OSHA Enforcement Flexibility During Coronavirus Pandemic

April 20, 2020
OSHA has issued interim guidance to advise its compliance safety and health officers to evaluate an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with safety and health standards during the coronavirus pandemic.
Current infection control practices may limit the availability of employees, consultants or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services. Business closures and other restrictions may also preclude employee participation in training if trainers are unavailable and access to medical testing facilities may be limited or suspended.
During an inspection, compliance safety and health officers will assess an employer’s efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training or assessments. Compliance officers will evaluate your workplace to determine if you:
  • Explored all options to comply with applicable standards (e.g., use of virtual training or remote communication strategies);
  • Implemented interim alternative protections, such as engineering or administrative controls; and
  • Rescheduled required annual activity as soon as possible.
Employers unable to comply with OSHA requirements because local authorities required the workplace to close should demonstrate a good faith attempt to meet applicable requirements as soon as possible following the re-opening of the workplace.
OSHA will take employers’ attempts to comply in good faith into strong consideration when determining whether it cites a violation. The agency may issue a citation if it finds an employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply. To ensure corrective actions employers have taken once normal activities resume, OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections from a randomized sampling of cases where the agency noted, but did not cite, violations.
This guidance is currently in place and will remain in effect until OSHA rescinds it. It is time-limited interim guidance in effect due to the current public health crisis. See OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage for updates.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week.  This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link
If you have enrolled in a seminar in April or May, in many cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements.  For details, call 800-537-2372.
How to Avoid netDMR Violations Due to COVID-19
To avoid the automatic generation of non-receipt NPDES discharge monitoring report (DMR) violations when your site is unable to perform required sampling or perform other operations required by your NPDES permit requirements, EPA has established a new no data indicator (NODI) code Z for net DMR reports.
In cases where you can report, you are expected to report the data that you do have for the monitoring period (even if the monitoring data is incomplete in whole or part). If data is missing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA strongly encourages that permittees and authorized NPDES Programs use a No Data Indicator code that was created specifically for response to the COVID-19 situation. The table below lists a subset of available NODI codes relevant to this situation including the COVID-19 code. In addition to use of the COVID-19 code, also include the following comment on their DMR form: “COVID-19.” Using the COVID-19 code indicates that you believe that EPA’s Temporary Policy applies to your routine monitoring or sampling noncompliance. EPA’s ICIS-NPDES data system will not automatically identify a DMR non-receipt violation if the COVID-19 code is used. Instead, EPA and authorized NPDES Programs could use the COVID-19 code if follow-up is needed to determine if the criteria set forth in the Temporary Policy for use of enforcement discretion are met.
Subset of Available No Data Indicator Codes
 Description  Violation Generated (Yes/No)
Operation Shut Down  No
3 Special Report Attached  No
Other (See Comments)   Yes
No Discharge   No
 Lost Sample/Data Not Available  Yes
Analysis Not Conducted/No Sample  Yes
Sampling Equipment Failure  Yes
Natural Disaster  No
Laboratory Error   Yes
Administratively Resolved (not available in NetDMR)   No
 COVID-19  No
New Class of Particulate Respirators Approved by NIOSH
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published an interim final rule auto update the regulatory requirements used by NIOSH to test and approve air-purifying particulate respirators for use in the ongoing pandemic.
With this rulemaking, parallel performance standards are added to existing regulatory requirements for powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) to allow for the approval of a new class, PAPR100. This new class of PAPRs may be better suited to the needs of workers in the healthcare and public safety sectors needing protection against COVID-19. In addition, the interim final rule:
  • Consolidates the technical standards for all types of air-purifying particulate respirators into one subpart,
  • Removes standards pertaining to obsolete respirators designed for dust, fume, and mist; pesticide; and paint spray from the regulation entirely,
  • Aligns the particulate filter testing for the new class PAPR100 with the current requirements for non-powered particulate respirators.
Over the past 20 years, PAPRs have played an increasing role in respiratory protection programs in the United States in the healthcare sector. As seen during the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the 2009 H1N1 influenza, and the 2014 Ebola virus outbreaks, PAPRs are often used in high-hazard procedures in the healthcare setting because they are designed to filter chemicals, blood-borne pathogens, and aerosol-transmissible diseases. Current shortages of non-powered particulate respirators underscore the need for approval of PAPRs more suitable for use by the healthcare workers and first responders dealing with the disease.
