September 27, 2021
To combat the hazards associated with extreme heat exposure – both indoors and outdoors – the White House announced
on September 20 an enhanced and expanded efforts the U.S. Department of Labor is taking to address heat-related illnesses.
As part of the Biden-Harris administration's interagency effort
and commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice, OSHA is initiating enhanced measures to protect workers better in hot environments and reduce the dangers of exposure to ambient heat.
While heat illness is largely preventable, and commonly under-reported, thousands of workers are sickened each year by workplace heat exposure. Despite widespread under-reporting, 43 workers died
from heat illness in 2019, and at least 2,410 others suffered serious injuries and illnesses. Increasing heat precipitated by climate change can cause lost productivity and work hours resulting in large wage losses for workers. The Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center estimates
the economic loss from heat to be at least $100 billion annually – a number that could double by 2030 and quintuple by 2050 under a higher emissions scenario.
“Throughout the nation, millions of workers face serious hazards from high temperatures both outdoors and indoors. Amid changing climate, the growing frequency and intensity of extreme heat events is increasing the dangers workers face, especially for workers of color who disproportionately work in essential jobs in tough conditions,” said U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “As Secretary of Labor, my priority is to make sure we are taking appropriate action to keep workers healthy and safe on the job.”
OSHA implemented an intervention and enforcement initiative recently to prevent and protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths while they are working in hazardous hot environments. The newly established initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
“While agricultural and construction workers often come to mind first when thinking about workers most exposed to heat hazards, without proper safety actions, sun protection and climate-control, intense heat can be harmful to a wide variety of workers indoors or outdoors and during any season,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.
The OSHA initiative applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture and maritime where potential heat-related hazards exist. On days when a recognized heat temperature can result in increased risks of heat-related illnesses
, OSHA will increase enforcement efforts. Employers are encouraged to implement intervention methods on heat priority days proactively, including regularly taking breaks for water, rest, shade, training workers on how to identify common symptoms and what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring, and taking periodic measurements to determine workers' heat exposure.
OSHA Area Directors across the nation will institute the following:
- Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an onsite investigation where possible.
- Instruct compliance safety and health officers, during their travels to job sites, to conduct an intervention (providing the agency's heat poster/wallet card, discuss the importance of easy access to cool water, cooling areas and acclimatization) or opening an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions.
- Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.
In October 2021, OSHA will take a significant step toward a federal heat standard to ensure protections in workplaces across the country by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The advance notice will initiate a comment period allowing OSHA to gather diverse perspectives and technical expertise on topics including heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers.
The agency is also working to establish a National Emphasis Program on heat hazard cases, which will target high-risk industries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections. The 2022 National Emphasis Program will build on the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses in OSHA's Region VI, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
HFCs to Be Phased Down by New EPA Rule
The White House announced
that the EPA will release a new final rule, alongside other interagency actions, that together represent one of the most impactful federal efforts to reduce climate pollution in decades. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases found in a range of appliances and substances, including refrigerators, air conditioners and foams. These harmful pollutants have an impact on warming our climate that is hundreds to thousands of times greater than the same amount of carbon dioxide. HFCs are exacerbating climate change and extreme weather events – and the corresponding public health threats, physical damage, and economic costs.
The rule establishes a climate protection program that will phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% below baseline levels within the next 15 years. According to a White House statement, the United States is already a leader in innovation and manufacturing of HFC alternatives, and this action will ensure that American industries remain competitive in this expanding global market. EPA’s rule establishes an allowance allocation and trading program to reduce HFCs, and creates a robust compliance and enforcement system. In addition, EPA is committing to addressing the use of HFCs in products, and is currently reviewing more than a dozen petitions to restrict HFC use in a wide range of applications.
PFOS to Be Considered for Proposition 65 Regulation
The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will convene a meeting of the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) for possible listing of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and its salts and transformation and degradation precursors under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). OEHHA has opened a 45-day public comment period on the hazard identification document for these chemicals. The public comment period will end on Monday, November 8, 2021. A copy of the document is available on OEHHA’s web site at https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65
Updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook Now Available
NIOSH and OSHA partnered to update a handbook on workplace safety and health information for small business employers. The updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook
highlights the benefits of implementing an effective safety and health program. The handbook provides self-inspection checklists for employers to identify workplace hazards and review important workplace safety and health resources for small businesses.
