EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory Program recently issued a final rule expanding reporting requirements for the dioxin and dioxin-like compounds category. There are seventeen distinct members of this chemical category listed under TRI. The final rule requires that, in addition to the total grams released for the entire category, facilities must report the quantity for each individual member on a new Form R Schedule 1. EPA will then use the individual mass quantity data to calculate TEQ values that will be made available to the public along with the mass data. The final rule also removes the requirement to report the single distribution of compounds in the category.
EPA currently requires that facilities report, in grams, the total amount of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds released from the facility. When available, the facility must also provide a single “distribution,” showing how that total is divided among the individual dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. This single distribution must represent either total releases, or releases to the media (air, land, water) for which the facility has the best information.
Although useful, total releases are not the best measure of the actual toxicity of these compounds because each compound has its own level of toxicity. To account for how compounds vary in toxicity, weighted values called toxic equivalents (TEQs are used). To calculate TEQs, a value is assigned describing how toxic each dioxin and dioxin-like compound is compared to the most toxic members of the category: 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and 1,2,3,7,8-pentachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.
Expressing data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds as TEQs allows the public to understand the toxicity of releases and waste management at facilities that report under the TRI program. For example, a facility releasing 3 grams of some combination of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds may or may not be of greater interest than a facility releasing 1 gram of a different combination. However, a facility releasing 3 grams TEQ of dioxins is of greater environmental importance than one releasing 1 gram TEQ to the same environmental medium (e.g., air, land, water).
TEQs will allow the public to make more informed environmental decisions within their communities. Expressing dioxin releases and waste management information in grams TEQ will also permit easier comparisons between TRI data and other EPA and international data.
Further information on this final rule is available from the following:
- The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Hotline, (toll free): 1-800-424-9346. In Virginia or Alaska: 703-412-9810 or (toll free) TDD: 1-800-553-7672.
Company and Plant Engineer to Pay 1.5 Million for Improper Hazardous Waste Disposal
New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced guilty pleas from an Elmira foundry and its former plant engineer for hazardous waste violations. As part of the pleas, the foundry’s parent company will pay $1.5 million to fund a Chemung County-based program to reduce childhood lead exposure.
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said, “Illegally dumping toxic waste is absolutely reprehensible. Lead has been proven to be hazardous – especially to our children – and today’s guilty plea and penalties should serve as warnings to those who feel they can skirt environmental laws to dispose of dangerous waste. My office will deal severely with all those who fail to comply with the law.”
Kennedy Valve (KV), an Elmira-based division of McWane Inc., pleaded guilty before Chemung County Court Judge James T. Hayden to two counts of unlawful dealing in hazardous wastes in the first degree (a class E felony) under the Environmental Conservation Law. As part of the plea, Kennedy Valve was fined the maximum amount allowed by law, $300,000. Former KV plant engineer Ronald Wagner, 61, of Hornby, pleaded guilty to one count of offering a false instrument for filing (a misdemeanor) for his role in disposing of lead-contaminated wastes. Wagner, who no longer works at Kennedy Valve, was sentenced to a conditional discharge.
McWane, as part of the plea deal, agreed to pay $1.5 million to implement a program to reduce childhood lead exposure in Chemung County and clean up lead-contaminated housing in the county. McWane will not seek any tax benefits for funding the lead removal program and it will not refer to the payment as a “charitable contribution.”
Between 2001 and 2004, KV dumped waste in the Chemung County landfill, including melt-dust waste, a product generated by the burning of scrap metal in large furnaces. On behalf of KV, Wagner applied for permits to dispose of KV's waste at the landfill, claiming that the waste was non-hazardous. The landfill granted the permits and KV transported tons of what it claimed was non-hazardous waste to the facility.
However, between August 2002 and August 2004, multiple labs informed KV and Wagner, on ten separate occasions, that KV's melt-dust waste was indeed hazardous and exceeded acceptable limits for lead. Nevertheless, KV continued to ship melt-dust waste to the landfill, ultimately shipping a total of over two tons of lead-contaminated waste. Neither the landfill nor the waste transporter, Upstate Machinery, was permitted to handle hazardous waste.
DEC Commissioner Grannis said, “DEC firmly believes in prosecuting those that try to circumvent the stringent laws New York has in place to protect our communities and the environment from harmful exposure to lead or other contaminants. We are pleased that Kennedy Valve has been held accountable for their actions and that among the details of this plea, will be contributing to important public awareness and lead abatement efforts that will help Southern Tier children grow strong and healthy.”
Elmira Mayor John S. Tonello said, “I am very pleased with the efforts that Kennedy Valve has made in the years since the violations were discovered. We very much appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General’s office and we look forward to having this money to reinvest into this community to address environmental concerns in the City of Elmira and Chemung County.”
Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli said, “We are pleased that the Attorney General’s office, in conjunction with the other government regulatory agencies, has come to a settlement with Kennedy Valve (McWane Inc.) and this issue has come to a resolution. The proceeds from this settlement will go a long way to enhance the current programming provided by the County Health Department to reduce childhood lead exposure within Chemung County.”
