (CCI) to pay a $100,000 fine for violating the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1319(c)(1)(a)).
CCI specializes in processing animal materials and byproducts for the pet food industry. On August 5, 2014, flow data from CCI to the City of Crete Publicly Owned Treatment Works showed that the company negligently exceeded its wastewater discharge permit levels for a number of parameters, including biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids.
The EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality investigated this case.
Clarion Boards, LLC Fined $229,950 for Air Pollution Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that Clarion Boards, LLC, a subsidiary of Kronospan, has agreed to a Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty in the amount of $229,950 for operation violations that occurred between 2017 and February 2019 at the Clarion Boards facility in Paint Township, Clarion County.DEP found violations of the facility’s hourly and yearly limits on the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC). In addition, Clarion Boards had data availability issues with the facility’s continuous emission monitoring system and operated plant equipment in a manner that was inconsistent with terms and conditions of the facility’s operating permit.
“Violation of daily and yearly emission limits are significant violations and are easily prevented through proper oversight of operations. This penalty is appropriate, given the potential impacts associated with an exceedance of emission limits,” said Jim Miller, director of DEP’s Northwest Regional Office. “DEP appreciates Clarion Boards’ acknowledgment of the violations and efforts to correct and prevent similar violations in the future.”
The payment will go into the Pennsylvania Clean Air Fund.
The company has corrected the violations and has recently installed new equipment at the facility, including a new dust burner system, new Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer to better control VOC emissions, and four engines to produce on-site power.
Cement Companies to Spend $12 Million to Reduce NOx and SO2 Emissions
In a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Lehigh Cement Company LLC (Lehigh) and Lehigh White Cement Company, LLC (Lehigh White) have agreed to invest approximately $12 million in pollution control technology at their 11 portland cement manufacturing plants, announced the Department of Justice and the EPA. The settlement will reduce more than 4,555 tons of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 989 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution each year.
“This settlement with Lehigh and Lehigh White will significantly reduce harmful air emissions at their cement plants nationwide,” said Bruce Gelber, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The settlement is a product of the federal government’s close work with state and local agencies who all share the goal of improving air quality in their regions in compliance with state and federal laws.”
“Today’s settlement will require these cement manufacturers to improve their operations to reduce harmful air pollutants,” said Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine.  “The upgrades at these facilities will improve air quality for the surrounding communities.”
Under this settlement, the companies will install and operate equipment to control NOx and meet emission limits that are consistent with controls at comparable cement kilns across the country.  This settlement also requires the companies to operate existing pollution controls at four kilns and meet more stringent emission limits.  For controlling SO2, Lehigh will install and operate pollution control equipment at several kilns, and will meet low SO2 emission limits at all kilns.
Lehigh has agreed to mitigate the effects of past excess emissions from its facilities by replacing old diesel truck engines at its facilities in Union Bridge, MD, and Mason City, IA, at an estimated cost of approximately $650,000, which is expected to reduce smog-forming NOx by approximately 25 tons per year.  Lehigh will also pay a civil penalty of $1.3 million to resolve Clean Air Act violations.
The settlement is the 12th settlement to address harmful air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities.  Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, two key pollutants emitted from cement plants, can harm human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze.  These pollutants are converted in the air into fine particles that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts and premature death.  Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit communities located near the Lehigh plants, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children.
The Lehigh cement plants covered by the settlement are located in Leeds, AL.; Cupertino, Redding, and Tehachapi, CA.; Mason City, IA; Mitchell, IN; Union Bridge, MD; Glens Falls, NY, and Fleetwood, PA.  Lehigh White’s facilities are located in York, PA and Woodway, TX.  Seven state and state or regional agencies have joined the United States in the settlement, consisting of Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, New York, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Jefferson County Board of Health (Alabama), and Bay Area Air Quality Management District (California).  The states and state and regional agencies will share in the civil penalty.