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training.  Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home.  Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – April 29, May 27
OSHA Alert for Manufacturing Workers During Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect manufacturing workers from exposure to coronavirus.
Safety measures employers can implement to protect employees working in manufacturing include:
  • Practicing sensible social distancing and maintaining 6 feet between co-workers, where possible;
  • Establishing flexible work hours, (e.g., staggered shifts), if feasible;
  • Training workers on how to properly put on, use/wear, take-off and maintain protective clothing and equipment;
  • Allowing workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus;
  • Monitoring public health communications about coronavirus recommendations for the workplace and ensuring that workers have access to and understand that information;
  • Promoting personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.
The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.
See OSHA's Publications webpage for other useful workplace safety information.
The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America's workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.
See OSHA's COVID-19 webpage  for updates. For further information about coronavirus, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CalEPA Policy on Regulatory Compliance During the COVID-19 Emergency
Controlling pollution in communities with high rates of respiratory disease and multiple environmental burdens remains a priority for CalEPA – especially given recent studies that suggest a correlation between these factors and COVID-19 susceptibility. Accordingly, CalEPA will continue to respond, investigate, and – when necessary – take action on complaints related to environmental non-compliance. CalEPA will also fill any enforcement gaps left by the U.S. EPA’s decision to reduce environmental oversight. We will also maintain our capacity to respond to emergencies. The ongoing clean-up of contaminated sites will be prioritized to abate or prevent an imminent threat to public health or the environment, while ensuring worker safety.
CalEPA indicated that the Agency recognizes that some regulated entities may need additional compliance assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific time-delimited remedies, such as the extension of deadlines, may be warranted under clearly articulated circumstances, but regulated entities that cannot meet a specific regulatory requirement due to emergency government directives or a specific hardship must contact the appropriate CalEPA board, department or office before falling out of compliance. CalEPA boards, departments, and offices will consider such requests in an expedited fashion. These time-limited and specific requests that define the hardship must be directed to the specific CalEPA board, department or office as early as possible. Due to the high number of staff who are teleworking, email is the most expeditious way to contact the boards, departments and offices.
Contact information can be found at CalEPA’s Boards, Departments, and Offices webpage.
Members of the public may also face increased barriers or challenges to participating in CalEPA public processes and decision-making, including timely submission of public comments. CalEPA plans to continue conduct all public participation activities and decision-making in an equitable, inclusive, and transparent way.
As this situation evolves, CalEPA will continue to advise community stakeholders and businesses on how the Agency can achieve our collective commitment to public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some Regulatory Requirements Suspended by Missouri DNR During COVID-19
Pursuant to Executive Orders 20-02 and 20-04, the Department of Natural Resources has suspended through May 15 portions of four rules to eliminate certain provisions that are overly burdensome during the COVID-19 emergency. Copies of the Notices of Suspension are available at https://tgl.ink/g3Nnoq.
Two of the four suspensions waive requirements for hard-copy submissions. In most instances the department will accept electronic submissions of wastewater facility plans and hazardous-waste generator documents in lieu of hard copies.
The third suspension waives the continuing-education deadline for asbestos professionals whose certifications are expiring during the suspension period. Certification classes have been cancelled and postponed due to social distancing requirements, and the certifications of many professionals will expire during this time despite their best efforts to obtain recertification. These professionals can continue operating with expired certifications and complete their training when normal recertification processes can resume or the department can develop alternative methods of recertification that comply with social-distancing requirements. The department is preparing similar waivers for operator-certification requirements that will be filed with the Secretary of State when finalized.
The fourth suspension defers the in-person, closed book exam that usually is required for previously unpermitted applicants to obtain a non-restricted well-installation permit. During the suspension period, otherwise qualified applicants who pass an online, open-book exam may receive an interim permit and begin work. Once administration of the closed-book exam resumes, such interim permit-holders must take and pass the closed-book exam.
The department continues to evaluate whether additional regulatory requirements warrant suspension during the COVID-19 emergency. Entities seeking enforcement discretion for compliance challenges caused by COVID-19 should consult the department’s March 24, 2020 statement on COVID-19 regulatory relief.
