According to the article, this labeling requirement also applies to used oil drip pans that are placed underneath equipment or machinery. The exception to this requirement is when the collecting pan is attached to or is part of the machinery. In this case, the pan is considered part of the machinery and would not meet the definition of a container or tank subject to labeling requirements.
Personal Care Products as Pollutants
Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) include any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. PPCPs comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including over-the-counter therapeutic substances, fragrances, and cosmetics.
Studies have shown that these materials are present in our nation's waterbodies. Further research suggests that some can cause ecological harm. The EPA is investigating this issue and developing strategies to help protect the health of both the environment and the public. To date, scientists have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from PPCPs in the environment.
PPCPs have probably been present in water and the environment for as long as humans have been using them. The substances are not entirely absorbed by our bodies, and are excreted and passed into wastewater and surface water. With advances in technology that improved the ability to detect and quantify these chemicals, we now can begin to identify what effects, if any, these chemicals have on human and environmental health.
EPA has developed a web site is dedicated to the scientific issues associated with the occurrence of PPCPs in the environment.
- - what are PPCPs and what is the environmental concern?
- - frequent questions about PPCPs
- - brief descriptions of EPA PPCP research projects
Florida to Increase Environmental Penalties
The new guidelines will result in stiffer penalties by taking a tougher stance on the most serious environmental violations statewide. In 2006, DEP enforcement cases with monetary penalties assessed numbered more than 1,300.
“The changes to DEP’s guidelines provide a stronger deterrent for the most egregious violations, ultimately reducing the number of significant infractions that occur,” said DEP Secretary Sole. “I want to change the idea that ‘penalties are a cost of doing business’ by emphasizing the agency’s tough stance against violators.”
DEP has maintained penalty guidelines since the mid-1980s that provide direction to staff on how to calculate penalties for enforcement cases. In 2001, the Florida Legislature passed the Environmental Litigation Reform Act (ELRA) to provide a clear, efficient process to address less significant violations, which amount to approximately 90% of DEP’s enforcement cases annually. ELRA has been successful by decreasing the average time it takes DEP to resolve litigation in the less significant cases – reducing the average length of time from two years to four months – and providing a more efficient basis for negotiating settlements in cases involving penalties of $10,000 or less.
The deterrent value of penalties for significant violations has not kept pace with Florida’s economy and has therefore diminished over time. Updates to the penalty guidelines also address violations not covered under ELRA. The stiffer penalties would apply to approximately 10% of enforcement actions taken by the agency, affecting 50 to 75% of the total penalty amounts assessed by DEP for major violations. DEP will take a tougher stance by increasing penalties and providing clearer guidance on pursuing enforcement for significant infractions that:
- Involve hazardous waste and/or hazardous substance violations
- Result in economic benefit to a company or individual
- Are intentional and/or habitual
- Cause significant harm to the environment
- Continue over an extended period of time
There are six major changes to the guidelines that will complement the penalties pursued under ELRA and provide a greater deterrent for the most significant violations:
Hazardous waste violations
The “penalty matrix” currently used to calculate penalties for violations of the storage, treatment, or disposal of hazardous waste range from $100 per day (minor violations) to $25,000 per day (major violations). The penalties for hazardous waste violations will be significantly increased to match the recent increases adopted by EPA, which range from $500 per day (minor violations) to $32,500 per day (major violations). Additional instructions will be added to the penalty matrix to help identify circumstances in which the maximum amount allowed by law, $50,000 per day per violation, should be pursued.
Based on an analysis of DEP enforcement actions between 2002 and 2005, hazardous waste violations account for approximately 18 % of the total enforcement actions. The total assessed penalties during this same time period for hazardous waste violations was $4.75 million (17%) of the department’s assessed penalties. The proposed increase in the penalty matrix is expected to result in an increase of the assessed value for significant violations (those in which penalties exceed $10,000) by approximately 30%.
Hazardous substance violations
A penalty matrix for violations involving the release of hazardous substances (as defined in Florida law) is now part of DEP’s penalty guidelines. The matrix currently used to calculate penalties for violations involving hazardous substances includes a maximum penalty of $10,000 per day, which is the same amount used for violations that do not involve hazardous substances. With these changes, DEP will pursue penalties up to a maximum of $25,000 per day, the highest penalty allowed by law, for this type of violation. The proposed change would result in higher penalties for violations involving hazardous substances, consistent with the intent of Florida law.
Although the current guidelines allow for assessment of the full penalty matrix amount for each day violations occur, that option is rarely used. Most multi-day penalties are calculated by using the penalty matrix amount for the first day of the violation and a much smaller amount for each day the violation continues. The change will provide guidance so that in certain circumstances the full penalty matrix amount will be used for at least the first 30 days the violation continues.
Multi-day penalties will be pursued in all cases in which
- Daily economic benefit is gained
- Daily adverse impacts to the environment are occurring
- Prompt action to stop or mitigate the violations was not taken
Recovery of economic benefit obtained from violations
Although the current guidelines allow DEP to calculate and factor in the economic benefit for any violation, that option is rarely used. This change will require DEP to include economic benefit in all penalty calculations when it can be practically determined, and to establish guidance to help in that determination.
