New England Continues to Experience Poor Air Quality from Canadian Wildfires

July 03, 2023
New England state air quality forecasters are predicting elevated concentrations of fine particle air pollution due to wildfires in Quebec and Northern Ontario. The primary concern is high concentrations of fine particle air pollution that is unhealthy, especially for sensitive groups such as people with respiratory disease, the elderly, or people with compromised health.
Areas that are forecasted to exceed the Federal air quality standard for 24-hour particle pollution level concentrations are:  Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont
EPA encourages people to check their Air Quality Index (AQI) throughout the day to be aware of their  local air quality.  Hazy skies, reduced visibility, and the odor of burning wood is likely as the smoke plumes are transported over the region.  During the times that significant smoke is in your area, it is recommended that people with pre-existing medical conditions remain indoors with windows closed while circulating indoor air with a fan or air conditioner. For more tips, see  
Exposure to elevated fine particle pollution levels can affect both your lungs and heart which may cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma, and other pre-existing lung diseases.  When particulate matter levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.  
Everyone can take steps to keep air emissions down during air quality advisory days.  Due to impacts from climate change, these kinds of air quality events are predicted to increase in frequency.  Communities already vulnerable and overburdened will also be impacted by these kinds of events. 
Stay up to date on current air quality and forecasts near you through the AirNow app, available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You also can use the app to check the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map. EPA and the U.S. Forest Service developed the map to give the public information on fire locations, smoke plumes, near real-time air quality and actions to take to protect your health -- all in one place. The map is available by tapping the Smoke icon in the AirNow app. It includes data from hundreds of air quality monitors provided by state and local air quality agencies, along with crowd-sourced data from air quality sensors.  
Fireworks, Pyrotechnics Industry Employers Urged To Make Worker Safety a Priority on July 4
Since the founding fathers declared the colonies independent in 1776, cannons, fireworks and today, extensive pyrotechnic displays have become a July 4th fixture. Unfortunately, so have serious injuries and worse for people employed in the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry when important workplace safety standards are ignored.
With the approach of Independence Day, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is strongly urging employers in the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry to keep employees safe from the many hazards that exist in manufacturing, storing, transporting, displaying and sales.
Earlier this month, OSHA cited a Florida-based entertainment company after four workers died and a fifth suffered critical injuries in Orlando, Florida, after a fire and explosion at a fireworks warehouse. The agency determined that an ignition source sparked a fire and explosions as a team of workers readied fireworks for a local show.
As companies prepare fireworks displays, employers must train workers properly in a language they understand, and make certain that employees take appropriate measures to safeguard volatile devices from causing serious and potentially fatal injuries.
OSHA provides the pyrotechnics industry with safety information about common hazards and controls for workers in retail fireworks sales and in outdoor fireworks displays.
Download workplace safety posters for the pyrotechnics industry and view a training video on best industry practices for retail sales and manufacturers informed by the National Fire Protection Association consensus standards.
EPA Resolves Clean Air Act Violations with Didion Ethanol, LLC
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Didion Ethanol LLC for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act in Cambria, Wisconsin.
EPA alleged Didion’s ethanol production facility violated its 2014 and 2018 permits by failing to consistently direct all emissions from the fermentation process to the ethanol recovery system and failing to develop a sufficient malfunction prevention and abatement plan. EPA also alleged that the facility failed to operate its flare with no visible emissions and complete required pump monitoring.
Didion will pay a civil penalty of $170,000 and agreed to:
  • Conduct monthly or quarterly monitoring.
  • Install equipment to continuously detect and prevent excess emissions from the fermentation process.
  • Implement visual emission monitoring at the flare.
  • Improve recordkeeping, inspection and corrective action throughout the facility.
  • Update and submit a modified malfunction prevention and abatement plan.
  • Submit a permit application to the state to make requirements from this settlement last beyond the end of the order.
EPA estimates Didion will be in compliance within a year.
Washington State Business Penalized for Oil Spill to the South Fork Palouse River
Lack of maintenance led to a 2022 fuel spill in the South Fork Palouse and has now resulted in a $34,000 fine for Four Star Supply Inc. The spill came from a slow leak from a fuel tank, spilling an estimated 63 gallons of diesel into the river. Four Star Supply Inc. is a farm and fuel supply company with operations in Pullman and other cities.
On April 25, 2022, a Four Star Supply employee noticed diesel leaking from one of the company’s aboveground storage tanks. The spilled diesel breached its secondary containment structure, saturated the soil, and continued into the South Fork Palouse River.
Employees removed the fuel remaining in the tank and hired a cleanup contractor, who took steps to contain and collect the spilled fuel, including placing boom in the river. Contractors and company personnel continued to collect fuel as it seeped out of the ground over several months.
The Washington Department of Ecology fined Four Star for spilling oil to water, not reporting the spill immediately, and negligence. Ecology investigators determined the spill was caused by corrosion in the tank. Records show the tanks and containment structure were not inspected or properly maintained. Half of the tanks, including the tank that spilled, are believed to be over 85 years old, and the containment also needed repairs. 