New Safe Harbor Warning for Acrylamide in Food
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has proposed to add a new subsection to Article 6 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations. The Article 6 regulations include tailored safe harbor warning methods and content for several specific types of exposure scenarios. The proposed warning language is:
“CALIFORNIA WARNING:” in all capital letters and bold print, followed by “Consuming this product can expose you to acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen formed in some foods during cooking or processing at high temperatures. Many factors affect your cancer risk, including the frequency and amount of the chemical consumed. For more information including ways to reduce your exposure, see www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/acrylamide
Laser Treatment Shows Potential for Reducing Industrial Chemical Processing for Vehicles
Long-lasting protection from corrosion is essential for materials used for vehicles and aircraft to ensure structural integrity amid extreme operating conditions. Two chemical pre-treatment processes are widely used in industrial settings to prepare for coating adhesion and protect aluminum alloy surfaces against corrosion. While highly regulated, both processes use large quantities of hazardous compounds with known environmental and health risks.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has applied a laser-interference structuring, or LIS, technique that makes significant strides toward eliminating the need for these hazardous chemicals. The novel application of the LIS method answers a call from the U.S. Department of Defense for research projects that explore nonchemical alternatives for corrosion protection in military vehicles and aircraft systems.
Chromate conversion coating, or CCC, uses hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, to inhibit corrosion. Sulfuric acid anodizing, SAA, uses sulfuric acid, which can severely irritate skin and eyes, and when inhaled, can lead to permanent lung damage. Millions of gallons of used chemical solutions are disposed of annually as hazardous waste.
The military operates more than 12,000 aircraft, 10,000 tanks, hundreds of ships and a multitude of other vehicles and weapons systems. DoD owns and operates hundreds of industrial facilities that manufacture and repair these vehicles and equipment, spending more than $20 billion in corrosion protection annually. The agency’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, or SERDP, planned and executed with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, is “focused on developing alternative technologies to eliminate materials and processes that are of environmental concern,” said Robin Nissan, program manager of SERDP and its sister program, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.
“Our defense systems require repair and refurbishment,” he said. “Our programs are investing in the development of alternative processes that can ensure robust performance, sustainable practices and eliminate environmental risk.”
In three successive publications, ORNL materials scientist Adrian Sabau and a team of chemists and manufacturing scientists described, demonstrated and analyzed an LIS technique and compared its performance to the traditional solvent-intensive methods. Co-authors on the research included ORNL’s Jiheon Jun, Mike Stephens, Dana McClurg, Harry Meyer III, Donovan Leonard and Jian Chen.
Sabau, who specializes in materials processing such as metal casting and solidification, and his team had recently completed a project using LIS for bonding in automotive applications
. When he read DoD’s call for research on nonsolvent surface preparation, Sabau recognized that a similar technique could be effective for coating adhesion as well.
In their experiments, they treated aluminum alloy sheets by splitting the primary beam of a pulsed nanosecond laser into two beams and focusing them on the same spot on the specimen surface. This process roughened the surface with periodic structures, changed the surface chemistry and sub-surface microstructure.
“In laser processing, you’re impacting lots of energy on the top surface, and we need to understand what’s happening to the substrate. Is it damaged? Does it crack? Are there any microstructure effects that are not beneficial to corrosion protection?” Sabau said.
Meyer, a physical chemist, and Leonard, a microscopist, contributed to the characterization work outlined in Optics and Laser Technology
. Meyer conducted surface chemical analysis using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, or XPS.
“XPS is a material characterization technique that can determine what elements are on the surface — the top 5 to 8 nanometers — of solid materials,” Meyer said. “Before laser processing, XPS was used to determine the chemical composition of the as-received aluminum alloy sheets, which showed high amounts of carbon. XPS was used again to determine if the laser processing cleaned the surface. The results showed a significant reduction of the carbon and was one of our key findings. XPS, along with electron microscopy results, helped us to understand how the native oxide was altered through laser processing.”
