Inspectors Have Started Checking Imports for REACH Compliance

January 21, 2019
As part of the seventh coordinated REACH enforcement project (REF-7) involving all 31 EU and EEA countries, customs authorities are beginning to check imports of substances to confirm that they are in compliance with REACH.
The project aims to ensure EU-wide enforcement of the obligations of importers and manufacturers to register their substances, given that the last registration deadline passed in 2018. Checks will cover imported and manufactured substances in all tonnage bands, the main focus being on substances imported or manufactured in quantities of 1-100 tons per year. The inspections will also include a check of parts of the registration dossier and of other duties related to registration, for example, whether the registrant is compliant with the duty to update a registration dossier.
Inspectors in Member States will verify whether substances registered as intermediates meet the definition of intermediates and are manufactured and used under strictly controlled conditions. In addition, substances registered as monomers in polymers will be checked.
ECHA’s Forum finalized the preparations for the REF-7 project at the end of 2018. The inspection activities will continue throughout 2019. A report on the results of the inspections will be available in the fourth quarter of 2020.
If you export to the EU, you can learn more about your company’s REACH obligations as well as how to comply with other EU directives by attending this webcast.
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Man Sentenced for Dumping Sewage into West Virginia Stream
Mike Blankenship, 54, of Hanover, West Virginia, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for Clean Water Act violations, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. A federal jury convicted Blankenship of two felony Clean Water Act violations in April  2018.  United States Attorney Mike Stuart praised the work of the EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), who were also assisted by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police.
“No one wants crap in their creek but that’s exactly what they got in this case,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Clean water and public sewage - especially in West Virginia- is still much too hard to come by in some of our more rural communities. Blankenship operated his business with total disregard of environmental laws putting raw sewage in the very water sources our good people depend on.”
On September 29, 2015, a sewage truck owned by Blankenship was seen dumping untreated sewage into Little Huff Creek, a tributary of the Guyandotte River in Southwestern West Virginia.  Inspectors with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) responded to the truck’s location in Hanover, West Virginia.  They saw the sewage truck with a hose placed in the creek, observed sewage in the water and on the ground, and quickly requested the assistance of the West Virginia State Police. Returning to the truck, WVDEP agents were able to take samples from the truck and pad.  Lab tests confirmed the presence of fecal coliform, an indicator of raw or untreated sewage.  Later, agents with the FBI, EPA, and WVDEP spoke to Mike Blankenship.  Blankenship owns a porta-john and sewage business under the name Hanover Contracting Company.  Blankenship admitted that it was his sewage truck dumping sewage into the water on the day the WVDEP inspectors observed it.   Blankenship also admitted to dumping sewage into Little Huff Creek on other occasions.  Neighbors provided photographic evidence that they testified showed Blankenship’s trucks dumping sewage and porta-john waste into the creek on various dates in 2015 and 2016.   The April 2018 federal jury also heard testimony from the law enforcement agents and experts in water quality assessment.
Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes and Special Assistant United States Attorney Perry McDaniel represented the United States at sentencing and during the jury trial. United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the hearing.
New Acid-Free Magnet Recycling Process
A new rare-earth magnet recycling process developed by researchers at the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) dissolves magnets in an acid-free solution and recovers high purity rare earth elements. For shredded magnet-containing electronic wastes, the process does not require pre-processing such as pre-sorting or demagnetization of the electronic waste.
Rare earths are vital to many technologies and are critical ingredients in the world’s strongest magnets, but they are subject to supply shortages. Recycling is a possible solution to the supply-chain problems, but until now has faced serious economic and ecological challenges. CMI, a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory, was able to overcome several hurdles to the environmental viability of rare-earth recycling with this processing technology, according to lead researcher Ikenna Nlebedim.
“The difficulty with traditional hydrometallurgical methods for rare-earth magnet recycling is that they rely on the use of hazardous mineral acids, and this presents a number of problems from an economic and environmental standpoint,” said Nlebedim. “It produces toxic fumes; the acids need to be contained, and so do acid-contaminated wastes.”