For example, if a developer conducted dredging and filling of a wetland without a permit so that a shopping center could open sooner than it would have had a permit been obtained, the cost savings generated by the early opening of the shopping center would be an economic benefit to the developer. Without factoring in the economic benefit, the penalty calculated for three days of illegal dredging and filling might be $2,000 per day for a total of $6,000. If the developer saved $24,000 by opening the shopping center early due to the dredging and filling without a permit, a penalty that factored in the economic benefit gained by the developer would be $6,000 for three days of illegal dredging and filling plus $24,000 for the economic benefit, for a total of $30,000.
Deliberate or chronic violations
The current guidelines provide a range of penalties in each matrix box. This change will provide additional guidance on when to calculate penalties based upon the top of the range in the matrix box (or the highest amount). Examples include violations that are deliberate or chronic, which should result in consistently higher penalties to deter these major infractions.
Penalty matrices vs. ELRA penalty schedules
This change will update the penalty guidelines to provide guidance on which penalty matrices or schedules should be used to calculate penalty amounts. With this change, the most appropriate penalty matrix, and not the ELRA penalty schedules, will be used for cases that involve penalties that exceed $10,000.
The penalty amounts provided in the ELRA penalty schedules are typically lower than the penalty amounts provided in DEP’s penalty matrices. This proposed change would only affect cases in which the total calculated penalty using the ELRA penalty schedules exceeds $10,000. This proposed change would result in higher penalties being pursued for many violations.
New Anti-Idling Regulations in Rhode Island and New Jersey
The regulations, similar to those in both Massachusetts and Connecticut, are intended to protect health and the environment and to conserve fuel. They were promulgated to provide clarification of, and assist in enforcement of, the anti-idling law that took effect in 2006. DEM held two workshops for affected parties, as well as a public hearing on the issue in March.
Under the law and the new regulations, which further define the law, idling of on-road diesel powered vehicles is limited to five consecutive minutes in any 60 minute period and non-road diesel engines are prohibited from any unnecessary idling, except as provided in the exempt situations.
The regulations do exempt diesel engines from the idling prohibition under the following conditions: vehicles operating yet motionless due to traffic conditions or as required by law enforcement officials; vehicles idling to ensure health and safety of drivers and passengers in extreme weather conditions; idling to power necessary auxiliary equipment; idling when required during maintenance and inspection activities; idling of public safety, emergency, and military vehicles while in emergency operating or training modes; armored vehicles during loading and unloading; airfield maintenance vehicles while at state owned or operated airports; and vehicle mounted auxiliary power units or generators providing heat, air conditioning, or electrical power.
Diesel exhaust is hazardous to human health, is carcinogenic, and is particularly harmful to children and seniors. Tiny particles in diesel exhaust can lodge deep within human lungs, where they can trigger asthma attacks and stunt lung growth in children, and contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and heart attacks in seniors. Asthma is reaching epidemic proportions in Rhode Island and is the most common chronic disease in children, responsible for the most school absences in Rhode Island.
Vehicle idling also wastes money. On average, an idling truck burns one gallon of fuel per hour. A locomotive or other heavy-duty engine may burn anywhere from three to eleven gallons per hour.
The anti-idling law (RI General Law 31-16.1) is enforceable by state and local police and parking enforcement personnel, as well as by DEM and the RI Division of Motor Vehicles. Violations carry a penalty of up to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for each succeeding offense.
New Jersey’s anti-idling law becomes effective on July 25.
Trucking Firm Fined $5,000 For Failing To Immediately Report Sulfuric Acid Release
H. Krevit & Company, a hazardous materials trucking firm based in New Haven, Conn., has agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty to the Commonwealth for violating state regulations following a Dec. 5, 2006, release of sulfuric acid at Friendly Ice Cream Corporation's wastewater treatment plant at 33 Kent Street in Springfield.
On the morning of Dec. 5, 2006, an outside aboveground acid storage tank was overfilled during a delivery of sulfuric acid by H. Krevit & Sons. An estimated 440 gallons of sulfuric acid were released into an outdoor concrete containment dike surrounding the tank. Sulfuric acid is a corrosive and reactive chemical used in the wastewater neutralization process.
State regulations require that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) be notified as soon as possible, but in no case greater than two hours after the Krevit driver became aware of a spill. Massachusetts requires reporting of spills of sulfuric acid in excess of 50 pounds, which is approximately 3 gallons. The sulfuric acid remained in the containment area overnight from December 5 to December 6, 2006.
During the morning of December 6, 2006, the wastewater treatment plant operator notified Friendly's management, which in turn contacted local emergency response personnel and MassDEP. Hazardous materials teams responded to the property to assess and ensure that the sulfuric acid was not reacting. A hazardous materials cleanup contractor retained by Friendly's removed the sulfuric acid from the containment dike, eliminating the potential hazards. Friendly's completed all cleanup requirements mandated by MassDEP in a timely manner.
In addition to agreeing to pay the $5,000 penalty, Krevit also agreed to retrain its drivers on spill reporting and cleanup procedures and provided documentation of the retraining that Krevit drivers received shortly after the initial spill incident.
