Oil SPCC Rule Revised Again

November 24, 2008

 With these changes, EPA expects to encourage greater compliance with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations, thus resulting in increased protection of human health and the environment.

The amendments do not remove any regulatory requirement for owners or operators of facilities in operation before Aug. 16, 2002, to develop, implement, and maintain an SPCC plan in accordance with the regulations in effect then. These facilities must continue to maintain their existing plans until revisions are due under the new amendments.

EPA also announced a proposed rule to extend the compliance dates for all facilities to November 2009 and to establish new compliance dates for farms (November 2009), certain qualified farms (November 2010), and marginal oil production facilities (November 2013) subject to SPCC. These revised compliance dates will provide facility owners or operators the opportunity to fully understand the regulatory amendments offered by the SPCC revisions from 2006 to 2008.

Additionally, EPA has announced a final rule that vacates the July 17, 2002, definition of navigable waters and restores the definition of navigable waters that EPA promulgated in 1973. This final rule does not amend the definition of “navigable waters” in any other regulation that EPA has promulgated.

EPA Seeks Public Comment on Proposal to Add Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste to Universal Waste Rule

To help provide a streamlined system for disposing of hazardous pharmaceutical waste, EPA is proposing to add hazardous pharmaceutical waste to the Universal Waste Rule.  The proposal also will facilitate the collection of personal medications classified as household hazardous waste so they can be managed properly.

The proposed rule applies to pharmacies, hospitals, physicians’ offices, dentists’ offices, outpatient care centers, ambulatory health care services, residential care facilities, and veterinary clinics, as well as other facilities that generate hazardous pharmaceutical waste. It does not apply to pharmaceutical manufacturing or production facilities.

Currently, the federal Universal Waste Rule includes batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps. Universal wastes typically are generated in a wide variety of settings including industrial settings and households, by many sectors of society, and may be present in significant volumes in non-hazardous waste management systems.

Comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, which is expected within two weeks.

New Hazardous Waste Rule for Academic Labs

This rule provides increased regulatory flexibility, while enhancing safe management of hazardous waste. Eligible academic entities include colleges and universities, teaching hospitals, and nonprofit research institutes that are either owned by or formally affiliated with a college or university.

Eligible academic entities will be able to decide where (at the laboratory, at an on-site central accumulation area, or at an on-site treatment, storage, or disposal facility) the hazardous waste determination is made. They also must ensure that certain conditions are met to protect human health and the environment. This flexibility not only allows eligible academic entities to determine the most effective and environmentally protective method of compliance, but it also ensures that a RCRA-trained professional will be making the hazardous waste determination.

The rule requires the development of a laboratory management plan, which is expected to result in safer laboratory practices and increased awareness of hazardous waste management. In addition, the rule provides incentives for eligible academic entities to dispose of old and expired chemicals that may pose unnecessary risk.

Proposed Guidelines to Control Pollution from Construction Sites

The proposal would require all construction sites to implement erosion and sediment control best management practices to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges.

“This proposal builds a foundation for cleaner streams and greener neighborhoods through improved treatment technologies and prevention practices,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water.

For certain large sites located in areas with high rainfall intensity and soils with a high clay content, stormwater discharges from a construction site would be required to meet a numeric limit on the allowable level of turbidity—a measure of sediment in the water. In order to meet the proposed numeric turbidity limit, many sites would need to treat and filter their stormwater discharges.

Construction activities such as clearing, excavating, and grading significantly disturb the land. The disturbed soil, if not managed properly, can easily be washed off the construction site during storms and enter streams, lakes, and other waters. Stormwater discharges from construction activities can cause an array of physical, chemical, and biological impacts.

Sediment is one of the leading causes of water quality impairment nationwide, including reducing water depth in small streams, lakes, and reservoirs.

EPA Extends Comment Period for NESHAPs for Chemical Manufacturing Area Sources

EPA has extended the public comment period on the proposed rule, “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Chemical Manufacturing Area Sources.” 

