OSHA has identified and amended several provisions of the regulation in order to improve efficiency in implementing these internal procedures. The final rule:
"Classrooms and open-space offices present a special challenge because of their relatively large occupant density, which can lead to a higher chance of person-to-person cross infection in the space via airborne transmission as well as through direct or indirect contacts," Zhang says. "As schools and businesses are making plans to reopen, how can the risk of such cross infection be minimized or prevented?"
The coronavirus disease is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Some people without symptoms are able to spread the disease without knowing that they have it.
Dr. Zhang, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Building Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratory, writes that source control, ventilation and air cleaning - and combinations of all three - can offer important tools in preventing the spread of COVID within indoor spaces.
"The latter is more challenging in open space office or classroom settings in which air is typically well mixed," Zhang writes. "To reduce the number of virus-containing aerosols emitted to the space from any possible virus carriers present, universal face masking, as well as hand sanitizing before entering the space is essential."
"Mechanically ventilated classrooms and offices typically have about 20 percent of their air supplied from outdoors, and the rest is recirculated air. This is done to save heating and cooling energy while maintaining acceptable levels of IAQ," Zhang says. "To reduce the risk of the SARS CoV-2 virus infection, the outdoor ventilation rate should be increased to the maximum operational capacity of the building ventilation system, which can be two or more times of that under the normal operation mode per the existing standard."
He also writes that any recirculated air needs to be filtered with HEPA filters or MERV 14 filters, to minimize cross-contamination. Zhang says that proper air distribution is essential for making sure the filtered air is reaching the people where they are. He says, "this is an area so far has been largely neglected in existing guidelines or recommended practices for reducing the SARS CoV-2 virus infection."
He points out that most classrooms and open plan offices in the US use mixing ventilation (MV) for fresh air delivery. Air diffusers in MV are typically located close to the ceiling level, but Zhang recommends that air supply should be brought in through ground ventilation. The difference is that filtered air from the ceiling mixes with the exhaled breath of people who could be asymptomatic carriers of COVID.
He said to prevent filtered air becoming contaminated, it should be pumped into a room through ground-level vents. Zhang recommends using "displacement ventilation," which simply delivers the air supply at the floor level but exhausts it through vents in the ceiling.
At the building level, high efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters in the recirculated or mixed air duct can reduce the cross contamination between rooms and increase the total clean air delivery rate (outdoor plus filtered air) for diluting the virus concentration in the ventilated space.
Standalone room air cleaners with HEPA filters can also be used as a supplementary measure to further reduce the concentration of virus in the occupied space. Research has shown a range of clean air delivery rate (CADR) from 100 to 470 CFM with a median cost of $361 based on a comprehensive survey of off-the-shelf air cleaners available from the most popular online shopping sites. The results were consistent with an earlier laboratory study in which 6 portable air cleaners were tested for both particulate and volatile organic compounds removal performance. Zhang says that an air cleaner with a CADR of 425 CFM can double the clean air supply for 25 people in a classroom or open plan office.
Zhang says this can be considered as a cost-effective supplementary measure for rooms where total ventilation airflow rate is insufficient. However, for spaces with displacement ventilation (DV), a room air cleaner should only be used with caution so that the desirable airflow pattern of DV is not disturbed.
Zhang writes that these IAQ strategies can be used and implemented across multiple scales from an entire building to a room to an individual's cubicle or personal space. In his editorial, Dr. Zhang also includes a table that shows the efficiency of different combinations of IAQ strategies and the associated costs.
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 August or September, 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.
Public Health Air Quality Act Introduced
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the Public Health Air Quality Act of 2020.
The bill would require the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at facilities contributing to high local cancer rates and other health threats from dangerous pollutants. Joining Blunt Rochester and Duckworth as original sponsors of the bill were Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“In the midst of a global health pandemic which attacks the respiratory system, we’ve seen in incredibly stark terms the compounding dangers of polluted air for front-line communities. But the truth is that these communities have been subject to unsafe air for decades and have suffered the long-term health consequences and complications because of it,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The first step in protecting these communities is figuring out what pollutants they are currently exposed to. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and that is what we are fighting for with this bill. I’m proud to join with Senator Duckworth and House & Senate Environmental Justice leaders for this aggressive expansion of our national air quality monitoring program.”
“Black Americans and other communities of color are dying at disproportionate rates during this pandemic, in part because of the long-term, cumulative health consequences and complications associated with toxic air pollution from facilities located in their neighborhoods,” said Sen. Duckworth. “We must do everything we can to protect these fence-line and front-line communities, which is why I’m proud to work with U.S. Representative Blunt Rochester on this important legislation that would help assess the pollutants they are currently exposed to by expanding our national air quality program during this critical time in our nation.”