"The legal obligation to report spills helps to ensure that the public is protected, the environment is protected and the cleanup is done promptly and correctly," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "Failure to report spills in a timely fashion diminishes the effectiveness of the first-class HAZMAT response system we have in Massachusetts."
In May 2007, MassDEP entered into a consent order with Friendly Ice Cream Corporation for also failing to notify MassDEP within two hours of the spill. Friendly's paid a $5,000 penalty and will implement a supplemental environmental project valued at $16,821 that includes employee retraining and contributing toward equipment and emergency upgrades for the Town of Wilbraham and City of Springfield.
EPA Agreement on Admiral Home Appliances Superfund Site
The EPA announced last week that a consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on July 16, 2007, providing for the cleanup of contaminated soils, sediments, and groundwater at the Admiral Home Appliances Superfund Alternative Site in Williston, Barnwell County, South Carolina.
Under the terms of the consent decree, Dixie-Narco, Inc., Maytag Corporation, and Rheem Manufacturing Company are agreeing to conduct and fund the cleanup selected in EPA’s Record of Decision, issued on Sept. 28, 2006, and to pay all of EPA’s interim and future costs with respect to the site. The remedy, which is estimated to cost more than $5.4 million, will result in the excavation and off-site disposal of over 3,500 cubic yards of contaminated soils and sediments from a former lagoon and wetland discharge area, wetland and stream bank restoration, and cleanup of contaminated groundwater.
“This settlement shows that effective results can be achieved when parties choose to focus their efforts on cooperation, protecting the public, and cleaning up the environment,” said Jimmy Palmer, EPA regional administrator. “I am pleased the parties have agreed to remedy the problem in a proactive manner.”
The Admiral Home Appliances Site is located on County Road 65 in Williston, South Carolina, in a rural area of Barnwell County. The site is composed of two areas divided by County Road 65. The first area is west of County Road 65 and is an active soft drink vending machine manufacturing facility currently owned and operated by Dixie-Narco. The second area is east of County Road 65 and was the site of the former Imhoff Septic System. Operations at the site began in 1966 when Chill Chest, Inc. began operating a freezer manufacturing plant at the Site. Industrial wastewater discharges were sent to the Imhoff System from 1966 through 1982.
Prior operations, including operation of the Imhoff System, have caused the site to become contaminated with benzene, carbon tetrachloride, dichloromethane, 1,1-dichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, trichloroethylene, mercury, and nickel in groundwater; chromium, nickel, and zinc in hydric soils and sediments; chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc in surface water; and Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, chromium, iron, nickel, and zinc in the equalization lagoon.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval. A copy of the consent decree can be obtained at EPA’s regional office in Atlanta.
Equistar Chemicals to Spend $125 Million to Reduce Pollution
Equistar Chemicals LP, headquartered in Houston, Texas, will spend more than $125 million on pollution controls and cleanup to address a myriad of air, water, and hazardous waste violations at seven petrochemical plants in Texas, Illinois, Iowa, and Louisiana, the Justice Department and the EPA announced.
The consent decree, lodged in federal district court in Illinois, requires Equistar to invest in comprehensive control and operational measures expected to significantly reduce air, water and hazardous waste pollution from the seven manufacturing facilities. The states of Iowa, Illinois and Louisiana have all joined the federal government in the settlement.
“Business and industry play a large part in our ability to protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “We are pleased that Equistar has taken responsibility for its environmental actions and is correcting its processes. EPA will continue working with our state and federal partners to ensure diligent enforcement of our environmental laws.”
The plants which are subject to the settlement are Equistar’s facilities in Morris, Ill.; Clinton, Iowa; Lake Charles, La. (currently inactive); Channelview, Texas; Chocolate Bayou, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; and La Porte, Texas.
The case was initiated as a result of inspections conducted by the EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center (NEIC) at Equistar’s Channelview, Texas, and Morris, Ill., facilities. During the inspections, the EPA identified extensive Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Clean Water Act violations.
The inspectors also found that Equistar had violated laws requiring the company to immediately report spills and releases of hazardous substances to federal and state emergency response centers. Once Equistar was notified of the violations, the company agreed to address potential compliance issues at all seven of its petrochemical plants.
Equistar has already initiated action to correct the regulatory violations identified and will continue to implement enhancements to its air, water, and hazardous waste programs to address widespread deficiencies. Under the first 18 months of the settlement, Equistar is required to conduct a number of separate environmental audits of its operations to identify any additional problems, report its findings and proposed corrective measures back to the EPA and state regulators, and fix the problems.
In addition, Equistar has agreed to monitor and fix leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants, such as benzene, from process units; to change out equipment that uses ozone-depleting substances; and to reduce flaring of VOCs. Equistar will also pay stipulated penalties under the consent decree for flaring based on the amount of pollution released to the atmosphere.
“Today’s settlement provides Equistar with the opportunity both to address past failures and to be pro-active in making company-wide changes to reduce the likelihood of future violations at these plants,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Equistar’s decision to work cooperatively with the Department of Justice, EPA, and the state plaintiffs benefits everyone – dollars that would otherwise be spent on litigation can now be used for environmental improvements.”
“Equistar will be the first in the petrochemical industry to adopt these stricter environmental measures, many of which will go beyond what the regulations would require,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Through these investments in environmental compliance, Equistar has a chance to turn its performance record around, and ultimately become a leader in the industry by running a cleaner, less polluting facility.”
