President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act into law on June 22, 2016. The law amends the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), the Nation’s primary chemicals management law.
The new law includes revises TSCA by:
- Establishing a mandatory requirement for EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines
- Creating a new risk-based safety standard – Chemicals must be evaluated for safety before entering the marketplace
- Increasing public transparency for chemical information
- Consistent source of funding for EPA to carry out the responsibilities under the new law
- Grandfathering existing state laws, like California’s Proposition 65, but establishing some limits on new state laws that conflict with TSCA
Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about the law.
New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials
EPA’s new final on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.
The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.
The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.
Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on July 8 where you will learn:
- Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
- What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
- Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
- What is a tolling agreement
- What is legitimate recycling
- Generator storage requirements
- What documentation you must maintain
- Requirements for off-site shipments
- Training and emergency planning requirements
- If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US
Guam Shipyard Fined $80,680 for Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA recently reached an agreement with the U.S. Navy and Guam Industrial Services (known as Guam Shipyard) for hazardous waste storage violations under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, at Apra Harbor, Guam. As part of the settlement, Guam Shipyard will remove an abandoned vessel grounded in the harbor.
EPA’s inspections at the Guam Shipyard facility in 2012, 2013 and 2014 documented illegal storage and improperly contained hazardous wastes. Guam Shipyard, which operated the facility where the violations occurred, will pay a penalty of $44,893 and the Navy will pay $80,680 to settle its violations.
In addition, Guam Shipyard has agreed to spend an estimated $250,000 to $330,000 to remove the abandoned vessel the Guahan-I located on the shoreline of the Outer Piti Channel in Apra Harbor. The Guahan-I is a 115-foot by 322-foot steel landing craft that likely went aground during Typhoon Pongsona in 2002. Guam Shipyard operates a ship repair facility at Apra Harbor and will use its own personnel and equipment, including its own floating crane, to cut, lift, and dispose of the vessel as scrap.
“All Guam facilities must properly store and dispose of hazardous waste to protect the island’s residents and environment,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Guam Shipyard’s project to remove the sunken ship will greatly benefit the marine ecosystem.”
Guam Shipyard is a contractor to the U.S. Navy, operating on leased federal land. The U.S. Navy also generated a portion of the hazardous waste stored at the Guam Shipyard facility. The wastes included discarded flammable liquids, waste battery acid, lead paint, zinc powder, fluorescent light bulbs, and oily rags. All of the hazardous waste has since been properly disposed.
The federal hazardous waste rules prevent known, harmful materials from being released to the environment and posing a risk to workers. To comply, facilities must properly store, label and seal hazardous waste containers and must properly train their staff. Proper disposal of hazardous waste must be at a permitted disposal site, with the proper notifications and reports made to the EPA.
Pennsylvania DEP Fines UPMC $451,000 for Medical Waste Disposal Violations
Capping a two-year investigation, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined 12 UPMC hospitals a total of $451,000 for violations of the Solid Waste Management Act. The action was taken after inspectors for DEP’s Waste Management found that large quantities of untreated regulated medical waste were transported to Waste Management Inc.’s Monroeville landfill.
The landfill operators alerted DEP to the problem when they noticed medical waste mixed in with trash in municipal waste shipments from various UPMC facilities. That prompted DEP inspectors to visit the landfill and screen shipments as they arrived from several medical facilities in the region, including two hospitals in the Allegheny Health Network (AHN). Inspectors observed the incoming municipal waste included medical waste such as bloody dressings, body fluids, and sharps (needles). A contractor hired by the hospitals removed the medical waste from the landfill and disposed of it at an authorized disposal facility.
DEP inspectors conducted follow-up inspections at a number of UPMC facilities and the two AHN hospitals. Those inspections revealed additional violations including improper labeling, storage and handling of regulated medical waste.
Under DEP regulations, medical waste includes material such as dressings, sharps, tubing, containers, and body fluids. Regulated medical waste must be separated from non-infectious waste, appropriately labeled, and treated to render it non-infectious prior to disposal.