The new process has been applied to waste magnet materials obtained from U.S. magnet processing plants. “The technology is remarkably selective in recovering rare-earth elements even from chunks of magnet-containing shredded electronic wastes,” said Nlebedim. In shredded computer hard drives for example, rare earth elements were selectively removed from the e-waste without the need to pre-sort or pre-concentrate the magnet content of the materials, further reducing steps and costs.
The result is recovered rare-earth oxides of high purity, without the production of fumes or use of hazardous mineral acids. The process has been adapted for the recovery of rare earth elements from both Nd-Fe-B (Neodymium-Iron-Boron) and Sm-Co (Samarium-Cobalt) magnets.
Other valuable by-products of e-waste components can be recovered for further recycling including copper, chromium, nickel and other metals or their composites.
“Available rare earth elements recovery methods are rarely profitable” said postdoctoral researcher Denis Prodius. “This method not only recovers high-purity rare earths, it also recovers other marketable materials. The by-products pay for chemicals used in the recycling process.”
For information regarding the licensing of this technology, contact Craig Forney at Iowa State University's Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, 515-294-9513,
What Should We Do About Single-Use Plastics? Tackling the Growing Problem of Trash We Can’t Recycle
Much of the growing global concern about the plastics polluting our oceans and clogging our landfills has focused on reducing consumption and reusing where we can. But there’s a reason manufacturers and consumers struggle to substitute other materials-- for many uses, plastics are simply the best material available. When it comes to keeping our food and drugs clean and uncontaminated and our medical procedures reliably sterile and safe, the one-use-only disposability of plastics has been essential to our health.
So while it’s one thing to stop buying bottled water, a whole host of other critical plastic uses-- from the polypropylene syringes in your doctor’s office to the polystyrene packaging around your chicken at the grocery store, probably aren’t going away any time soon.
“We certainly can and should be doing the things we can to reduce our consumption of some uses, but for others, we really can’t,” said Aaron Sadow, a scientist in the Division of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Ames Laboratory. “Not using plastic drinking straws is possible, but not using plastics in food packaging and medical devices is difficult and in some cases likely impossible, so we’re kind of stuck. The question is, what do we do with this waste?”
Unlike recycling of less-complex materials like aluminum or glass, plastic is a “down-cycle” material, meaning that the processes used to clean and re-form it into new raw material degrades the quality of it.
“With polymers, what holds them together are carbon-carbon bonds or carbon-other element bonds,” said Sadow. “When they’re heated and melted for recycling, the carbon-carbon bonds break, typically degrading the material’s properties. That’s not okay for the performance requirements of food, drug, and medical packaging and supplies. The recycling process adds cost, and then you can only do that down-cycle so many times before you end up with material of no practical value. So, it’s not really ever been economically feasible to recycle these plastics.”
In an effort to change that, Sadow and colleagues at Ames Laboratory are teaming up with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, UC Santa Barbara, University of South Carolina, Cornell University, and Northwestern University in an effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to upcycle single-use plastics into more valuable chemicals that make recovery worthwhile.
The inorganic chemistry challenge is finding a method to chemically “chop” long polymer chains into smaller pieces that can then be used to extract purified and new raw materials for the chemical industry, to produce things like nylon, fibers, coatings, and detergents.
“Right now, we just don’t have that kind of control over the process. But nature does,” said Sadow. “Our inspiration is the enzymatically-controlled hydrolysis of cellulose, which is a bioorganic polymer composed of repeating, identical chemically linked glucose monomers. We believe we can create inorganic catalysts that perform like enzymes to break up the polymer chains of synthetic plastics into useful components.”
Sadow hopes that chemical upcycling will become one of many possible ways to address global plastics pollution. “We don’t envision upcycling as the sole solution, but as part of a multi-faceted strategy.”