EPA Fines Two Facilities for PCB Violations
The Seattle office of the EPA announced the settlement of four enforcement cases related to the failure to dispose of PCBs within one year of storage for disposal. The violations were discovered by EPA after the routine review of shipping and disposal records that are required for regulated amounts of PCBs under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
According to Daniel Duncan, EPA’s Region 10 PCB Program Coordinator, facilities that store PCBs need to be aware of their notification and storage obligations under TSCA.
“The Toxic Substances Control Act is intended to protect human health and the environment from unreasonable risks posed by certain chemicals,” said Duncan. “It is important that companies and communities comply with TSCA regulations. If they don’t, they face potential fines for the noncompliance.”
After negotiated settlements, the total of the EPA penalties paid in the four cases was $14,705:
- Port of Shelton, located at 21 West Sanderson Way in Shelton, Washington, was fined $1,096
- City of Klamath Falls, located at 1199 Spring Street, Klamath Falls, Oregon, was fined $6,445
- Alaska Gold Company, located 221 5th Avenue in Nome, Alaska, was fined $5,264
- Chugach Electric Association, Inc., located at 5601 Minnesota Drive in Anchorage, Alaska, was fined $1,900
EPA Encourages New Owners of Companies to Disclose Violations
On May 14, 2007, EPA issued a Federal Register Notice (“Enhancing Environmental Outcomes from Audit Policy Disclosures through Tailored Incentives for New Owners”). The agency is considering whether actively encouraging such disclosures has the potential to increase pollution reductions as a result of audit policy disclosures. The audit policy offers reduced penalties to companies that self-police their programs, promptly disclose and correct any violations discovered, and take steps to prevent future violations.
“Our top priority is to protect the environment and public health. We have a variety of tools and options to do that,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “New owners of recently acquired facilities that come forward to make a ‘clean start’ can address their environmental issues and make changes to ensure they stay in compliance and reduce pollutants going forward.”
New owners may be particularly well-situated and highly motivated to focus on and invest in making a clean start for their new facilities by addressing environmental compliance. Companies with newly acquired facilities can use the audit policy to examine their performance and work with EPA to come into compliance with environmental laws. Since 1995, more than 3,000 companies have disclosed and resolved violations at over 9,000 facilities under this policy.
EPA is seeking input from the public on how best to encourage new owners to use the audit policy. EPA will accept written comments until July 13, and also invites the public to offer comment at two public meetings to be held on June 12 in Washington, D.C., and June 20 in San Francisco, Calif.
In addition to encouraging new owners to participate, EPA is also considering ways to make it easier for companies to disclose violations. In the near future, the EPA will be developing a system that would allow companies to disclose certain violations through an EPA Web site.
EPA Study Looks for Better Asbestos Removal Technology
Scientists and engineers from EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory and the Dallas regional office compared the current process of demolishing a dilapidated, asbestos-containing structure with a new method called the Alternative Asbestos Control Method or AACM. The first demonstration project was successfully completed in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Preliminary findings show the AACM procedures to be protective for clean-up of many asbestos-containing buildings.
Two similar buildings at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, containing similar types and quantities of asbestos, were demolished in April 2006. One demolition utilized the alternative method and one utilized the standard National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) method. As they were demolished, environmental emissions were monitored to determine if the alternative protected the environment as well as the NESHAP method.
The current NESHAP process involves removal of some asbestos materials prior to demolition of the structure. This process can be time-consuming and expensive. After demolition, the removed asbestos and the demolished structure are both disposed in approved landfills. Similarly, the alternative method removes some friable (capable of becoming airborne) asbestos materials, but some asbestos-containing materials are allowed to remain. The structure is then wetted with amended water to control asbestos fiber release prior to and during demolition. Demolition debris and several inches of affected soil from the AACM process are disposed as asbestos-containing debris at an approved landfill. Data from the evaluation demonstrated lower than expected levels of asbestos and reduced potential for worker exposure. The cost and time-savings for the first study were significant.
The draft report has been released for public comment and for peer review by a select panel of experts. The public is invited to review the draft report and submit comments by June 11, 2007.
$60,000 Penalty for Failure to Sample Wastewater
Magic Valley Produce, Inc, located at 322 North Main Street Paul, Idaho, has reached a $60,000 settlement with the EPA for violating its federal waste water discharge permit.
During an EPA inspection of the plant on Jan. 19, 2006, the inspector noted that the facility had failed to conduct required discharge sampling under its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. From November 2003 to January 2006, the company accrued a very large number of “failure to sample” violations for the various pollutants in its discharge, which runs into the Snake River.
The pollutants that the company failed to sample for include total suspended solids (TSS), pH, phosphorus, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), ammonia, nitrate-nitrite, and E-coli. The company had also violated its TSS limits. The company recently stopped discharging to surface waters.
According to Jim Werntz, EPA’s Idaho state director, companies need to be diligent in conducting sampling to ensure that they are properly controlling their discharges. Without this information, EPA has no way of verifying that the permit limits are being met and that pollution is properly managed.
“It is important for all companies to comply with their permits.” said Werntz. “If they don’t, they face potential fines for the noncompliance.”
The NPDES permit program, a key part of the federal Clean Water Act, controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States.
