April 19, 2021
OSHA has extended the comment period for the proposed rule to update the agency's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to May 19, 2021. OSHA extended the comment period by 30 days to allow stakeholders additional time to review the proposed rule and collect information and data necessary for comment.
OSHA expects the HCS update will increase worker protections and reduce the incidence of chemical-related occupational illnesses and injuries by further improving the information on the labels and Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals. Proposed modifications will also address issues since implementation of the 2012 standard, and improve alignment with other federal agencies and Canada. Learn more about the upcoming HCS changes here
New Model Looks Beyond the Workplace for Influences on Worker Safety and Health
With the array of influences on worker safety and health, how do researchers know what questions to ask or where to look for issues? Traditionally, they focused on the workplace itself. As the COVID-19 pandemic and other current events have shown, however, outside influences—social, political, and economic—can have profound effects.
The researchers explored scientific publications to identify the main influences on worker safety and health and then organized them into three broad categories. Starting with societal influences, they progressively narrowed their focus, first to local employment and labor patterns and then to specific work conditions. Within each category, they also provided examples:
- Social, political, and economic environment, such as globalization, technology, climate change, disease patterns, social inequalities, and policy and regulatory environment
- Employment and labor patterns, such as job distribution, employment stability, nonstandard work arrangements, worker protections, and worker voice or the ability to affect work conditions
- Enterprise, or work conditions, such as physical working conditions, organization of work, job design, work environment, and policies, programs, and practices
As the nature of work and the workplace continually evolve, the expanded model could help identify new areas for research. It also highlights the importance of addressing worker safety and health through research partnerships across specialties such as sociology, economics, and law. In addition to publishing their findings, the researchers presented them at a June 2020 virtual workshop, organized by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, with NIOSH.
Bill Targeting PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Contamination Introduced in the House
PFAS chemicals, a class of thousands of widely-used, highly toxic “forever chemicals” are on the hot seat in legislation that would begin to regulate uses to protect public health and safety. Introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the PFAS Action Act begins to address industrial scale contamination of communities nationwide by adding several of the most notorious PFAS chemicals under Superfund law and helping reduce pollution in drinking water systems, surface water, groundwater and soil with increased regulation.
For decades, thousands of different PFAS chemicals have been used in and to manufacture a wide variety of products. PFAS can be found in carpeting, food packaging, cookware, clothing, cosmetics, and even firefighting foam. PFAS chemicals do not break down easily, can spread quickly through the environment and are associated with a long list
of harmful health effects at exceedingly low levels (for example, in the low parts per trillion in water), including cancer and developmental and reproductive harm.
“Let’s be very clear, PFAS is an urgent public health and environmental threat. And the number of contamination sites nationwide is growing at an alarming rate, including our military bases,” said Rep. Dingell. “The PFAS Action Act is a sweeping and comprehensive legislative package which has strong bipartisan support to address the PFAS crisis in the United States. It’s time that these chemicals are properly addressed to protect the American people from the hazardous substances we know these forever chemicals are. Setting drinking water standards and designating PFAS as hazardous substances under the EPA’s Superfund program will accelerate the clean-up process in communities and at military facilities all across this nation.”
“The American people need the PFAS Action Act enacted into law without delay,” Rep. Dingell continued. “I look forward to working with the new administration, as well as all my colleagues on the Energy & Commerce Committee to get this passed the House again and enacted. And I call on all my Senate colleagues from both sides to make this legislation a true priority this Congress.”
“PFAS contamination represents a clear and present danger to Michigan families,” said Rep. Upton. “And, as Parchment made crystal clear, we need an all-hands-on-deck effort to protect both human health and our environment. This bipartisan legislation will ensure we’re treating PFAS as a hazardous chemical and giving our agencies the resources to clean up sites for the betterment of our communities.”
The PFAS Action Act would do the following to protect our air, land, and water from harmful PFAS contamination:
- Require the EPA to establish a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS within two years that protects public health, including the health of vulnerable subpopulations.
- Designate PFOA and PFOS chemicals as hazardous substances within one year and requires EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.
- Designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants within 180 days and requires EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.
- Require EPA to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and provides $200 million annually for wastewater treatment.
- Prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and places a moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce.
- Require comprehensive PFAS health testing.