Senators Carper, Collins Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Track Mercury Pollution
U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) reintroduced the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act, a bipartisan bill that would establish a national mercury monitoring network to protect human health, safeguard fisheries, and track the environmental effects of emissions reductions. The senators previously introduced this bill in August 2018.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin of significant ecological and public health concern, especially for children and pregnant women. An estimated 200,000 children born in the United States each year are exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high enough to impair neurological development. Scientists, however, must rely on limited information to understand the critical linkages between mercury emissions and environmental response and human health.  In order to successfully design, implement, and assess solutions to the problem of mercury pollution, scientists need comprehensive long-term data. This bipartisan bill would address this discrepancy and help to acquire critical data.
“Exposure to mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, can inflict long-lasting and even fatal damage, especially in babies and young children,” said Senator Carper. “Despite the significant reduction in cases of children exposed to mercury pollution in recent years—progress due in part to efforts to reduce mercury and air toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants—more than 200,000 babies are still exposed to unsafe levels of mercury annually. Our bipartisan bill would establish a nationwide mercury monitoring system to better protect communities and to collect data on the impacts of this dangerous toxin. As the Trump Administration tries to move forward with dismantling commonsense mercury emission reduction standards, efforts like this one should send a clear message that reducing mercury pollution is a popular, bipartisan goal.”
“Mercury is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants that threatens our health and environment today.  This powerful toxin affects the senses, brain, spinal cord, kidneys, and liver.  It poses significant risks to children and pregnant women, causing an elevated risk of birth defects and problems with motor skills,” said Senator Collins.  “This legislation would establish a comprehensive, robust national monitoring network for mercury to provide the data needed to help make decisions to protect the people and environment of Maine and the United States.”
“We appreciate Senators Collins’ and Carper’s bipartisan leadership to further protect babies, children, pregnant women and all communities from the harms of mercury pollution,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “The success of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in reducing mercury levels shows how important monitoring for this pollutant is. EPA’s recent proposal to undermine those standards must not be finalized. Together with the continued enforcement of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, this legislation can help further protect the health of all Americans from mercury.”
“As many as 200,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year with mercury levels high enough to impair their neurological development. That is unacceptable. We urgently need to better understand mercury’s ubiquitous presence in our environment. Creating a comprehensive mercury monitoring program will help us take further action to limit its dangerous presence in our environment,” said John Walke, Director of Clean Air, Climate, & Clean Energy Program at the National Resource Defense Council.
Mercury emissions from power plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, through the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).  Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal that determined it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired plants.
The Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act has been endorsed by the American Lung Association, the Biodiversity Research Institute, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Specifically, the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act would:
  • Direct the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and other appropriate federal agencies, to establish a national mercury monitoring program to measure and monitor mercury levels in the air and watersheds; water and soil chemistry; and marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms across the nation;
  • Establish a scientific advisory committee to advise on the establishment, site selection, measurement, recording protocols, and operations of the monitoring program;
  • Establish a centralized database for existing and newly collected environmental mercury data that can be freely accessed on the Internet and is comprised of data that is compatible with similar international efforts;
  • Require a report to Congress every two years on the program, including trends, and an assessment of the reduction in mercury deposition rates that need to be achieved in order to prevent adverse human and ecological effects every four-years; and
  • Authorize $95 million over three years to carry out this legislation. 
Senators Request Information on Energy Star Website Deactivation Due to Government Shutdown
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) wrote to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting information about the deactivation of the Energy Star Program’s website due to the ongoing government shutdown.
“The Energy Star program website is currently deactivated, disabling links to all program resources, preventing consumers from accessing key resources, finding Energy Star products, building energy efficient homes, and realizing energy savings.   The website attributes the removal of these resources to the current federal government shutdown, but the EPA website appears to remain active,” the Democrats wrote to Acting Administrator Wheeler. “We are concerned the Administration is inappropriately using the federal government shutdown to undermine this critical consumer savings program.”
Congress established the Energy Star Program within EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to identify and promote energy efficient products and buildings to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security and reduce pollution.  Since its inception, the Energy Star program has saved consumers an estimated $430 billion on utility bills and avoided 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite these significant consumer savings, the Administration has continually sought to defund and otherwise undermine the program.