Company Fined for Failing to Comply with Oil Spill Prevention Requirements at 7 Facilities
A Maine-based company with approximately 30 oil storage and distribution facilities subject to oil spill prevention requirements throughout northern New England will pay an EPA fine to resolve an enforcement action in which EPA alleged that the company failed to comply with these requirements at seven facilities in New Hampshire and Maine.
Under the terms of a settlement with EPA, the CN Brown Company of South Paris, Maine will pay a penalty of $157,500. The company also has committed to spend over $1 million to bring their New England facilities into compliance with federal Oil Pollution Prevention regulations.
“Because oil spills can do significant damage to the environment, EPA makes it a priority to ensure that facilities handling oils must follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.
An inspector from EPA’s New England office inspected the seven CN Brown oil storage facilities with representatives of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MEDEP). The inspections revealed that, while the company did have spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) plans in place at most of the seven facilities evaluated, the plans did not adequately address all of the requirements, had not been updated to reflect actual oil storage currently in use at the facilities, and were not being fully implemented as required by the federal regulations.
All of the seven facilities lacked adequate secondary containment for some portion of each facility. Some of the facilities lacked secondary containment for bulk oil storage tanks and transfer areas. None of the loading racks at any of the facilities were provided with adequate secondary containment. Two of the New Hampshire facilities are located in drinking water protection areas.
Facilities that store and/or distribute petroleum and non-petroleum oils in bulk and meet certain other requirements are required by the federal Clean Water Act to implement SPCC plans and construct spill containment systems, which help reduce the likelihood of an oil spill that could damage the environment or endanger human health. Spill prevention and control laws help ensure that a tank failure or spill does not lead to oil being released into drinking water supplies, rivers, or streams.
Following EPA’s inspections and contacts with the company, CN Brown has been responsive to EPA’s requests to bring the seven facilities into compliance with Oil Pollution Prevention regulations. Furthermore, CN Brown voluntarily disclosed additional sites which are subject to the Oil Pollution Prevention regulations, at which they are taking action to improve oil spill preparedness and upgrade secondary containment structures.
Compound Allowed as Alternative to Ozone-Depleting Chemicals for Specific Uses
Through its Significant New Alternatives Policy () Program EPA is allowing the use of n-propyl bromide, a nonflammable organic solvent, as an alternative to ozone-depleting substances in metals, electronics, and precision cleaning. EPA is also proposing to allow the use of n-propyl bromide (nPB) in specific coatings applications and to prohibit its use in aerosol solvents and as a carrier solvent in adhesives. At elevated exposure levels, nPB causes reproductive and neurological toxicity.
The SNAP Program reviews ozone-depleting chemicals and determines acceptable alternatives. In aerosol solvents and adhesive end-uses, other alternatives are readily available that do not damage stratospheric ozone and pose less risk overall to human health and the environment. As required by the Clean Air Act, this regulation considers alternatives to ozone-depleting substances which contribute to the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Kerr-McGee Reaches Major Settlement on Natural Gas Production in Colorado and Utah
Kerr-McGee Corp. will spend $18 million on pollution controls in the first comprehensive settlement under the Clean Air Act that will reduce harmful emissions and conserve natural gas at production facilities across Utah and Colorado. The control measures and operational improvements are expected to reduce annual emissions of air pollutants by more than 2,500 tons in Utah and more than 3,000 tons in Colorado, the Justice Department and the EPA announced.
This settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, addresses alleged violations discovered at several of Kerr-McGee's natural gas compressor stations located on the Uinta and Ouray Indian Reservation near Vernal, Utah, and in the Denver Julesburg Basin near Weld County, Colo. Kerr-McGee self-disclosed a number of the violations and has worked cooperatively with federal and state regulators to resolve them. In addition to implementing pollution controls, the agreement requires Kerr-McGee to pay a $200,000 penalty, and spend $250,000 on environmental projects to benefit the areas in which the violations occurred.
“Conserving energy and cutting greenhouse gases is a powerful two-punch combination. This settlement will save enough natural gas to heat 7,200 homes per year and reduces the impact on climate change equivalent to the planting of more than 60,000 trees,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“Today's agreement with Kerr-McGee is the result of a very successful partnership with the state of Colorado,” said Matthew J. McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Kerr-McGee has taken quick action to address environmental violations in a way that will conserve natural gas and have lasting air quality benefits.”
“Today's action shows the Department is taking strong action to protect air quality at oil and gas production facilities in the Rocky Mountain West,” said Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid. “It also demonstrates that actions to reduce pollution can conserve significant amounts of natural gas in addition to their public health benefits.”
Independently, the state of Colorado initiated enforcement actions against Kerr-McGee during the latter half of 2005 alleging a series of violations at the Fort Lupton, Frederick, Dougan, Hudson, and Platteville Compressor Stations located in Weld County, Colo. As part of their broader cooperative efforts to reduce oil and gas emissions in the Rocky Mountain Region, in January 2006 Colorado and the EPA agreed to enter into joint settlement discussions with Kerr-McGee regarding the Utah and Colorado allegations.
