November 16, 2020
ASTM International has announced the publication of ASTM F3407-20
Standard Test Method for Respirator Fit Capability (RFC) for Negative-Pressure Half-Facepiece Particulate Respirators. This standard may enable respirator manufacturers to design and develop better fitting air-purifying particulate only respirators, including filtering facepiece respirators. Better designed models that demonstrate fitting the worker population can result in lower costs to occupational respiratory protection programs. Conformity assessment program scheme owners, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), may be able to adopt and use the RFC standard.
Temporary Rule Addressing COVID-19 in All Workplaces Adopted by Oregon OSHA
Oregon OSHA has adopted a temporary rule that combats the spread of coronavirus in all workplaces by requiring employers to carry out a comprehensive set of risk-reducing measures.
The rule will take effect Nov. 16, with certain parts phased in, and is expected to remain in effect until May 4, 2021. It is a continuation of the guidance produced by the Oregon Health Authority and enforced in the workplace by Oregon OSHA, including physical distancing, use of face coverings, and sanitation.
The rule is intended to further improve the current structure for reducing risks in the workplace by requiring several measures many employers have voluntarily implemented. For example, it requires employers to notify employees of a workplace infection and provide training to workers on how to reduce risks. Likewise, employers must formally assess the risk of exposure, develop infection control plans, and address indoor air quality within their current capability.
“We believe compliance with this rule will help reduce the serious threat to workers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “It does so by establishing a clear, practical, and consistent set of measures for employers.”
Those measures – along with more requirements for exceptionally high-risk jobs, such as direct patient care – are part of Oregon OSHA’s ongoing enforcement and educational efforts to help protect workers from the coronavirus disease.
Beginning in late June, the process to develop the temporary rule included more than a dozen virtual forums dealing with specific issues and industries before the first of four stakeholder review drafts was even developed. And each subsequent draft incorporated changes resulting from Oregon OSHA’s discussion with a large number of employer and worker representatives, as well as feedback from the public at large.
Adoption of the temporary rule brings the requirements within the existing rulemaking authority of the Oregon Safe Employment Act. The law governs workplace safety and health in Oregon, including protections for a worker’s right to raise on-the-job health and safety concerns free from retaliation.
In the weeks ahead, Oregon OSHA will provide educational resources to help employers and workers understand and apply the requirements. Already, the division offers consultation services
that provide no-cost assistance with safety and health programs and technical staff
, who help employers understand requirements. The COVID-19 Hazards Poster – provided by the division and required by the temporary rule to be posted – is now available in both English
. And the division is providing a user-friendly overview table
of the temporary rule, summarizing the requirements and how they apply, and showing the effective dates of the phased-in provisions.
Oregon OSHA encourages a careful reading of the temporary rule
, which includes an appendix that contains provisions for specific industries and workplace activities. The temporary rule’s requirements include:
- Employers must ensure six-foot distancing between all people in the workplace through design of work activities and workflow, unless it can be shown it is not feasible for some activities.
Masks, face covering, or face shields
- Employers must ensure that all individuals – including employees, part-time workers and customers – at the workplace, or other establishment under the employer’s control, wear a mask, face covering, or face shield in line with the Oregon Health Authority’s statewide guidance.
- Employers must provide masks, face coverings, or face shields for employees free of cost.
- If an employee chooses to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering – even when it is not required – the employer must allow them to do so.
- When employees are transported in a vehicle for work-related purposes, regardless of the travel distance or duration, all people inside the vehicle must wear a mask, face covering, or face shield. This requirement does not apply when all people in the vehicle are members of the same household.
- Employers must maximize the effectiveness of existing ventilation systems, maintain and replace air filters, and clean intake ports providing fresh or outdoor air. The temporary rule does not require employers to purchase or install new ventilation systems.
Exposure risk assessment
- Employers must conduct a risk assessment – a process that must involve participation and feedback from employees – to gauge potential employee exposure to COVID-19, including addressing specific questions about how to minimize such exposure.
Infection control plan
- Employers must develop an infection control plan addressing several elements, including when workers must use personal protective equipment and a description of specific hazard controls.