Oregon OSHA to Check Workplaces for COVID-19 Compliance
Ramping up its enforcement activity, Oregon OSHA will begin systematically conducting spot checks to verify that employers are complying with requirements – including closures to the public – aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
The spot checks – which are in addition to more time-intensive, on-site inspections initiated by the division – are intended to confirm whether employers are actually doing what they are telling the division they are doing in response to complaints.
Those complaints include allegations of failures to heed the requirements included in Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, including certain businesses that must close to the public and others that are required to implement proper social-distancing practices.
As it moves forward, Oregon OSHA will also focus its enforcement activity on more recent complaints, and on those that provide specific allegations, as well as include contact information for the complainant. The division can protect a complainant’s confidentiality on request – a legal shield against an employer obtaining a complainant’s identity – while still being able to engage with the complainant.
“This approach will allow us to verify the responses to complaints that we’ve received so far from employers while focusing our enforcement resources on those employers most likely to be in continued non-compliance,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. Recent analysis suggests Oregon’s collective efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus are working.
As reported by the Oregon Health Authority, new projections from health researchers estimate that Oregon’s aggressive social distancing measures have prevented as many as 18,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 hospitalizations. However, these restrictions must be maintained into May to prevent new cases from rising above current daily levels of active coronavirus cases.
The responsibility for prevention includes certain employers staying closed to the public, and employers who remain open maintaining social-distancing and other safe practices.
Tasked with enforcing the order with respect to employers and worker exposure, Oregon OSHA continues to screen complaints, initiate inspections, and consider additional inspection candidates.
From March 2 through April 12, the division received 2,887 complaints related to the coronavirus. More than 1,200 of those came during the week of March 23, when the governor’s executive order was issued. Since April 6, the number of complaints has noticeably tapered off. The division typically receives just over 2,000 complaints per year.
In screening complaints, Oregon OSHA’s work has included clarifying employers’ responsibilities under the governor’s order and asking employers to specifically respond to the allegations outlined in complaints.
So far, the division has opened a dozen on-site inspections. The opening and closing of an inspection – and a decision whether to issue a citation – can take several weeks, depending on the specifics of a case. The division is working to accelerate that process. The division may conduct on-site inspections for a variety of reasons, including whether it determines an employer’s response to the complaints may not be credible. Responses include phone calls and written documentation. The formal introduction of systematic spot checks – about two dozen of which have been conducted previously on a less formal basis – is aimed at verifying what employers are telling the division about their actions without requiring the more resource-intensive formal inspection process.
EHS Hour
Even though you might not be able to get to the office or attend meetings, you can still keep up with the latest EHS requirements and learn something new. Environmental Resource Center is introducing the EHS Hour as live, online sessions to help keep you informed and productive.
With your subscription, you can attend all of the sessions for just $250 per month, or you can attend any single session for $49 per person. Each session will be held from 11:00 am to noon Eastern Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Upcoming sessions include:
OSHA Alert to Keep Package Delivery Workers Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic
OSHA has issued an alert that lists safety tips employers can follow to help protect package delivery workers from exposure to coronavirus.
Safety measures employers can implement to protect employees in the package delivery industry include:
  • Establishing flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) where feasible;
  • Minimizing interaction between drivers and customers by leaving deliveries at loading docks, doorsteps or other locations that do not require person-to-person exposures;
  • Promoting personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces, including vehicle interiors;
  • Allowing workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus;
  • Using Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.
The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America's workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.
OSHA Interim Enforcement Response Plan to Protect Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The response plan provides instructions and guidance to OSHA Area Offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports.
During the coronavirus outbreak, OSHA Area Offices will use their inspection resources to fulfill mission essential functions and protect workers exposed to the disease. The response plan contains interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for field offices to maximize OSHA's impact in securing safe workplaces in this evolving environment.
“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America's workers during this challenging time in our nation's history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today's guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers, and inspectors.”
The response plan outlines procedures for addressing reports of workplace hazards related to the coronavirus. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for on-site inspections. The response plan contains procedures and sample documentation for CSHOs to use during coronavirus-related inspections. Workers requesting inspections, complaining of coronavirus exposure, or reporting illnesses may be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and will be informed of their protections from retaliation.
This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis.
Range Resources Cited for Air Permit Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has executed a Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty (CACP) with Range Resources-Appalachia, LLC (Range Resources) in the amount of $198,920 for violations of state regulations and the Air Pollution Control Act.