At its Channelview facility in Texas, Equistar will install a wastewater treatment system that will reduce harmful air emissions by at least 26 tons per year. In addition, the company will eliminate the improper land disposal of an estimated 150,000 tons of D018 benzene-contaminated hazardous waste per year.
In addition to the pollution controls, Equistar will pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million (to be divided among the federal government and participating states), and spend $6.56 million on federal and state supplemental environmental projects. The projects include a system to capture hazardous air emissions from process vents at the Channelview, Texas, facility, and state projects that include: (1) the purchase of emergency response equipment and newer, cleaner school buses; (2) funding for the Mississippi River Tourism Center; and (3) hazardous waste cleanup activities in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
According to the EPA, VOCs can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity. They can also cause damage to ecosystems and reduce visibility.
Las Vegas Mining Company Fined $18,060 for Reporting Violations
The EPA has settled with a Las Vegas mining and asphalt manufacturer for $18,060 after it failed to submit toxic chemical reports, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Las Vegas Paving’s Lone Mountain facility, located approximately one mile west of I-215 and Lone Mountain Road, failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amount of benzo(g,h,i)perylene and polycyclic aromatic compounds released at its facility in 2003 and 2004.
“Facilities that use toxic chemicals must follow the EPA’s reporting rules so that area residents and emergency response personnel are informed of possible chemical hazards in the community,” said Nate Lau, the associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This is a good example of how the EPA and industry can work together. Las Vegas Paving corrected the violations and complied with federal law—making the information available for public use.”
The company corrected the reporting violations within 80 days of the EPA’s June 2006 inspection.
Federal community right-to-know laws require facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than 10 pounds of benzo(g,h,i)perylene or 100 pounds of polycyclic aromatic compounds to report releases of these chemical on an annual basis to the EPA and the state. Las Vegas Paving exceeded the thresholds in 2003 and 2004, and allegedly failed to submit release reports to the EPA.
Benzo(g,h,i)perylene and polycyclic aromatic compounds are suspected carcinogens that are bioaccumulative, do not break down easily in the environment, and can be transported long distances in the atmosphere. Long term exposure to these persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals may cause reproductive and developmental disorders.
The reporting of data to the Toxics Release Inventory () is required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, passed in 1986. The law requires companies using any of 650 listed toxic chemicals over certain thresholds to report their annual chemical releases to the EPA. The information is then compiled into a national TRI database that is accessible to local emergency planning personnel and the general public.
The program has been credited with arming communities with valuable knowledge and encouraging facilities to reduce their releases of toxic chemicals into the environment through source reduction, or pollution prevention measures
Environmental Benefits from Green Computers
Numerous environmental benefits of buying high-performance, environmentally friendly computer equipment are highlighted in the first annual report issued by the Green Electronics Council this week. The report, called "The Environmental Benefits of the Purchase or Sale of EPEAT Registered Products in 2006," states that the purchase of more than 36 million EPA approved computer desktops, laptops, and monitors has led to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Some highlights from the report show that the computer equipment has helped to:
- Save 13.7 billion kWh of electricity, enough to power 1.2 million U.S. homes for a year
- Save 24.4 million metric tons of primary materials, equivalent to the weight of 189 million refrigerators
- Prevent 56.5 million metric tons of air emissions (including greenhouse gas emissions)
- Prevent 1.07 million metric tons of carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to removing 852,000 cars from the road for a year
- Prevent 118,000 metric tons of water pollutant emissions
- Reduce the amount of toxic materials used by 1,070 metric tons, equivalent to the weight of 534,000 bricks, including enough mercury to fill 157,000 household fever thermometers
- Avoid the disposal of 41,100 metric tons of hazardous waste, equivalent to the weight of 20.5 million bricks
EPEAT (Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool) -registered computer products have reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury to better protect human health, and are easier to upgrade and recycle, in addition to meeting the government's Energy Star guidelines for energy efficiency. By buying EPEAT-registered products purchasers are significantly contributing to reducing the environmental impacts of their computers.
Business Roundtable Climate Change Policy Position
After reviewing the science, the policy statement concludes that "the consequences of global warming for society and ecosystems are potentially serious and far-reaching" and that "steps to address the risks of such warming are prudent now even while the science continues to evolve." The Roundtable's new policy statement proposes a series of benchmarks and principles against which climate change policy proposals should be measured.
"Today marks the first time that a broad cross-section of business leaders from every sector of the U.S. economy have reached consensus on the risks posed by climate change and the need for action," said John J. Castellani, president, Business Roundtable. "The Business Roundtable's diverse membership stands ready to work with policymakers on proactive solutions that address climate change while sustaining economic growth."
The climate change position was developed through a consensus-driven process led by Business Roundtable's CEO members that included outreach to senior members of Congress and leading climate scientists. Chad Holliday, chairman and CEO, DuPont, and chairman of Business Roundtable's Environment, Technology, and the Economy Task Force, commented, "The thinking of U.S. CEOs on climate change is evolving significantly. A growing number of CEOs view it as a major issue for their companies and many of us have called for timely U.S. action."