Information and training
- Employers must provide information and training to workers about the relevant topics related to COVID-19. They must do so in a manner and language understood by workers.
Notification, testing, medical removal
- Employers must notify affected workers within 24 hours of a work-related COVID-19 infection.
- Employers must cooperate with public health officials if testing within the workplace is necessary.
- If an employee must quarantine or isolate, the employer must follow proper work reassignment and return-to-work steps.
The rule requires more measures for exceptionally high-risk jobs. Such jobs include direct patient care or decontamination work; aerosol-generating or postmortem procedures; and first-responder activities. The additional measures include:
- Detailed infection control training and planning
- Sanitation procedures for routine cleaning and disinfection
- Robust use of personal protective equipment
- Operation of existing ventilation systems according to national standards
- Use of barriers, partitions, and airborne infection isolation rooms
- Screening and triaging for symptoms of COVID-19
Meanwhile, an executive order
issued Oct. 23 by Gov. Kate Brown extended COVID-19 protections for agricultural workers in employer-provided housing through the off season.
Following adoption of its temporary COVID-19 rule for all workplaces, Oregon OSHA continues to pursue permanent rulemaking that would provide a structure for responding to potential future disease outbreaks. More information is available on the division’s infectious disease rulemaking page
and on its COVID-19 resources page
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Maryland to Phase Out Hydrofluorocarbons and Reduce Methane Emissions
The Maryland Department of the Environment has finalized regulations to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and reduce methane emissions to help meet the state’s aggressive climate and environmental goals for reducing greenhouse gases.
The regulations target HFCs in foam products, refrigeration, commercial air conditioning, and aerosol propellants, recognizing the availability of environmentally-preferable alternatives. MDE has also finalized regulations to reduce methane emissions from energy infrastructure and operations. These dual actions will help Maryland meet its requirements under the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act, which was signed into law by Governor Hogan.
“These fast-acting super-pollutants, HFCs, are a major threat to our climate progress and deserve to be phased out at the state and federal level,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “We’re using science, regulation, and market-based incentives for sustainable solutions that dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
In moving to phase out HFCs, Maryland is acting in concert with commitments of the U. S. Climate Alliance to reduce climate-harming “super pollutants.” HFCs can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change per unit of mass.
The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act requires reductions of greenhouse gases in Maryland by 40% by 2030 – requirements that are among the most aggressive in the country and significantly more stringent than those in the Paris Climate Accord – while continuing to have a net positive effect on the economy and job creation. Maryland participates in the U.S. Climate Alliance and is a member of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Traditionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated the use of HFCs under a federal Clean Air Act program. However, after two HFC rules issued by the EPA stalled due to legal challenges, states began their own initiatives. MDE’s finalized regulations would reduce HFC emissions by adopting the stalled federal prohibitions for air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, aerosol propellants and foam uses.
The phase out of HFCs will encourage the use of widely available alternatives with lower emissions. Under the finalized regulations, HFC emissions are estimated to be reduced annually by 25% by 2030, representing a total reduction of 4.95 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over 10 years.
Methane is a prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by human and natural activity. MDE’s finalized regulation establishes requirements to reduce vented and “fugitive” (or leaked) emissions of methane from both new and existing energy facilities.
The new regulations require detection, testing, repair, reporting and recordkeeping requirements for these facilities in the state. MDE estimates the finalized methane regulations will potentially prevent up to 5,000 metric tons of emissions per year through leak surveys, replacement of equipment, and components and inspections.
OSHA, PHMSA Request Public Input in Advance of International Meetings
OSHA and the Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will hold virtual public meetings on Nov. 19. The purpose of the meetings is to consider public comments and gather information in advance of the 39th session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (UNSCEGHS).
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM
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Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Auto-Parts Manufacturing Company Sentenced in Worker Death Case
ALJoon LLC, operating as USA (Ajin), an auto-parts manufacturing company, was sentenced in federal court today in Montgomery, Alabama, after pleading guilty to a charge related to the death of a machinery operator.