The violations occurred in 2013, 2014, and 2015 at the operator’s Costanzo 1H and 2H and Cross Creek County Park 6H and 8H unconventional natural gas well pads located in Mount Pleasant and Cross Creek townships, Washington County, respectively. As part of this settlement, the municipalities where the violations occurred are eligible to receive funding for air quality or other environmental projects.
Each facility contains storage tanks and associated equipment that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), which the operator is required to report annually to DEP. Range Resources exceeded the potential to emit 50-ton or more of VOC threshold that would have qualified both sites as Title V facilities and subjected each to major source permitting requirements. Range Resources failed to apply for or receive a Title V permit. The operator then installed air cleaning devices to reduce VOC emissions from storage tanks and associated equipment at the facilities without first applying for or receiving authorization.
However, installation of these air cleaning devices was successful in reducing potential VOC emissions to a level below the Title V permitting threshold—a significant reduction from 2013-2015 emissions—and making the sites eligible for certain regulatory permitting exemptions. During its investigation, DEP requested data on all of Range Resources’ facilities to determine if this was a widespread issue and determined that it was an isolated incident.
In August 2015, Range Resources reported to DEP that in connection with an internal self-audit, the operator recalculated its annual emissions utilizing a more conservative (i.e. higher emission estimating) and generally accepted methodology than it previously utilized for 2013, 2014, and 2015 for all of its facilities. Generally, the recalculated emissions were higher than previously reported. The recalculated Costanzo site’s VOC emissions exceeded 50 tons per year in 2013 and 2014 regardless of which method was used and using the more conservative methodology the Cross Creek County Park site’s VOC emissions exceeded 50 tons per year in 2014.
Range Resources is responsible for paying emission fees for years that VOC emissions exceed the Title V threshold, and a penalty and associated interest because the fees were not timely paid. In addition, civil penalties were assessed for the violations. The payment of civil penalties, fees, and interest will go into the Pennsylvania Clean Air Fund, and a portion of the civil penalty will be eligible to be disbursed to the communities where the violations occurred.
West Coast Chrome Ordered to Study Potential Hazardous Waste Releases at Modesto, Calif., Facility
EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region ordered the company West Coast Chrome (WCC) to conduct sampling at its Modesto metal finishing facility. The goal of the sampling is to determine whether improper storage and management of hazardous wastes poses threats to human health or the environment.
“Poor management of hazardous waste can release harmful contaminants and impact local communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Today’s order requires West Coast Chrome to determine whether the facility’s hazardous waste poses a risk so that it can be addressed promptly.”
During a December 2018 inspection, EPA inspectors documented numerous incidents of improperly stored, labeled and managed hazardous waste. The waste includes chromium, methylene chloride and phenol, which are known to be harmful to human health and the environment.
The order requires WCC to develop a plan to determine the nature and extent of hazards posed by the hazardous waste at the facility. The work plan must provide extensive information on the presence, direction and rate of movement of any hazardous wastes within and beyond the facility including the development of a comprehensive soil monitoring plan to ensure contamination is not migrating off-site. The company was given 30 days to submit the plan to EPA for approval.
EPA is coordinating its investigation with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to ensure effective oversight of the facility.
State Attorneys General Call on EPA to Rescind Policy Limiting Enforcement of Federal Civil Environmental and Public Health Laws
New York Attorney General Letitia James and 13 other state attorneys general across the country submitted a letter to the EPA to denounce the March 26 memorandum announcing a nationwide policy on the civil enforcement of federal environmental laws during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. The coalition issued the following statement:
“As the chief law enforcement officers of our states, we are greatly concerned by the EPA’s announcement of a nationwide policy significantly curtailing enforcement of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws.  Although it is appropriate for EPA to consider whether safeguards against the coronavirus impact the ability of industry to comply, the agency cannot — in the midst of a public health crisis — lose sight of its mission to protect public health and the environment. Because the policy turns a blind eye to the impacts on our communities of more pollution and lesser accountability, we strongly urge EPA to rescind it. We will continue to enforce our state environmental laws in a reasonable manner, and stand ready to hold regulated entities accountable under critical federal environmental laws if EPA will not.”