In order to more fully understand why access to this specific page and information has been eliminated, the Senators are requesting that EPA provide information no later than January 31, 2019, including:
  • Why did EPA disable and replace the Energy Star website with the current “Important Notice” notification stating “all Energy Star tools, resources, and data sources will not be available” due to the government shutdown, and when, specifically, did EPA make this change? 
  • Which EPA personnel requested and authorized the disabling of the Energy Star website?  When did EPA authorize the request to shut down the website? 
  • Has EPA disabled (including, but not limited to, deactivating previously active hyperlinks to program information) any other program websites due to the government shutdown?
  • How much total staff time (by either EPA employees or contractors) did EPA spend on deactivating each hyperlink on the Energy Star webpage? 
  • Federal agencies and many states are required by law to purchase Energy Star-qualified products in certain instances.  Is EPA aware of any instances in which agencies or states have suspended procurements until access to Energy Star product information on the website is restored? 
The Senators’ letter is available here.
President Signs Bipartisan Clean Water Infrastructure Bill into Law
The Water Infrastructure Improvement Act codifies the EPA Integrated Planning (IP) Framework, which helps public water utilities across the country, including those in smaller, rural communities, to create community-oriented plans for meeting CWA standards. The legislation—now law—also establishes an office of Municipal Ombudsman within EPA to provide municipalities with assistance to comply with CWA standards, and it also includes provisions that will ensure EPA integrates the use of cleaner, more sustainable infrastructure throughout CWA compliance programs. 
U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statements after the president signed into law the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that will provide public water utilities in communities across the country with greater flexibility to develop management plans to meet federal standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
“Every American deserves to know that our nation’s waters are not impaired with contaminants. This bipartisan bill—now signed into law—moves us another step closer to reaching that goal,” Senator Carper said. “The bill will help communities across the country meet federal Clean Water Act standards.  It enables public utilities to create community-based water plans and connects municipalities with experts at EPA, thereby providing rural utilities with more of the certainty needed to make long-term water infrastructure investments. What might seem like a small bill will make a big difference for American families, especially those in smaller, more rural areas. I’d like to thank Senators Brown, Fischer and Cardin, along with their hardworking staffs, for their dedication to getting this across the finish line.”
“Red tape shouldn’t force communities to spread their resources thin just to meet an arbitrary timeline,” said Senator Brown. “Let’s be smarter and work with communities so they can prioritize their wastewater investments while reducing pollution. This bipartisan bill will help support jobs and protect local drinking water.”
“Everyone wants safe and clean water,” said Senator Fischer. “That’s why we were able to build consensus and bring this bipartisan, bicameral measure over the finish line. Now communities like Omaha, Nebraska, will have more flexibility to update water infrastructure and protect drinking water in a more effective and affordable manner.”
“Americans have a right to expect that water coming from their taps is safe to drink and that Congress will do everything within its power to ensure that happens at a reasonable cost to consumers. Having clean, safe water should not be a luxury priced out of reach for any person in this country,” said Senator Cardin. “I am particularly pleased to know that this legislation will help limit the disproportionate impacts of sewer and water bill hikes on low-income Americans and make critical advancements in the use of green wastewater management strategies. If consumers cannot pay their water bills, then utilities cannot make the needed repairs and upgrades to their drinking water and waste water treatment plants, nor to the pipes and pumps that deliver water throughout their service area. With this bipartisan legislation signed into law, we can break this cycle with more flexibility and greater federal resources.”
MassDEP Waste Ban Inspection Program Promotes Recycling
As part of the Commonwealth’s commitment to help increase the diversion, reuse and recycling of materials, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced that during calendar year 2018, the agency has issued 119 notices of non-compliance (NON) and eight waste ban orders with penalties to entities found violating the rules. These actions, which build upon the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to promote the environmental benefits of recycling, were for violations involving the improper disposal of significant amounts of recyclable materials and cover a wide spectrum of public and private institutions, including the food and retail sectors, hospitality sector, and educational and medical facilities.
“While Massachusetts’ waste bans have increased recycling, it is important to make sure that the rules are being followed,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The inspection and compliance efforts have helped to highlight these opportunities for businesses and help them fix and improve their recycling programs. These inspections will continue as we work to make sure that we are doing our best to promote recycling.”