Kerr-McGee will spend $100,000 and $150,000 respectively on two environmental projects. The money will be used to reduce dust emissions from roads that service oil and gas facilities in Utah, and to identify and retire vehicles that have higher emissions of air pollutants than newer vehicles in Denver. These older, high-emitting vehicles disproportionately contribute to the Denver area's air quality problems.
The total expected annual emission reductions from the pollution controls and environmental projects will be approximately 1,750 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,156 tons of carbon monoxide, 686 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 2,195 tons of volatile organic compounds. Through these actions, the company will return an estimated 456 million standard cubic feet of natural gas to the marketplace in the first year following implementation of pollution control measures.
Kerr-McGee will also implement the following emissions-reducing activities:
- Install low-emission dehydrators at its new facilities in the Uinta Basin
- Install emission controls on storage tanks located at the Cottonwood and Ouray facilities in Utah and the Brighton facility in Colorado
- Install emission controls on 11 compressor engines in the Denver Basin and 25 compressor engines in the Uinta Basin
- Retrofit high-bleed pneumatic controllers with low-bleed pneumatic controllers at facilities in the Denver and Uinta Basins
- Install liquid bed sulfur removal when necessary to remove hydrogen sulfide in the Uinta Basin
- Spend $300,000 to develop an air monitoring program in the Uinta Basin
- Implement a pilot project that uses a system to gather multi-phase fluids from multiple producing natural gas well sites for collection, separation, and metering at a central facility in the Uinta Basin
- Conduct a study to increase natural gas recovery and reduce air emissions at five facilities in the Uinta Basin and five facilities in the Denver Basin
The company allegedly violated several provisions of the Clean Air Act, including regulations governing the prevention of significant deterioration, national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants, and the federal operating permits program under Title V in addition to Colorado state environmental regulations.
Volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity. They can also cause damage to ecosystems and reduce visibility.
$9,030 Penalty for Failure to File TRI Report
The EPA recently reached a $9,030 settlement with a Pomona, Calif. company for its failure to submit required toxic chemical reports, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Silpak, Inc., located at 470 E. Bonita Ave., failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amounts of diisocyananates processed at its facility in 2003 and 2004.
After having discovered these two reporting violations in the spring of 2006, Silpak, Inc. disclosed them voluntarily to the EPA. Although the self-disclosures and corrections of these violations were performed by Silpak, Inc. by August 2006, they did not meet the EPA’s requirements for prompt disclosure and correction that might have resulted in reductions of up to 100% of the proposed penalty. As a result of the EPA’s general policy of working with industry and encouraging voluntary disclosure, however, the statutory penalty of $12,900 was reduced to $9,030 to reflect Silpak, Inc.'s good-faith compliance efforts.
Federal community right-to-know laws require facilities manufacturing or processing more than 25,000 pounds, or otherwise using more than 10,000 pounds, of diisocyanates to report releases of the chemical on an annual basis to EPA and the state. Although Silpak, Inc., exceeded this threshold in 2003 and 2004, it failed to submit reports to EPA for either of those years.
Silpak, Inc., processes diisocyanates in connection with its repackaging of adhesives for commercial distribution to the industrial arts sector. Diisocyanates are powerful irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Diisocyanates can cause inflammation through direct skin contact and can sensitize workers, making them subject to severe asthma attacks if they are exposed again.
Each year EPA compiles the information submitted to it from the previous year regarding toxic chemical releases and produces a national Toxics Release Inventory () database for public availability. This TRI database estimates the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management, and also provides a trend analysis of toxic chemical releases.
EPA Cites Dry Cleaners in Brooklyn and Queens
W.H. Christian and Sons, on Banker Street in Brooklyn, and Jetomi Cleaners, Inc. (operating as “Queens Bridge Cleaners”) in Long Island City both mishandled wastes related to dry cleaning chemicals called tetrachloroethylene, or perc, and in one case improperly disposed of waste perc and spent fluorescent lamps, which may contain harmful mercury.
With nearly 5,000 dry cleaners operating in New York State alone, and despite substantial EPA compliance assistance outreach efforts and aggressive enforcement actions against dry cleaning establishments, the agency continues to see many dry cleaners operating in violation of the rules. EPA identified violations at these two facilities during regular inspections that it conducts throughout the city to gauge dry cleaners’ compliance with federal hazardous waste law. Based on those inspections, EPA issued a complaint to W.H. Christian and Sons in Brooklyn for improperly storing hazardous wastes with a penalty of $18,525. The agency is in negotiations with the company on a final order of compliance. EPA also issued a complaint against Jetomi Cleaners in Queens proposing a $35,098 fine for failing to identify hazardous wastes, storing hazardous waste without a permit, and failing to properly complete records documenting shipments of hazardous waste. In addition, EPA found that spent fluorescent light bulbs, which may contain the known neurotoxin mercury, were being improperly handled and disposed of by Jetomi Cleaners. Mercury can be released into the environment when fluorescent bulbs are crushed during disposal.