“Knowledge is power. Acting on the data provided by the Public Health Air Quality Act, we can reverse environmental injustices in frontline communities. It can empower those most impacted by air pollution to hold polluters accountable,” said Rep. Barragán. “As lawmakers, we can use this critical data to fight for greater investment to clean up the air and strengthen public health in the frontline and fenceline communities that suffer from dangerous air pollution.”
“Not only are frontline and fenceline communities being hardest hit by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but they have also faced the greatest burdens of environmental injustice and structural racism for generations—negatively impacting the health, safety and wellbeing of far too many families,” said Rep. Jayapal. “I’m proud that the Public Health Air Quality Act will expand air quality monitoring in these communities and require public reporting of findings so we are able to turn this unprecedented moment of devastation into real, transformative change.”
“With African-Americans being 75 percent more likely to live near facilities that emit toxic air pollutants, it is clear that systemic racism is not limited to police brutality and the criminal justice system,” said Rep. Rush. “Clean air and clean drinking water are basic human rights. That’s why today I am proud to stand with my colleagues in introducing the Public Health Air Quality Act, which will take critical steps to addressing these inequities by requiring EPA to more aggressively monitor facilities for toxic air pollutants. I am immensely grateful to my colleagues Rep. Blunt Rochester and Senator Duckworth for leading the charge on this important issue.”
“The COVID-19 crisis underscores what the science has shown for decades: dirty air is deadly, increasing risk of respiratory illness, cancer, and heart problems. Frontline and fenceline communities, who are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, must be able to depend on the EPA to closely monitor their air and provide accurate and transparent data to combat the impact of air pollution on their neighborhoods,” said Rep. McEachin. “I am pleased that this bill will expand air quality monitoring and make public air quality data to ensure that all communities have clean air.
The Public Health Air Quality Act of 2020 would:
- Require the EPA to implement immediate fenceline monitoring for toxic air pollutants at facilities contributing to high local cancer and other health threats from dangerous pollutants like ethylene oxide, chloroprene, and formaldehyde within 4 months for at least a two-year period. Air monitoring data and any actions taken using the data must be made publicly available. EPA must update emission test methods and emission factors if necessary based on new air data.
- Ensure that fenceline monitoring and continuous emission monitoring are core components of national emission standards for chemical, petrochemical, and other sources of fugitive toxic air pollution to assure compliance with pollution limits, and so that communities never again have to wonder what is in their air. EPA must issue rules to implement the best available method of fenceline monitoring and corrective action in the high threat source categories with fugitive emissions within one year, applying at least the fenceline monitoring method used at petroleum refineries and where needed to assure compliance or protect public health, using more protective monitoring methods such as summa canisters and optical remote sensing or real-time monitoring technology.
- Require a rapid expansion of the NAAQS or national ambient air monitoring network through the addition of at least 80 new NCore multipollutant monitoring stations in communities where this is most needed to protect people with asthma and other health conditions and from COVId-19. EPA must also assess and report on the status of the entire network and a plan to address all failing monitors and must perform repair and maintenance at broken or failing monitors where this is most needed.
- Deploy at least 1,000 new air quality sensors in communities affected by air pollution and COVID-19 to boost and complement the NAAQS monitoring network and increase communities’ access to information about air quality.
Administrative Law Judge Upholds OSHA Citations and Penalties to Manufacturer that Falsely Claimed Violations’ Abatement
An administrative law judge with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld citations and penalties from OSHA against Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC, a custom hardwood-flooring manufacturer that falsely claimed to have corrected previously cited hazards. The judge’s decision also orders the company to pay $166,265 in penalties for all violations.
In 2012, OSHA cited Timberline’s predecessor entity, Timberline Hardwood Dimensions Inc., for failing to train forklift operators adequately, and develop and implement lockout/tagout, hearing conservation and chemical hazard communication programs at the Fulton, New York, plant. At that time, Thomas Vavra, a co-owner of both the predecessor and the current company, signed abatement certifications declaring the company had corrected those violations.
In 2018, an OSHA inspection found the company had not corrected the violations and the abatement claim was false. OSHA cited
Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC for willful violations for those uncorrected hazards. Timberline contested the citations to the review commission. The judge issued a decision
on July 9, 2020, affirming each of the willful citations, and seven serious citations from the 2018 inspection for violations including a locked emergency exit, unguarded machines and several electrical hazards.
“Employers have a duty to take effective actions to correct hazards and prevent their recurrence, and provide truthful information as to hazard abatement,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson in New York.