As initially published in the Federal Register on Oct. 6, 2008, written comments on the proposed rule were to be submitted by November 20, 2008. On November 12, EPA received a court order extending the deadline for signature of the notice of final rulemaking to May 15, 2009, and has subsequently extended the public comment period on the proposed rule to Jan. 5, 2009.

State, Local Governments Get More Say in Federal Environmental Decision-Making

Answering the call of state and local governments for more involvement in the development of federal environmental rules, EPA has a new policy to broaden its consulting efforts with intergovernmental partners when new regulations and policies cost more than $25 million each. This is a significant reduction of the previous consultation threshold of $100 million.

“State and local officials often serve as the ‘front line’ managers of federally mandated environmental regulations,” EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock said. “If we want good rules, early consultation with these partners is crucial.”

 The order requires the federal government to consult with elected state and local government officials before proposing regulations or actions that have substantial direct effects below the national level, either by virtue of their implementation costs or their preemption of state or local authority.

When the order was first issued in 1999, EPA and other federal agencies adopted an interpretation of “substantial direct effects” consistent with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), a 1995 law that set the state and local consultation threshold at $100 million per rule. Based on its experience in conducting rulemakings over the last several years, EPA has determined a need for state and local input on a wider range of regulations and is lowering the consultation threshold to $25 million.

EPA’s action comes at a time when state and local officials are calling for a stronger working relationship with their federal partners in solving many of today’s major environmental challenges. The National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the International City/County Management Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently issued a joint statement urging the incoming Administration to “adopt a policy of constructive engagement” and to “cooperate and consult with state and local leaders.” These 7 associations, along with 3 others (National Association of Towns and Townships, County Executives of America, and Environmental Council of the States), constitute the group of 10 organizations with whom EPA will consult under its new Federalism policy.

EPA Publishes Draft TMDLs to Stormwater Permits Handbook

“Stormwater runoff is a major threat to water quality in urban and coastal watersheds across the country,” Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles said. “This Draft Handbook is an important new tool to connect key regulatory and monitoring programs under the Clean Water Act and reduce impairments. We look forward to strengthening this draft with input from interested stakeholders who share our goal of protecting and restoring the nation’s waters.”

Currently, there are thousands of Clean Water Act Section 303(d) waters listed as impaired for stormwater-source pollutants, such as pathogens, nutrients, sediments, and metals. This Draft Handbook provides a technical reference for TMDL practitioners and permit writers on current methods being used to develop more detailed stormwater-source TMDL allocations, TMDL implementation plans including best management practices, and methods for translating TMDL allocations into National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit requirements. The handbook also provides background information on the components of these programs, but it assumes that the reader has a working knowledge of both TMDLs and NPDES stormwater permits.

Agreement to Help Improve Water Quality

Wastewater treatment systems serving 25 million homes across the country will be improved, thanks to an agreement among EPA and 14 national organizations. 

Nearly one-quarter of the nation’s housing and commercial development depend on on-site and septic wastewater treatment systems. When properly sited, designed, and maintained, these systems perform at a high level. However, between 10% and 20% fail each year, posing a great threat to surface and groundwater. Malfunctioning systems are the second greatest threat to groundwater quality in the United States.

RecycleBank’s Recycling Incentive Program Expands Beyond the East Coast

RecycleBank’s geographic growth into Southern, Mid-Western, and Western states brings the company closer to fulfilling its mission of dramatically increasing household recycling rates across the United States.

RecycleBank has announced the following launches: Montgomery, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Eden Prairie and Maple Grove, Minn.; Carrollton and Plano, Texas; North Miami, Fla.; Wichita, Kan.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Knoxville, Tenn. In each case, RecycleBank has partnered with waste haulers, material recovery facilities (MRFs), and municipalities to bring rewards for recycling to local residents.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in our company’s history,” said CEO and cofounder of RecycleBank, Ron Gonen. “The value we are creating in the municipalities we service is fueling tremendous demand for our program.”