“Four Star could have avoided this spill had it inspected and maintained the tanks and secondary containment structure,” said Sam Hunn, Ecology’s Eastern Region spill response supervisor. “Following the incident, Four Star was very cooperative, and had materials and trained resources to respond quickly. We appreciate their diligence in cleaning up the area.”
Following the spill, Four Star drained and removed the leaking tank and the five other tanks from the site. Four Star also removed the pipelines that crossed the river. The company cleaned the area, replaced soil, and restored the riverbank.
In addition to the penalty, the company is also subject to a separate Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) of $1,038. The NRDA process is used to evaluate the impacts of oil spills and may require the company to pay for associated damages.
The South Fork Palouse River is home to several species of mammals, fish, birds and other animals, and drains into the Palouse River. While there were no reported impacts to wildlife, oil and refined oil products are toxic. Even small amounts of oil can severely injure or impair animals. Oil can also adversely affect the habitats that wildlife depends on for survival.
EPA Settles with Shipping Companies over Claims of Clean Water Act Violations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has settled with two shipping companies over claims of violations of EPA’s Vessel General Permit issued under the Clean Water Act. Under the terms of the settlements, Swire Shipping Pte. Ltd. will pay $137,000 in penalties and MMS Co. Ltd. will pay $200,000 in penalties for claims of ballast water discharge, inspection, monitoring, and reporting violations.
"EPA takes compliance with the Vessel General Permit – a key element under the Clean Water Act – seriously. It is vitally important that vessel owners and operators properly manage what they discharge into our oceans, and that they meet their monitoring and reporting requirements," said Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. "Noncompliance with the permit can seriously impact the quality of our nation's waters, which are already challenged by port operations."
Swire Shipping is a privately-owned company headquartered in Singapore. Two of Swire Shipping’s vessels cited, the Papuan Chief and the New Guinea Chief, exclusively visited the Port of Pago Pago in American Samoa. The third vessel, Lintan, has visited the Ports of San Francisco and Long Beach in California as well as other U.S. ports. Swire Shipping failed to: treat ballast water prior to discharging it into the ocean in a manner consistent with the compliance deadline; conduct annual comprehensive inspections; conduct annual calibrations of a ballast water treatment system; monitor and sample discharges from ballast water treatment systems; and report complete and accurate information in annual reports. The settlement includes penalties of $67,075 for the Papuan Chief, $19,906 for the New Guinea Chief, and $50,019 for the Lintan.
MMS Co. is a privately-owned company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. MMS Co. failed to: meet ballast water limitations for biological indicators and biocide residuals in discharges at U.S. ports, including the Port of Richmond in California; conduct annual calibrations of ballast water treatment systems; monitor and sample discharges from ballast water treatment systems; and report complete and accurate information in annual reports. The settlement includes penalties of $110,509 for the St. Pauli and $89,491 for the Centennial Misumi.
Vessel self-inspections are required as a means of identifying, for example, potential sources of spills, broken pollution prevention equipment, or other issues that might lead to permit violations. Self-inspections empower the owner or operator to diagnose and fix problems in a timely manner to remain compliant with the permit, and with U.S. federal law. Because the Clean Water Act relies on self-reporting of permittees, failures or delays in inspection, monitoring, and reporting violations are serious and undermine the permit program.
In addition, it is important that such discharges by ships be monitored to ensure that aquatic ecosystems are protected from discharges that contain pollutants. Invasive species are a persistent problem in U.S. coastal and inland waters. Improper management of ballast water can introduce invasive species or damage local species by disrupting habitats and increasing competitive pressure. Discharges of other waste streams regulated by the Vessel General Permit (e.g., graywater, exhaust gas scrubber water, lubricants, etc.) can cause toxic impacts to local species or contain pathogenic organisms.
U.S. Department of Labor Cites Utah Solar Power Company for Workers without Fall Protection
Cited 12 times since 2018 for endangering workers, a Utah-based solar provider allowed employees to work on an icy, snow-covered two-story roof in Johnstown without legally required fall protection in late December 2022, a U.S. Department of Labor safety investigation found.
Acting on a complaint about workers' safety at risk, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection and found that Ion Solar LLC ignored fall protection requirements in the company’s safety and health program, which exposed its employees to falls from elevation, the construction industry's leading cause of death.
An onsite company manager told an OSHA investigator that he did not enforce the safety program for a one-day job. In addition to not ensuring the use of fall protection, Ion Solar also did not provide employees on the ground with hard hats to protect them from objects falling from the roof. OSHA cited the company for lack of hard hats and willfully exposing workers to falls, with a total proposed penalty of $170,992.
"Serious and fatal injuries on construction sites can occur on day one or day 10," said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. "Regardless of how long a project takes, employers are required to protect their workers from start to finish."
Since 2018, the company's history of workplace safety issues includes OSHA violations from inspections in May 2018 in Arvada; December 2020 in San Antonio, Texas, and Hampton, Virginia; September 2022 in Aurora and in Gresham, Oregon; and February 2023 in Garner, North Carolina.
Founded in 2013, Ion Solar provides design, installation and inspection, and system maintenance of residential solar power systems. Based in Provo, Utah, the company has locations in 11 states nationwide.
Ion Solar, LLC has 15 business days from receipt of citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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