Regina Elsea, who was 20 years old, worked at Ajin’s Cusseta, Alabama, facility. On June 18, 2016, she entered an enclosure — called a “cell” — containing several robots and other pieces of machinery. While she was inside the cell, troubleshooting a sensor fault, one of the machines started up and Elsea was struck by a robotic arm. She died of her injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to develop and utilize procedures to de-energize machinery during maintenance and servicing activities to prevent the kind of unplanned startup that killed Elsea. These procedures are often referred to as “lockout/tagout.” Ajin knew these procedures were required and had developed them, but Ajin also knew that — over a period of at least two years — supervisors did not effectively enforce them.
In the 15 minutes prior to Elsea’s fatal injury — in the presence of their supervisors — workers entered cells to troubleshoot machinery without following lockout/tagout no less than five times, and the supervisors did not take any action to stop or reprimand them. In two other instances, the supervisors themselves entered a cell without following lockout/tagout. At the time of Elsea’s fatal injury, several individuals were inside the cell, none of whom had followed lockout/tagout procedures to de-energize the machinery within the cell.
Ajin pleaded guilty to a willful violation of the OSH Act standard requiring the use of lockout/tagout procedures. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Michael Doyle sentenced Ajin to pay a $500,000 fine — the statutory maximum — $1,000,000 in restitution to Elsea’s estate, and a three-year term of probation, during which Ajin must comply with a safety compliance plan, overseen by a third-party auditor. Among other things, the safety compliance plan requires a full review of Ajin’s lockout/tagout procedures, weekly inspections to ensure compliance, and creation of a mechanism for employees to report any safety concerns about the facility anonymously.
“Regina’s tragic death was preventable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “OSH Act standards exist to protect American workers, but employers must actually implement them. When safety policies exist only on paper, tragedies like this occur. Ajin knew its supervisors and managers were turning a blind eye to the company’s safety procedures. Now, Ajin must take responsibility for its conduct. It will implement the safety compliance plan, and work to make its facility safer for its employees. Employers should be aware that they must follow workplace safety laws.”
“Every worker expects to return home safely at the end of his or her shift,” said U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin Sr. of the Middle District of Alabama. “The OSH Act was passed to ensure that workers could trust that their employers create and maintain a safe work environment. While most companies abide by the OSH Act, the unfortunate reality is that some of them do not. Ajin failed to comply with the OSH Act and, as a direct result of their failure, Regina Elsea did not return home safely at the end of her shift. Her death was preventable and Ajin’s failure to keep her out of harm’s way is inexcusable. I hope this prosecution sends a message to companies that people are their most valuable resource and complying with the OSH Act is a must in protecting its employees.”
“Employers are responsible for worker safety and health, and the failure in this situation was tragic,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Well-known safety procedures were repeatedly ignored that could have prevented this tragedy. While nothing can ever replace the loss of life, the court has sent a clear message that such disregard for worker safety is unacceptable.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Billingslea and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben M. Baxley of the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Erica H. Pencak of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section. The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Investigations.
The Persistent Problem of 1,4-Dioxane in Water
Of the many chemicals that can pollute the world’s water supplies, 1,4-dioxane is one of the most persistent. Listed as a likely carcinogen by the EPA, 1,4-dioxane is largely unregulated and difficult to remove from water. A new article in Chemical & Engineering News
, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores the challenges of combatting this contaminant.
1,4-Dioxane is a synthetic reagent used in pharmaceutical purification and to create filter membranes, but it has fallen out of widespread use in recent decades, writes Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue. The compound degrades very quickly in the atmosphere. In contrast, 1,4-dioxane dissolves completely in water and does not evaporate, meaning it can’t be removed using traditional groundwater treatment systems. Advanced oxidation processes can do the trick, but they are expensive and energy intensive, making them out of reach for many water utilities.
Communities that use wells for public drinking water are especially prone to 1,4-dioxane contamination, which can be attributed to previously unregulated industrial disposal practices that led to the chemical leaching into aquifers. Because it is an unintentional byproduct of surfactants used in detergents and shampoos that are washed down the drain, 1,4-dioxane also is a component of sewage. Like most drinking water providers, conventional sewage treatment plants cannot remove the compound from wastewater. In the U.S., a lack of federal regulation means that some state and local governments are now working to regulate how much 1,4-dioxane is permissible in water. Because of the challenges of removing the compound from water, advocates are calling for such efforts to prevent the chemical from being released into the environment in the first place.