For years the agency has had in place – and enforced – solid waste disposal bans. Waste bans have benefitted the environment and the Commonwealth by helping stimulate the market for recyclable materials, preserving the state’s limited disposal capacity, conserving natural resources and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 80% of observed waste ban violations are for disposal of cardboard, a material that is simple and cost-effective to recycle with well-established markets. For most of these violations, companies already had recycling programs in place. While the programs faced issues such as insufficient staff training, lack of signage, or containers that were not the right size or not collected frequently enough, upon receiving a notice for a waste ban violation, companies have addressed issues and returned to compliance.
First-time violators receive a notice explaining the waste ban program rules along with a reminder to improve the company’s practices in order to adhere to the state regulations. If MassDEP later observes the same company continuing to throw out banned materials, then a penalty is issued.
The actions taken by MassDEP are part of a comprehensive strategy that utilizes inspections and enforcement, third-party monitoring data and enhanced outreach, and education and assistance. A major program to help institutions recycle right is RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts.  RecyclingWorks is a MassDEP-funded program that provides practical, free help to businesses to reduce waste and increase recycling.
The Commonwealth’s waste bans include materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal containers, construction materials and leaves and yard waste. The entire list and further descriptions can be found here.
In the Commonwealth’s 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, increased waste ban compliance and enforcement efforts were highlighted as one of the key strategies to move recycling forward and meet the Commonwealth’s goal to reduce disposal by 2 million tons on an annual basis by 2020.
Businesses that receive a notice of non-compliance are required to respond to MassDEP with their plan of action to stop the disposal of banned materials. Businesses that are looking for assistance with increasing recycling and composting can obtain information and assistance through the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program here or by calling 1-888-254-5525
Protect the Environment When Using Deicers
As snow and ice accumulate, using deicers is essential for worker, public, and family safety.  However, improper or over-use can endanger the environment.  The Maryland Department of the Environment published these tips for eliminating the use of excessive deicers:
  • Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice to avoid the need for chemical deicers.
  • Track the weather and only apply deicers when a storm is imminent. If a winter storm does not occur, sweep any unused material and store it for later use.
  • Only use deicers in areas where they are critically needed and apply the least amount necessary to get the job done.
  • Store de-icing materials in a dry, covered area to prevent runoff.
  • Reduce salt use by adding sand for traction, but take care to avoid clogging storm drains. Natural clay cat litter also works well.
  • If your source of drinking water is your own private well, avoid applying salt near the well head.
  • Don’t use urea-based fertilizers as melting agents. Runoff can increase nutrient pollution
Buildings—On-the-Go HVAC Check
Technicians can access a free tool developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support the installation and repair of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, particularly when using new refrigerants. Researchers at ORNL have launched a mobile app called fProps to quickly check fluid properties such as refrigerant, coolant and air while installing or repairing HVAC equipment in commercial and residential buildings. Users specify inputs for each property and a wizard then guides through the module within the tool. “With fProps, technicians have at their fingertips a way to evaluate air, coolant, refrigerants and capacity calculation functions,” said ORNL’s Bo Shen. “This tool also provides additional support for professionals using new low global warming potential refrigerants in HVAC systems.” The fProps app is a pilot program, and additional modules can be added in the future based on interest.
Viant Medical Cited for Ethylene Oxide Emissions
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued Viant Medical, Inc., (Viant) a violation notice for ethylene oxide emissions from the company’s operations in Kent County, as part of an active investigation.
During an inspection in July 2018, the DEQ observed violations including a failure to adequately capture and control ethylene oxide emissions. A violation notice was issued to Viant requiring corrective action including the reduction of ethylene oxide emissions from the sterilization process. This violation notice also required Viant to conduct stack testing by November 30, 2018.
Ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen that has, in some people, been linked to specific types of cancers when a long-term exposure to high levels has occurred.