- Create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 328 military sites
across the United States have PFAS contamination and over 200 million Americans
are drinking contaminated water. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team has so far identified 162 sites across the state with PFAS contamination.
We need deadlines to ensure that EPA will take the steps need to reduce PFAS releases into our and water, to filter PFAS out of tap water, and to clean up legacy PFAS pollution, especially near DOD facilities,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “We applaud Reps. Dingell and Upton for continuing to make PFAS pollution a priority.”
This legislation has been endorsed by: Environmental Working Group, Union of Concerned Scientists, Consumer Reports, Green Science Policy Institute, League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Law & Policy Center, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Food & Water Watch, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and Southern Environmental Law Center.
Updated Interim Guidance for SARS-CoV-2 Testing in Non-Healthcare Workplaces
CDC released updated guidance
intended for certain types of workplaces, including high-density, critical infrastructure workplaces. It updates previous guidance on tests to identify current infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and provides additional considerations for screening testing.
Ventilation in Buildings: Frequently Asked Questions
CDC updated its Ventilation in Buildings
webpage with new FAQs on 1) carbon dioxide monitors, 2) temperature and humidity, and 3) the use of fans indoors. CDC also expanded the FAQ on emerging technologies and portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners to help inform consumers.
Personal Protective Equipment Burn Rate Calculator
CDC updated its PPE Burn Rate Calculator (Version 2)
with more options for users to collect and view personal protective equipment (PPE) data. The tool was designed to help healthcare and nonhealthcare systems track their PPE inventory and estimate how long their supply will last. It now has more capability to meet the needs of large companies and facilities with complex inventory tracking needs.
Safe and Proper Sharps Disposal and Strategies for Sharps Disposal Containers During Shortages Fact Sheets
Illinois EPA Health Advisory for Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFBS)
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John J. Kim announced the issuance of a health advisory for Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS) in accordance with Illinois groundwater regulations. Illinois EPA also issued an updated health advisory for Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFBS), which was initially issued in January. Health advisories are issued when there is detection of a chemical substance(s) harmful to human health for which no numeric groundwater standard(s) exists, and resampling confirms the presence in a community water supply well (35 Ill. Adm. Code 620.605).
On January 28, 2021, Illinois EPA issued health advisories for four chemicals. Similar to those health advisories, PFOS is a compound included in the family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as "forever chemicals" because of their persistence over time in surface water and groundwater. On April 8, 2021, U.S. EPA updated its Provisional Peer-Reviewed Toxicity Value for PFBS, resulting in Illinois EPA's issuance of an updated PFBS health advisory guidance level. The health advisories contain a general description of the chemicals, information on carcinogenicity and potential adverse health effects, and a guidance level. The below chart provides the heath advisory guidance levels for the chemicals identified.
HA Guidance Level (mg/L)
HA Guidance Level (ng/L)
*Updated health advisory guidance level
"The Illinois EPA's ongoing statewide investigation of PFAS levels in community water supplies continues to provide essential data on the prevalence of these forever chemicals in our community water supplies," said Director Kim. "These data will be used by Illinois EPA in determining next steps and establishing drinking water standards for PFAS compounds in Illinois."
The guidance level contained in each of the health advisories is not an enforceable groundwater or drinking water standard. However, the Illinois EPA will use the health advisory guidance levels and data gathered from the statewide drinking water investigation in the development of enforceable drinking water standards for PFAS known as Maximum Contaminant Levels.
The statewide PFAS investigation
, which began in September 2020, is expected to be completed in the fall of 2021. The Illinois EPA is sampling drinking water at every community water supply in Illinois. If PFAS chemicals are confirmed at concentrations above laboratory minimum reporting levels, the Illinois EPA works directly with those community water supplies to ensure residents are informed and to determine next steps for reducing exposure. To date, Illinois EPA has collected samples from 858 community water supplies in Illinois. An additional 588 systems will be sampled as the investigation continues. A complete listing of sample results to date is available on the interactive map established by Illinois EPA at: https://illinois-epa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/d304b513b53941c4bc1be2c2730e75cf
For additional information, go to the Statewide PFAS Investigation Network webpage at:
3D-Printed Graphene Aerogels for Water Treatment
Graphene excels at removing contaminants from water, but it's not yet a commercially viable use of the wonder material. That could be changing.