RecycleBank rewards people for recycling. With RecycleBank, members earn points for every pound recycled, similar to frequent flyer miles programs. All recycling carts carry an ID tag read by recycling trucks during curbside pickup. RecycleBank weighs the contents and converts recyclables into points that are delivered into personal RecycleBank.com accounts. Members use their points to shop online or via toll-free number. Rewards range from groceries and health care products to movies, spa, and travel.

Municipalities look to RecycleBank to dramatically increase recycling rates, while lowering landfill fees and creating greener, cleaner communities. RecycleBank also has partnerships with a number of local and national haulers including Allied Waste Services, Waste Connections, Republic Services, Novak Sanitary Service (a Waste Connections company), Rumpke Recycling, AAA Recycling, and Leck and Sons.

RecycleBank has increased recycling rates by 100% in the municipalities that it services. In addition to a significant increase in recycling, these communities also see a corresponding reduction in landfill disposal fees, a disposable income boost for households that recycle, and a renewed focus on sustainable action to protect our environment.

RecycleBank benefits participants all along the value chain. Working with the existing recycling infrastructure, cities save significant money through landfill diversion while earning through the multi-billion dollar market in recyclable sales. Haulers build brand loyalty and gain customer acquisition in a grossly hyper-competitive market. Residents reap rewards by accruing points for recycling, which helps them gain an average $200–$300 in reward value each year. Local merchants benefit through increased earnings and the revitalization of vibrant and viable local economies as rewards are redeemed within communities. During tough economic times like these, incentives to recycle are helping all.

Most important, RecycleBank is helping the environment. To date, RecycleBank households have saved more than 559,475 trees, more than 37 million gallons of oil, more than 200 million gallons of water, and successfully diverted an excess of 59,946 tons of waste from landfills. Having secured $30 million in Series B funding in April 2008 from leading venture capital firms, RecycleBank was just named by Newsweek as one of “the hottest plays” in green investing.

 The Cycle, created and produced by RecycleBank, answers the question of, “What happens to my recyclables after I put them out and they are collected.” It takes viewers through each step of the process in an entertaining and fanciful way, while educating them on what really is involved in using recyclables again and again.

Renewable Fuel Standard Increased for 2009

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual overall renewable fuel volume targets, reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard by November 30 for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner, importer, and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in motor vehicle fuel. The 2008 standard was 7.76%, equating to roughly 9 billion gallons.

Separately, EPA is developing a proposed rule to implement other RFS program changes and analyses mandated by EISA.

The Cost of Bottled Water

Tap water is a tremendous value for families and communities, typically costing less than half a penny per gallon. Bottled water is often an important and convenient choice for consumers and the traveling public, but it certainly has its costs.

Consumers should know about the carbon footprint and environmental impacts of bottled water. It takes a lot of energy to manufacture, transport, and store bottled water. Experts estimate the plastic bottle manufacturing process alone consumes 17 million barrels of oil a year.

Street litter and marine debris are costly concerns, as well. Marine debris is a major pollution problem affecting the world’s oceans, coasts, and watersheds. Although impacts may be more visible at the local beach; marine debris is a national and international problem. Anything can become marine debris. Extremely light-weight items, like plastic bottles, are more likely to become marine debris than heavier items, because they can easily be carried by wind from one location to another.

Tap into the savings and recycle for the streams’ sake. 

EPA Suggestions for an Environmentally Friendly Holiday Season

Mother Earth has worked up a holiday list this year. It includes recycling leftover wrapping paper, giving energy-efficient gadgets, and finding a better way to grandmother’s house.

From getting there to getting rid of the extra trash, there are many ways Americans can celebrate both the holidays and the environment. EPA has suggested a few tips for this holiday shopping season:

  • Travel efficiently: Map your shopping route to make a number of stops in one trip instead of one stop in a number of trips. Take public transportation or hitch a ride with a friend or family member.
  • Extend the useful life of gifts: Before tossing the old to make room for the new, check to see if you can donate it, reuse it, or recycle it.
  • Remember to recycle and reuse old wrapping paper and bows as well.
  • Unplug your gifts and decorations when not in use, and choose gifts that have less packaging.