The policy statement calls for "collective action that will lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a global basis, with the goal of slowing increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and ultimately stabilizing them at levels that will address the risks of climate change."
As a starting point for efforts to achieve this goal, Roundtable members agree that:
- More companies should commit to making emission reductions a priority and report on their progress in achieving these reductions
- An improved national registry for reporting emissions and documenting reductions would stimulate additional progress by industry
- Government policies should encourage early action and investment to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency
- Increasing energy efficiency is a proven and cost-effective strategy for reducing emissions and should be a priority for business and government
- The development and deployment of energy-efficient, low GHG technologies is vital to long-term emission reductions
- RD&D (research, development and deployment) investment in new low-GHG technologies must be increased in the public and private sectors to levels commensurate with the climate challenge
- Investment in climate science must be continued at a high level so that we can better understand and predict the magnitude and timing of future warming
Roundtable members have differing views on the policy tools (e.g. cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, emission or product standards) under consideration by policymakers, but are proposing a series of benchmarks and principles against which climate change policy proposals by the U.S. Congress or the Bush Administration should be measured. The Roundtable will provide a sounding board for policymakers on the pros, cons and impacts of different proposals as the legislative process moves forward.
Since 2003, Business Roundtable has led the landmark Climate R.E.S.O.L.V.E. (Responsible, Environmental Steps, Opportunities to Lead by Voluntary Efforts) program that encourages member companies to take voluntary action to reduce, avoid or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. Climate RESOLVE has spurred greater awareness of climate issues in the business community and motivated many companies to develop policies and strategies for managing its emissions. One-hundred and two companies are now participating in Climate RESOLVE.
Four Communities to Pilot New Federal Environmental Health Partnership
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and CDC/ATSDR Director Dr. Julie Gerberding signed a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU), signaling their intentions to develop collaborative strategies that assist communities coping with health problems that may be related to environmental hazards.
Under the agreement signed last week, four communities will partner with experts from EPA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and CDC's sister agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registries (ATSDR) to pilot a new initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity of communities to identify and effectively address environmental protection and public health services. The four communities are Cerro Gordo, Iowa; the Cherokee Nation, Okla.; Savannah, Ga.; and Boston, Mass. The communities, which range from urban centers to rural areas, were selected for the project because they had strong local leadership in addressing community issues, experience in working with a wide range of private and public sector partners, and a track record of successfully addressing local health or environmental issues.
"By capitalizing on the strengths of our agencies, EPA and CDC are empowering our local partners with the resources, tools and expertise they need to address their local environmental challenges," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Through this collaboration, we're putting communities in the driver's seat, so they can deliver their residents real environmental results."
Dr. Gerberding noted that CDC, ATSDR and EPA have a long history of using community partnerships to address environmental health problems.
"When we improve the health of an environment, whether that environment is a community or a workplace, we improve the health of the people who live or work in that environment," said Gerberding. "Many times, we can greatly improve people's health and well being by making changes in the immediate environment. We also know that identifying and putting in place helpful changes often requires collaboration and cooperation among a lot of agencies and people. This agreement provides a very tangible means of making that happen."
CDC, ATSDR and EPA independently have long supported local organizations and governments dealing with complex, localized environmental health issues, such as lead in homes, pollution-induced asthma, and drinking water contamination. Both agencies also have grant and other programs focused on community assistance.
In 2005, for example, EPA developed the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program, a $4 million competitive grant and technical assistance program for community-based organizations across the country.
In 2000, CDC and the National Association of City and County Health Organizations developed a community environmental health assessment tool for local health departments. This tool has since been distributed to more than 1,000 agencies. The 13-step Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health (PACE-EH) guides communities through the process of identifying local environmental health problems, developing action plans, and evaluating outcomes.
Citgo Found Guilty of Environmental Crimes
Citgo Refining and Chemicals Co. was found guilty on July 17 of three misdemeanor criminal violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by a judge in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Various species of migratory ducks were killed after being coated with or ingesting oil as a result of landing in two open top tanks located at Citgo's Corpus Christi East Plant Refinery. From the air, the birds are attracted to the tanks, which appear to be ponds, and must be fitted with nets or other equipment to prevent the birds from entering or landing in the oil. The MBTA implements international treaties that protect birds migrating between countries and taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds is unlawful, unless permitted by regulation.
Citgo Petroleum Corp. and its subsidiary Citgo Refining were each convicted on June 27 of two counts of violating the Clean Air Act by operating these same open top tanks without installing the proper emission controls required by federal law. The tanks were used as oil water separators but were not equipped with either a fixed-roof vented to a control device or a floating-roof as required by the CAA.
Citgo Petroleum and Citgo Refining and its environmental manager were originally indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 9, 2006. The indictment contains four felony counts of violations of the CAA against Citgo Petroleum and Citgo Refining, five misdemeanor counts of violations of the MBTA against Citgo Refining and Philip Vrazel; and one felony count of false statements against Citgo Petroleum, Citgo Refining and Philip Vrazel. The court has yet to determine whether the government will be able to go forward on the false statement charge.
Environmental manager Philip Vrazel was acquitted on five counts of violating the MBTA.