In a recent study, University at Buffalo engineers reported a new process of 3D printing graphene aerogels that they say overcomes two key hurdles -- scalability and creating a version of the material that's stable enough for repeated use -- for water treatment.
"The goal is to safely remove contaminants from water without releasing any problematic chemical residue," says study co-author Nirupam Aich, PhD, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "The aerogels we've created hold their structure when put in water treatment systems, and they can be applied in diverse water treatment applications."
The study -- "3D printed graphene-biopolymer aerogels for water contaminant removal: a proof of concept" -- was published in the Emerging Investigator Series of the journal Environmental Science: Nano
. Arvid Masud, PhD, a former student in Aich's lab, is the lead author; Chi Zhou, PhD, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at UB, is a co-author.
An aerogel is a light, highly porous solid formed by replacement of liquid in a gel with a gas so that the resulting solid is the same size as the original. They are similar in structural configuration to Styrofoam: very porous and lightweight, yet strong and resilient.
Graphene is a nanomaterial formed by elemental carbon and is composed of a single flat sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a repeating hexagonal lattice.
To create the right consistency of the graphene-based ink, the researchers looked to nature. They added to it two bio-inspired polymers -- polydopamine (a synthetic material, often referred to as PDA, that is similar to the adhesive secretions of mussels), and bovine serum albumin (a protein derived from cows).
In tests, the reconfigured aerogel removed certain heavy metals, such as lead and chromium, that plague drinking water systems nationwide. It also removed organic dyes, such as cationic methylene blue and anionic Evans blue, as well as organic solvents like hexane, heptane and toluene.
To demonstrate the aerogel's reuse potential, the researchers ran organic solvents through it 10 times. Each time, it removed 100% of the solvents. The researchers also reported the aerogel's ability to capture methylene blue decreased by 2-20% after the third cycle.
The aerogels can also be scaled up in size, Aich says, because unlike nanosheets, aerogels can be printed in larger sizes. This eliminates a previous problem inherent in large-scale production, and makes the process available for use in large facilities, such as in wastewater treatment plants, he says. He adds the aerogels can be removed from water and reused in other locations, and that they don't leave any kind of residue in the water.
Aich is part of a collaboration between UB and the University of Pittsburgh, led by UB chemistry professor Diana Aga, PhD, to find methods and tools to degrade per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic materials so difficult to break down that they are known as "forever chemicals." Aich notes the similarities to his work with 3D aerogels, and he hopes results from the two projects can be brought together to create more effective methods of removing waterborne contaminants.
"We can use these aerogels not only to contain graphene particles but also nanometal particles which can act as catalysts," Aich says. "The future goal is to have nanometal particles embedded in the walls and the surface of these aerogels and they would be able to degrade or destroy not only biological contaminants, but also chemical contaminants."
Aich, Chi, and Masud hold a pending patent for the graphene aerogel described in the study, and they are looking for industrial partners to commercialize this process.
Wastewater Treatment Company Indicted on Federal Environmental Criminal Charges
The former owner of a wastewater treatment facility in Orange, California has been indicted by a grand jury that accused him and his company – Klean Waters, Inc. – in a scheme that discharged untreated industrial wastes into an Orange County sewer system, among other violations of federal environmental laws.
Tim Miller, 64, of Wexford, Pennsylvania, along with Klean Waters, were named in a two-count indictment filed late Wednesday that charges both defendants with participating in a conspiracy and discharging without a permit into a publicly owned treatment works operated by the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD). Miller and Klean Waters will be summonsed to appear for arraignments in United States District Court on May 3.
In the scheme dating back to the establishment of Klean Waters in 2012 and continuing for several years, Miller and his company allegedly discharged wastewater that was not pretreated according to federal standards, failed to perform self-monitoring and prepare accurate reports, made false statements about their discharges, tampered with monitoring devices put in place by the OCSD, discharged untreated wastewater without a permit, and prevented inspectors from reviewing company documents or collecting samples from the company’s facility, according to the conspiracy charge in the indictment.