You also can shop for green decorations and gifts and give gifts and decorate your house with electronics that have earned the Energy Star rating. The typical homeowner can save more than 30%, or about $700 on annual energy bills with Energy Star labeled products. EPA has identified a few products to keep your eye out for as you start holiday shopping:

  • Televisions. They are now up to 30% more energy efficient than standard models and use less energy when they are on, off, or in standby.
  • Computers. They use up to 50% less energy than conventional models, depending on use. And, when you plug in your new computer, make sure its power-management features are enabled.
  • Rechargeable tools. Cordless hand vacuums, electric screwdrivers, and universal battery chargers, on average, use 35% less energy than conventional models.
  • Decorative light strings. Featuring LED technology, they use 75% less electricity than conventional incandescent light strings; are available in a variety lengths, colors, shapes, and sizes; and are much more durable and shock-resistant than other light strings.



TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling More Than $800,000

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has approved penalties totaling $849,858 against 70 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.

Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: 1 agricultural, 16 air quality, 1 Edwards Aquifer, 2 industrial waste discharge, 3 multi-media, 4 municipal solid waste, 11 municipal waste discharge, 7 petroleum storage tank, 6 public water system, and 4 water quality. There were seven field citations. In addition, default orders were issued for the following categories: one drycleaner, one industrial hazardous waste, two licensed irrigator, one municipal solid waste, and three petroleum storage tank.

Included in the total were fines against Shell Chemical LP and Shell Oil Company, in Harris County, in the amount of $345,744 for 35 emissions events and recordkeeping violations documented in investigations conducted from 2004 to 2006. Of the fine total, $172,872 will be used for a Supplemental Environmental Project to fund the retrofitting or replacement of older diesel buses through the Houston-Galveston Area Emission Reduction Credit Organization’s Clean Cities/Clean Vehicles Program.

Massachusetts Developers and Excavating Company Agree to $110,000 Settlement for Storm Water Discharge Violations

Two residential construction companies and an excavating company have agreed to a settlement of $110,000 for violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), including a $50,000 cash penalty and a $60,000 supplemental environmental project (SEP). The companies’ violations include illegal storm water discharges from a construction site and violation of the federal Construction General Permit (CGP) for stormwater discharges.

The three companies, Alden Woods, Inc., C.B. Blair Development, and McManus Excavating, are developing a 124-lot subdivision in Holden, Mass. Sediment-laden storm water was repeatedly observed discharging from the construction site to nearby Chaffins Brook, which is ranked as a “Class A” waterway by Massachusetts. Class A waters are designated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) as a source of public water supply. The companies failed to install and maintain controls sufficient to prevent the muddy discharges to the stream.

In addition to the cash penalty, the companies will convey a 5.57-acre parcel primarily comprised of wetlands as their SEP and donate it to a land preservation entity. The wetlands parcel also contains swamp forest and two small upland areas, which provides habitat for a wide variety of birds, amphibians, and mammals. In addition to providing wildlife habitat, the wetlands provide flood flow storage and nutrient removal/retention/transformation, among other functions.

Because they are operators of a site disturbing more than one acre, the companies were required to apply for either an individual permit or a promulgated General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Construction Activities. The permit requires the use of “best management practices” to prevent erosion and sedimentation of waterways that can result from construction activities. Though construction began in 2002, none of the operators applied for a NPDES permit until February 2006.

Rainwater running off construction sites can carry sediments, oil, and other pollutants, which contaminate nearby streams, ponds, and rivers. Erosion from a one-acre construction site could discharge as much as 20 to 150 tons of sediment in one year, if not properly managed. Sediments reduce the storage capacity of drains and waterways, causing flooding and adversely affecting water quality and fish habitat. Sediments and chemicals can also contribute to fish die-offs, toxic algae blooms, contaminated shellfish beds, and closed swimming beaches.

