June 14, 2021
The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced
that it intends to list the following chemicals as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65):
- Tetrahydrofuran (CAS RN 109-99-9)
- 2-Ethylhexyl acrylate (CAS RN 103-11-7)
- Methyl acrylate (CAS RN 96-33-3)
- Trimethylolpropane triacrylate, technical grade
This action is being proposed pursuant to. OEHHA has determined that each of these substances meets the criteria for listing by the State’s Labor Code listing mechanism. California Health and Safety Code section 25249.8(a) incorporates California Labor Code section 6382(b)(1) into Proposition 65. The law requires that certain substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) be listed as known to cause cancer under Proposition 65. Labor Code section 6382(b)(1) refers to substances identified as human or animal carcinogens by IARC. OEHHA has adopted regulations concerning these listings in 27 CCR 25904.
IARC has published on its website “IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 119. Some Chemicals That Cause Tumours of the Urinary Tract in Rodents," (IARC, 2019a
) and “IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 122. Isobutyl Nitrite, β-picoline, and Some Acrylates,” (IARC, 2019b
). IARC concluded that tetrahydrofuran, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate, methyl acrylate, and trimethylolpropane triacrylate, technical grade are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B) based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals (IARC, 2019a; IARC 2019b).
OEHHA is providing an opportunity for you to comment as to whether the chemicals identified above meet the requirements for listing as causing cancer specified in Health and Safety Code. Because these are ministerial listings, the Agency has said that comments should be limited to whether IARC has identified the specific chemical or substance as a human or animal carcinogen. Under this listing mechanism, OEHHA cannot consider scientific arguments concerning the weight or quality of the evidence considered by IARC when it identified these chemicals and will not respond to such comments if they are submitted 27 CCR 25904(c)).
Written comments must be received by July 26, 2021, to be considered. OEHHA recommends that comments be submitted electronically through our website at https://oehha.ca.gov/comments
, rather than in paper form.
EPA to Reexamine Particulate Matter NAAQS
EPA announced that the Agency will reconsider the previous administration’s decision to retain the particulate matter (PM) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which were last strengthened in 2012. EPA is reconsidering the December 2020 decision because available scientific evidence and technical information indicate that the current standards may not be adequate to protect public health and welfare, as required by the Clean Air Act.
“The most vulnerable among us are most at risk from exposure to particulate matter, and that’s why it’s so important we take a hard look at these standards that haven’t been updated in nine years,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is committed to ensuring this review, and other upcoming NAAQS reviews, reflect the latest science and public health data.”
The strong body of scientific evidence shows that long- and short-term exposures to fine particles (PM2.5) can harm people’s health, leading to heart attacks, asthma attacks, and premature death. Large segments of the U.S. population, including children, people with heart or lung conditions, and people of color, are at risk of health effects from PM2.5. In addition, several recent studies have examined relationships between COVID and air pollutants, including PM, and potential health implications. While some PM is emitted directly from sources such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires, most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles.
EPA’s 2020 Policy Assessment concluded that the scientific evidence and information support revising the level of the annual standard for the PM NAAQS to below the current level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter while retaining the 24-hour standard. The agency also received numerous petitions for reconsideration as well as lawsuits challenging the December 2020 final action.
EPA will move expeditiously to reconsider the decision to retain the particulate matter NAAQS, in a manner that adheres to rigorous standards of scientific integrity and provides ample opportunities for public input and engagement. As part of this process, the agency will develop a supplement to the 2019 Final Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) that will take into account the most up-to-date science, including new studies in the emerging area of COVID-related research.
This supplement will be reviewed at a public meeting by the chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), supported by a particulate matter review panel of scientific experts on the health and welfare impacts of PM. The CASAC and the PM panel will also review a revised policy assessment and formulate advice to the Administrator. As with all reviews, the public will have opportunities to comment on these documents during the CASAC review process, as well as to provide input during the rulemaking through the public comment process and public hearings on any proposed decision.
EPA expects to issue a proposed rulemaking in Summer 2022 and a final rule in Spring 2023, following an open, transparent process with opportunities for public review and comment. In accordance with Executive Orders and guidance, the agency will be considering environmental justice during the rulemaking process.
Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester Recalled Due to Electric Shock Hazard
Klein Tools recalled certain of their Non-Contact Voltage Testers (NCTV1). These are instruments used for the non-contact detection of AC voltage in cables, cords, circuit breakers, switches, outlets, wires and other equipment. The model numbers included in this recall are: NCTV1, NCTV1SEN, and 69149. Model 69149 is sold as an electrical test kit.