Klean Waters allegedly discharged untreated wastewater that contained pollutants – including firefighting foam and various metals – or that simply never had been tested after being brought to the facility for treatment.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. If convicted of the two charges in the indictment, Miller would face a statutory maximum penalty of eight years in federal prison. Klean Waters could be sentenced to pay fines of up to $300,000.
The FBI and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Rosalind Wang of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.
Gemini Coatings Fined $145,000 for Consumer Product VOC Violations
The California Air Resources Board reached a settlement agreement with Gemini Coatings, Inc. of Oklahoma for $145,000 for violations of the consumer products regulations that set limits for smog-forming compounds.
CARB investigators found that from 2015 to 2018, Gemini Coatings sold, supplied, offered for sale, and/or manufactured noncompliant consumer products in California. One of the products exceeded the volatile organic compound (VOC) limit for non-aerosol paint thinners; two products exceeded the VOC limit for non-aerosol general purpose degreasers; and, the last product exceeded the reactivity limit for floral coating. In addition, the non-aerosol general purpose degreasers failed to display a date of manufacture as required by the Consumer Product Regulations.
Some consumer products emit smog-forming VOCs and impact air quality and public health. VOCs are a precursor to smog. CARB recently adopted amendments to several Consumer Products Program regulations that will help California attain federal ozone standards, and reduce public exposure to air toxics.
“These smog-forming compounds pose a serious risk to public health and harm California’s air quality. CARB is committed to enforcing the consumer product rules to improve the air we all breathe and to help California meet the federal ozone standards that protect public health,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey.
The violations in this case produced nearly 12 tons of excess VOCs and 0.34 tons of excess ozone over the course of the three years.
This was a first-time penalty for Gemini Coatings and the company was cooperative during the investigations and follow up. To come into compliance, Gemini stopped the sale of noncompliant products and modified other products to be meet the standards in the regulations. The $145,000 fine will go to the Air Pollution Control Fund, which provides funding for projects and research to improve California's air quality.
Odor Fade in Natural Gas and Propane
The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) issued a safety advisory
that recommends that fire departments ensure all firefighters responding to natural gas or propane incidents:
- Use gas detection equipment and do not rely upon their sense of smell to determine if propane or natural gas is present
- Understand that the odorant in natural gas or propane can fade
- Are trained on the proper calibration, maintenance, and use of gas detection equipment to determine if a potential explosive atmosphere is present
- Recognize that the lack of odor can result from the natural gas or propane contacting soil, concrete, and a wide variety of building materials such as drywall, wood, and new piping storage tanks
Judge Slaps Waste Transporter with $1.5M Fine for Illegal Waste Dumping
A waste hauler in Clermont County, Ohio has been ordered to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties after an investigation by the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost found that he illegally dumped significant amounts of waste on his property.
In February, Yost filed an eight-count complaint in Clermont County Common Pleas Court against Donald Combs, 55, of rural Milford and his wife, Anita, 50. In March, a judge upheld the complaint and found violations of Ohio’s laws on solid waste, construction and demolition debris. The judge also held that the waste constituted a public nuisance.
“Hauling trash to anywhere but the landfill is a rotten business, so we dumped some justice on this polluter,” Yost said. “I appreciate the help of our environmental partners at the EPA and in Clermont County to halt this illegal activity.”
The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Section (EES) by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Clermont County Public Health after numerous complaints of open dumping and open burning. The court found that the Ohio EPA and Clermont County Public Health spent substantial time inspecting Combs’ properties for persistent violations of court orders. These inspections, followed by the significant legal work of the EES, were “extraordinary,” according to the judge.
The EES proved that Donald Combs for years covered acres of land near his home and commercial properties with tens of thousands of pounds of construction debris, solid waste, trash and scrap tires. An Ohio EPA inspector testified that some of the piles were over 20 feet high and that cleanup costs for the sites approach nearly $1.3 million.
Goshen Township Fire Department Chief Steve Pegram testified that the fire department had been to Mr. Combs site numerous times and that the site was a fire hazard.
Combs, who solicited business mostly via Craigslist, undercut competitors who were factoring in the appropriate costs of properly dumping waste in a landfill.
Yost urges consumers to use professional waste haulers that handle waste properly to prevent environmental disasters.