EPA is working hard to bring developers and builders into compliance with storm water runoff regulations. The effort includes extensive compliance assistance activities, including workshops and training materials, as well as ongoing enforcement including penalty actions and compliance orders. EPA is developing written materials, websites, workshops, and other products to help those involved in construction projects understand how to comply with storm water laws.

Stormwater Violations at Housing Development in Minnesota Cost $25,000

Ernest Zelinka, C.L. Preserve LLC, and North Pine Aggregate Inc., have reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) that requires the three parties to pay $25,000 for alleged stormwater violations. The violations occurred at a 35-acre housing development construction site near Pine City, Minn.

MPCA staff inspections in early 2007 confirmed that construction began in June 2005, but a required stormwater permit had not been obtained. In addition, developers failed to submit a pollution prevention plan, install erosion and sediment controls , and implement plans for permanent stormwater runoff management.

These types of violations often have significant environmental impacts, mostly due to sediment running into lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. In this case, two ponds within the construction site received substantial sediment—one of which drains directly into nearby Cross Lake, just east of Pine City.

The violations will be corrected and the $25,000 civil penalty will be paid over the next six months.

Minnesota law requires businesses and contractors to apply for a stormwater permit when construction projects disturb more than one acre of soil.

EPA Fines Catalytic Solutions, Inc., Nearly $17,000 for Not Providing Toxic Chemical Information

EPA has fined California-based Catalytic Solutions, Inc., $16,970 for failing to submit toxic chemical reports detailing the amount of nitrates it released, which is a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA, otherwise known as SARA Title III). Catalytic Solutions, Inc., manufactures catalysts for motor vehicle and energy applications.

“This penalty against Catalytic Solutions, Inc., demonstrates that we closely watch over chemical reporting practices and are serious about enforcing community right-to-know laws,” said Enrique Manzanilla, Communities and Ecosystems Division director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Because exposure to high levels of nitrates causes a wide range of illnesses and environmental damage, communities need to know when these chemicals have been released.”

According to EPA, Catalytic Solutions Inc. processed more than 55,000 pounds of nitrate compounds in 2005 and more than 65,000 pounds in 2006. However, as required by SARA Title III, Catalytic Solutions Inc. failed to submit reports to the EPA listing the amount of processed chemicals released to the environment. EPA became aware of these violations when Catalytic Solutions, Inc., self-reported its failure to file a report for 2005.

Each year, EPA compiles the information submitted to it from the previous year regarding toxic chemical releases, producing a national Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database for public availability. The TRI database estimates the amount of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management.

California City Fined $12,375 for Air Emissions Violations

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) fined the City of Oxnard $12,375 for diesel emissions violations that occurred in 2006 and 2007. An ARB investigator found that the city had not been annually inspecting its heavy-duty, on-road diesel vehicles. Failing to conduct these inspections can lead to an increase of toxic diesel particulate matter in the air.

“Regular inspections guarantee that fleet owners are doing their part to help clean up California’s air,” ARB Chairman Mary Nichols said. “Those that are not performing these tasks will be cited in our continuing effort to improve air quality.”

As part of the settlement, the city is required to:

  • Guarantee that employees responsible for conducting the inspections attend a training class on diesel-emissions compliance testing and provide certificates of completion within one year
  • Provide documentation to ARB that the inspections are being carried out for the next four years
  • Ensure that all the city’s heavy-duty diesel vehicles are equipped with updated software, including the latest Low-NOx (oxides of nitrogen emissions) programming
  • Comply with ARB’s Public and Utility Fleet rule that requires the use of exhaust-retrofit devices, or replacement with new vehicles or engines, to meet emissions standards
  • Ensure that all of its heavy-duty diesel vehicles were certified to federal emissions standards for the vehicle model year and are properly labeled with an emissions control label
  • Instruct all of its drivers to comply with ARB’s five-minute idling rule


The City of Oxnard will pay $12,375 in penalties: $9,281.25 will go to the California Air Pollution Control Fund, providing funding for projects and research to improve California’s air quality. The Peralta Community College District will receive $1,546.87 to fund diesel emissions education classes conducted by participating California community colleges, and the remaining $1,546.88, will go to the California Pollution Control Financing Authority to fund low-interest loans for owners of off-road diesel-powered construction vehicles.