In August 2018, the EPA released updated information on toxic chemical releases to the air. One Michigan location identified in the EPA air toxics update was Viant’s Grand Rapids medical equipment sterilization facility which reported emissions of ethylene oxide higher than state and federal health protective levels.
In order to accurately determine the ethylene oxide emissions from Viant, the DEQ developed a computer model to show how the emissions of ethylene oxide could potentially impact the area around the facility. In combination with this computer model, actual air sampling was done to determine measurable amounts of ethylene oxide in the ambient (or outdoor) air immediately surrounding Viant. Air sampling was completed at the end of November 2018. The results of this 24-hour sampling indicated ethylene oxide levels higher than expected. Based on the sampling results, the DEQ sent a violation notice to Viant and began the process of escalated enforcement due to multiple violations.
In December 2018, an additional violation notice was issued to Viant for failure to conduct timely stack testing, as requested by the DEQ. Viant conducted the required stack testing on December 6, 2018.
The DEQ is in the planning stages of an additional, more comprehensive, round of air sampling. The DEQ is working with the Kent County Health Department as well as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in order to determine potential health impacts to the surrounding community. A community meeting is being planned for March 6, 2019, with a location to be determined.
For up to date information about the most recent actions by the DEQ, Viant’s compliance status, ethylene oxide, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions page, please go to
17 Companies Cited for Environmental Violations in Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 17 penalties totaling $145,747 in November and December 2018. Alleged violations include polluting local waterways, improperly removing asbestos during a home renovation and failing to complete required cleanup at a contaminated property. 
The organization or individual must either pay the penalty or appeal the alleged violations within 20 days of receiving the enforcement action. Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm. In some cases, violators may resolve a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment.
Violation Description
Improperly removing and disposing of material containing asbestos.
Failing to submit required documentation as required by its stormwater permit.
Causing pollution to the Columbia River by allowing a tank to leak oil.
Failing to submit all required documentation for an annual industrial stormwater discharge monitoring report.
Storing hazardous waste without a permit, failing to properly label containers, shipping hazardous waste without proper documentation.
Submitting annual reports that did not accurately reflect the facility's  air pollutant emission levels.
Failing to conduct required tests on gas station pumps.
Violating a hazardous air pollutant standard set in its air quality permit.
Failing to implement the required cleanup work at the NW Metals facility.
Failing to apply for an air quality permit for its shredder and failing to implement the required cleanup work.
Allowing an unlicensed contractor to perform an asbestos abatement project and store asbestos waste uncovered.
Gold Beach 
Polluting Hunter Creek by removing native vegetation and dumping fill dirt into the creek. 
Improperly removing and storing material containing asbestos.
Failing to properly collect and analyze water samples.
Rupturing a petroleum tank leading to the release of 700 gallons of petroleum.
Failing to properly collect and analyze water quality samples.
Illegally dumping 100 cubic yards of household trash at a residential property.
Discharging wastewater from an asphalt and paving manufacturer to the Willamette River.
Pollution of waters of the state
Failing to comply with solid waste disposal site permit for its composting facility.
Falls City
Violations of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) waste discharge permit at city's wastewater treatment facility.
Incorrectly reporting water quality sample results and exceeding pollution discharge limits set in permit
Violations relating to ignitable and reactive magnesium chloride wastes containing zirconium fines, which has caused multiple fires.
Violating conditions of its stormwater permit and placing waste where it's likely to enter waters of the state
Transporting hazardous waste without required documentation and operating a solid waste transfer facility without a permit.
Failing to accurately identify and report hazardous waste generated at its pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.
Failing to decommission an underground storage tank and submitting an inaccurate decommissioning report to DEQ.
Lincoln City
DEQ fines contractor, subcontractor and owner for asbestos violations in Lincoln City demolition
DEQ fines Oregon Cherry Growers for failing to perform monitoring of pollutants.
Lincoln City
Performing an asbestos abatement project without a license and openly accumulating asbestos-containing waste material
Criminal Enforcement Collapse at EPA
Even before the government shutdown, the EPA’s criminal enforcement program was missing in action, according to new figures posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In 2018, EPA generated the fewest new criminal case referrals for prosecution than any year since 1988.