Environmentally Friendly Method Could Lower Costs to Recycle Lithium-Ion Batteries
A new process for restoring spent cathodes
to mint condition could make it more economical to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The process, developed by nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego, is more environmentally friendly than today’s methods; it uses greener ingredients, consumes 80 to 90% less energy, and emits about 75% less greenhouse gases.
The process works particularly well on cathodes made from lithium iron phosphate, or LFP. Batteries made with LFP cathodes are less costly than other lithium-ion batteries because they don’t use expensive metals like cobalt or nickel. LFP batteries also have longer lifetimes and are safer. They are widely used in power tools, electric buses and energy grids. They are also the battery of choice for Tesla’s Model 3.
“Given these advantages, LFP batteries will have a competitive edge over other lithium-ion batteries in the market,” said Zheng Chen, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.
The problem? “It’s not cost-effective to recycle them,” Chen said. “It’s the same dilemma with plastics—the materials are cheap, but the methods to recover them are not.”
The new recycling process that Chen and his team developed could lower these costs. It does the job at low temperatures (60 to 80 C) and ambient pressure, making it less power hungry than other methods. Also, the chemicals it uses—lithium salt, nitrogen, water and citric acid—are inexpensive and benign.
“The whole regeneration process works at very safe conditions, so we don’t need any special safety precautions or special equipment. That’s why we can make this so low cost for recycling batteries,” said first author Panpan Xu, a postdoctoral researcher in Chen’s lab.
The researchers first cycled commercial LFP cells until they had lost half their energy storage capacity. They took the cells apart, collected the cathode powders, and soaked them in a solution containing lithium salt and citric acid. Then they washed the solution with water, dried the powders and heated them.
The researchers made new cathodes from the powders and tested them in both coin cells and pouch cells. Their electrochemical performance, chemical makeup and structure were all fully restored to their original states.
As the battery cycles, the cathode undergoes two main structural changes that are responsible for its decline in performance. The first is the loss of lithium ions, which creates empty sites called vacancies in the cathode structure. The other occurs when iron and lithium ions switch spots in the crystal structure. When this happens, they cannot easily switch back, so lithium ions become trapped and can no longer cycle through the battery.
The process restores the cathode’s structure by replenishing lithium ions and making it easy for iron and lithium ions to switch back to their original spots. The latter is accomplished using citric acid, which acts as a reducing agent—a substance that donates an electron to another substance. Citric acid transfers electrons to the iron ions, making them less positively charged. This minimizes the electronic repulsion forces that prevent the iron ions from moving back into their original spots in the crystal structure, and also releases the lithium ions back into circulation.
While the overall energy costs of this recycling process are lower, researchers say further studies are needed on the logistics of collecting, transporting and handling large quantities of batteries.
“Figuring out how to optimize these logistics is the next challenge,” Chen said. “And that will bring this recycling process closer to industry adoption.”
Wastewater Treatment Plant Shift Supervisor Found Guilty of Rigged Environmental Testing for Years
Patrick James Schwarte, age 71, from Sioux City, Iowa, who conspired to rig environmental testing at a large Iowa regional wastewater treatment plant was sentenced on November 9 after a January 23, 2019, guilty plea to one count of conspiracy and one count of knowingly falsifying, tampering with, and rendering inaccurate a monitoring device or method required to be maintained under the Clean Water Act.
The evidence at the guilty plea and sentencing hearings showed that Schwarte was employed at the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) for over 30 years, most recently as shift supervisor. Schwarte maintained a wastewater treatment certification from the State of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and possessed extensive training and experience in municipal wastewater treatment.
The WWTP is a large regional sewage treatment plant for wastewater from industrial, commercial, and residential sources throughout Siouxland, including Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, South Sioux City, Nebraska, North Sioux City, South Dakota, and Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. The WWTP’s more than 20 industrial users produce a large volume of high-strength wastewater. Under a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, the WWTP was required to treat wastewater before discharging it into the Missouri River, which has heavy local recreational use. Between March 15 and November 15 each year, when public use of the Missouri River was at its highest levels, the WWTP was also required to disinfect its wastewater to remove potentially dangerous human pathogens, including fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli.