MassDEP Penalizes Quincy Medical Center $11,500 for Air Quality and Hazardous Waste Management Violations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has penalized Quincy Medical Center (QMC) $11,500 for hazardous waste management and air emission violations at its facility in Quincy, Mass.

Hazardous waste violations identified during MassDep inspections conducted Sept. 24–25, 2007, include:

  • Improper disposal of acute hazardous waste—empty vials of pharmaceuticals, including epinephrine
  • Lack of any labeling or identification on two five-gallon containers containing hazardous waste
  • Improperly maintaining, delineating, and labeling hazardous waste storage and satellite areas

Air emission violations found during inspections include failure to:

  • Post or produce copies of the facility’s air-testing records during inspection
  • Mail its annual compliance report to MassDEP
  • Report accurate information on its annual source registration forms previously submitted to MassDEP
  • Meet operating requirements, given that it had previously sought, and obtained, from MassDEP an agreement to operate under a restricted-emission status


“The proper storage and disposal of hazardous waste at medical facilities, as well as the environmental impact they have on the surrounding community, need to be given proper attention,” said Richard Chalpin, Director of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional office in Wilmington. “One of the principle doctrines in the medical field is, ‘First, Do No Harm’ and that might equally be applied to the facility’s operational issues as well.”

In addition to the penalty, QMC will test and revise its air emission data and review—and where appropriate—revise its operational procedures for hazardous waste management. The facility’s standard operational procedures manual will be submitted to MassDEP within 120 days.

Arizona and California Companies Correct Environmental Violations and Avoid Penalties by Self-Reporting Violations

Each of these recent disclosures was related to requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPA determined the violations caused no serious or actual harm to human health or the environment. Because the companies satisfied all conditions of the EPA’s self-disclosure policies and there was no economic benefit gained, the EPA eliminated potential penalties.

“This is a win for communities and for the EPA,” said Enrique Manzanilla, the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Responsible businesses take it upon themselves to check for compliance and promptly disclose any environmental violations found. If they correct them quickly, these companies often see penalties reduced—in some cases to zero.”

Under EPA’s audit policy, the agency may reduce penalties up to 100% for violations that are voluntarily discovered through an audit or management system, promptly disclosed to the agency, quickly corrected, and satisfied other audit policy conditions. The policy excludes criminal acts, violations resulting in serious actual harm to public health or the environment, and repeat violations.

Federal law requires certain facilities using chemicals over specified amounts to file annual reports to the EPA and the state that estimate the amounts released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management. The information is then compiled into a national database called the Toxics Release Inventory and made available to the public.

Stormwater Pollution Tackled to Improve Water Quality in Charles River

Specifically, EPA has announced a targeted effort to apply more stringent controls on stormwater pollution in the Charles River watershed, where stormwater containing high levels of phosphorus is a chief culprit in dramatic algae blooms—including toxic cyanobacteria—that have plagued the river in recent years.

The EPA action will require certain industrial, commercial, and residential facilities in the Massachusetts’ towns of Milford, Franklin, and Bellingham with two or more acres of impervious area (parking lots, roofs, roadways, etc.) to operate under a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit. EPA is accepting public comments on this action.

In a separate but closely related action, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is enacting a statewide requirement for facilities with five or more acres of impervious area to reduce stormwater runoff. Under both the federal and state actions, new requirements will be phased in to reduce polluted stormwater runoff at sites with large paved areas, including shopping malls and industrial areas. While the statewide standard will be five acres, the state is proposing to match EPA’s two-acre requirement in the Charles River area, where a higher level of control is needed to address chronic water quality problems.