Sentencing of Citgo Petroleum and Citgo Refining is scheduled for Oct. 18, 2007 for the CAA and the MBTA convictions. Each violation of the MBTA is punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $15,000 per bird. For the CAA violations, the company also faces fines of up to $500,000 per count or twice the gross economic gain (whichever is greater) and five years of probation.
San Diego Gas and Electric Convicted for Improper Asbestos Removal
The charges relate to the company's removal of asbestos from 9.23 miles of underground piping at the former Encanto Gas Holder facility in Lemon Grove, Calif., in 2000 and 2001.
In addition, Kyle Rhuebottom, the project manager for the prime contractor on the site, and David Williamson, a company employee, were each found guilty of one count of violating asbestos work practice standards.
According to court documents, the company knew the piping at the Encanto facility was coated with asbestos, based on analytical testing. Once the company decided to sell the property, they solicited bids for demolition and removal of the asbestos-coated piping. Despite knowing that the piping coating contained asbestos, the company began removing the pipe wrap without treating it as regulated asbestos containing material.
The jury found that the company, Rhuebottom and Williamson failed to contain the asbestos or place it in a leak proof container. The jury also found that the company failed to provide adequate notice in advance of the asbestos removal, failed to adequately wet the asbestos during removal, and falsely claimed that a company employee was a certified asbestos consultant.
Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibers that may become airborne when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed. When these fibers get into the air they may be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems, including death.
The defendants are scheduled to appear before United States District Judge Dana M. Sabraw, Southern District of California, on Sept. 6, 2007 for further proceedings.
Trilla Steel Drum Fined over $100,000 for Hazardous-Waste Violations
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Trilla Steel Drum Corp., 2959 W. 47th St., Chicago, on alleged violations of federal hazardous waste regulations. The company will pay a $101,627 penalty.
Trilla manufactures stainless steel drums. In the process it generates waste paint, which is temporarily stored for later transport, treatment, and disposal elsewhere. The company was cited for violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requirements for managing hazardous waste. Specifically, EPA cited Trilla for unauthorized treatment of hazardous waste and failure to determine if the waste was hazardous, and to keep containers closed. Trilla is now in compliance with EPA regulations.
Crest Industries Fined $200,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Crest Industries Ltd., 1066 Industry Road, New Lenox, Ill., on alleged violations of federal hazardous waste regulations. The company will pay a $200,000 penalty.
Crest manufactures paint. In the process it generates waste paint and solvents, which are temporarily stored for later transport, treatment, and disposal elsewhere. The company was cited for violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requirements for managing hazardous waste.
Crest Industries is now in compliance with EPA regulations.
Du Pont Agrees to Spend $66 Million to Reduce Air Pollution at Four Plants
Du Pont will spend at least $66 million on air pollution controls at the plants and pay a civil penalty of $4.125 million under the Clean Air Act settlement. The states of Louisiana, Virginia, and Ohio joined the federal government in this agreement and will receive shares of the civil penalty.
“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to a level playing field and compliance with the law in the sulfuric acid industry,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s settlement shows the high level of cooperation possible among the federal government, our local and state partners, and industry when all are committed to compliance and meaningful improvement of the environment.”
At the Burnside plant in Darrow, the largest of the four, Du Pont will install state-of-the-art “dual absorption” pollution control equipment by Sept. 1, 2009, at an estimated cost of at least $66 million. At the other three plants, DuPont has the option of installing appropriate control equipment or ceasing operations to meet the new lower emission limits. The additional cost of installing control technologies at all of the remaining three plants, if Du Pont does so, is estimated to be at least $87 million. All four plants will meet their lower emission limits by March 1, 2012.
Du Pont is the second sulfuric acid manufacturer in the nation to agree to a company-wide global compliance agreement as part of an initiative under which the Justice Department and EPA expect to reach similar agreements with other sulfuric acid manufacturers. The first global sulfuric acid manufacturing compliance agreement was announced earlier this year with Rhodia Inc. As a result of the two settlements, this initiative has now garnered pollution control at 12 plants, which will eliminate a combined total of 32,000 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions per year. When fully implemented, the settlement with Du Pont will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from the four plants by approximately 90 percent.
Du Pont’s plants produce acid by burning sulfur, creating sulfur dioxide. The sulfur dioxide is then converted to sulfur trioxide, which combines with water to form sulfuric acid. Air pollution is emitted when unconverted sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid mist are released to the atmosphere. Children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung conditions are the most sensitive to sulfur dioxide.
The government’s complaint, filed with the consent decree, alleges that Du Pont made modifications to its plants which increased emissions of sulfur dioxide without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant. The settlement will ensure that future emissions will be reduced to a legally acceptable level.
The EPA is focusing on improving compliance among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing, glass manufacturing, and acid production industries.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Du Pont is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.
MassDEP Assesses $110,480 in Penalties for Five Asbestos Violation Cases in Western Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has levied $110,480 in fines against several individuals and companies in Western Massachusetts for violating the Commonwealth's air quality regulations pertaining to asbestos. The violations occurred in Springfield, Holyoke, Ludlow, and Pittsfield.