The WWTP treated its wastewater with liquid chlorine, which kills bacteria but is potentially toxic to aquatic life. The WWTP’s permit required WWTP to periodically test its wastewater not only for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli, but also total residual chlorine (TRC) levels, to ensure that the Missouri River was not polluted.
From July 2012 through June 2015, Schwarte and his direct supervisor, the WWTP Superintendent, tampered with the monitoring methods at the WWTP in order to ensure the WWTP would pass all of its tests. Specifically, early in the morning on testing days for bacteria, Schwarte and the Superintendent instructed first-shift operators at the WWTP to increase the rate of liquid chlorine supplied to the wastewater. After an hour or two passed, and an artificially high level of chlorine was fully mixed into wastewater, they ordered the WWTP’s first-shift operators to use hand-held colorimeters to gauge the levels of chlorine. Only when the colorimeter “maxed out” would the Superintendent take a sample for fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli. This fraudulent procedure allowed for the chlorine in the wastewater to reach sufficient concentrations to avoid showing elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli, which would violate the WWTP’s CWA permits. The WWTP never reported any exceedances of its CWA permit limits for bacteria or residual chlorine after July 2012.
The liquid chlorine rate was increased from about 2.5 gallons per hour, to somewhere between 70 to 120 gallons per hour, for up to two hours. On non-testing days, WWTP employees maintained the chlorine feed rate at minimal levels, well below the designed feed rate of the WWTP and at a rate clearly insufficient to ensure the WWTP consistently and adequately disinfected its wastewater, as the WWTP’s CWA permits required. The engineering firm that designed the liquid chlorine feed system at the WWTP estimated that approximately 16.7 gallons of chlorine would need to be fed per hour to properly kill bacteria.
Then, in the afternoon on fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli testing days, well after the high amounts of chlorine had dissipated from the WWTP’s chlorine contact basin, and when an insufficiently low rate of liquid chlorine was supplied to the basin, Schwarte and the Superintendent would test again for TRC. In the afternoon, they were certain the TRC would pass, because only a minimal rate of liquid chlorine was supplied to the chlorine contact basin at that time. Again, this minimal rate was clearly insufficient to ensure the WWTP consistently and adequately disinfected its wastewater, as required.
The WWTP was also not operated or maintained in good working order, which also violated the WWTP’s permit. For example, the WWTP’s computer system was not only insufficiently connected and inadequately programmed to work with the various parts of the WWTP, but also it worked only intermittently. Although the WWTP was designed to have two operational chlorine contact basins, for years the City operated the WWTP with only one operational chlorine contact basin. Because both chlorine contact basin gates were “old and very leaky,” as reflected in an engineering report provided to the City in April 2012, wastewater constantly poured into the “offline” chlorine contact basin and later, out of the “offline” chlorine contact basin and into the Missouri River.
Schwarte was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand. Schwarte was sentenced to two years of probation, including two months of home confinement, and fined $5,000.
“Patrick Schwarte intentionally cheated on environmental tests, knowing he was violating the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant’s environmental permit and polluting the Missouri River,” said United States Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr. “By doing so, he put recreational users at risk and endangered the river’s aquatic life. This blatant disregard for the law and reprehensible treatment of one of our nation’s treasured waterways was nothing short of outrageous.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy L. Vavricek and Matthew J. Cole and investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
BC Laboratories, Inc. Ordered to Pay Fine After Repeatedly Failing to Notify Water Systems of Acute Contaminates
Bakersfield-based BC Laboratories. Inc. (BCL), an environmental testing laboratory accused of failing to notify water systems of drinking water samples that exceeded crucial maximum contamination levels has been fined $18,000 by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP).
BCL has been the recipient of multiple prior enforcement actions for this type of violation. The latest case stems from an ELAP investigation that found two separate instances of failed notification. Laboratories are required to notify a water system and the State Water Board within 24 hours if acute contaminants, such as Coliform, E. Coli or nitrate cited in this probe, exceed the maximum safe level. These contaminants can cause harmful health effects within hours or days of exposure. Delayed reporting could result in a water system serving unsafe water to its customers.