EPA Cites Largest Hospital Disinfectant Manufacturer for False Claims
The largest U.S. manufacturer of hospital disinfectants has been charged with making false claims about the effectiveness of its products against microbial pests, according to a recent EPA complaint against Lonza, Inc. Federal and state investigators collected products made by the New Jersey-based corporation from stores in New Jersey, California, Hawaii and North Carolina and conducted laboratory tests that showed the disinfectants did not work against common infection-causing microorganisms. EPA is seeking a penalty of $202,500 against Lonza, Inc. for these alleged violations of federal pesticide law.
“This company sold disinfectants that didn’t deliver as promised, and did a disservice to doctors, staff, patients, and the general public,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “EPA and its partners in the states will keep a close eye on these companies to make sure they pay for violations and discourage would be wrong-doers from making the same mistakes.”
The hospital disinfectant products that the joint federal and state investigation determined to be ineffective are Formula 158 Lemon Disinfectant, Fresh and Clean, and REV. Formula 158 Lemon Disinfectant and Fresh and Clean did not kill Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, and REV did not kill either the Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus, as claimed on the labels. Both pathogens can cause infections that can be serious, but are often treatable with antibiotics. As a result of EPA’s action, Lonza revised its claims on the Formula 158 Lemon Disinfectant labels to comply with EPA regulations and discontinued the REV formulations. Lonza, Inc. has requested a meeting with EPA to discuss the alleged violations.
Before any pesticide is sold in the U.S., it must go through EPA's registration process dictated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). During this process, companies must provide health studies and environmental information about the product to ensure that its proper use does not cause any negative human or environmental effects. It is incumbent upon the manufacturer to ensure that its product lives up to its claims.
If EPA decides to register the product, it grants the manufacturer an EPA registration number, which is listed on the product. EPA also works closely with the manufacturer on the label language, to make sure that it is clear and as specific as possible about how the product may be used.
EPA Puts Clean and Efficient Cars in the Fast Lane
EPA is proposing criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy efficient to guide states that choose to allow such vehicles on high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes – even when the vehicles have only one occupant. The proposal, which was required by The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), is designed to spur the purchase and use of vehicles that are better for the environment and energy security.
The proposal applies to cars, SUVs, vans and trucks below 8,500 pounds. To be eligible for the HOV exemption, these vehicles would be required to meet specifications for both low emissions and energy-efficiency.
To be considered low emission, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be certified to either the stringent federal Tier 2 bin 5 standard (or cleaner) or the equally stringent California LEV II standards.
To be considered energy efficient, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be a dedicated alternative fuel vehicle, or a hybrid vehicle achieving 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy or 25 percent or better in combined city/highway fuel economy compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle.
Any changes to HOV programs as a result of this proposal would be implemented by the Department of Transportation and enforced by the individual states that choose to allow HOV exemptions. States can opt to toughen EPA's criteria, but may not reduce them.
The SAFETEA-LU provision allowing states to adopt HOV exemptions is currently set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.
Manufacturer of Plastic Bags Fined $10,000 Hazardous Waste Violation
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has levied a $10,000 fine against Excelsior Packaging Group in Vancouver, Wash., for violating state law by accumulating and storing flammable dangerous wastes on their property in unlabeled containers.
On Jan. 4, 2007, Ecology inspected Excelsior in response to a complaint about 55-gallon drums containing alcohol-based ink waste being stored outside in the rain just two-hundred feet from the Columbia River.
An estimated 300 drums stacked randomly on top of each other as much as three high, containing 11,000 gallons (or 77,000 pounds) of flammable dangerous waste was discovered. No precautions such as “no smoking” signs, fire extinguishers, spill control kits, or other equipment to respond to emergencies were present, putting employees, the public, and the environment at risk.
Excelsior employs 75 people and generates between one and three drums of dangerous waste each day. There appeared to be four to six months of accumulated wastes on site at the time of the inspection.
“Excelsior created an unnecessary risk to their business and others in the Columbia Business Center because of the way they were storing this material,” said Ava Edmonson from Ecology's Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “We expect Washington businesses to value and protect our environment at least to the level that our laws require.”
“This event was an oversight, and new management at EPG is taking steps to correct the situation.” said Don Theobald, plant manager for Excelsior. “EPG has removed the drums from the site and is cooperating with the Department of Ecology to assure that our practices and procedures are in compliance with state and local standards.”
$53,937 Penalty For Asbestos Removal Violations
Barclay Lincoln Avenue Realty, LLC of Winchendon, Mass., has been assessed a $53,937 penalty for violations of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) asbestos regulations that occurred at its 54 Mechanic Street location.
During an April 2006 inspection, MassDEP personnel discovered an asbestos-insulated boiler had been removed from the Winchendon facility and left, uncontained, in a parking lot on the site without notification to MassDEP and without following required handling, packaging, and disposal procedures. Additionally, pieces of dry, friable asbestos-containing insulation were observed, uncontained, on the ground in the parking lot and in the areas of the facility from where the boiler had been removed.
Under the terms of a negotiated settlement, MassDEP assessed a penalty of $53,937 and agreed to suspend all but $1,500 of that amount after the company demonstrated a condition of financial hardship and provided it does not have repeat violations for one year. The company was also required to hire a Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety licensed asbestos contractor to properly remove, handle, package, and dispose of all the asbestos-containing materials and to decontaminate all affected areas of the property.