When the on/off button is depressed and not released, the tool will falsely indicate that it is ready to detect voltage, however it will not detect the presence of voltage until the on/off button is released, posing an electric shock hazard to the consumer if they believe there is no voltage present from an electric source.
As of June 7, 2021 the company has received no reports of incidents or injuries in Canada. In the United States, the company has received at least 2 reports of incidents or injuries.
The company reported that approximately 67,808 units of the products, which were manufactured in China, were sold in Canada and 1,190,020 were sold in the United States. The products were sold from March, 2020 to March, 2021 at Home Depot stores and industrial distributors, electrical wholesalers and some hardware stores nationwide from January 2020 through March 2021 for about $17 (for units sold separately) and about $40-$68 (for kits).
If you have any of these units, you should immediately stop using the recalled non-contact voltage testers and contact Klein Tools for instructions on receiving a free replacement tool. You cann contact Klein Tools at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by calling the Klein Tools Recall Hotline by dialing toll-free 800-527-3099 between 7:00AM and 6:00PM central time.
CamelBak Water Bottle Caps Recalled
This recall involves certain caps sold with CamelBak’s Podium and Peak Fitness water bottles with date codes H19039, H19063 and H19175; the date codes are located on the underside of the cap. The water bottles were sold in a variety of colors in 17, 21- and 24-ounce sizes. CamelBak and Podium or Peak Fitness are written on the bottles.
CamelBak has received 14 reports of the silicone valve coming loose in the cap and detaching. No injuries have been reported. The water bottles, which were made in China, were sold at sporting goods stores nationwide and online at camelbak.com from February 2019 through January 2021 for between $10 and $25.
If you have any of these water bottles, you should immediately stop using the recalled caps sold with the water bottles and contact CamelBak for a free replacement cap. You may contact CamelBak at 800-767-8725 from 8:30 a.m. to 5p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at www.camelbak.com/recall
Oregon OSHA Will Repeal Parts of COVID-19 Workplace Rule in Line with Governor’s Announced Vaccination Target
As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced last week, once Oregon reaches the 70% vaccination threshold the state will not require masks and face coverings in almost all settings, with some exceptions following federal guidance, including airports, public transit, and health care settings. The governor has also asked Oregon OSHA to review its workplace rules and update them based on this decision.
Consistent with the governor’s decision, Oregon OSHA intends to repeal the basic face covering and physical distancing requirements of its COVID-19 rule when the state reaches 70 percent of its adults vaccinated against the virus with at least one dose. Oregon OSHA is also convening stakeholders to review its COVID-19 rules in light of the governor’s announcement and to determine whether other provisions should be repealed. Oregon OSHA expects to begin those discussions during the week of June 14.
Oregon OSHA extended its rule, which took effect May 4, to maintain risk-reducing safety measures for workers against the coronavirus. Although the rule includes several changes based on the public comments received since the rule was proposed in late January, the basic requirements are largely consistent with those that have been in place since Oregon OSHA adopted a temporary workplace rule in November of last year. The rule largely reflects the guidance produced by the Oregon Health Authority and enforced in the workplace by Oregon OSHA.
When it extended the rule in May, Oregon OSHA committed to an ongoing process to eventually repeal it. As part of that process, Oregon OSHA will consult with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority, the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders.
COVID Emergency Occupational Standard Withdrawn in California
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) voted to withdraw the standards that they had voted to approve on June 3, and that were sent to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review.
The vote was held during a special meeting on June 9 to consider the latest guidance regarding masking from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The meeting, attended by members of the public including workers, industry leaders, employers and other stakeholders shared their views on the matter in more than two and a half hours of public comment.
Last November, the Board adopted emergency temporary health and safety standards to protect workers from COVID-19 that went into effect that month. On June 3, the Standards Board voted to adopt revisions due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those revised emergency standards were expected to go into effect no later than June 15 pending approval by the OAL within 10 calendar days after the Standards Board rulemaking package submission. At the meeting, the Standards Board voted unanimously to withdraw the revisions approved on June 3 that are currently at OAL for review but have not yet become effective. Cal/OSHA will review the new mask guidance and bring any recommended revisions to the board. The Board could consider new revisions at a future meeting, perhaps as early as the regular meeting on June 17. In the meantime, the protections adopted in November of 2020 will remain in effect.