Cities and towns across the Commonwealth have made great investments in improving their sewer and stormwater infrastructure, yielding substantial water quality benefits. These actions will ensure that private landowners address significant pollution problems caused by stormwater runoff from their property, further improving water quality throughout the state. These actions also will provide significant benefits to the “recharge” of groundwater sources.

The new EPA requirements are being piloted in three communities at the upstream end of the Charles —Milford, Franklin, and Bellingham—for commercial, industrial, and high-density residential facilities with two or more acres of impervious area. EPA will require these facilities to apply for a CWA permit for stormwater discharges that eventually reach the Charles River. The permits will require these facilities to reduce phosphorus discharges by 65% through a variety of stormwater management practices. Ultimately, these requirements will likely apply to the entire Charles River watershed.

High levels of nutrients—especially phosphorus—have in the past several years caused the Charles River and other waterbodies to turn a bright shade of blue-green during summertime algae blooms. The color is caused by blooms of cyanobacteria, which can be harmful to both people and pets.

“EPA’s extension of the Clean Water Act to include polluted stormwater runoff from commercial and industrial parking lots is both bold and necessary,” said Bob Zimmerman, executive director of the Charles River Watershed Association. “We will never clean up urban rivers without cleaning up existing runoff from pavement. This bold move will aid cities and towns meet their requirements and help restore a more natural balance to the way water works in metropolitan regions, not just in the Charles River, but ultimately across the United States.”

Pacific Area of the U.S. Postal Service to Voluntarily Replace Lead Wheel Weights in Its Fleet

As part of the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities program, the U.S. EPA is honoring the Pacific Area of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for its commitment to voluntarily replace all lead wheel weights for approximately 31,000 fleet delivery vehicles—removing more than 8,000 pounds of lead from its workplace operations and potential deposition into the environment.

The USPS’s 34 vehicle maintenance facilities in California and Hawaii will perform about 70,000 tire balancing services annually, eliminating nearly 8,000 pounds of lead in the workplace and approximately 500 pounds in the environment from wheel weights that fall off onto roadways.

“The U.S. Postal Service will not only remove thousands of pounds of hazardous lead from our environment, but recently also helped the EPA launch its National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative to encourage the transition away from using lead for wheel weights,” said Jeff Scott, the EPA’s Waste Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “The U.S. Postal Service Pacific Area’s leadership serves as a model both for public and private fleets to get the lead out.”

 Lead can enter the environment and create potential human exposures by weights falling off tires and being washed into storm sewers or waterways.

Quick Facts:

  • Wheel weights are clipped to the rims of every automobile wheel in the United States in order to balance tires.
  • Lead weights will be phased out in California by the end of 2009 under a court settlement between Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health against Chrysler and the three largest makers of lead wheel weights for the U.S. market: Plombco Inc. of Canada, Perfect Equipment Inc., and Hennessey Industries.
  • There are 200 million autos and light trucks on the nation’s roadways, with 16 million new autos produced annually in the United States.
  • An average of 4.5 ounces of lead is clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States.
  • Approximately 50 million pounds of lead is used annually to produce tire weights worldwide in autos and light trucks.
  • It is estimated that 1.6 million pounds are lost in the United States when wheel weights fall off during normal driving conditions (e.g., hitting a pot hole).
  • It is estimated that half a million pounds of lead each year is released into the environment in California from wheel weights falling off vehicles.
  • Local service stations may have steel weights available, and consumers can request them in lieu of lead weights.


Lead is a chemical of concern for the EPA because it bio-accumulates in the food chain, damages ecosystems, and can cause brain damage in humans, especially children.

The EPA’s goal is to partner with industries, municipalities, and federal facilities to reduce the use or release of 4 million pounds of priority chemicals by 2011. EPA also encourages all consumers to ask their tire vendors to provide lead-free wheel weights.