  • In Fiscal Year 2018 (ending in October), EPA made only 166 referrals for prosecution to the Department of Justice. That represents a nearly 60% reduction from 2011 and a 72% decline from the level of enforcement activity twenty years ago in 1998;
  • In the first two months of FY 2019, the pace has slowed even further, with EPA making only 24 referrals. When the effects of the government shutdown are figured in, the current year will likely set another all-time enforcement low mark; and
  • EPA cases resulted in only 62 convictions in FY 2018, fewer than any year dating back to 1992.
“These figures indicate that the Trump plan to cripple EPA is working,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist, wetland specialist, and attorney formerly with EPA, pointing out that a dearth of new cases means fewer prosecutions, convictions, and prison sentences in the years ahead. “Not enforcing our anti-pollution laws steadily transforms them into dead letters.”
These numbers also reflect a decrease in the number of criminal investigators assigned to pollution cases. In April 2018, there were only 140 special agents in EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. Reportedly, that number has dropped to only 130 today. This is more than a third less than the number of CID agents in 2003, well below the minimum of 200 agents required by the U.S. Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990.
Policies launched by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and continued by acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler may also be driving enforcement declines. They replaced EPA’s Enforcement Initiative with a Compliance Initiative that lets offenders avoid prosecution by merely agreeing to suspend their violations.
At the same time, decisions on prosecution referrals are now centralized in headquarters, enabling Wheeler and political deputies to nix criminal referrals. In addition, states have been given veto power, thus injecting local politics into prosecution decisions.
“The absence of criminal prosecution means corporate polluters can be comfortable that they will suffer no personal consequences, no matter how egregious the offense,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Wheeler had been a lawyer handling corporate pollution defense before his 2017 EPA appointment. “Nothing could be more core to EPA’s mission than enforcing our nation’s pollution laws.”
Nor are the sharp declines confined to criminal cases. PEER points to similar drop-offs in EPA civil and administrative enforcement since 2017.
Superfund of the Seas Has Lost Its Funding
The excise tax that is the principal source of revenue for the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund expired at the end of 2018, with no legislation pending to renew it. As a result, America’s ability to help avert and contain a major oil spill is significantly compromised, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The 9-cent per barrel excise tax on all oil at U.S. refineries sunset on December 31st. It generates approximately half a billion dollars a year. The U.S. Coast Guard, which administers the Trust Fund, estimates that its current balance is approximately $6.7 billion. Without renewal of the excise tax, the Trust Fund begins a spiral toward exhaustion.
Even when fully funded, however, the Government Accountability Office warns the Trust Fund could be outstripped by a single major spill – especially if no responsible party with deep pockets defrays costs.
Enacted in the wake of the massive Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 places liability, up to specified limits, on the responsible party. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund pays for costs incurred beyond those limits, as well as costs from responsible operators who declare bankruptcy or when no responsible party can be found. It also reimburses spill-related expenses for the Coast Guard and other federal agencies, state restoration costs and lost tax revenue, as well as losses claimed by businesses, such as fishing fleets. 

Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member said, “this Trust Fund is our Superfund of the Seas and it needs to be fully funded so that we can do everything possible to prevent and respond quickly to a major spill without having to wait for Congress and White House to agree on new legislation on an emergency basis– an increasingly iffy proposition.”
At the same time, reliance on oil sands has more than doubled, accounting for nearly one-quarter of U.S. imports. Yet, oil derived from oil sands is not subject to the federal excise tax even when it was in effect. Recent major pipeline spills include the 2010 Enbridge spill in Michigan and the 2013 ExxonMobil spill in Arkansas. If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, oil sands volume will grow even larger.
“Oil is enjoying an unjustified free ride from federal taxpayers,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to proposals to increase the excise tax, raise liability limits, and expand eligible reimbursements to include spill prevention, among other related expenses. “The oil industry should be financial responsible for all its environmental costs, not just spills.”