In addition to New York, the letter and accompanying statement were signed by the attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Background: On March 26, EPA issued a policy entitled “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program.” The policy, which applies retroactively to March 13, has no end date. EPA states in the policy that it does not intend to take enforcement action against companies that, for example, violate existing reporting and monitoring requirements, provided that the companies draw a nexus between COVID-19 and their noncompliance. Absent any requirement to provide EPA, states, tribes, or the public with notice of such noncompliance, fence line communities — often low income and minority communities — could be exposed to harmful pollution without adequate warning. This is made more troubling by EPA’s statement in the policy that it may forego enforcement even in situations where a polluter’s noncompliance presents an imminent threat to public health or the environment. The policy also ignores the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma), which may increase risk of serious harms — including premature death — for individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus. EPA can provide guidance to companies without putting the health of our communities at even greater risk than they are already facing.
New Sector Snapshots Released by EPA Smart Sectors Program
EPA released “sector snapshots” for eight industries participating in the Smart Sectors Program. The sector snapshot is a web-based tool that shows historical environmental and economic performance on a sector basis. Users can interact with data that include a range of up to 30 different combinations of environmental and economic parameters to view trends over time.
EPA posted the following snapshots to its website: aerospace, agriculture, cement and concrete, construction, electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, mining, paper and wood products, and ports and maritime transportation sectors. EPA plans to update the data in these snapshots over time.
EPA’s Smart Sectors Program developed the sector snapshots using public data from EPA and other federal sources. The snapshots offer users access to information about general sector characteristics, environmental performance indicators, and economic data through graphics and charts.
The first modules released in September of 2018 showcased three sectors: iron and steel, chemical manufacturing, and utilities and power generation. The program released the snapshot for automotive manufacturing in April 2019.
Similar to the goal of the performance reports created by EPA's Sector Strategies Program in the 2000s, EPA's Smart Sectors Program strives to provide the general public, industry, and EPA a common understanding of environmental and economic performance over time. To accomplish this goal, the sector snapshot aggregates and shares publicly available data over a 20-year time period where possible. For more information: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/sector-snapshots.
EPA Smart Sectors is a partnership program that provides a platform to collaborate with regulated sectors and develop sensible approaches that better protect the environment and public health. To learn more about the program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors.
Raven Power LLC Cited for Chemical Release Reporting Violations
In a settlement with the EPA, Texas-based Raven Power LLC recently paid a $105,000 penalty for allegedly failing to timely report a 2017 release of a hazardous substance from the H.A. Wagner Generating Plant in Baltimore.
EPA cited the company for violating two federal laws requiring immediate reporting of releases of hazardous substances -- the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund.  EPCRA requires notification to the state and local emergency officials, and CERCLA requires notification to the National Response Center (NRC), the national point of contact for reporting oil and hazardous chemical spills.
According to EPA, the company did not provide required immediate notices to federal, state and local emergency response officials immediately after facility personnel became aware at approximately 8 a.m., Sept. 11, 2017, of a release of approximately 1,126 pounds of sodium hypochlorite directly into the adjacent Patapsco River.
EPA alleged that the company did not notify the NRC until 12:20 p.m., more than four hours after learning of the release, did not notify Maryland emergency officials until after 1 p.m., and failed to notify local officials at the Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management. EPA also cited the company for failing to provide required written follow-up notification to state and local officials.
Tangier, VA., Fuel Storage Facility Cited for SPCC and FRP Violations
EPA announced that Tangier Oil Company, Inc. has agreed to take actions to reduce the risks of spills of fuel oils into the Chesapeake Bay. These actions will address the company’s alleged environmental violations at a fuel storage distribution facility that the company operates in the Tangier Harbor in Virginia.
The Tangier Oil facility, which transfers oil to and from docked vessels, has an aboveground oil storage capacity of 150,360 gallons -- including six 20,000-gallon and three 10,000-gallon storage tanks for diesel fuel, gasoline, and kerosene.
EPA’s Administrative Order on Consent with the company addresses violations of the Clean Water Act’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) and the Facility Response Plan (FRP) requirements. The alleged violations included:
  • Failure to have secondary containment around bulk storage tanks that is adequate to contain oil leaks;
  • Failure to comply with inspection requirements;
  • Failure to develop and implement oil spill preparedness and response training; and,
  • Failure to develop and fully implement a program of facility response drills and exercises.