You can research Ohio businesses and any complaints against them at this website
6 Arrested, $300,000 Seized in Suspected Las Vegas to Southern California Recycling Fraud Scheme
California agents arrested six suspects and are searching for a seventh in connection with a large-scale scheme to defraud the state’s bottle and can deposit program.
The group is accused of illegally:
- Cashing in empty beverage containers smuggled from Las Vegas casinos
- Filing fraudulent California Redemption Value (CRV) claims for non-existent material
- Selling previously redeemed bottles and cans back into the system for re-redemption
“California does not tolerate attempts to defraud the Beverage Container Recycling Program of deposits that rightfully belong to California consumers,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “CalRecycle will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners within the California Department of Justice to protect money that belongs to Californians.”
The California Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement, with technical assistance from CalRecycle, uncovered evidence of a multi-state recycling fraud ring over the course of a roughly four-month investigation. During that time, the suspects allegedly brought truckloads of out-of-state empty beverage containers to storage facilities and recycling centers in Southern California to fraudulently redeem the CRV material. Since consumers outside California do not pay CRV deposits on beverage purchases, imported empty beverage containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.
As part of the investigation, Department of Justice agents conducted searches at several Southern California facilities and seized more than $300,000 in cash from California recycling processor West Coast Waste Industries S.A., Inc.
Laszlo Castro Lencse, Antonio Iezza, Jr., Jaime Mosaquites Diaz, Eligio Ortega Dominguez, Geovany Ortega Narcisco, and Gonzalo Cachu Lucatero were arrested and charged with conspiracy, grand theft, and recycling fraud. One suspect, Ivan Dominguez Lopez, remains at large.
Antonio Iezza, Jr. faces an additional charge of presenting false claims for payment. Eligio Ortega Dominguez is additionally charged with receipt of stolen property. CalRecycle revoked the certification of Antonio Iezza, Jr. and his company, West Coast Waste Industries S.A., Inc.
Oil Tank Removal Company Settles Allegations of Hazardous Waste Violations and Illegal Asbestos Removal
CommTank, Inc., an oil tank installation, maintenance, and removal company will pay up to $250,000 and will complete proper closure of an unpermitted well to resolve alleged hazardous waste and ground water discharge violations at its Wakefield headquarters and alleged illegal asbestos removal violations at an occupied building in Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“We depend on companies to honestly and accurately report on their handling of hazardous materials to protect the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment,” said AG Healey. “This settlement requires this company to address any potential environmental contamination and ensures that it abides by our important environmental laws moving forward.”
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settles a lawsuit filed by the AG’s Office, which alleged that CommTank, Inc. violated the state’s hazardous waste management and clean water laws at its Wakefield headquarters. The AG’s complaint alleged that CommTank generated hazardous waste in excess of the volume permitted under its Very Small Quantity Generator status; failed to properly manage, store, and document waste oil and hazardous waste; and failed to properly train personnel in the management of hazardous waste.
The AG’s Office also alleged that CommTank maintained an unpermitted well in an area of its Wakefield facility where it conducted vehicle maintenance and stored waste oil and hazardous waste, thereby potentially allowing motor vehicle waste fluids to drain into the well, which led to the surrounding environment.
The consent judgment also settles allegations that CommTank violated the state’s clean air law by conducting illegal asbestos removal work in a residential and commercial building on Newbury Street in Boston while removing large, industrial boiler units.
According to the complaint, CommTank, which is not a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, did not comply with required asbestos abatement work practices, including failing to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) about asbestos encasing the boilers, failing to use proper air filtration units, failing to contain the asbestos dust, and failing to wet the asbestos material during the removal.
This illegal asbestos removal potentially exposed CommTank’s workers, people accessing the building, and passersby in a busy urban area to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website
for asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements.
AG Healey’s Office has made asbestos safety a priority. In November 2019, AG Healey released a report
, highlighting the work of her office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air Initiative.”
Since September 2016, the AG’s Office, with the assistance of MassDEP, has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in nearly $4.5 million in civil penalties.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Meghan Davoren of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Jeanne Argento, Environmental Analyst Matthew Barber, and Asbestos Program Section Chief and Bureau of Air and Waste Deputy Regional Director John MacAuley of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.