OSHA Covid Emergency Temporary Standard for Health Care Workers and Guidance for All Industries
OSHA has announced it will issue an emergency temporary standard
to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus. The standard focuses on healthcare workers most likely to have contact with someone infected with the virus. OSHA announced the new standard alongside new general industry guidance, both of which are aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“Too many of our frontline healthcare workers continue to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “As I said when I came to the department, we must follow the science. This standard follows the science and will provide increased protections for those whose health is at heightened risk from coronavirus while they provide us with critical healthcare services. Given the pace of vaccinations, this standard, along with the guidance OSHA, the CDC and other agencies have released, will help us protect frontline healthcare workers and end this pandemic once and for all.”
The emergency temporary standard establishes new requirements for settings where employees provide healthcare or healthcare support services, including skilled nursing homes and home healthcare, with some exemptions for healthcare providers who screen out patients who may have COVID-19. OSHA will update the standard, if necessary, to align with CDC guidelines and changes in the pandemic.
“This standard is necessary to give our healthcare workers deeply needed protections,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “This tailored standard allows OSHA to help the workers most in danger of contracting the virus, while the updated guidance will give other businesses across the country the information they need to help protect unvaccinated workers and continue mitigating spread in the workplace.”
In addition to the healthcare-focused ETS, OSHA issued updated guidance
to help employers and workers in other industries protect workers who are still not vaccinated, with a special emphasis on other industries noted for prolonged close-contacts like meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, and grocery and high-volume retail.
The healthcare emergency temporary standard is aimed at protecting workers facing the highest coronavirus hazards—those working in healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated. This includes employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and employees in ambulatory care settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated.
The standard will require non-exempt facilities to conduct a hazard assessment and have a written plan to mitigate virus spread and requires healthcare employers to provide some employees with N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment. In addition, covered employers must ensure 6 feet of distance between workers. In situations where this is not possible, employers should erect barriers between employees where feasible.
The standard also requires covered employees to provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. Covered employees who have coronavirus or who may be contagious must work remotely or otherwise be separated from other workers if possible or be given paid time off up to $1400 per week. For most businesses with fewer than 500 employees, tax credits in the American Rescue Plan may be reimbursed through these provisions.
The ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from masking, distancing and barrier requirements when in well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person will be present with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days and with the remaining provisions within 30 days. OSHA will use its enforcement discretion to avoid citing employers who miss a compliance deadline but are making a good faith effort to comply with the ETS. OSHA will continue to monitor trends in coronavirus transmission.
Pharma, Biotech Manufacturer Cited for Failing to Protect Workers from Coronavirus After Two Deaths
After an investigation into the deaths of two workers and the hospitalization of two others who contracted the coronavirus in the fall of 2020, OSHA announced that Avantor Fluid Handling LLC failed to protect employees adequately from workplace exposure to coronavirus. OSHA’s inspection found that Avantor Fluid Handling LLC failed to ensure physical distancing and that employees wore face masks in common areas. The agency cited the company
for violating OSHA’s general duty clause
that requires employers to ensure workplaces are free of recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm.
In November 2020, four company employees tested positive for the coronavirus and required hospitalization. By January 2021, two of the workers – a husband and wife – died due to complications related to the virus. The other workers recovered. In total, 30 out of 50 employees at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus.
OSHA initiated the workplace safety and health investigation after the company alerted OSHA of the workers’ illnesses. OSHA alleges that Avantor failed to enforce safety protocols, such as distancing and mask wearing, that would have mitigated further spread of the coronavirus in the locker, gowning and break rooms at the Eatontown facility. The employer faces $13,653 in proposed penalties.
On March 12, 2021, OSHA launched
a national emphasis program
focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.
Avantor Fluid Handling LLC manufactures, packages and distributes components and equipment for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries at its Eatontown facility. The company’s global headquarters is in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
OSHA to Conduct Weekend Safety Inspections in Colorado to Protect Construction Workers from Falls, Trench Collapses
As work at construction project sites increases in Colorado’s Front Range, more workers may find themselves exposed to falls and trenching and excavation hazards
. Over the last two years, at least six workers have suffered fatal falls
, and nearly a dozen excavation collapses and trenching incidents have led to the deaths of three workers in Colorado.