"Exposure to asbestos fibers poses a significant public health risk," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "Asbestos fibers that are contained or encapsulated and not subject to airborne release do not pose a health hazard; no laws or regulations require the removal of intact encapsulated asbestos-containing materials (ACM). However, it is essential that those who may disturb ACM, such as those undertaking renovations, adhere to the requirements regarding the proper management of asbestos."
Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP regional office for assistance.
Lone Tree Dairy Pays Penalty for Manure Storage and Other Violations
A large dairy north of Cottonwood has paid a $11,212 penalty for alleged violations involving a 23-million gallon manure storage basin and other operating requirements. During an August 2006 inspection of the Lone Tree Dairy, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff observed the basin in danger of overflowing and other violations of the dairy's operating permit.
Manure and wastewater from the 1,400-cow dairy had filled the basin to within inches of the top. Extra dirt had been piled at one corner in an attempt to prevent an overflow. Some of the permit violations included failure to conduct weekly inspections, lack of plans for on-site emergencies and dead animal disposal, unprotected waste feed and bedding piles, inadequate records of manure land application, and failure to follow the operation and maintenance plans.
Lone Tree Dairy has completed much of the work required in the agreement. Enough manure has been removed from the basin to lower the level. A consultant has been hired to develop a plan to improve the basin, which must be completed by the end of 2008.
The MPCA regulates the collection, transportation, storage, processing, and disposal of animal manure, and provides assistance to counties and the livestock industry.
A stipulation agreement such as this is one of the tools used to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities.
MDE, Attorney General Reach Settlement with Mettiki Coal to Curb Emissions
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Office of the Attorney General has filed a consent decree in Baltimore City Circuit Court to address air pollution violations that occurred at the Mettiki Coal facility in Oakland (Garrett County). Mettiki violated state air pollution requirements when its thermal coal dryer emitted sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere in excess of permitted levels.
“Sulfur dioxide leads to the formation of fine particles that impact public health,” said MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson. “Much of Maryland exceeds federal standards for fine particles. Fine particle pollution is a significant health issue. These requirements are designed to prevent future exceedances of sulfur dioxide levels at this facility.”
The decree requires Mettiki to pay a $150,000 civil penalty. Mettiki is required to conduct monthly inspections on the scrubber and to measure and record scrubber operational parameters continuously to ensure optimal performance of the pollution control equipment. If optimal performance levels are not met, Mettiki will be required to make improvements to the air pollution control equipment (scrubber) that controls the thermal coal dryer. Mettiki is also required to increase sulfur dioxide emission testing from annually to semi-annually on the scrubber system that controls the thermal coal dryer. If Mettiki fails a future sulfur dioxide test, the company must install additional air pollution control equipment.
“Mettiki Coal has been a repeat violator of Maryland’s air pollution laws,” said Attorney General Doug Gansler. “Working in partnership with MDE, we will continue to strictly enforce our clean air laws to protect the environment and the health of all Marylanders.”
Due to the nature and size of the emissions and violations of this case, and because of previous enforcement actions taken against Mettiki for similar violations, this case has been reported to the EPA as a High Priority Violator.
Toxic Heavy Metals Found in Packaging in Violation of State Laws
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has joined with seven other states in releasing the results of the first comprehensive report on heavy metals in packaging. According to the report prepared by the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH), 16 percent of retail packaging failed a screening test for toxic heavy metals and are likely in violation of state laws. Plastic packaging of products imported from China and other Asian countries were most likely to contain these toxic metals, including lead and cadmium, known environmental and health hazards.
With grant support from the EPA, the TPCH screened 355 packages for the presence of four restricted metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium) between October 2005 and February 2006 using a portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer. Aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and steel packaging materials were tested. Of the 19 states with toxics in packaging laws, eight states—California, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—collaborated on this study.
Flexible plastic bags made of polyvinylchloride (PVC) were among the packaging types most likely to contain lead and cadmium. Historically, these metals were used as inexpensive stabilizers to retard the degradation of plastics exposed to heat and ultraviolet light. The study found that over 60% of this packaging type did not comply with state toxics in packaging laws. Almost all of the flexible PVC samples were from products imported from Asia, according to the product label. This "heavy-duty" plastic is frequently used to package home furnishings, cosmetics, inexpensive toys, and pet supplies.
Inks and colorants used on plastic shopping and mailing bags were the other packaging materials with frequently detected heavy metals. Lead was most often found in the shopping bags that failed the screening test, but mercury and chromium were also detected in some samples.
Test results for one package, a plastic mail order bag, indicated that the package was almost 1% lead by weight. The elevated levels of the restricted metals again appear to be largely from packaging of imported products, where solvent-based inks that contain these heavy metals are still used.
"States like New Hampshire entered into enforcement mode only in cases where companies were unresponsive," said Sharon Yergeau of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. "We were willing to educate companies about the laws, but not willing to be ignored, which is a violation of the law. Companies are required to respond to state's requests for Certificates of Compliance within 60 days."
These state laws prohibit the sale or distribution of packaging containing intentionally added cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium, and set limits on the incidental concentration of these materials in packaging. Companies selling or distributing packaging that failed the screening test were notified of the test results and requested to certify compliance with state toxics in packaging laws, or to notify TPCH of non-compliant packaging and discontinue the sale and distribution of the packaging.