Tamarack Technologies, Inc. Fined $6,500 for Energy Efficiency Violation
Tamarack Technologies, Inc. (Tamarack) is a West Wareham, Massachusetts, based company that manufactures whole house fans. Tamarack sold or offered for sale whole house fans in California, from July 2015 to April 2020.
Following industry complaint, the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) investigation and testing process identified that Tamarack was manufacturing and offering for sale whole house fans that were listed in the Modernized Appliance Efficiency Database System (MAEDbS) with greater air flow and air flow efficiency data than could be verified through confirmatory testing.
To settle this matter, Tamarack executed a Settlement Agreement with CEC on April 8, 2021, for $6,500.00. The penalty monies are deposited into the Appliance Efficiency Enforcement Subaccount established by SB 454 of 2011 (Pavley). Tamarack has also agreed to a compliance plan to test all basic models and ensure MAEDbS listings are accurate before continuing to sell in California.
ExxonMobil’s Joliet Refinery Agrees to Reduce Air Pollution
The Justice Department, EPA and the State of Illinois have announced an amendment to the 2005 Clean Air Act (CAA) consent decree signed with ExxonMobil Oil Corporation to resolve violations at its petroleum refinery in Joliet.
“I’m pleased that the agreement announced today with ExxonMobil will reduce air emissions from their Joliet refinery,” said Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Larry Starfield of the EPA. “The result will be cleaner air for communities in Illinois and lower environmental impacts.”
“This new agreement requires ExxonMobil to clean up its act and pay penalties for its past violations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “EPA and our Illinois state partner deserve credit for policing ExxonMobil’s compliance with the Clean Air Act and our prior settlement with the company.”
The consent decree amendment
will reduce air pollution through upgrades and improvements and address violations of the 2005 consent decree and the CAA. ExxonMobil will make physical and operational changes to its sulfur recovery plant that will reduce emissions of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide and will meet a lower sulfur dioxide emission limit at its north sulfur recovery unit. ExxonMobil will also make physical and operational changes to the emission controls for its fluidized catalytic cracking unit, also referred to as the FCCU, and it will meet lower emission limits for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at the FCCU.
To address leak detection and repair violations, ExxonMobil will update its program to include procedures for properly monitoring valves that are covered in insulation or that are located inside fireboxes. ExxonMobil will also use an optical gas imaging camera to monitor its open-ended lines for leaks. To address continuous emissions monitoring system violations, ExxonMobil will develop a comprehensive plan to ensure implementation and compliance with regulatory requirements.
Under the consent decree amendment, ExxonMobil will pay $1,515,463 in penalties, $1,086,640 to the federal government and $428,823 to the State of Illinois. The amendment also includes an estimated $10 million of improvements to reduce air emissions from the facility.
MexiCann Natural Medicine Fined for Workplace Safety Violations
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued six citations to New MexiCann Natural Medicine for violations of the state Occupational Health and Safety Act related to a fire that severely injured two workers in October 2020. NMED assessed penalties of $142,348 for the violations following an investigation by its Occupational Health and Safety Bureau.
NMED cited the company for violations at its facility located on San Mateo Lane in Santa Fe for failing to:
- Ensure employees could quickly exit the facility’s extraction room in an emergency
- Control flammable vapors from an extraction system
- Control ignition sources
- Assess hazards and determine what protective equipment was needed for workers
- Implement a respirator program
- Institute a program to address hazardous chemicals.
“The indifference shown to worker safety by this company is inexcusable,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Willful violations of worker safety requirements must have consequences for employers – every employee deserves to come home from work healthy.”
NMED issued citations to New MexiCann in 2016 following a 2015 explosion and fire that also seriously injured two workers. The company has 15 business days from the date the citations were issued to pay the assessed penalties or contest the citations before the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission.
NMED Gets a 21.3% Raise
After a decade of budget cuts, the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) base budget will increase by 21.3% for the upcoming state fiscal year starting July 1, 2021. The additional $2.8 million will be a recurring increase to NMED’s operating budget. NMED’s overall operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year is approximately $93.4 million.
“Starting in July, the New Mexico Environment Department will expand its efforts to safeguard communities and our environment,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Budget is policy and this is a clear investment in the health of New Mexicans and their environment.”