To make these work sites safer, OSHA has implemented a “Weekend Work” initiative in which federal workplace safety and health inspections will occur randomly on weekends in Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, El Paso, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Larimer and Weld counties. OSHA’s area offices in Denver and Englewood will continue these inspections into the fall of 2021.
“Our Weekend Work initiative will identify and address construction-related hazards at worksites in 10 different counties along the Front Range on days when worksites often go unchecked,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Nancy Hauter in Denver. “This is a proactive effort to identify hazardous worksites and to ensure workers end their shifts safely.”
PHMSA Advisory Bulletin on Methane Leaks from Pipelines and Pipeline Facilities
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued an advisory bulletin
underscoring to pipeline and pipeline facility operators requirements to minimize methane emissions in the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020. The PIPES Act directs pipeline operators to update their inspection and maintenance plans to address the elimination of hazardous leaks, and to minimize natural gas releases from pipeline facilities. The updated plans must also address the replacement or remediation at facilities that historically have been known to experience leaks. This action is only one piece of PHMSA’s ongoing efforts to minimize methane emissions.
“Minimizing methane emissions from pipelines will help improve safety and combat climate change, while creating jobs for pipeline workers,” said PHMSA Acting Administrator Tristan Brown. “Pipeline operators have an obligation to protect the public and the environment by identifying and addressing methane leaks.”
In the advisory, PHMSA reminds operators of their obligation to comply with Section 114 of the PIPES Act by December 27, 2021. The Act requires operators to update their inspection and maintenance plans to identify procedures to prevent and mitigate both vented (intentional) and fugitive (unintentional) pipeline emissions. Vented emissions can occur during repairs, maintenance, pressure relief systems, or other controlled activities. Fugitive emissions include leaks from mains or service lines, natural gas meters, or excavation damage, as well as other accidental releases.
In addition to addressing intentional and unintentional emissions, the advisory also specifies that operator plans are required to address the replacement or remediation of pipelines made from cast iron, bare steel, certain vintage plastic, or other legacy materials that are known to cause a disproportionately large share of incidents involving methane leaks.
In January 2021, President Biden signed Executive Orders aimed at demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to making domestic and international climate change a top priority for the federal government. In the U.S., the onshore oil and gas sector is the largest domestic industrial source of methane emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Methane has nearly 30 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Advisory Bulletin
applies to the nation’s entire 2.8 million-mile pipeline network, over 17,000 underground natural gas wells, and 164 liquefied natural gas facilities—covering an estimated 1/3rd of the estimated methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. PHMSA and state pipeline safety regulatory programs will begin inspecting operator plans for compliance with the requirements in 2022.
‘Vegan Spider Silk’ Provides Sustainable Alternative to Single-Use Plastics
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have created a polymer film by mimicking the properties of spider silk, one of the strongest materials in nature. The new material is as strong as many common plastics in use today and could replace plastic in many common household products.
The material was created using a new approach for assembling plant proteins into materials that mimic silk on a molecular level. The energy-efficient method, which uses sustainable ingredients, results in a plastic-like free-standing film, which can be made at industrial scale. Non-fading ‘structural’ color can be added to the polymer, and it can also be used to make water-resistant coatings.
The material is home compostable, whereas other types of bioplastics require industrial composting facilities to degrade. In addition, the Cambridge-developed material requires no chemical modifications to its natural building blocks, so that it can safely degrade in most natural environments.
The new product will be commercialized by Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out company developing replacements for single-use plastic and microplastics. The company will introduce a range of single-use sachets and capsules later this year, which can replace the plastic used in everyday products like dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules. The results were reported in the journal Nature Communications
For many years, Professor Tuomas Knowles in Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry has been researching the behavior of proteins. Much of his research has been focused on what happens when proteins misfold or ‘misbehave’, and how this relates to health and human disease, primarily Alzheimer’s disease.
“We normally investigate how functional protein interactions allow us to stay healthy and how irregular interactions are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Knowles, who led the current research. “It was a surprise to find our research could also address a big problem in sustainability: that of plastic pollution.”
As part of their protein research, Knowles and his group became interested in why materials like spider silk are so strong when they have such weak molecular bonds. “We found that one of the key features that gives spider silk its strength is the hydrogen bonds are arranged regularly in space and at a very high density,” said Knowles.
Co-author Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia, a postdoctoral researcher in Knowles’ group who is now Head of R&D at Xampla, began looking at how to replicate this regular self-assembly in other proteins. Proteins have a propensity for molecular self-organization and self-assembly, and plant proteins are abundant and can be sourced sustainably as by-products of the food industry.