“The U.S. Department of Labor pursues appropriate legal actions to ensure that employers comply with the law, including when they refuse to correct workplace hazards that expose their employees to potentially fatal or disabling injuries,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.
OSHA’s Syracuse Area Office conducted the inspection. Senior Trial Attorney Susan Jacobs of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the case for OSHA.
House Adopts Amendment to Block Weakening of PM 2.5 NAAQS
The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the Environment and Interior Division of H.R. 7608, proposed by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Congressman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), and Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) which would block EPA from finalizing an insufficiently protective National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM 2.5, or soot. EPA’s proposed standard fails to protect our communities, particularly low-wealth and communities of color from harmful air pollution during a global health pandemic. These communities are already experiencing a disproportionately high death rate from COVID-19 made worse by decades of exposure to toxic pollution.
“Environmental Justice communities have long experienced the consequences of exposure to air pollution caused by soot. The EPA’s job is to protect our health and the environment. This standard proposed by the EPA is simply insufficient, especially during this moment,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester, a member of the Energy & Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee. “I’m pleased that the House adopted my amendment to send the EPA back to the drawing board to come up with a standard that will actually protect Americans from air pollution. I’m thankful to my colleagues, Congressman Tonko, Congressman McEachin and Congressman Rush for joining me in offering this amendment, and look forward to the passage of the Environment and Interior Appropriations package.”
“Study after study has proven that dirty air leads to increased rates of cancer, aggravated asthma, and heart problems – all pre-existing conditions that elevate individual’s susceptibility to COVID-19. Still, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a respiratory disease, Trump’s EPA refuses to lead and adopt the stronger standards we need to ensure the safety of our communities,” said Rep. McEachin. “We must take action now to strengthen standards for particulate matter and I am pleased to stand alongside Congresswoman Blunt Rochester and Chairman Rush for in the fight for cleaner air and a healthy environment.”
“The EPA knows and has acknowledged the disproportionate impact air pollution has on communities of color, yet Administrator Wheeler continues to make decisions that put the health of these already vulnerable groups at risk,” said Rep. Rush. “It defies logic that Trump’s EPA would not do everything in its power to improve air quality, especially amidst an ongoing pandemic that preys on weakened respiratory systems. I am grateful to Representatives Blunt Rochester and McEachin for standing shoulder to shoulder with me in our collective fight against environmental racism and injustice.”
EPA’s own analysis estimates that even if the air quality across the country met the current standard – which it doesn’t – that approximately 50,000 Americans per year would still suffer from early deaths due to the effects of particulate matter. Exposure to air pollution can cause both acute and chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and lung cancer.
Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program Publishes Emergency Temporary Standard for Covid-19
Commissioner C. Ray Davenport announced on July 27 that the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program has published the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS- CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220. The ETS was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on July 27, 2020 and became effective immediately.
Other effective dates: With the exception of 16VAC25-220-80.B.10 regarding training required on infectious disease preparedness and response plans, the training requirements in 16VAC25-220-80 take effect on August 26, 2020. The training requirements under 16VAC25- 220-80.B.10 take effect on September 25, 2020. The requirements for 16VAC25-220-70 regarding the preparation of infectious disease preparedness and response plans take effect on September 25, 2020.
On July 15, 2020, the Virginia Safety and Health Code Board adopted the ETS to take effect immediately upon publication because the Board determined that SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 related hazard and job task employee exposures constitute a grave danger to employees in Virginia that necessitate the adoption of an emergency temporary standard to protect Virginia employees from the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. The ETS is designed to establish requirements for employers to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus to and among employees and employers. The ETS applies to all employees and employers under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program.
The ETS will expire within six months of its effective date, upon expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency, or when superseded by a permanent standard, whichever occurs first, or when repealed by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board. Publication of the ETS also constitutes notice that the Board intends to adopt a permanent standard within a period of six months.
NuLegacy Gold Corporation NV is First Exploration Company to Purchase Conservation Credits
The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is excited to announce that NuLegacy Gold Corporation NV and Crawford Cattle LLC are partnering to protect vital sagebrush habitat in Eureka County. This formalized partnership agreement was established through Nevada’s innovative sagebrush conservation tool called the Conservation Credit System (CCS), a market-based platform overseen by the stakeholder-driven Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Program. This is the first CCS partnership agreement by an exploration company that does not own an operating mine.
NuLegacy Gold’s CEO, Albert Matter, stated, “We are proud to be the first Nevada mineral exploration company to purchase conservation credits from the State’s Conservation Credit System. Our Company’s drilling activities are carefully designed to avoid or minimize directly impacting greater sage-grouse habitat wherever possible. The purchased conservation credits add an extra measure of habitat protection.