NMED’s budget is a combination of state general fund, federal funding, and revenues collected for various permits and licenses. Starting July 1, 2021, the general fund portion of NMED’s budget will increase from $13.1 million to $15.9 million – an increase of $2.8 million. The remainder of NMED’s budget is $77.5 million (federal funding and revenues collected for permits/licenses).
The $2.8 million increase in general fund is allocated across key NMED program areas as follows:
- $1.4 million is allocated to the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau to expand its staffing and work for the first time since 1981. NMED’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau investigates workplace deaths, amputations, electrocutions, burns and other injuries. There are approximately 20 workplace fatalities and 2,400 workplace injuries that tragically impact New Mexico families annually. In 2019, New Mexico’s worker fatality rate was 77% higher than the national average. Throughout the pandemic, NMED Occupational Health and Safety Bureau conducted more than 30,000 COVID-19 rapid responses which kept close to 9,000 businesses open, 300,000 employees protected and countless New Mexico families safe.
- $894,400 is allocated to NMED’s Drinking Water Bureau which provides support to and oversight of over 1,000 public drinking water systems serving nearly all 2 million New Mexicans.
- $247,600 is allocated to assist with core operating expenses (e.g. human resources, information technology) and support public access and assistance to NMED’s resources and data. In 2020, NMED handled 1,274 records requests (IPRA requests), assisted 234 constituents with formal inquiries and provided thousands of hours of technical assistance.
- $200,000 is allocated to NMED’s solid and hazardous waste bureaus to permit and inspect over 2,600 businesses that produce and manage infectious and toxic wastes in communities throughout New Mexico.
- $100,000 is allocated to assist with key contractual services related to air quality improvements. In addition to NMED’s $93.4 million budget, the Department also received approximately $9.8 million
- for special projects in non-recurring state funds as follows:
- $3.0 million to restore funding for air quality permitting and enforcement.
- $2.5 million to undertake projects that protect and restore the environment across New Mexico.
- $1.6 million to modernize and integrate our data systems to integrate information and improve transparency of public records.
- $1.42 million to leverage federal funds for the clean-up of superfund hazardous waste sites.
- $600,000 to assist public water systems with drinking water sampling and analysis.
- $500,000 to support on-going coronavirus work.
- $180,000 for the cleanup of the Pecos mine.
Winfield Solutions LLC Cited for Ammonia RMP Violations
EPA has reached a settlement with Winfield Solutions LLC, doing business as Omnium, to resolve an alleged violation of the federal Clean Air Act Risk Management Program
regulations at the company’s fertilizer manufacturing and distribution facility in Dodge City, Kansas. As part of the settlement, the company will pay a $83,975 civil penalty.
According to EPA, Omnium is subject to Risk Management Program regulations because of the location and storage of over 20,000 pounds of aqueous ammonia in concentrations over 20% at the facility. The regulations require facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to develop a risk management plan that:
- Identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident
- Identifies steps a facility is taking to prevent an accident
- Spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur
These plans provide valuable information to local fire, police, and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
Aqueous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure may result in skin corrosion or irritation, serious eye damage or irritation, or respiratory or skin sensitization. A respiratory sensitizer is a substance that will induce hypersensitivity of the airways after inhalation. A skin sensitizer is a substance that will induce an allergic response following skin contact.
After reviewing Winfield Solutions’ facility records, EPA determined that the company failed to submit and implement a risk management plan to prevent the release of aqueous ammonia. In response to EPA’s findings, Winfield Solutions took the necessary steps to return the facility to compliance.
Winfield Solutions LLC is a subsidiary of Land O’ Lakes and operates multiple chemical manufacturing facilities throughout the country. In 2018, EPA fined another Winfield Solutions facility in St. Joseph, Missouri, for violations of the Risk Management Program regulations.
EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks that they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur per year at regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities.
Four New England Facilities Cited for EPCRA Violations
Four New England facilities have reported publicly on their use of certain chemicals, creating a safer environment for the public, as a result of EPA investigations and enforcement. All four facilities quickly corrected their non-reporting when notified of their oversight.
Companies and facilities are required to report annually on their use of certain chemicals and substances under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The reports are filed in EPCRA's Toxic Release Inventory
(TRI) database, which is available to the public. Complying with EPCRA's and TRI requirements helps ensure that communities are informed about chemical usage that may affect public health and the environment.