“Very little is known about the self-assembly of plant proteins, and it’s exciting to know that by filling this knowledge gap we can find alternatives to single-use plastics,” said PhD candidate Ayaka Kamada, the paper’s first author.
The researchers successfully replicated the structures found on spider silk by using soy protein isolate, a protein with a completely different composition. “Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk,” said Knowles, who is also a Fellow of St John's College. “In a spider, the silk protein is dissolved in an aqueous solution, which then assembles into an immensely strong fiber through a spinning process which requires very little energy.”
“Other researchers have been working directly with silk materials as a plastic replacement, but they’re still an animal product,” said Rodriguez Garcia. “In a way, we’ve come up with ‘vegan spider silk’ – we’ve created the same material without the spider.”
Any replacement for plastic requires another polymer – the two in nature that exist in abundance are polysaccharides and polypeptides. Cellulose and nanocellulose are polysaccharides and have been used for a range of applications, but often require some form of cross-linking to form strong materials. Proteins self-assemble and can form strong materials like silk without any chemical modifications, but they are much harder to work with.
The researchers used soy protein isolate (SPI) as their test plant protein, since it is readily available as a by-product of soybean oil production. Plant proteins such as SPI are poorly soluble in water, making it hard to control their self-assembly into ordered structures.
The new technique uses an environmentally friendly mixture of acetic acid and water, combined with ultrasonication and high temperatures, to improve the solubility of the SPI. This method produces protein structures with enhanced inter-molecular interactions guided by the hydrogen bond formation. In a second step, the solvent is removed, which results in a water-insoluble film.
The material has a performance equivalent to high-performance engineering plastics such as low-density polyethylene. Its strength lies in the regular arrangement of the polypeptide chains, meaning there is no need for chemical cross-linking, which is frequently used to improve the performance and resistance of biopolymer films. The most commonly used cross-linking agents are non-sustainable and can even be toxic, whereas no toxic elements are required for the Cambridge-developed technique.
“This is the culmination of something we’ve been working on for over ten years, which is understanding how nature generates materials from proteins,” said Knowles. “We didn’t set out to solve a sustainability challenge -- we were motivated by curiosity as to how to create strong materials from weak interactions.”
“The key breakthrough here is being able to control self-assembly, so we can now create high-performance materials,” said Rodriguez Garcia. “It’s exciting to be part of this journey. There is a huge, huge issue of plastic pollution in the world, and we are in the fortunate position to be able to do something about it.”
Xampla's technology has been patented by Cambridge Enterprise, the University's commercialization arm. Cambridge Enterprise and Amadeus Capital Partners co-led a £2 million seed funding round for Xampla, joined by Sky Ocean Ventures and the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund VI, which is managed by Parkwalk.
Roofing Company Fined $1.2 Million for Repeatedly Putting Workers at Risk
Responding to complaints from the public that workers roofing on top of homes had no protection from falls, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspected Allways Roofing at three job sites in Snohomish and one in Lake Stevens between December 2020 and March 2021.
Inspectors found 12 willful serious violations including employees engaged in roofing work on a steep pitch roof with no fall protection installed, ladders not set up or used correctly, and workers not wearing eye protection while using pneumatic nail guns. All but one of the 12 violations were repeats of previous safety issues at the company's job sites.
Nine general violations were found including the company not holding safety meetings or documenting safety inspections. The total fines are $1,242,807.
A number of factors figure into the dollar amount of fines: the number of workers employed by the company, the seriousness of the violations, and whether the company has a history of safety violations are a few. In the case of Allways Roofing, repeat violations, which have an increasing multiplier as the number of repeats increases, is the biggest reason why the fine is so large.
L&I has cited Allways Roofing for more than a dozen safety violations since 2010. In January 2020, Allways Roofing was fined nearly $375,000 for six willful, six serious, and two repeat-general violations for safety hazards found at three Woodinville and Arlington work sites. The company has been and will remain in the Severe Violator Program and is subject to greater scrutiny by the state.
Additionally, Allways Roofing has had at least four injury claims involving falls from steep roofs resulting in serious injuries and hospitalizations.
"This isn't a case of the company not knowing what the rules are. They've blatantly chosen to ignore them, putting their workers at serious risk," said Craig Blackwood, acting assistant director of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
"We hope these substantial fines will be the wake-up call that finally motivates Allways Roofing to keep their people safe, before one of their workers is killed," said Blackwood.