In entering into this consent order, the Tangier Oil Company neither admitted or denied these violations but agreed to take actions on a specified timetable including: submitting a revised SPCC plan and FRP; remedying deficiencies in the facility’s secondary containment; hiring an independent consultant to evaluate and remedy any deficiencies associated with the integrity of oil storage tanks/equipment; and implementing mandatory employee training, drills and exercises.
EPA to Retain NAAQS for Particulate Matter
EPA has proposed to retain, without changes, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM) including both fine particles (PM2.5) and coarse particles (PM10).
“The U.S. has made incredible strides in reducing particulate matter concentrations across the nation,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Based on review of the scientific literature and recommendation from our independent science advisors, we are proposing to retain existing PM standards which will ensure the continued protection of both public health and the environment.”
As a result of Clean Air Act programs and efforts by state, local and tribal governments, as well as technological improvements, average PM2.5 concentrations in the U.S. fell by 39 percent between 2000 and 2018 while average PM10 concentrations fell by 31 percent during the same period.
With this action, EPA is following the principles established in the earliest days of this administration to streamline the NAAQS review process and to fulfill the statutory responsibility to complete the NAAQS review within a 5-year timeframe. 
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set NAAQS for “criteria pollutants.” Currently, PM and five other major pollutants are listed as criteria pollutants. The law requires the EPA to periodically review the relevant scientific information and the standards and revise them, if appropriate, to ensure that the standards provide the requisite protection for public health and welfare.
In the prior review of the PM standards, which was completed in 2012, the EPA revised the level of the primary annual PM2.5 standard from 15.0 to 12.0 mg/m3.
Peco Foods, Inc. Cited for Ammonia RMP Violations
EPA has reached an administrative settlement agreement with Peco Foods, Inc. resolving allegations that the company violated Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions, and the regulations codified at 40 CFR Part 68, commonly referred to as the Risk Management Program (RMP) at five of its facilities located in Alabama (Tuscaloosa) and Mississippi (Bay Springs, Brooksville, Canton, and Sebastopol).
"It is vital that facilities comply with Clean Air Act requirements to ensure that people in the surrounding communities can expect and enjoy healthy air quality," said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “Today’s agreement demonstrates EPA’s dedication to working with our state and local partners to pursue violations of laws that are critical to protecting public health and bring companies into compliance.”
The objective of the CAA 112(r)(7) and RMP is to prevent accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances and to minimize the consequences of those releases that do occur. Accidental releases of extremely hazardous chemicals can have serious consequences on public health, safety, and the environment. Peco Foods produces poultry products and uses anhydrous ammonia in their ammonia refrigeration process. Ammonia is regulated as an extremely hazardous substance.
EPA alleges that Peco Foods failed to identify hazards associated with its ammonia refrigeration systems and failed to design and maintain a safe facility by not compiling process safety information documentation for the technology of the process, by not developing operating procedures for the safe operation of the facility, by not adequately training employees, and by not conducting inspections and testing operating equipment.
The Consent Agreement and Final Order was filed on February 25, 2020. Under the terms of the agreement, Peco Foods took steps to return the five facilities to compliance, will pay a penalty of $106,250 and will donate emergency response equipment valued at $398,438, to the local fire departments.
NIST Tool Could Help Hospitals Repurpose Rooms for Disinfecting N95 Masks
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the United States are disinfecting N95 masks by placing them in repurposed rooms or shipping containers injected with a disinfectant known as vaporized hydrogen peroxide, or VHP. A new tool from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can help hospitals and medical professionals determine which rooms should be used to disinfect N95 masks. The tool estimates the amount of VHP masks would receive and suggests that larger rooms containing fewer objects, with less-reactive surfaces and slower ventilation, maintain VHP concentration the best.
“Hospitals have used VHP systems to disinfect isolation rooms after a highly infectious person has left,” said Andrew Persily, chief of NIST’s Energy and Environment Division. “Now there are efforts underway to do the same to disinfect masks.”
For hospitals, choosing and configuring rooms to house the N95 disinfection processes means accounting for conditions that vary from room to room, such as size, airflow and surface materials. These factors influence VHP concentration and, in certain cases, could prevent masks from receiving effective doses.