Sabau added, “In looking at subsurface characterization, we found a beneficial aspect that we bumped into by accident. In the top layer, we saw the dissolution of copper-rich precipitates, where corrosion can initiate.”
After an aluminum alloy sheet is cleaned, often the surface energy prohibits the coating from sticking properly, a known issue in industrial surface coatings. The team’s next publication
, for the International Journal of Adhesion and Adhesives,
looked at coating adhesion and found that the LIS method provided adhesion as well as the industry-standard and solvent-intensive CCC and SAA techniques. A patent for coating adhesion was awarded in 2021 based on this LIS technique. For the adhesion study, McClurg conducted profilometry on the materials, a technique that maps surface contours and provides roughness measurements.
The third paper, published in Corrosion: The Journal of Science and Engineering,
outlined the final tests that Sabau’s team conducted with an epoxy primer used by the U.S. military for airplane wings and bodies.
Technician Mike Stephens completed the delicate and time-sensitive task of applying spray coatings of primers and topcoats to exacting DoD specifications on alloy sheets that had been prepared with different treatments. He then exposed the samples to 2,000 hours of salt spray to examine corrosion resistance at multiple periods. Jun led the corrosion testing, investigating how the LIS-prepared surfaces compared to conventionally prepared alloy substrates, both with and without primer and a topcoat.
“The laser interference-treated substrate exhibited higher corrosion resistance,” said Jun, who attributed the result to copper-rich precipitates dissolving. However, on the samples coated with primer or primer and topcoat, LIS did not perform as well as the chemical solvent techniques, with some samples showing blisters within 96 hours of salt spray exposure. However, those blisters were small and remained stable through hundreds of hours of exposure.
The team tested a second set of samples that were simply wiped down with acetone prior to the application of primer, resulting in very little corrosion, and the formation of blisters was delayed by hundreds of hours.
Jun said further investigation to optimize LIS would be worthwhile. “Our research approach, combining lab-scale electrochemical measurements and industrially adopted ASTM [American Society for Testing Materials] salt spray testing, was very successful and aided in-depth understanding of the effects of laser interference treatment,” he said. “For a process that was conducted at ambient temperature without solvents, most of the samples performed extremely well,” Sabau said. “This technique is a huge step in the right direction towards nonchemical intensive surface preparation for coatings.”
A New Method for Removing Lead from Drinking Water
Engineers at MIT have developed a new approach to removing lead or other heavy-metal contaminants from water, in a process that they say is far more energy-efficient than any other currently used system, though there are others under development that come close. Ultimately, it might be used to treat lead-contaminated water supplies at the home level, or to treat contaminated water from some chemical or industrial processes.
The new system is the latest in a series of applications based on initial findings six years ago by members of the same research team, initially developed for desalination of seawater or brackish water, and later adapted for removing radioactive compounds from the cooling water of nuclear power plants. The new version is the first such method that might be applicable for treating household water supplies, as well as industrial uses.
The findings are published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – Water, in a paper by MIT graduate students Huanhuan Tian, Mohammad Alkhadra, and Kameron Conforti, and professor of chemical engineering Martin Bazant.
“It’s notoriously difficult to remove toxic heavy metal that’s persistent and present in a lot of different water sources,” Alkhadra says. “Obviously there are competing methods today that do this function, so it’s a matter of which method can do it at lower cost and more reliably.”
The biggest challenge in trying to remove lead is that it is generally present in such tiny concentrations, vastly exceeded by other elements or compounds. For example, sodium is typically present in drinking water at a concentration of tens of parts per million, whereas lead can be highly toxic at just a few parts per billion. Most existing processes, such as reverse osmosis or distillation, remove everything at once, Alkhadra explains. This not only takes much more energy than would be needed for a selective removal, but it’s counterproductive since small amounts of elements such as sodium and magnesium are actually essential for healthy drinking water.
The new approach uses a process called shock electrodialysis, in which an electric field is used to produce a shockwave inside an electrically charged porous material carrying the contaminated water. The shock wave propagates from one side to the other as the voltage increases, leaving behind a zone where the metal ions are depleted, and separating the feed stream into a brine and a fresh stream. The process results in a 95 percent reduction of lead from the outgoing fresh stream.