Falls are the most common cause of death in construction. In 2020, four workers in Washington died after falls from a roof, a ladder and while performing other construction work.
Allways Roofing has 15 business days, which is June 21, to appeal the citations. Money from fines is placed in the workers compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.
Didion Milling Faces $676K in Fines, 14 Citations for Grain-Handling Safety Violations
After a worker who was clearing corn debris from an unsafe silo failed to arrive for a regularly scheduled meeting, employees called 911 when they could not find him at the silo, nor reach him by phone. It took emergency services nine hours to recover the body of the 52-year-old manager, found engulfed in the silo operated by Didion Milling Inc. in Cambria.
An OSHA investigation of the Dec. 8, 2020, fatality found that the manager entered the unsafe grain bin despite recently having an external process underway to remove corn from the clogged silo. OSHA also determined that the external process should have continued for several more days before allowing anyone to enter the grain bin. The agency issued four willful and 10 serious safety citations
, most involving requirements for safe entry into grain storage structures, and proposed $676,808 in penalties.
“Didion Milling’s failure to learn from recent incidents and follow industry standards and their own company policies cost this worker’s life,” said Acting OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Six of every 10 workers trapped in a grain bin don’t make it out alive. This is a frightening and tragic reality. Safety standards are in place to protect workers from serious and fatal injuries.”
Didion Milling’s recent history includes a May 2017 explosion that killed five workers and injured as many as 15 others, and a large grain shelf collapse in October 2020 that nearly engulfed an employee who was cleaning the inside of a grain bin.
Sun Prairie-based Didion Milling has been in operation since 1972. The company operates a corn milling and biofuels facility in Cambria and production facilities in Markesan and Johnson Creek.
Collaboration between OSHA, the Grain-Handling Safety Coalition, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society
and the National Grain and Feed Association
continues to grow as the organizations combine their talents, resources and knowledge to develop more training and educational offerings, expand partnerships with other industry organizations, and reach across the entire grain industry spectrum.
Metal Recycler Ordered to Stop Polluting
California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has ordered
Dick’s Auto Wreckers in Fontana to stop releasing hazardous waste and has asked the county Superior Court to impose penalties.
DTSC is asking the Los Angeles County Superior Court
to impose on Dick’s Auto Wreckers penalties up to $25,000 a day for each of the violations of hazardous waste law their scientists documented. Hazardous levels of lead, zinc and other toxic metals were discovered in the soil at the facility.
DTSC also ordered the company to investigate, through a state-monitored process, the spread of contamination found through DTSC’s enforcement work – including any contamination that may have migrated into the surrounding neighborhood – and to clean it up.
This is the latest in a string of enforcement actions DTSC, a state department tasked with protecting Californians from dangerous chemicals, has taken against metal recyclers conducting business in California. Many of these operations, like Dick’s Auto Wreckers, are in vulnerable communities that suffer from multiple sources of pollution.
“DTSC has a profound responsibility to protect all Californians from the effects of hazardous chemicals,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “We remain steadfastly committed to robust enforcement of hazardous waste laws, especially in our vulnerable communities where residents for far too long have disproportionally suffered from pollution.”
Dick’s Auto Wreckers, 15185 Whittram Ave., is in a mixed-use neighborhood. The nearest home is about 500 feet away. The company is now required to meet certain deadlines and submit site investigation reports to DTSC, including a detailed contamination cleanup plan. DTSC will notify the surrounding community so residents can weigh in on the company’s proposed plan when it is available.
Electron Hydro Fined $501,000 for Puyallup River Pollution
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined
Electron Hydro, LLC $501,000 for discharging discarded plastic sports turf into the Puyallup River last summer.
The material broke away from an in-stream construction site in eastern Pierce County in late July. Pieces of sports turf were found up to 21 miles downstream. Deposits of ground-up tire rubber — used as padding for the turf — were believed to extend to the river’s mouth and possibly into Commencement Bay in Tacoma, 41 miles downstream.
The turf and its crumb rubber padding material are toxic when ingested by fish and other aquatic life. Puyallup River steelhead, bull trout and chinook, a critical food source for southern resident orcas, are all protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“These toxic materials had no place in the river,” said Ecology Director Laura Watson. “The force of the water tore the turf apart, washed it down river, and sent it right into the food web. This is an environmental tragedy that didn’t have to happen.”