On Oct. 16, BCL paid the citation and reported it had taken corrective action, retrained staff and conducted an internal audit. If BCL does not remain in compliance, ELAP may take further enforcement action.
Laboratories performing drinking water analyses play a critical role in the protection of public health and environment and are required to be ELAP-accredited to give regulators confidence in the data produced. The State Water Board recently adopted new regulations to improve laboratories and data quality. They are slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
Companies Cited for Pesticide Labeling Violations
EPA has entered into settlements with Central Garden & Pet, Inc. (CG&P) of Walnut Creek, California, and Nufarm Americas Inc. (Nufarm) of Alsip, Illinois, resolving alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA
) that occurred in a pesticide production facility located in Longmont, Colorado. Under the terms of two separate Consent Agreements and two Final Orders filed on September 24, 2020, CG&P will pay a civil penalty of $285,700, Nufarm will pay a civil penalty of $80,000, and both companies must ensure the pesticides they sell and distribute are properly labeled.
“EPA’s pesticide laws ensure that consumers have clear and current information about products and how to use them safely,” said Suzanne Bohan, director of EPA’s regional enforcement program.
The settlements resulted from a July 29, 2016, EPA-led investigation at GRO TEC II, a pesticide production facility in Longmont, Colorado, owned by the parent company CG&P. The inspection found that CG&P and Nufarm were distributing pesticide products with outdated labeling that were missing important, current information on how to safely use, store, and dispose of pesticide products. After the inspection, the EPA inspector provided compliance assistance to both companies to ensure the pesticide labeling complied with FIFRA requirements.
FIFRA registration and labeling requirements protect human health and the environment by ensuring pesticides in the marketplace are tested in accordance with specific guidelines and can be safely used for their intended purposes. The process of registering a pesticide is a scientific, legal, and administrative procedure through which EPA examines the ingredients of the pesticide; the specific site or crop where it is to be used; the amount, frequency, and timing of its use; and storage and disposal practices. The agency evaluates registration applications to assess a wide variety of potential health and environmental effects associated with use of the product. EPA evaluates and approves the language that appears on each pesticide label to ensure the directions for use, including safety measures, appropriately address potential risks. Following label directions is required by law and is necessary to ensure safe use.
Kronospan, LLC Cited for Water Discharge Violations
EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of Alabama, through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) announced the filing of a proposed Consent Decree settlement with Kronospan, LLC (Kronospan) with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to address alleged violations on the Clean Air Act.
“The EPA is committed to working with our partners to provide clean and safe water for the people of Alabama, and to enhance accountability for the regulated community,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “The national pretreatment program is a proven asset for protecting public utilities and their receiving waters from industrially-sourced pollutants and this settlement represents both our cooperation with ADEM as a co-regulator and a recommitment by Kronospan to come into compliance with state and federal environmental laws.
Under the terms of the proposed Consent Decree, Kronospan will bring its operations into compliance with the Clean Water Act and its State Indirect Discharge (SID) Permit. The requirements include successfully identifying and removing, as verified by a third-party auditor, the objectionable solids in its process wastewater that have caused or contributed to interference with the Oxford Waterworks and Sewer Board’s publicly owned treatment works (POTW). Kronospan will also develop and implement a pretreatment compliance training program and develop certain standard operating procedures for its facility. Kronospan estimates it will spend approximately $350,000 to provide this injunctive relief, which it will complete in less than three years.
ADEM Director Lance LeFleur welcomed the announcement of the proposed settlement. “This agreement will hold Kronospan accountable for unauthorized wastewater discharges while ensuring the company meets state and federal regulations,” LeFleur said. “More importantly, it brings relief to the local public wastewater treatment system that has been adversely impacted by the discharges, and protects water quality in Choccolocco Creek. I want to thank the EPA and the Department of Justice for working with ADEM and Kronospan to resolve a serious environmental problem” said LeFleur.
In addition, the proposed Consent Decree requires Kronospan to pay a civil penalty of $900,000, to be divided equally between the United States and the State of Alabama. In addition, Kronospan has agreed to take on a significant project that will reduce its burden on the community’s wastewater infrastructure. The supplemental environmental project valued at approximately $7,700,000 will install an evaporation system that will reduce by over 86% the annual volume of process wastewater that is pretreated and discharged to the receiving POTW in Oxford, Alabama.