In principle, “this makes the process much cheaper,” Bazant says, “because the electrical energy that you’re putting in to do the separation is really going after the high-value target, which is the lead. You’re not wasting a lot of energy removing the sodium.” Because the lead is present at such low concentration, “there’s not a lot of current involved in removing those ions, so this can be a very cost-effective way.”
The process still has its limitations, as it has only been demonstrated at small laboratory scale and at quite slow flow rates. Scaling up the process to make it practical for in-home use will require further research, and larger-scale industrial uses will take even longer. But it could be practical within a few years for some home-based systems, Bazant says.
For example, a home whose water supply is heavily contaminated with lead might have a system in the cellar that slowly processes a stream of water, filling a tank with lead-free water to be used for drinking and cooking, while leaving most of the water untreated for uses like toilet flushing or watering the lawn. Such uses might be appropriate as an interim measure for places like Flint, Michigan, where the water, mostly contaminated by the distribution pipes, will take many years to remediate through pipe replacements.
The process could also be adapted for some industrial uses such as cleaning water produced in mining or drilling operations, so that the treated water can be safely disposed of or reused. And in some cases, this could also provide a way of recovering metals that contaminate water but could actually be a valuable product if they were separated out; for example, some such minerals could be used to process semiconductors or pharmaceuticals or other high-tech products, the researchers say.
Direct comparisons of the economics of such a system versus existing methods is difficult, Bazant says, because in filtration systems, for example, the costs are mainly for replacing the filter materials, which quickly clog up and become unusable, whereas in this system the costs are mostly for the ongoing energy input, which is very small. At this point, the shock electrodialysis system has been operated for several weeks, but it’s too soon to estimate the real-world longevity of such a system, he says.
Developing the process into a scalable commercial product will take some time, but “we have shown how this could be done, from a technical standpoint,” Bazant says. “The main issue would be on the economic side,” he adds. That includes figuring out the most appropriate applications and developing specific configurations that would meet those uses. “We do have a reasonable idea of how to scale this up. So it’s a question of having the resources,” which might be a role for a startup company rather than an academic research lab, he adds.
“I think this is an exciting result,” he says, “because it shows that we really can address this important application” of cleaning the lead from drinking water. For example, he says, there are places now that perform desalination of seawater using reverse osmosis, but they have to run this expensive process twice in a row, first to get the salt out, and then again to remove the low-level but highly toxic contaminants like lead. This new process might be used instead of the second round of reverse osmosis, at a far lower expenditure of energy.
The research received support from a MathWorks Engineering Fellowship and a fellowship awarded by MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, funded by Xylem, Inc.
RM Masonry and Stucco Cited for Unsecured Scaffolding
The Fort Worth masonry company continues to put its workers at risk for falls – the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry – by ignoring workplace safety regulations, a recent federal inspection at a Denton work site found.
A March 2021 OSHA inspection initiated as part of the Agency’s Regional Emphasis Program
for falls in the construction industry found RM Masonry and Stucco Inc. once again exposing workers to falls and silica hazards. OSHA cited the company for similar violations in 2018 and 2019.
OSHA cited the company
for nine repeat and six serious violations, including failing to ensure that scaffolding was properly planked and secured, provide a ladder for safe egress and inspect scaffolding. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $216,265.
“RM Masonry and Stucco has shown repeated disregard for worker safety,” said OSHA Area Director Timothy Minor in Fort Worth, Texas. “Employers should never put profits before the safety of their workers. OSHA will do everything in its power to protect workers and hold serial violators like this accountable.”
RM Masonry and Stucco Inc. is a privately-owned construction company with approximately 40 employees.
Mobile App Provides Real-Time Air Quality Information in Idaho
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is introducing a new mobile app, AIR Idaho, to provide forecasted and current air quality information to help protect your health during poor air quality episodes.
The AIR Idaho app features air quality information relative to your location as well as an interactive real-time map that displays data from over 30 monitoring stations across the state. It also provides a three-day forecast detailing whether the air quality is expected to deteriorate and if there are times when air quality is expected to be better.
“This mobile app puts air quality information at your fingertips so you can make decisions to protect your health,” said Tiffany Floyd, DEQ’s Air Quality Division Administrator.