MassDEP regulations require that asbestos removal be conducted in properly sealed work areas, equipped with appropriate air filtration devices, and that all asbestos waste is sealed while wet into leak-tight containers that have appropriate asbestos warning labels affixed to them. These work procedures are critical measures designed to prevent exposure of asbestos fibers to building occupants, the general public, and preclude other parts of the building from becoming contaminated.
“Property owners must recognize their responsibility to ensure that asbestos removal in their buildings is done safely and in full compliance with the regulations. Improper removal and handling of asbestos materials is a serious matter that potentially exposes workers, tenants, and the general public to a known carcinogen,” said Martin Suuberg, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Failure to follow the required work procedures inevitably results in escalated cleanup, decontamination, and monitoring costs, as well as significant penalty exposure.”
Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage, and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate DEP regional office for assistance.
Plum Creek Manufacturing in Montana Resolves Air Quality Violations
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently settled an enforcement action with Plum Creek Manufacturing, LP for violations of the Air Quality Act of Montana at their facility in Columbia Falls, Mont. Plum Creek paid a $20,400 administrative penalty to resolve the violation.
Plum Creek violated their air quality permit by failing to conduct a source performance test within the required time period and by failing a particulate matter (PM10) source test on their Line 2 Medium Density Fiberboard unit. According to DEQ’s Chad Anderson, Plum Creek spent at least $43,000 on engineering, parts and labor to correct the PM10 violation.
Pennsylvania DEP Fines Niebauers for Sampling, Inspection Costs At Illegal Dump Site
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has imposed a civil penalty against State College residents John and Diane Niebauer for violating the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act at the couple’s illegal disposal site in Clearfield County.
The $75,905 civil penalty covers DEP’s laboratory expenses for analyzing samples collected at the site in Bigler and Boggs townships, as well as inspection and enforcement costs.
The penalty follows a $50,000 fine assessed by the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas after John Niebauer entered a “no contest” plea to criminal charges filed against him by the state attorney general for illegal disposal at the site.
“In accordance with the Solid Waste Management Act and the state’s policy on civil penalties, this fine addresses the Niebauers’ infractions and the financial burden placed on the commonwealth while investigating the site,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell.
This agreement replaces a previous order regarding the Loggers Equipment property they own in Clearfield County. Under the new legal agreement, the Niebauers are to remove all solid waste from the site by Nov. 1, and not backfill any known contaminated soil areas until a final inspection and report is complete.
A DEP inspection of the property in September 2002 determined that the unpermitted disposal of solid waste had affected about 500 square feet of wetlands and about 300 feet of the stream channel to an unnamed Moravian Run tributary.
Passed by the legislature in 1995, Act 2 established cleanup standards for different kinds of contaminants in soil and groundwater, so that once attained, the site could be redeveloped for commercial or industrial use.
“This cleanup has taken far too long,” Yowell said. “DEP expects the Niebauers to meet the new cleanup deadline in November or they will be fined an additional $250 per day.”
In addition, the legal agreement allows the Niebauers to apply for a general permit from DEP within 45 days to address the final disposal of the screened soil.
To date, the Niebauers have removed 19,835 tons of waste from their site and disposed of it at the Total Waste Landfill in Negley, Ohio.
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Rhode Island Launches New Air Quality Alert Program
State officials kicked off Rhode Island’s new Air Quality Alert Program at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. The year-round Air Quality Alert Program replaces the seasonal Ozone Alert Program.
Unlike the Ozone Alert Program, the Air Quality Alert Program includes alerts on days when air quality is expected to reach unhealthy levels due to elevated levels of fine particle pollutants as well as on days when ozone levels are unhealthy. The new program provides free transportation on all RIPTA’s fixed-route buses and trolleys on days identified by the RI Department of Environmental Management as “Air Quality Alert Days.” The program is a partnership of the RI Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the RI Department of Transportation (DOT) and the RI Department of Health.
“We feel that raising public awareness about the dangers of fine particle pollutants as well as ozone is vital to improving our air quality,” said RIPTA General Manager Alfred J. Moscola. “We applaud this new, year-round program which calls the public’s attention to both.”
“DEM is pleased to be part of this cooperative effort with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, the state Departments of Transportation and Health, and the EPA,” noted DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, PhD. “This program is an important vehicle for alerting the public when high ozone or particulate matter levels are predicted, so that Rhode Islanders can take the steps necessary to reduce driving, limit strenuous activity, and conserve energy when air quality levels are poor.”
The Department of Health warns that exposure to elevated levels of fine particles can cause respiratory irritation. People with lung disease are at increased risk for aggravated symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. When fine-particle concentrations in the ambient air are elevated, people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should limit prolonged and strenuous outdoor activity, even in the early morning hours. Unlike ozone, fine particle concentrations can be elevated throughout the day.
DEM forecasts “Air Quality Alert Day,” issuing Air Quality Alerts typically on the afternoon before such a day occurs.
The Air Quality Alert Program encourages residents to reduce air pollutant emissions by limiting their car travel and their use of small engines, lawn mowers, and charcoal lighter fluids. To help cut down on the use of cars, RIPTA’s fixed-route buses and trolleys will be free on “Air Quality Alert Days.” Special RIPTA services such as the Providence/Newport ferry service are not included on “Air Quality Alert Days.”