As a result of this settlement, the pollutant loadings from Kronospan’s facility into the POTW will be significantly reduced. The chronic interference with the POTW’s operations and resulting pass-through of pollutants into Choccolocco Creek will cease, and the POTW’s capacity to effectively treat municipal sewage will be restored.
Kronospan, LLC is an integrated pulp and fiberboard mill that produces reconstituted wood products used in a variety of products such as furniture, laminate flooring, and other architectural applications. The company operates the production facility located in Eastaboga, Calhoun County, Alabama, as well as others in Pennsylvania. The wastewater from the Eastaboga facility is discharged to the Tull C. Allen publicly owned treatment works (POTW) operated by the Oxford Water Works and Sewer Board (OWSB) in Oxford, Alabama.
An EPA investigation found that Kronospan discharged process wastewater to the POTW without a required SID permit from 2007 until July 1, 2012, when ADEM issued Kronospan its SID permit.
The unauthorized discharge by Kronospan violated General and Specific Pretreatment Standards established by 40 C.F.R. 403, including the specific prohibitions against discharges at high temperatures, at low pH levels, at high loading rates, and containing obstructive solids. The unauthorized discharge also caused and/or contributed to interference and pass-through at the POTW. Additionally, Kronospan violated federal Categorical Pretreatment Standards in 40 C.F.R. 403 and 430, including relevant reporting requirements and the requirement for new sources to install and operate pretreatment equipment prior to discharge.
After receiving its SID permit, Kronospan’s discharge to the POTW has continued to cause and/or contribute to interference and pass-through of the POTW. Kronospan’s discharge to the POTW has at times contained high levels of suspended solids, obstructive solids, and oxygen demanding pollutants, as well as corrosive properties and high temperatures that are in excess of the SID permit conditions for discharge to the POTW. Additionally, Kronospan failed to fully comply with the terms of an earlier unilateral Administrative Order issued by the EPA.
The EPA, DOJ, and ADEM allege that Kronospan has amassed a total of over 13,000 CWA violations since it began discharging to the POTW in 2008, including causing or contributing to over 2,800 instances of interference and over 1,600 instances of pass-through of OWSB’s POTW to Choccolocco Creek. All of the parties involved believe the ongoing violations will be addressed by the terms of the settlement.
Man Cited for Illegal Sale of Unregistered Pesticide Imported from Nigeria
A New York man has admitted to knowingly distributing and selling to individuals throughout the United States an unregistered pesticide imported from Nigeria, U.S Attorney Craig Carpenito, announced.
Jude Chukwuebuka Amadike, 62, of Elmont, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of knowingly distributing or selling an unregistered pesticide in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
FIFRA provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use to ensure that pesticides sold in the United States are safe, effective, and bear labeling containing true and accurate information. The EPA has responsibility under FIFRA to regulate the manufacture, labeling, and distribution of all pesticides shipped or received in interstate commerce. All pesticides must be registered with the EPA before the pesticide can be sold or distributed, and no person may distribute or sell a pesticide that has not been registered with the EPA.
From Sept. 15, 2016, through Nov. 14, 2018, Amadike sold an unregistered pesticide called Sniper DDVP on Amazon and eBay to customers in at least 22 states, including New Jersey. The investigation into these sales revealed that the defendant procured this pesticide by importing it from a Nigerian supplier. One such purchase in December 2017 revealed an import of approximately 798 pounds of Sniper DDVP.
On Nov.14, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the Amadike’s home and recovered 1,728 bottles of the unregistered pesticide. Laboratory testing of samples taken from these bottles revealed each sampled bottle to contain the chemical dichlorvos, which has been classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen.
The illegal sale of an unregistered pesticide carries a statutory maximum prison sentence of one year and a fine of up to $25,000. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2021.
Environmental Resource Center Update
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link
If you have enrolled in a seminar through December, in most cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements. For details, call 800-537-2372 x 224.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at firstname.lastname@example.org
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