The app also features real-time information related open burning restrictions, a list of regional and statewide air quality resources, tips to stay safe during a smoke or inversion event, and information on how you can help protect our air.
Users can download the app for free at the App Store for iPhone or Google Play and select a location to receive information for a specific area. Enable notifications to receive information on local air quality advisories and burn restrictions. Use your phone’s location services to receive information for your area; or select a default county if you do not use your phone’s location.
15 Entities Cited for Environmental Violations in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 15 penalties totaling $357,954 in August for various environmental violations. A detailed list of violations and resulting penalties is at https://ordeq.org/enforcement
Fines ranged from $563 to $134,734. Alleged violations included a performing asbestos abatement work without a license, establishing a solid waste site without a permit and failing to properly test monitoring equipment for underground storage tanks.
DEQ issued civil penalties to the following organizations:
- 4-R Equipment, LLC, $12,800, Philomath, wastewater
- Advanced Chemical Transport Inc. dba. ACTEnviro, $3,600, Tualatin, underground storage tanks
- Cascade Steel Rolling Mills Inc., $33,818, McMinnville, air quality
- City of La Grande, $46,504, La Grande, stormwater
- City of Warrenton Wastewater Treatment Plant, $563, Warrenton, wastewater
- Clements Enterprises LLC, $7,668, Phoenix, asbestos
- Dirt Doctor, LLC, $4,201, Phoenix, asbestos
- Discount Towing and Recovery LLC, $67,575, Salem, hazardous waste
- EP Minerals, LLC, $11,700, Vale, air quality
- Gilford's Floor Covering Inc., $14,800, Portland, asbestos
- Higgins' Petroleum, Inc., $775, Eugene, underground storage tanks
- Jason Richard Bicknell & Nicole Rae Bullock, $1,871, Trail, solid waste
- John Hyland Construction Inc., $134,734, Eugene, stormwater
- Kohler Meyers & O'Halloran, Inc., $3,880, Portland, asbestos
- Lane County, $13,465, Eugene, underground storage tanks
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment. Learn more about these projects at https://ordeq.org/sep
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
Hawkins, Inc., Storage Tank Violations Were Potential Threat to Mississippi River at Facility in St. Paul
Hawkins, Inc., has corrected multiple aboveground storage tank violations at one of its bulk chemical storage facilities in St. Paul, greatly reducing the chance that future potential spills could reach the nearby Mississippi River. According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation that began in August 2020, the company had failed to:
- Operate truck and railcar transfer areas with adequate containment to prevent potential spills to soils and to stormwater drains leading to the Mississippi River
- Install overfill prevention alarms on certain tanks and conduct alarm testing on other tanks
- Submit required change of status forms when removing and installing tanks
- Properly label tanks
- Consistently conduct tank inspections, keep records, and submit report
The company paid a $32,540 civil penalty to the MPCA and was required to:
- Construct improved truck and railcar transfer areas which segregate potential spills from stormwater drains
- Install overfill protection systems and conduct alarm testing
- Submit the missing change of status forms
- Properly label all tanks
- Conduct required tank inspections and submit reports
New Critical Lab Safety Instruction Available Through the ACS Institute
In a development that benefits students, researchers and institutions around the world, the Publications Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) is proud to announce the inaugural course in the ACS Center for Lab Safety
, “ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry.” This 90-minute on-demand course will provide an introduction to critical lab safety skills and set a defined standard for safety. The course is part of the ACS Institute, a learning platform developed collaboratively by ACS Publications and the ACS Education Division.
Every year, undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines enter a chemistry teaching lab for the first time, often feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they must process and use to be successful. Because of the demands of the chemistry curriculum, training on best practices and how to manage laboratory safety is often inconsistent and underemphasized. This course, designed by teaching faculty and safety experts from top universities in the U.S., gives students the opportunity to learn and practice key concepts in laboratory safety and chemical communication to build their confidence before working in the lab for the first time.
“Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society, and safety instruction is crucial to supporting students engaging in chemistry research,” says James Milne, Ph.D., president, ACS Publications Division. “The course we have developed will serve the entire chemistry community, and ultimately create a better ecosystem for research.”