RIPTA is reimbursed for bus and trolley rides on each Air Quality Alert Day through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program. The RI Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, make these funds available for projects that reduce congestion on the highways or reduce emissions from transportation-related activities.
For more information about ozone, fine particles and other air quality issues, call DEM's Office of Air Resources at 401-222-2808 or visit DEM’s web site at www.dem.ri.gov/airquality.
Clinton Foundation, Microsoft to Develop Online Carbon Emission Monitoring Tools
The Clinton Foundation and Microsoft announced a long-term partnership to develop a suite of technology tools that will enable cities to accurately monitor, compare, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The technology will include both software and services.
“The Clinton Foundation is committed to a business-oriented approach to the problem of climate change,” said Bruce Lindsey, CEO of the Clinton Foundation. “This new software tool will be an important resource in our work with cities around the world to fight global warming in practical, measurable, and significant ways.”
“Technology has the power to make a positive, long-term contribution to solving the world's environmental challenges,” said Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft. “By partnering with the Clinton Foundation, we can increase environmental awareness and drive sustainable change that will help cut global carbon emissions.”
The Clinton Foundation and Microsoft will be assisted in developing these new measurement tools by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Microsoft will build the new software tools using the knowledge base that ICLEI has acquired in developing its Harmonized Emissions Analysis Tool (HEAT).
The role of communities in tackling carbon emissions is vital. The Clinton Foundation and Microsoft believe technology can play a unique role in bringing people together to tackle the global environmental challenges that the world faces today. The partnership aims to empower cities with relevant technology to address shared global environmental issues.
Microsoft, together with a consortium of partners, will develop a single Web solution to allow cities to clearly understand their environmental footprint. With this information, cities can make better choices as they aim to improve their energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
The new online, Web-based software tools will be provided pro bono to cities and will be available by the end of the year. The software tools will support cities to collaborate in new ways via the Web and online communities, enabling them to work together to monitor their progress and share best practices. They will be compatible with existing emissions reduction tools for cities, allowing the export and import of data from other systems.
In August 2006, President Clinton launched the Clinton Climate Initiative, a project of the Clinton Foundation, and announced a partnership with the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, a consortium of 40 of the world’s largest cities committed to fighting global warming. The online tools to be developed by Microsoft and the Clinton Climate Initiative will provide these cities with a baseline and standardized measurement of their carbon emissions, as well as the ability to track the effectiveness of emission reduction programs and share best practices.
Ultimately, the new software will serve as a global standard for cities in their climate change accounting, mitigation, and communications efforts. The completed measurement tools will consist of a multilingual, online, and offline software service accessible around the world. Microsoft will lead the technical software development, and will help establish a consortium of private sector partners that will support the cities in the creation and long-term sustainability of the project. The Clinton Climate Initiative will direct the project and disseminate the new tool to cities that are taking action to curb carbon emissions around the world. The Clinton Foundation and Microsoft will partner in this effort with ICLEI, building the new software tools using the knowledge base that ICLEI has acquired in developing emissions reduction tools for more than 1,000 cities worldwide. They also will be assisted in this effort by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
The online application will enable cities to do the following:
- Implement a common measurement system for emissions reductions
- Perform analyses of potential projects and estimate their effect on reducing emissions
- Generate structured and custom reports for users based on inventory and measures data
- Access data from around the world and engage other cities in dialogue about best practices in real time
EPA Issues OPPT Progress Report
Some of the key accomplishments in the OPPT Accomplishments Report 2005-2006 include:
- Making High Production Volume (HPV) chemical data, including basic hazard information, publicly available on more than 2,200 chemicals manufactured or imported in large quantities through the newly created HPV Information System (HPVIS)
- Initiating the PFOA Stewardship Program, in which eight companies committed voluntarily to reduce emissions and product content of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a persistent, man-made chemical found in human blood throughout the U.S., and related chemicals by 95 percent no later than 2010, and to work toward elimination by 2015
- Proposing work-practice standards and training requirements for those engaged in renovation, repair and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint to reduce lead exposures
- Developing the “Mercury Roadmap” with other EPA offices that describes the agency’s progress and major ongoing and planned actions to address health and environmental risks associated with mercury
Climate Change Options Analyzed
The World Resources Institute has published a chart which shows how selected energy options compare with respect to energy security and climate change impact. The chart uses “bubble size” to depict energy provided or avoided in 2025 with respect to a “business as usual” mix in 2025.
Clean Air Act Summary
Pennsylvania Challenges EPA’s Solvent Cleaning Rule; Says Exemptions Threaten Public Health, Environment
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the EPA’s National Air Emissions Standards on hazardous air pollutants halogenated solvent cleaning.
The final rule, published May 3 in the Federal Register, exempts three industry sectors — aerospace, narrow tube manufacturers, and facilities that use continuous web-cleaning and halogenated solvent cleaning machines — from new standards that would require further emission reduction of trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other degreaser solvents.