NuLegacy Gold has purchased 44 credits to help offset and mitigate potential environmental impacts to greater sage-grouse habitat stemming from the company’s Avocado exploration drilling project in Eureka County, Nevada. The credits that NuLegacy Gold purchased from Crawford Cattle will ensure that the high-quality habitat on the Crawford family’s ranch will be protected and preserved for years to come.
Shane Hall, Crawford’s Ranch and Operations Manager added, “It’s been a pleasure partnering with NuLegacy, resulting in both entities contributing to the preservation of sagebrush habitat and the western ranching way of life. Additionally, we’d like to thank our partners in the Nevada Conservation Credit System and KCOE Isom Consulting who have worked tirelessly to make this a win for the State of Nevada, Greater Sage-grouse habitat, ranching, and the mining industry.”
The Greater Sage-grouse is considered an “indicator species,” emblematic of the health of sagebrush habitat it shares with more than 350 other kinds of native wildlife, including world-class populations of mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and golden eagles. Proactive and coordinated sagebrush conservation measures, such as the Nevada CCS program, are essential to ensure the long-term health and viability of the sensitive Greater Sage-grouse bird species, both in Nevada and across the West.
Over the last couple years, Nevada’s CCS program has underpinned the protection and preservation of more than 20,300 acres of sagebrush habitat across the Silver State’s rangelands through coordinated, partnership-driven efforts. As one of Nevada’s most successful and proactive sagebrush conservation programs, the CCS provides opportunities for landowners and industry to be partners in conservation while allowing for sustainable and responsible multiple-use in the sagebrush ecosystem.
New York Set to Adopt PFAS Protections
The New York State Department of Health affirmed that the state is set to adopt drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS – two man-made chemicals linked to cancer and other health issues. Once enacted, the newly implemented drinking water standard, at 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 10 ppt for PFOS, will be among the strongest in the nation.
“These drinking water standards are among the toughest in the nation and a necessary step in the fight to protect New Yorkers against this health crisis. But make no mistake: there are thousands of these toxic ‘forever’ chemicals that pose considerable risks to public health and the environment. New York is no doubt in a stronger position today than it was yesterday, but it must go even further by regulating PFAS as an entire class – not merely as individual chemicals,” said Rich Schrader, New York Policy Director at NRDC.
Don’t Plant Unsolicited Seeds
People across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
Anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official
or APHIS State plant health director
. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
At this time, the USDA doesn’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment. Steps you should take:
- Place the seeds and related materials in a Ziploc bag and then place the sealed Ziploc bag into a suitably sized envelope. Mail the seeds and related materials to the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Office at the following address with your name, address, email and phone number: USDA APHIS PPQ 97 Barnes Road, Unit 200 Wallingford, CT 06492
- If you are unable to ship the seed or have already planted the seed, please email Chuck Baker at Charles.firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, phone number and email address.
- If you have already planted the seed, please await guidance from USDA as to disposal of the seed and associated soil. Do not put seed or plant material in a compost pile.
In Massachusetts, the State Department of Agricultural Resources MDAR encouraged state residents that receive or have received an unsolicited package of seeds to not plant the seeds and immediately complete a form
on MDAR’s website to provide important information to state plant regulatory officials.
NIOSH Workshop on Assessment of Respiratory Protective Devices
This workshop, sponsored by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and planned by the Committee on Current Issues in the Assessment of Respiratory Protective Devices, will provide an opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas between professionals, policy makers, manufacturers, and users regarding the occupational and non-occupational use of respirators outside of workplace respiratory protection programs. These discussions will include an exploration of current respirator assessment and approval processes; existing gaps in respiratory protection for target groups with situation-specific needs, such as outdoor workers, wildland firefighters, and the public; research avenues; and best practices for communicating guidance to these populations.
Topics to be discussed in the workshop will include:
- Lessons learned from 100 years of respiratory protection in the U.S. (e.g., respiratory protection programs in occupational settings);
- The current NIOSH Respirator Approval Program including factors influencing respirator approval input, output, and timelines;
- Conformity assessment models from the United States, private industry and third-party organizations, and other countries for respirator use by workers and the public;
- Situation-specific needs (e.g., forest fires, urban pollution) to protect different target populations (e.g., firefighters, outdoor workers, diplomats, and general public);
- Gaps in respiratory protection for outdoor workers and the general public along with potential research and communications avenues to address those gaps; and
- Current respiratory protection guidance and recommendations to these user groups, as well as the coordination of that guidance.