"We're concerned about the high incidence of violations of state toxics in packaging laws," said Peter Pettit of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and Chairman of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse. "The results of this study make it clear that toxic metals are still entering our solid waste and recycling streams through discarded packaging almost 15 years after 19 U.S. states passed laws prohibiting these substances in packaging in order to protect the environment and public health."
Some companies acknowledged that state toxics in packaging requirements had "fallen off the radar screen" over the years with dwindling state attention to the issue and increasing pressure to reduce costs to remain competitive. The study also found some companies thought they were taking all necessary steps to ensure the quality of packaging supplies, only to find out that their packaging was indeed tainted with heavy metals and in violation of state laws.
"The clearinghouse plans to undertake additional compliance screening projects, and companies can expect more aggressive enforcement of state toxics in packaging laws in the future," said David Westcott of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.
Penalties for non-compliance vary by state. In New Hampshire, for example, the penalties for violations of the Toxics Reduction law are up to $25,000 per violation for each day of continuing violation constitutes a separate violation.
Fine Assessed for Waste Hauling Violation
On June 22, Buck's Oil Company, Inc. of Romulus, MI admitted responsibility for a violation of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and was ordered to pay a civil fine of $2,000 and $210 in court costs by the 53rd District Court in Livingston County. The admission resolved a citation issued to Buck's Oil by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) resulting from an allegation that the company hauled liquid industrial wastes from a business without the required transportation manifest.
"Hazardous materials must be transported with the utmost concern for safety," said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester. "In emergency situations, first responders rely on these manifests for critical information about the materials being transported." This civil infraction is the result of the DEQ's inspection of records at a business being served by Buck's Oil.
NOAA Says Global Average Temperature Second Warmest on Record
The lack of precipitation led to widespread drought, which triggered an early start to the wildfire season, mounting crop losses and local drought emergencies. However, drought in the southern and central Plains gave way to heavy and persistent rains which led to devastating flooding from Texas to Kansas in June. Meanwhile, the global average temperature was the second warmest on record for the January-June six-month period.
U.S. Temperature Highlights
- For the contiguous United States, the first half of 2007 was the 18th warmest January-June since records began in 1895. The six-month mean temperature was 1.3 degrees F (0.7 degrees C) above the 20th century average of 48.4 degrees F (9.1 degrees C).
- Temperatures were much warmer than average from the mid-Atlantic and Midwest to the northern Plains and throughout the West. In the contiguous U.S. only Texas was cooler than average, while near-average temperatures were widespread across the South and Northeast. Alaska was 0.3 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) below the 1971-2000 mean for the January-June period.
- June 2007 was the 23rd warmest June on record, 1.4 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) above the 20th century average of 69.3 degrees F. The warmer-than-average June temperature helped increase residential energy needs for the nation.
U.S. Precipitation Highlights
- The year began with widespread severe drought in the southern and central Plains, Wyoming, the western High Plains, and northern Minnesota. Above average precipitation helped ease or end drought in many of these areas by mid year, but this was not enough to overcome an extremely dry winter and spring throughout most of the West. Meanwhile, much-below-average precipitation caused drought to develop in the Deep South.
- Four of the first six months of the year were wetter, or much wetter, than average in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The wet period was punctuated by heavy and persistent rains in June that produced devastating flooding in the region and the continued threat of flooding into early July. Monthly rainfall totals exceeded one foot in some locations.
- Much of the West and the South suffered from extreme drought conditions brought about by months of below average precipitation.
- An extremely low winter and spring snowpack throughout the West combined with above average temperatures in the spring and early summer set the stage for an early start to the wildfire season.
- It was the second driest January-June and driest April-June on record in the Southeast. By the end of June, 65 percent of the region was in drought. Alabama was hardest hit, with 86 percent of the state’s pasture and range lands in poor — or very poor — condition in early July, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The entire state was declared a drought disaster area.
- The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the second warmest on record for the January-June six-month period. Separately, the global January-June land-surface temperature was warmest on record, while the ocean-surface temperature was the sixth warmest in the 128-year period of record.
- For June, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the fourth warmest on record as neutral El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions contributed to an overall lower global ranking for the month.
- Above average temperatures covered much of the world’s land surfaces during the first half of the year. While some land areas in the Southern Hemisphere began the June-August winter season with below average temperatures, it was the warmest June on record at the South Pole.
Stay Cool While Protecting the Environment Even During Dog Days of Summer
This summer, you don’t have to let sweltering temperatures and sky-high energy bills cause a sweat. Just take a few simple energy-efficient steps to beat the heat while keeping more money in your pocket.
Here are specific steps that you can take:
- These bulbs use 75% less energy than regular bulbs.
- Remind your kids to shut off the light when they leave a room and the computer when they’re finished.
- Use room fans to reduce the need for air conditioning. Circulating air can make a somewhat higher temperature feel more comfortable so you can set the AC three to five degrees higher.
- Keep the thermostat at a constant, comfortable level. Lowering the thermostat below the desired temperature will not cool the home faster.
- Run appliances such as ovens, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers in the early morning or evening hours when it’s cooler outside.
- Keep shades, blinds and curtains closed. About 40% of unwan