"To inform the public and protect communities, EPA requires companies and organizations that produce, manage or store certain chemicals to report this information every year. Complying with this reporting is an essential part of protecting peoples' health and for emergency preparedness," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro.
St. Albans Creamery, LLC, a facility located in St. Albans, Vermont and a subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., processes milk and other dairy products. St. Albans agreed to pay a settlement penalty of $58,765 for three alleged violations of TRI reporting. A 2017 TRI report for nitric acid was due by July 1, 2018 and two 2018 TRI reports for nitric acid and nitrate compounds were due by July 1, 2019. St. Albans filed all three missing reports in May 2020, after being contacted by EPA.
Westfield Electroplating Company, a Westfield, Mass. based company that electroplates, anodizes, colors, and finishes metals and formed products for the aerospace and defense industries, agreed to pay a settlement penalty of $55,862 to resolve claims by EPA that it failed to submit TRI reports for nitric acid, nitrate compounds and cyanide compounds at its facility for 2018.
Nichols Portland, LLC agreed to pay a settlement penalty of $36,943 to resolve claims by EPA that it failed to timely submit TRI reports for both copper and nickel processed at its Portland, Maine facility in 2018. The facility uses powdered metals to manufacture small parts and pump components. Nichols Portland was required to file 2018 TRI reports for copper and nickel by July 1, 2019. The company filed the reports for their facility ten months later in April 2020 after being contacted by EPA.
First Light Technologies, Inc., a Poultney, Vermont based ultraviolet lamp production company, agreed to pay a settlement penalty of $23,558 to resolve claims by EPA that it failed to timely report more than ten pounds of mercury that the facility had processed in 2018. The company manufactures custom ultraviolet germicidal lamps and bulbs for the air and water purification industries. First Light was required to file a TRI report for mercury by July 1, 2019. The company filed the report ten months later in April 2020 after being contacted by EPA.
Under federal TRI regulations, companies that use certain listed chemicals must report their chemical usage
each year to EPA. This information serves as the basis for the Toxic Release Inventory, which is a collection of data that can be reviewed by communities, government and industry. Because the information is available to the public, companies have an incentive to reduce harmful chemical use and improve their environmental performance. TRI reporting informs surrounding communities about a facility's toxic chemicals that could potentially harm public health and the environment.
NDEE To Hold Public Meetings on Proposed Changes to Title 129 Nebraska Air Quality Regulations
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will hold four meetings on the Proposed Changes to Title 129 Nebraska Air Quality Regulations.
These meetings are intended for the regulated community and stakeholders, as well as the general public. Both in-person and virtual attendance options will be available.
The purpose of this meeting is to provide public outreach on the proposed revisions to Title 129 – Nebraska Air Quality Regulations. NDEE staff will be available to address questions and comments regarding the proposed revisions; attendees are encouraged to submit questions and comments in advance (no later than a week before each meeting) to the NDEE Air Quality program, NDEE.firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposed revisions to Title 129 implement Executive Order No. 17-04 on Regulatory Reform, streamline and clarify existing provisions, and adopt changes to state and federal law. Regulatory streamlining and language modernization revisions have been proposed for all chapters. The most notable proposed changes include
- comprehensive restructuring of the regulation format,
- allowing the agency Director to issue Class II operating permits for a term that exceeds 5 years,
- addition of sections that outline allowable pre-permit construction activities and contents of a completed construction permit application,
- allowing for disposal by incineration to include contraband materials from law enforcement operations
- removal chapters and appendices that restate contents of state statutes, regulations, or general legal principles that were previously repealed, are no longer applicable, or have been replaced by a state plan.
Once finalized, the proposed regulations will be placed on public notice for a hearing before the Environmental Quality Council.
A draft copy of revised Title 129 and an overview of the proposed revisions are available on the NDEE Proposed Rules and Regulations webpage at http://dee.ne.gov/Press.nsf/Rules.xsp
. Additional documents, such as a Question and Answer document, will be made available on this page as they are developed.
Register to attend online:
If you wish to attend online
- Go to NDEE Proposed T129 Nebraska Air Quality Regulations:
- Click "Register.”
- On the registration form, enter your information and then click "Submit.”
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at email@example.com
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