The workshop is Tuesday, August 4 at 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM ET and Wednesday, August 5 at 10:30 AM – 3:30 PM ET. An agenda can be found at this link
. Registration is available online
Spanish-Language Online Training for Ladder Safety from Oregon OSHA
Oregon OSHA has launched a free Spanish-language online training course to help employers and workers understand and practice ladder safety.
The course, which features many video demonstrations, walks viewers through everything from the types and dangers of ladders to regulatory standards and safe practices.
“It takes solid planning and training to address the life-threatening hazards that come with using ladders while on the job,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA. “But language barriers can pose challenges to tackling such hazards. That is why we’re offering this new tool to help break down those barriers.”
The course includes interviews with Oregon OSHA and industry experts who discuss a variety of ladder safety issues. Those issues include choosing the right type of ladder for the job; heeding the ladder manufacturer’s instructions; addressing the common hazards associated with using ladders; and following ladder safety rules.
In fact, ladder use was the seventh-most cited Oregon OSHA standard in 2019, with 135 total violations and initial penalties totaling $105,615. The standard covers multiple requirements, including that side rails must extend at least three feet above an upper landing surface; ladders must be maintained free of slipping hazards; and they must be periodically inspected for visible defects.
Attorney General Stops Fraudulent Broker from Selling PPE
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement that will stop a fraudulent broker of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies from selling PPE and coronavirus disease 2019- (COVID-19) related test kits as New York and the rest of the nation continue to battle the spread of COVID-19.
A proposed consent order and judgment
— submitted to New York State Supreme Court — seeks to resolve a lawsuit brought by Attorney General James last month against Frank Borgese and his company, IMPACT Medical & Surgical Solutions (IMPACT Medical), by barring Borgese and IMPACT Medical from selling PPE and COVID-related test kits until January 2023, and only allowing them to resume the business of selling PPE thereafter if each posts a $100,000 bond. Borgese and IMPACT Medical attempted to take advantage of the desperate need for PPE at the start of the COVID-19 crisis by trying to sell governments and health care systems N95 and KN95 respirator masks which they did not have and could not deliver.
“When IMPACT Medical sold non-existent PPE, they put people’s health and lives at risk,” said Attorney General James. “This reprehensible conduct is as illegal as it is immoral. Our actions today send a message to all purported dealers: New York will not allow this type of fraud or deception to stand, and we will fight it across the nation. I urge defrauded purchasers of PPE and other COVID-related supplies to contact my office immediately, and I urge all New Yorkers to continue to follow our tips on how to avoid potential scams before purchasing PPE.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced New York State to mobilize unprecedented resources and develop innovative solutions to provide PPE and other supplies to essential workers of the war against this deadly virus, and it’s disgusting frankly that some companies tried to exploit that situation for their own financial gain,” Governor Cuomo said. “I applaud the Attorney General for taking decisive action to protect New York from IMPACT’s half-baked attempt to sell non-existent PPE.”
Last month, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against Buffalo-based Borgese and IMPACT Medical
, alleging the two fraudulently solicited the state of New York, as well as hospitals and health care systems across the country, with fake offers of critically-needed PPE, including 3M N95 respirator masks. In some cases, Borgese and IMPACT Medical obtained purchase orders and substantial up-front payments from hospitals and health care systems, but still failed to deliver the promised PPE and were subsequently required to make large refunds. In the lawsuit filed last month, Attorney General James requested and was granted a temporary restraining order, barring Borgese and his company from selling PPE as the COVID-19 pandemic continued.
As part of today’s proposed consent order and judgment — which is pending court approval — Borgese and IMPACT Medical admitted that neither of them is or was ever an authorized 3M distributor, that they did not possess the 3M-branded N95 respirator masks or KN95 respirator masks they advertised for sale, and that they could not meet the delivery times they provided for N95 or KN95 respirator masks. The proposed consent order and judgment also prohibits Borgese and IMPACT Medical from engaging in various deceptive or fraudulent practices in violation of Executive Law § 63(12), and bars them from selling PPE and COVID-related test kits until at least January 2023. Thereafter, Borgese and IMPACT Medical may only resume selling PPE and COVID-related test kits if they each post a $100,000 bond, and would be required to provide periodic reports to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) with details for any orders placed by a customer for PPE or COVID-related testing kits.
The OAG thanked the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Office of General Services for their assistance with this case. Attorney General James’ lawsuit against Borgese and IMPACT Medical is part of a broader investigation by the OAG into fraudulent and deceptive solicitations by sellers of PPE seeking to take advantage of the supply-chain disruptions and increased demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The OAG has been working with multiple agencies within New York state and with local agencies throughout the state, as well as with private hospitals and health care systems and with large manufacturers of PPE to identify and investigate those who are engaging in fraudulent and deceptive practices to sell significant quantities of desperately-needed masks, gowns, and other coronavirus-related supplies.