The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Used Electric Vehicle Batteries Charge Up the Grid
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an innovative control system for repurposed electric vehicle battery packs to store electricity for home use and are scaling up the technology to a large, power grid-level project.
Even after batteries have reached the end of their first useful life powering electric vehicles, or EVs, there’s still plenty of juice left. These packs may no longer be able to stand up to the extreme charging and discharging conditions for EVs, but they still have serviceable life as a low-cost option for stationary energy storage — by some estimates, up to 10 more years of a second life.
The repurposed batteries are an ideal candidate for grid energy storage, which is essential to keep power demand and supply balanced as more renewable, intermittent generation sources are installed across the nation. Renewables such as solar, wind and hydropower generated about 17% of electricity in the US in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More renewable energy sources are being installed at homes and businesses. 
But the cost of onsite energy storage systems using new batteries is still quite high.
“Developing new technologies for energy storage is essential to a well-balanced, modern power grid increasingly reliant on renewable, distributed energy,” said Imre Gyuk, director of Energy Storage Research at DOE’s Office of Electricity. “This project also supports a circular economy by reusing a valuable commodity, minimizing waste, and ensuring reliable, secure delivery of electricity for a robust economy.”
The potential for low-cost, repurposed battery energy storage is enormous. About 1 million EVs are on the nation’s roadways currently, with the Edison Foundation predicting another 18.7 million EVs by the year 2030, or about 7% of total vehicles, all powered by battery packs.
ORNL researcher Michael Starke has been leading a project supported by OE’s Energy Storage Program to create and enhance controls for secondary-use battery energy storage, including deployment and testing of a 15-kilowatt system at a Habitat for Humanity home site in North Carolina, as well as testing at a research house ORNL maintains in a neighborhood near the lab.
Using the software and power electronics hardware developed by Starke and his colleagues, the secondary-use battery system is designed to reduce a home’s purchases from the utility to zero during critical peak demand periods when the cost of electricity is at its highest. The home instead uses electricity generated or stored from on-site renewables.
“The net benefit is a much lower electricity bill taking advantage of real-time rate structures,” Starke said.
The process also frees up some of the demand from the utility’s service area during peak periods, helping balance loads. “The big takeaway is the showing that secondary-use energy storage is economically viable in these applications,” Starke added.
“Secondary use is not just taking used car batteries and throwing it into something. Getting to a utility-grade system is a challenge. Utilities want something reliable and efficient that they can depend on for a long period. And they want just one device to communicate with that can manage a huge resource,” Starke said.
The ORNL-developed system features cloud-based communication to allow for remote control, a flexible inverter to convert power for either household use or utility transmission, and controls to synchronize the system with the larger grid and to ensure safe startup and shutdown. The work is detailed in the paper, “Residential (secondary-use) energy storage system and modular software and hardware power electronic interfaces,” presented at the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition this fall.
Oak Ridge researchers have also tackled the challenge of integrating batteries of varying ages from different manufacturers that have different chemistries, voltages and capacities into a unified and efficient energy storage system. The researchers developed a method that in essence proposes a desired amount of charging or discharging with the batteries, then responds with their status and ability to meet the request, resulting in efficient dispatch of resources.
The work is detailed in the paper, “Architecture for utility-scale multi-chemistry battery energy storage,” also presented at the IEEE conference. The research is integral to the future of how EV batteries may be repurposed into even larger projects to support utility-level grid storage, Starke said.
Utility-scale energy storage is typically 100 kilowatts or higher, with at least 1 megawatt systems being optimal. Such a project would need multiple secondary-use battery systems.
“This is all behind what the utility sees,” Starke said. “Utilities just want a block of energy, but there are a lot of subsystems that have to coordinate and control these resources in order to make a 1 megawatt system.”
Starke and his colleagues in the Electric Energy Systems Integration Group at ORNL are currently developing a 100-kilowatt secondary-use battery system to further test their controls and hardware solutions. It will be the first project of its kind to repurpose EV batteries for a grid-scale system, on the scale of a neighborhood with multiple homes.
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