Electron Hydro produces electricity by diverting water from the river near Orting in eastern Pierce County. The water flows 10 miles through an elevated flume then back to the river through a powerhouse.
Last summer, the company started construction to replace its diversion dam and water intake structure, built in 1903. The work included building a temporary bypass channel to divert the river away from the construction area.
As part of a lining for the bypass channel, Electron Hydro installed large sheets of discarded sports turf. The company had not requested authorization to use that material when it obtained permits for the construction from Pierce County, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Ecology. Plastic liner was placed on top of more than 2,400 square yards of the sports turf and crumb rubber.
The river was diverted into the bypass channel on July 28, 2020. Soon after, river rocks that shifted in the flow breached the liner and discharged about 617 square yards of sports turf and an estimated 4-6 cubic yards of crumb rubber downstream.
Electron Hydro did not report this release to Ecology or the other permitting agencies. A citizen reported to Ecology on July 30 about the use of sports turf and crumb rubber in the river. The company later informed Ecology that it had begun cleaning turf materials from the river and shorelines and reported early in its cleanup that it had placed 13,000 pounds at a landfill.
After large sections tore away in July, the remaining portion of liner and turf at the construction site were left in place until the river was returned to its main channel on Oct. 25. Pieces of exposed sports turf continued to discharge into the river during that time.
In addition to penalties associated with the release of sports turf and Construction Stormwater Permit violations, Ecology is issuing an Administrative Order
to address ongoing water quality violations related to Electron Hydro operations. Corrective actions required include:
- A Water Quality Management Plan that addresses the issues of sediment, warm water temperatures, and toxic substances;
- A Hydroelectric Operations Water Quality Monitoring Plan for all waters influenced by the project;
- Immediate compliance with all conditions associated with the construction of the barrier dam and water intake structure; and
- The submission of an annual Water Quality Monitoring Report.
Water quality penalty payments to Ecology are placed into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund,
which provides grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects. Electron Hydro may appeal the penalty, order, or both to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board
Company Fined for Improper Storage of Waste Oil
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has assessed a $5,091 penalty to Arnie’s 24-Hour Towing, Inc. for hazardous waste violations at 74 Southbridge Road in North Oxford where it operates a tow-truck maintenance facility.
MassDEP observed during an October 2019 inspection that the company violated accumulation time limits for the storage of waste oil and failed to properly manage the storage area for the 55-gallon drums of waste oil, including the labelling, siting and spacing of drums. Under the terms of the enforcement action, the company is required to bring the facility into compliance and pay the $5,091 penalty.
“Companies that generate waste oil must manage that waste appropriately,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “It is particularly important to properly dispose of waste oil within the required time periods to reduce the risk of leaks and spills, which can contaminate soil and groundwater.”
Sira Naturals Cited for Air and Waste Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has assessed a $17,819 penalty to Sira Naturals, Inc. for violations related to air emissions, and the storage of both hazardous waste and industrial wastewater at its cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility located at 13 Commercial Way in Milford.
MassDEP observed the violations of Massachusetts Air Pollution Control, Hazardous Waste, and Industrial Wastewater Holding Tank regulations during a compliance inspection of the company’s facility in February, 2020. Sira Naturals, Inc. was operating the facility without an air quality permit for its emissions of volatile organic compounds from its processing operations, and it had not filed a certification for an emergency power diesel engine on-site.
“When businesses begin production, they must research and comply with all of the Commonwealth’s environmental regulations to ensure the safety of human health and the environment,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Failure to do so can result in illegal and potentially harmful practices, and increased compliance costs.”
The company, which has subsequently addressed the violations, had also been found to be disposing of hazardous waste ethanol cleaning solutions down the drain to the municipal sewer system without a license; generating hazardous waste without being registered; failing to label and mark its hazardous waste accumulation area; and operating an industrial wastewater holding tank without the approval of the municipal sewer system.
EPA to Require Asbestos Reporting by Chemical Industry
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced a settlement reached with the EPA that will require the chemical industry to provide the agency with information about the use and importation of asbestos needed to protect the public from the serious health risks posed by the exposure of highly toxic asbestos.
The June 7 settlement follows a December 2020 ruling from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in favor of the coalition, mandating EPA to impose the reporting requirements on the chemical industry. The Department of Justice filed a motion challenging that decision, but the settlement ensures that EPA will have to act under the Court’s mandate to move forward with the required reporting.