Any municipalities, hospitals, health care systems, or other large-scale purchasers of PPE and other coronavirus-related supplies that believe they have been targeted by someone charging excessive prices or using fraudulent or deceptive practices to sell COVID-19 related supplies, can report it to the OAG by calling 800-771-7755, or by forwarding any suspicious email solicitations to the OAG at email@example.com
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General David E. Farber and Senior Counsel Bryan P. Kessler, with assistance from Legal Analyst Iuliia Belyshkina — all of the Taxpayer Protection Bureau, and all under the supervision of Steven J. Glassman, Special Counsel in Economic Justice. Investigator Melissa Kaplan assisted with the investigation as well. The Taxpayer Protection Bureau is run by Bureau Chief Thomas Teige Carroll and Deputy Bureau Chief Scott Spiegelman and is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Federal Court Orders OSHA to Provide Data
Public Citizen prevailed last week in a two-year fight
with OSHA over access to work-related injury and illness data. A federal court has ordered OSHA to provide Public Citizen with data submitted to the agency by 237,000 employers.
Public Citizen used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request the information, which employers record on OSHA Form 300A and submit to the agency electronically pursuant to a rule titled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” (the Electronic Reporting Rule). Public Citizen sued OSHA to obtain the records after the agency withheld the records in full, claiming that they contained confidential commercial information exempt from disclosure under FOIA.
In June 2020, a magistrate judge recommended
that the court enter judgment for Public Citizen, finding that the records are not confidential. OSHA had until July 21 to object to the judge’s recommendation. Rather than object, OSHA agreed to produce the records in full, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order
requiring that OSHA produce the requested records by August 18.
“Workplace injury and illness data should not be hidden from public view,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney with Public Citizen. “Release of Form 300A data, as required under FOIA, will have a significant impact on efforts to protect worker health and safety. The records should provide important information to help researchers identify the causes of work-related injuries and illnesses and develop solutions.”
MPCA Closes 118 Enforcement Cases in First Half of 2020
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has concluded 118 enforcement cases in the first half of 2020. Environmental enforcement investigations often take several months, in some cases more than a year, to complete the investigation and issue final enforcement documents to regulated parties. Penalties are calculated using several factors, including harm done to the environment, the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws, or how responsive and cooperative a regulated party was in correcting problems.
Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process. Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support, and information on the steps and tools necessary to bring any company, individual, or local government back into compliance.
Enforcement cases with net penalty amounts of $5,000 or more
Company or individual(s)
Net penalty amount
Air quality: Particulate matter emissions more than three times company’s permitted limit at the biomass conveyance area. PM10 (particles smaller than ten microns) emissions more than twice permitted limit at truck unloading station. PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 microns) emissions more than ten times its permitted limit at truck unloading station.
Underground storage tanks: Hired to install E-85 compliant equipment at eight gas stations, but much of the equipment was not E-85 compliant. Also failed to install required overfill protection devices.
Air quality: Failed to keep records of spray booth filter inspections, quarterly facility inspections, and actions to correct damaged booth filters. Failed to maintain an operation and maintenance plan onsite and to install proper filters for spray-booth exhaust.
Air quality: Didn’t conduct required, daily visible-emissions checks for four years. Failed to keep pressure drop ranges within permitted limits in parts of the facility and didn’t correct the problem when directed. Failed to conduct periodic inspections, maintain proper records, and annually calibrate monitoring equipment.
Air quality: Failing to record amount of natural gas combusted in a boiler and spray dryer. Operated a wet blend bag dump without also operating a fabric filter. Installing and operating new equipment without first notifying MPCA. Operated several fabric filters, wet scrubbers, and venturi scrubbers outside permitted air quality ranges.
Industrial wastewater: Exceeded permitted wastewater discharge limits 16 times from 2017 to 2019. Allowed wastewater discharges to drain onto adjacent property and failed to notify MPCA or State Duty Officer.
Solid waste: Burned waste without a permit, including prohibited materials such as insulation, sheet rock, plastics, demolition debris, and trash. Failed to satisfactorily collect and transport its solid waste to an authorized facility.
Air quality: Exceeded air emissions limits several times in late 2017. Failed to properly document air quality control equipment inspections and maintenance and to create an employee training program.
Air quality: Failed to submit emissions testing plans and reports and equipment certifications and evaluations on time. Failed to operate within permitted pressure drop limits. Allowed emissions control equipment to operate below required efficiency.