EPA Presents Awards in the Smart Growth Achievement Program

As communities around the country look for ways to grow and that protect and enhance their natural environments, many are turning to smart-growth strategies. They are cleaning and reusing previously developed land; providing more housing and transportation choices; preserving critical natural areas; and using a variety of green building techniques. In addition to developing vibrant places to live, work, shop and play, these smart-growth strategies also protect the quality of our air, water, and land.

“By adopting smart-growth approaches, the recipients of the 2008 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement are helping improve the quality of life and the quality of the environment for their residents,” EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said. “This year’s award winners are responsibly building toward a healthier, brighter future, and I encourage other communities to follow their fine example.”

This year’s competition was open to public and private-sector entities. Winners were selected based on how effectively they used smart-growth strategies to improve their communities and how well they engaged citizens and fostered partnerships.

EPA created the National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to recognize outstanding approaches to development that benefit the economy, the community, public health, and the environment. Since 2002, EPA has recognized 32 smart-growth leaders from among 523 applications representing 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to presenting the annual awards, the program conducts research and policy analysis on growth issues, provides direct technical assistance to state and local governments, delivers outreach and public education, coordinates .

Changing the Climate: Looking Toward a More Cost Effective, Energy-Efficient Future

The EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) are helping states lead the way in an effort to promote low cost energy efficiency.  The action plan outlines strategies to help lower the growth in energy demand across the country by more than 50%, and it shows ways to save more than $500 billion in net savings over the next 20 years. These actions may help to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 90 million vehicles.

“The significant action taken by states, utilities, and energy customers advances low-cost energy solutions,” said Robert Meyers, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The plan is a big step toward a more energy-efficient future, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing the American economy.”

“These leaders from state government and the private sector should be commended for their continued progress in promoting energy-efficient technologies as a key part of modernizing our electric and gas infrastructure to meet our nation’s growing energy needs,” said Kevin Kolevar, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

The action plan outlines critical steps for state policy makers to take in an effort to increase the nation’s investment in low cost energy efficiency. The plan also shows the progress states are making toward these goals. States, utilities, and other organizations are spending about $2 billion per year on energy-efficiency programs. Through this investment, states, utilities, and other organizations have saved the energy equivalent of more than 30 power plants generating 500 megawatts of electricity, saving energy customers nearly $6 billion annually. This effort helped reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those emitted from 9 million vehicles.

The updated action plan also identifies areas for additional progress. About one-third of the states have established energy-savings targets and addressed utility disincentives for energy efficiency. Moreover, about half of the states have established energy-efficiency programs for key customer classes and reviewed and updated building codes.

Two technical assistance documents are also available to assist states in achieving the energy goals established under the action plan. The first document provides guidance on establishing cost-effectiveness tests for energy-efficiency programs, while the second outlines best practices for providing business customers with energy-use and cost data.

Initiated in 2005, the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency is directed by a leadership group of 30 electric and gas utilities, 20 state agencies, and 12 other organizations. This state-driven initiative is designed to help electric and natural gas ratepayers increase energy efficiency while saving money. More than 120 organizations have endorsed the original recommendations of the action plan and have committed to making it a reality.

Report Lists Environmental Progress

A new report has been released that describes EPA’s environmental and financial progress over the past year. 

The report was delivered to President George W. Bush and Congress on November 17, meeting the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and other management-related statutes. The 1993 GPRA requires federal agencies to report to Congress annually on the results of their activities during the fiscal year.

Nation’s First WaterSense Labeled Home

EPA and Vanguard Homes are celebrating the completion of the nation’s first home built and certified to be about 20% more water-efficient than regular homes. Vanguard Homes is one of a few homebuilders nationwide to participate in a pilot program based on the draft specification for new homes under the WaterSense program. The home is in Chapel Hill, N.C.

 The home uses water-efficient products and practices inside and outside the home.

Maryland Conference Held to Promote Environmental Excellence in Health Care

At the conference, EPA staff led sessions on proper management of pharmaceutical waste and the use of natural pest control in hospitals. Other topics included green buildings, reducing and recycling waste, and procuring sustainable foods.

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