“Today’s settlement ensures that the EPA does its job – namely to protect Americans from deadly asbestos,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Gathering the appropriate data and regulating toxins like asbestos will save lives.”
Asbestos is a highly hazardous mineral fiber used in a variety of piping and building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation, as well as in sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and brake linings, and other consumer products. Exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung disorders and diseases. Currently, those who import articles that contain asbestos or otherwise manufacture such products, including those products in which asbestos may be present as an unintentional contaminant, are exempt from providing EPA with information about these asbestos-containing products.
In January 2019, a coalition of attorneys general filed a petition with EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) urging the agency to issue new regulations to provide data on the importation and use of asbestos in the United States. The coalition asserted that the new set of regulations is needed for the agency to meet its mandate under TSCA to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment presented by asbestos and help ensure EPA’s regulatory decisions are consistent with the best available science. EPA denied the states’ petition and the multistate coalition, including Maryland, sued the agency
in July 2019, along with a group of NGOs led by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
The settlement, when approved by the Court, will compel EPA to issue the regulations sought in the attorneys generals’ petition, and will mark the first time a petition of this kind under TSCA has resulted in court-ordered rulemaking.
Joining Attorney General Frosh in the settlement are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.
ADM Fined Over $16K for Multiple Air Emissions Violations
According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company’s (ADM) oilseed crushing and vegetable oil refining facility in Red Wing, Minnesota, committed multiple air pollution violations between 2017 and 2019. As part of the investigation, ADM is currently working on taking several corrective actions to prevent future violations and paid a $16,329.67 fine to the MPCA.
Violations included incorrectly reporting emissions in 2018, failing air quality performance tests in October and December 2019, having pressure drops that were out of range for air monitoring in 2019, and failing to meet pollution control equipment design requirements.
As part of their corrective actions, ADM passed the air quality performance test in March 2020. ADM has also met pollution control design requirements for some of their equipment and will assume no emission control credit until the remaining equipment has been certified and met requirements.
MPCA permits are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with permit requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment. The MPCA offers outreach and training to help facilities meet their permit requirements.
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 calculated economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
Ever Cat Fuels Fined $300,000 for Air Quality Violations
Ever Cat Fuels, LLC, will pay a $300,000 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for air quality violations at its biodiesel production facility in Isanti. After a multi-year investigation, the MPCA determined that Ever Cat Fuels operated without a required air-emissions permit and failed to meet multiple federal requirements.
MPCA staff received a report of a methanol, biodiesel, and waste vegetable oil spill at the Isanti facility. The company stated that the wastewater generated from recovering the spill was incinerated in a thermal oxidizer at the facility two days after the spill. The MPCA found that on multiple occasions, the wastes generated from spills at the facility, which would have been classified as hazardous waste, were diluted with water and incinerated.
The MPCA issued an administrative order that required Ever Cat Fuels to:
- Apply for an air emissions permit
- Conduct air modeling
- Comply with national standards regulating air pollutants and equipment performance in their facility
- Submit emission inventory reports for 2009 – 2018
- Install temperature monitoring devices and flow indicators on both thermal oxidizers
- Submit an operations and maintenance manual for all air pollution control equipment
- Apply for an air emissions permit for its pilot plant in Anoka
O’Reilly Auto Parts Store Fined After Employee COVID-19 Death
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) reached a settlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts over alleged violations of workplace safety laws at a Lovington store related to COVID-19.
NMED issued two citations to O’Reilly in January 2021 for allegedly failing to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 at its Lovington store. In July 2020, three employees at the location tested positive for the virus, one of whom died from the virus. Due to measures taken by O’Reilly at that location, no additional employees at the Lovington store have tested positive since July 22, 2020.
As part of the settlement, O’Reilly will host 11 vaccination events for both employees and the public throughout New Mexico in conjunction with NMED and the New Mexico Department of Health. O’Reilly is the first retailer of its kind in New Mexico to host a series of public vaccination events at their stores.
“There is nothing more important than getting New Mexicans vaccinated and our settlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts prioritizes that outcome,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “All employers must work with their employees to help them get vaccinated. Our employees are our friends and families – now is the time to protect them from illness or death by encouraging vaccination.”
As a term of settlement, O’Reilly must pay $34,750 to the state, which goes to the state’s general fund. This is the second settlement the state has reached with O’Reilly over alleged COVID-19 workplace safety violations during the pandemic.
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