Emergency management and municipal wastewater: At a mobile home park, raw sewage was allowed to discharge beneath two mobile homes. Park owner didn’t try to clean up the discharges, or notify the State Duty Officer or MPCA.
Marvin Lumber and Cedar Company
Air quality: Failed to submit equipment inspections and certification reports, notify the MPCA prior to a construction project, and properly track fuel type and usage in equipment. Performance stack testing not conducted on time.
POET Biorefining - Glenville, LLC
Air quality: Carbon monoxide emissions more than double permitted limit in April 2019. Incorrectly installed equipment caused pressure drop readings outside permitted limits over several months.
Dale A Walsh
Underground storage tanks: Failed to purge gasoline and vapors from a 6,000-gallon UST before removing it.
City of Karlstad
Municipal wastewater: Failed to properly document and submit discharge monitoring reports and sample pre-discharge and discharge parameters. Submitted phosphorus management plan more than four years late.
Bunes Septic Service, Inc.
Subsurface sewage treatment systems: Improper land application of sewage. Failed to provide required information to homeowners after servicing and pumping septic systems.
Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management
Air quality: For two months in 2019, emitted pollutants at 66% higher rate than permit allows from solid waste incinerator.
USG Interiors LLC
Air quality: Emitted particulates at more than twice their permitted limit in late 2019.
Heartland Corn Products
Industrial stormwater: Exceeded industrial wastewater discharge limit for 12 pollutants between March and Oct 2019.
MN Dept of Transportation
Construction stormwater: Failed to include proper controls in the required stormwater control plan for a construction project. Failed to properly inspect sediment and erosion controls following rain events.
Ceramic Industrial Coatings
Air quality: Installed and operated equipment without applying for required amendment to their air quality permit.
Bay State Milling Company
Air quality: Failed to check exhaust stack for visible emissions daily, properly install monitoring equipment, complete inspections and maintain records, or maintain pressure drop readings.
Irene T. Schneider Trust
Construction stormwater and solid waste: Drained sediment-laden water into a nearby wetland. Conducted a construction project without required permit. Failed to install proper sediment and erosion controls during construction or conduct inspections. Improper disposal of municipal solid waste.
Construction stormwater: Drained sediment-laden water into a nearby wetland. Conducted a construction project without required permit. Failed to install proper sediment and erosion controls during construction or conduct inspections.
Twin City Container, Inc.
Air quality: Failed to maintain equipment inspection and calibration records and to conduct required inspections. Failed to record use of VOC-containing materials.
Koda Energy LLC
Air Quality: In March of 2018, company failed an emissions performance retest on a biomass conveyance. Test showed emissions of very small particulates at a rate 480% over permitted limit.
Birds Eye Foods LLC
Industrial wastewater: Seven unauthorized wastewater releases between 2014 and 2017. Failed to collect & document required samples, train staff on stormwater management & conduct required facility inspections.
City of Northfield
Municipal wastewater: Unauthorized release of 5,500 gal wastewater from facility to a storm sewer that drains to Cannon River.
Enforcement cases with net penalty amounts of less than $5,000
- Saint Paul Brass Foundry Co., for air quality violations in St. Paul.
- Supervalu, Inc., for air quality violations at eleven locations.
- Clean Site LLC, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations in Montevideo.
- Eastside Storage - Alexandria LLC, for construction stormwater violations in Alexandria.
- Minnesota Corrugated Box, Inc., for air quality violations in Albert Lea.
- Johnson Materials, Inc., for industrial stormwater violations in Clearwater.
- Strata Corp., for solid waste violations in Dilworth.
- Michael Foods, Inc., for construction stormwater violations in Gaylord.
- Miller Enterprises of Waseca, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations in Waseca.
- Mark Lee Excavating, for construction stormwater violations in Alexandria.
- Minn-Dak Asphalt, Inc., for industrial wastewater violations in Thief River Falls.
- Norsemen Motorcycle Club, for construction stormwater violations in Wagner Township.
- Northern Property, LLC, for construction stormwater violations in Lindstrom.
- Maschler Septic Consultants, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations in Brainerd.
- Archon Woodworks, Inc., for air quality violations in Wood Lake.
- M&J Construction Co. – Nonmetallic, for air quality violations in Newfolden.
- Central Specialties, Inc., for construction stormwater violations in Greenwald.
- Roger Kriese, for solid waste violations in Mendota Heights.
- Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, for air quality violations in Mora.
- Mark Johnson, for solid waste violations in Rochester.
- Rajala Mill Co., for air quality violations in Bigfork.
- Marshall Concrete Products, Inc., for industrial wastewater violations in Minneapolis.