"This course is exactly the kind of instruction that participants in the ACS Institute can come to expect," says Michael Blayney, Ph.D., executive director of research safety at Northwestern University. "Students will come away with practical knowledge that lays the foundation for further safety training in keeping with their growth in understanding lab science. It is a remarkable and first-of-its-kind course developed by ACS. It promises to change safety instruction in teaching and research in fundamental ways."
While “ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry” is designed for students, it also benefits universities and professors, offering assurance that students will develop a sense of personal responsibility for lab safety after completing the lessons. This course is the first of many resources being developed by ACS Publications for the new ACS Center for Lab Safety, one of seven centers in the ACS Institute. Future courses will support a spiral curriculum, deepening and broadening safety education alongside chemical education. This curriculum will include instruction tailored to teaching assistants, in addition to videos and resources to help create a culture of lab safety, and case studies based on real-world examples.
“ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry” will be available on October 1, and students at participating institutions may begin using the course during the fall 2021 academic semester.
EPA Reaches Settlement with Cornell Forge in Chicago Regarding Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act
EPA announced a settlement with Cornell Forge Company to resolve alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) at the company’s facility in Chicago, Illinois. The settlement includes a $165,197 civil penalty.
Cornell Forge manufactures steel products from steel bar with drop hammers and mechanical presses and has finishing operations at its facility at 6666 W. 66th St. in Chicago. EPA alleged that Cornell Forge violated EPCRA by failing to submit to the federal and state governments required forms regarding the releases and transfers of substances including chromium, nickel, ethylene glycol and manganese. EPCRA increases the public's knowledge and access to information about chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.
Under the terms of the consent agreement and final order with EPA, Cornell Forge has addressed the alleged EPCRA violations at the facility and will pay a civil penalty of $165,197 to the federal government. The facility is located in a community with potential environmental justice concerns. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Bellevue Developer Fined $280,000 for Multiple Dangerous Waste Violations
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Bellevue Investors I LLC $280,000 for illegally sending soil contaminated with dry cleaning solvent to solid waste landfills.
Bellevue Investors I LLC, a subsidiary of Vulcan Real Estate, was permitted for the removal and transport of 128,820 tons of contaminated soil from the redevelopment project at 117 106th Ave. NE in Bellevue, WA. With
, developers may dispose of contaminated soil in municipal solid waste landfills only when soil samples show toxicity levels are low enough. Excess material or soil from an area not yet sampled and approved must go to a dangerous waste facility or be stockpiled on site until Ecology reviews sample results and authorizes its shipment to a solid waste landfill.
Without authorization from Ecology and despite warnings to stop, the company removed and trucked an additional 30 million pounds (just over 14,000 tons) of hazardous material in July and December of 2020. The company asked Ecology for permission after the soil was in the solid waste landfill, and failed to include dangerous waste manifests with the shipments.
“Bellevue Investors failed to follow a process that protects human health and the environment—a process all major developers use and understand,” said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program
. “The company excavated more than they were supposed to and disposed of the soil in the wrong place, despite knowing the required steps in the process. We need a level playing field for all developers to prevent hazardous waste from contaminating landfills and endangering people and the environment.”
Once standard in the dry cleaning industry, perchloroethylene (PERC) is a solvent that’s been in use since the 1920s. PERC is a carcinogen and has contaminated soil and groundwater near businesses that use it. Exposure to PERC can cause people to become dizzy, drowsy, and nauseous, and experience skin and respiratory irritation. Extended exposure has been linked to neurological effects, organ damage, and cancer. Ecology allowed the additional PERC-contaminated soil Bellevue Investors I LLC placed in solid waste landfills to remain there because test data showed it was below the risk threshold, however, developers must seek approval before sending contaminated soil to solid waste landfills so Ecology can prevent hazardous waste from contaminating solid waste landfills.
“Bellevue Investors I LLC was surprised and disappointed to learn of these allegations. We disagree with these allegations, expect to appeal the penalty to the PCHB, and look forward to having the opportunity to demonstrate these allegations are incorrect,” said Vulcan Development Manager Nick Lenington. “We look forward to continuing to work with Ecology as we clean up contaminated property and bring these blighted properties back into productive use.”
Bellevue Investors I LLC may appeal Ecology’s penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.
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