“I believe the EPA did not adequately consider public health risks when establishing new air emissions standards for TCE, nor did they take into account the reasonable, economically feasible, and expedient measures that are available to the narrow tube industry to reduce emissions,” said Governor Rendell, noting his reason for directing DEP to challenge this action. “Exempting these industries from more stringent emission standards fails to protect the well-being of our people, our communities, and our economy.”
The EPA’s amendments to the air toxics standards affect the halogenated solvent cleaning industry. The new rule caps emissions of methylene chloride, perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which are solvents used in cleaning machines that remove soils like grease, oil, wax, carbon deposits, flux, and tar from metal, plastic, fiberglass, printed circuit boards, and other surfaces. However, the EPA decided to exempt the three industry sectors from the new rules based on industry estimates of the costs associated with reducing emissions and the technical feasibility and time to comply, ruling that current emission levels for TCE and other degreasers is an acceptable health risk.
Governor Rendell wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson on April 23 objecting to the agency’s reasons for the exemption. He has been in contact with lawmakers at the national and state level to express his administration’s deep concerns over the lack of protection for the state’s residents. The letter outlined how stronger emissions standards for degreasing processes are feasible and affordable as evidenced by the ongoing voluntary reductions by narrow tube manufacturing facilities in Montgomery County. Depending on industry processes, TCE emission reductions of 30 to 90% can be accomplished by use of carbon absorbers or material reformulation.
In Collegeville, Montgomery County, DEP has been working with two narrow-tube companies —Superior Tube and Accellent — to voluntarily reduce TCE emissions after a higher-than-average annual concentration of TCE was discovered in the area. Both companies have stated plans to continue reducing emissions regardless of the EPA action.
“Contrary to the argument that reductions in TCE emissions will place an unfair burden on the narrow tube industry, we are seeing voluntary reductions by manufacturers in Montgomery County that can be realized within a year,” said Governor Rendell. “That calls into question the EPA’s evaluation of the facts about this industry. For the sake of our residents, I am asking the EPA to act quickly in reviewing our objections and reverse this decision.”
DEP shared results of its Jan. 19 air monitoring report for the Collegeville-Trappe area of Montgomery County with EPA, indicating concerns about airborne TCE levels found at higher levels than other sites in Pennsylvania. DEP first noted spikes of airborne TCE levels in Collegeville during mobile monitoring in 2004. In a follow-up to this finding, DEP began operating air-monitoring stations in Evansburg State Park and at the YMCA on College Avenue in Trappe in January 2005.
Although many compounds detected from these sampling locations were similar to other sites in urban or industrial areas of Pennsylvania, the levels of TCE were higher. Compared with an annual average concentration of 0.04 parts per billion by volume or lower of airborne TCE at monitoring sites throughout the state, 0.14 ppbv of TCE was detected in Evansburg, with 0.26 ppbv detected in Trappe.
New Mexico Senators Promote Energy Savings Act
U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici said last Tuesday a key component to a long-term solution to high gasoline prices is to increase vehicle fuel economy and dramatically shift to the use of homegrown renewable fuels.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee examined the summer’s energy outlook, including the reasons for rising gas prices. The AAA reported Monday that the average price in New Mexico has soared to $3.21 per gallon. Experts testified at the hearing that, among other problems, there is too little capacity for refining oil while the demand for gasoline remains high.
Bingaman and Domenici, the committee’s chairman and ranking member respectively, pointed to the need to pass energy legislation they have crafted to increase the use of renewable fuels made from a variety of sources including agriculture waste, woody biomass, native prairie grasses and corn. Their bill, called the Energy Savings Act (S.1321), has cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is poised for full Senate consideration.
“The U.S. economy remains vulnerable to oil and gasoline supply disruptions and associated price increases. The Energy Savings Act will reduce our oil dependence by increasing our use of homegrown biofuels. As we diversify our transportation fuels, we will become less vulnerable to oil prices,” Bingaman said.
“Unfortunately, the problem of skyrocketing gas prices is becoming predictable and more troubling. When you import over 60 percent of your petroleum—much of it from countries that are not friendly to the U.S.—it is quite obvious that you do not control your own destiny. To take more control of our destiny, we must increase production of domestic sources, including biofuels, and build the infrastructure needed to deliver it to market,” Domenici said.
The Energy Savings Act requires America’s fuel supply to rely on increasingly higher amounts of renewable fuels, from 8.5 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. It also encourages the development of advanced biofuels by increasing Department of Energy funding for bioenergy research and development by 50 percent over fiscal years 2007 to 2009.
When the bill is debated on the floor, it likely will be coupled with legislation that was passed by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that increases the fuel efficiency of vehicles to 36 miles per gallon.
EPA sponsored a waste-free lunch at the Mechanicsburg Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Students prepared a waste-free lunch using reusable lunch bags, reusable containers and recyclable bottles. After the lunch, students separated the remaining waste into recyclables, trash and food waste. The waste-free lunch resulted in the collection of one bag of trash, one bag of recyclables, and half-a-bag of food waste instead of 13-15 bags of trash collected before the program.
Trivia Question of the Week
Lead isn’t the only toxic chemical you could find in old paint or painted surfaces. Before being banned in the early 1990s, mercury was used as a fungicide in approximately what percentage of interior and exterior paints?