- Mercy Hospital - Unity Campus, for air quality violations in Fridley.
- Aggregate Industries, for industrial wastewater violations in Glyndon.
- City of La Crescent, for municipal stormwater violations in La Crescent.
- Auto Body Center, for air quality violations in Rochester.
- ERP Iron Ore LLC - Plant 4, for air quality violations in Grand Rapids.
- City of Saint Louis Park, for industrial wastewater violations in St. Louis Park
- Park Rapids Aviation Paint Facility, for air quality violations in Park Rapids.
- DS Manufacturing, Inc., for hazardous waste violations in Pine Island.
- Ogston's Body & Paint, for air quality violations in Duluth.
- Element Fleet Corp., for air quality violations in Eden Prairie.
- Oronoco Auto Parts, Inc., for air quality violations in Oronoco.
- Cedar Creek CPA, CMA, for air quality violations in Aitkin.
- Northeast Technical Services, Inc., for air quality violations in Grand Rapids.
- Winchester Interconnect Hermetics LLC, for industrial wastewater violations in Fridley.
- Amanda Swartzentruber and Eli J. Swartzentruber, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations in Canton.
- Lakehead Trucking, Inc., for subsurface sewage treatment system violation in Duluth.
- Robert Thompson, for solid waste violations in Chatfield.
- Carstens Industries, Inc., for air quality violations in Melrose.
- Darrel Frauendienst d/b/a Gaylord Sanitation Roll Off, for construction stormwater violations in Gaylord.
- Gerald Hohlen d/b/a Hohlen Excavating & Sewer, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations in Bock.
- Hearth and Home Technologies, Inc., for air quality violations in Lake City.
- Hunke Fuel Station LLC, for construction stormwater violations in Wadena.
EPA to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water Plumbing Materials
EPA announced a final rule to reduce lead in plumbing materials used in public water systems, homes, schools and other facilities. This action marks a significant milestone in implementing the Trump Administration’s Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. Along with other actions taken by EPA and our federal, state and local partners, this final rule will help protect public health—especially children’s health—from the risks associated with lead exposure.
“The Trump Administration is committed to providing clean and safe drinking water for all Americans,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The Lead-Free rule is a critical step in EPA’s efforts to substantially improve children’s health and further the agency’s Action Plan goal of reducing children’s exposure to lead sources.”
The Lead-Free final rule significantly limits the lead content allowed in plumbing materials (e.g., pipes, fittings, and fixtures) used in new construction and replacement of existing plumbing. Specifically, the new rule reduces the percentage of lead content allowed in these materials from eight percent to 0.25 percent in accordance with the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. The final rule also requires that manufacturers or importers certify that their products meet the requirements using a consistent verification process. As a result, this new rule will reduce lead in drinking water and assure that states, manufacturers, inspectors and consumers have a common understanding of “Lead Free” plumbing.
Today, EPA is also announcing that it has sent the final Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to the Office of Management and Budget. This will be the first major update to the LCR in nearly three decades. On October 10, 2019, EPA proposed
a proactive and holistic approach to improving the current LCR — from testing to treatment to replacing lead service lines to telling the public about the levels and risks of lead in drinking water. These improvements would further reduce lead in drinking water and help assure that water is less corrosive to older, lead containing plumbing materials.
The Lead-Free final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and the certification requirement must be implemented within three years.
$14,038 Penalty for Air Quality Violations at South Minneapolis Light-Rail Facility
The Metropolitan Council’s Metro Transit paid a civil penalty of $14,308 for air quality violations at its Franklin Avenue light-rail operations and maintenance facility in south Minneapolis. The facility is located in an environmental justice area of concern
, where more than 70 percent of residents live in poverty and more than a third speak a language other than English. These factors make it more likely that residents will be disproportionately affected by pollution.
The facility operates under an MPCA-issued permit that regulates air emissions of pollutants; operations at the facility include painting light-rail cars. The permit requires filters and other methods to control emissions from painting, and scheduled checks to make sure the control equipment is working properly.
An MPCA inspection in June 2019 found that the facility didn’t:
- Keep records of the daily filter checks that are required when the paint booth was operating
- Document required performance checks of control equipment components
- Have a required plan for corrective action when there were problems with control equipment
In addition to the civil penalty, Metro Transit agreed to take corrective action to prevent further emissions violations, including ensuring all filters are inspected daily, and periodically during painting operations, and updating its operations and maintenance plan for painting operations.
MPCA regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with regulatory requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner. For more information on how the MPCA works to ensure environmental justice, see the MPCA web site
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations. 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 via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training
, call 800-537-2372 to find out how you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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