“Even if you’re hitting a room with a huge dose of VHP and you're assuming it's all going on your masks, a lot of it may be going on your walls or ceiling,” said Dustin Poppendieck, a NIST environmental engineer and the developer of the new tool. “Then you might not be disinfecting as effectively as you think.”
VHP’s interactions with various materials came into focus for Poppendieck in the early 2000s, before he joined NIST, when he studied the chemical’s ability to disinfect post office rooms containing anthrax-causing bacteria.
Those experiments revealed that VHP deposits onto certain surfaces much more readily than others. For example, tile floors consume much less VHP than does carpet, which can reduce the VHP concentration in a room by as much as 10 times. Now, the data from those experiments has become the foundation of the new NIST tool — packaged into a spreadsheet — that models where VHP settles after being injected into a room.
By entering important parameters related to a room’s size, materials and ventilation into the spreadsheet, users get estimates of how much VHP would actually deposit onto the masks versus being lost through leaks or absorbed by surfaces, Poppendieck said. The tool can help hospitals and other institutions make more informed decisions when choosing and adapting rooms for mask disinfection. However, it is not a one-stop shop, Poppendieck cautioned. Facility management, safety professionals and infection control experts would still need to work together to determine how to apply VHP safely and effectively.
“It should be a unified approach if you're going to do this, and this tool is just one small piece of the puzzle to figure out how to appropriately disinfect masks using VHP,” Poppendieck said. The spreadsheet is available for download here.
28 Companies Fined for Environmental Violations in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 28 penalties totaling $571,755 in February and March for various environmental violations.
Fines ranged from $415 to $84,623 in February and March. Alleged violations included improper labeling and transporting of hazardous wastes, failing to follow erosion and stormwater plans and failing to address groundwater contamination.
DEQ issued civil penalties to the following organizations and individuals:
  • 20/10 Products, Inc., $14,008, Salem, stormwater
  • Apex Anodizing, Inc., $7,834, Portland, air quality
  • Biggs Service District, $1,950, Moro, water quality
  • Black Rock Fuel, Inc., $12,000, Portland, underground fuel storage tank
  • Blane Investment, LLC, $25,600, Portland, asbestos
  • Carco Industries, Inc., $7,692, Tualatin, stormwater
  • City of Coquille, $3,600, Coquille, water quality
  • Cosner, Roger, $30,600, Milton-Freewater, solid waste
  • Crater Sand and Gravel, $14,787, Central Point, stormwater
  • Creekside DKV, LLC, $84,623, Dallas, stormwater
  • David Kerns Construction, $10,831, Dallas, water quality
  • Drain-Pro, Inc. $9,681, Saint Helens, stormwater
  • GeoDesign, Inc., $3,600, Canby, heating oil tank
  • Glide-Idleyld Sanitary District, $1,950, Glide, water quality
  • Hattig, Robert, $16,000 Forest Grove, asbestos
  • Herz Precision Parts, LLC, $11,614, Wood Village, water quality
  • L&T Woods, Inc., $415, Portland, air quality
  • Mondelez Global, LLC, $11,465, Salem, stormwater
  • Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., $15,600, Portland, air quality
  • Pacific Coast Fruit Company, $9,254, Portland, stormwater
  • Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, $79,611, Biggs Junction, underground fuel storage tank
  • Rose Agri-Seed, Inc., doing business as Pure Seed, $22,500, Canby, hazardous waste
  • RPH-Coverage, Inc., $9,774, Portland, underground fuel storage tank
  • Selmet, Inc., $70,200, Albany, hazardous waste
  • Speedway Auto Parts, $5,600, Central Point, hazardous waste
  • Speliotopoulos, Arsinoe and George Hudson, $16,800, Portland, asbestos
  • The Hills of Depoe Bay, LP, $65,262, Depoe Bay, stormwater
  • Tualatin Sleep, LLC, $8,904, Tualatin, stormwater
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment.

Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
These enforcement actions by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality occurred before the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted the department’s service on approximately March 16.  The Agency stated that it is committed to balancing its vital obligation to enforce the law and protect the environment with a consideration of the dramatic disruptions to public health and the economy caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. DEQ will continue to exercise reasonable enforcement discretion within its authority when issuing civil penalties. In addition, DEQ indicated that it recognizes that the outbreak may affect the ability to comply with corrective actions or pay a civil penalty. See https://ordeq.org/COVID19 for more information about DEQ’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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