EPA’s Inaction on Toxic Chemicals Law Sparks Bipartisan Calls for Oversight Hearing
Concern among members of Congress over the Administration’s implementation of the updated federal chemicals law burst across the aisle this week, with both the top Republican and Democrat on a key House environment subcommittee calling for oversight hearings.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change, and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the ranking Republican on the panel, plan to hold an oversight hearing to get answers from the Environmental Protection Agency about how it’s executing the agency’s beefed-up authority to protect the public from toxic chemicals.
Anthony Adragna of Politico Pro reported this week that Tonko and Shimkus are eager to get answers from the EPA about how it is protecting public health from dangerous chemicals.
“The spirit and letter of those reforms should be implemented to the nth degree,” Tonko said. “I agree with former Chairman Shimkus that we need to do oversight and we need to revisit how it's being implemented.”
“I think now it’s time to have an oversight hearing to see where they’re at and get some real numbers,” Shimkus said. “How many new chemicals do we have and how many do we have a decision on.”
“We applaud this bipartisan call for oversight,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “There is ample evidence showing that the Trump EPA is cooking the books to allow some of the most hazardous chemicals in existence to remain in use, putting millions of people at further risk of exposure.”
In 2016, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which amended the woefully weak Toxic Substances Control Act. The new law gives the EPA power to finally ban asbestos and other dangerous chemicals.
Since the Trump administration came to power, a number of troubling decisions by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and current Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler show an agency bending both the spirit and letter of the new chemicals law to benefit the chemical industry.
Among the most egregious actions is the EPA’s decision to ignore the many ways that people are exposed to chemicals that put vulnerable populations, such as young children and communities near factories, at even greater risk.
The new law requires the EPA to consider all uses of a chemical when evaluating it for safety. Despite this clear directive, Wheeler is ignoring key exposures to asbestos in the agency’s safety assessment, likely in violation of the law.
Wheeler appears to be laying the groundwork for the agency to find that asbestos is safe and should remain legal. Other chemicals the EPA is dragging its feet to restrict or ban include the lethal paint-stripping chemical methylene chloride and the notorious industrial solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE.
Under the Trump administration, the EPA is retreating from an earlier proposal to ban key uses of TCE, and it is excluding water, air and soil pollution from a safety assessment under the new chemicals law.
“The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment, not the profits of the chemical industry,” Faber added. “There are a lot of questions about how the EPA is implementing the chemicals law, and Chairman Tonko and Ranking Member Shimkus deserve answers on behalf of all Americans.”
TCEQ Approved Fines Totaling $826,432
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved penalties totaling $662,036 against 32 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.
Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: four air quality, two industrial hazardous waste, one industrial wastewater discharge, four multimedia, two municipal wastewater discharge, one petroleum storage tank, 12 public water system, and one water quality.
Default orders were issued in the following enforcement categories: one air quality, one municipal solid waste, one petroleum storage tank, and two water quality.
Included in the total is a fine of $121,875 against Formosa Plastics Corporation for industrial wastewater discharge violations stemming from its failure to prevent the discharge of solids into waters of the state and its failure to properly analyze effluent samples. Also included in the total is a fine of $120,124 against the city of Rio Grande City for municipal solid waste and water quality violations.
In addition, on Dec. 18 and Jan. 15, the executive director approved a total of 61 penalties, totaling $164,396.
Washington Department of Ecology to Offer Webinar on Changes to State Dangerous Waste Regulations
The WA Department of Ecology expects to adopt amendments to Chapter 173-303 WAC Dangerous Waste Regulations around the end of January 2019, effective 90 days after adoption. Soon after adoption, Ecology will publish a notification announcing rule adoption and availability of final rule language, state register filing and other important documents.  In order to inform and educate stakeholders about these extensive changes, Ecology offering a webinar presentation on the changes on March 20, 2019, 10 am to noon.  You can pre-register for this webinar or register just prior to the meeting.
Event password: Ecology 1
Event code: 803 549 071
For audio only, call US/Canada toll number 1-650-479-3208 or toll free 1-877-668-4493 and enter the access code. Or to receive a free call back, provide your phone number when you join the event.
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