DEP fined AHN a total of $86,900 on July 7, 2015 for similar violations of the Solid Waste Management Act at West Penn Hospital and Forbes Regional Hospital.
As a result of the DEP actions, UPMC and AHN have updated their policies and training. DEP continues to work with the hospitals to ensure their management practices are in full compliance with the rules and regulations governing the proper management of regulated medical waste. DEP inspectors have conducted follow-up visits to the facilities and will continue to investigate and pursue enforcement measures if and when additional violations occur.
New Options Available for Disposal of Unwanted Medication in NY
New Yorkers now have more options to safely dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired drugs, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker announced. Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation that will facilitate drug collection efforts by now allowing pharmacies to take back unwanted drugs.
"Many New Yorkers want to properly dispose of their unwanted drugs, but collection events and locations were not always convenient," Commissioner Seggos said. "Now that pharmacies are allowed to be a collection point, people can take their medicine to the same location where they get their prescriptions filled, which helps keep them out of our waterways. The state encourages everyone to properly dispose of their unwanted medications."
DEC and DOH encourage all pharmacies to become authorized collectors of unused, expired, and unwanted drugs, under the United States Drug Enforcement Administration's Controlled Substances Disposal Rule. To that end, DEC will exercise enforcement discretion to alleviate regulatory hurdles for all authorized collectors, including removing requirements for them to obtain a Part 360 solid waste storage permit and the requirement that household pharmaceuticals that are hazardous waste be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. Additionally, DEC has recently proposed regulations that would exempt pharmaceutical collection receptacles and events in the Part 360 Series that is presently undergoing public comment. Check with your pharmacy to find out if they are collecting unused/unwanted household pharmaceuticals. The Enacted Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Budget also included $1,000,000 to maximize the availability of drug collection programs throughout the State, including at local law enforcement agencies.
Until recently, consumers were told to flush unwanted drugs. With technological advances and increased water quality research, low levels of medications have been detected in lakes, streams, and rivers in the state. Many drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Drugs from heath care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, and farms can also find their way into the water. Although the health and environmental consequences are still being studied, current research is beginning to show correlations between continuous exposure to low levels of medications and adverse impacts to the health of affected fish and other aquatic wildlife.
In addition, the use and abuse of prescription medication is on the rise, and can result in addictions to illegal drugs like heroin. Properly disposing of unused, unwanted, and expired drugs cuts down on the chances that they are used inappropriately.
"The state, and nation for that matter, are in the grips of an opioid epidemic," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "By disposing of unwanted medications appropriately, we can cut down the availability of these drugs as well as others. Allowing unwanted drugs to languish in medicine cabinets raises the risk that they will land in the wrong hands."
DEC continues to proactively address this issue though its vigorous 'Don't Flush Your Drugs' campaign and targeted collections by DEC Law Enforcement professionals at long-term health care facilities in the New York City Watershed and on Long Island.
Corn Plus Fined $39,450 for Environmental Violations
The Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago in southern Minnesota has again agreed to take steps to correct several environmental violations and pay a $39,450 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Agency inspections and records reviews found several violations of the plant’s stormwater permit that sets conditions to ensure runoff from the plant does not pollute lakes, streams and groundwater.
Corn Plus has a submitted a plan to the MPCA to sample the plant’s stormwater ponds for pollutants and monitor their water levels as set by its permit. Corn Plus failed to take water quality samples, as required by its permit, from two stormwater ponds 61 times from March 2012 to June 2014.
It has also submitted a plan on changes it will make to ensure compliance with conditions on spraying its stormwater on land to allow pollutants to filter out as it drains through the soil. The ethanol plant applied stormwater from holding ponds to land during cold weather when runoff is more likely to occur, a violation of its permit.
Corn Plus has submitted a report on repairing leaks and aerosol drift from its cooling towers, after inspections found water and foam leaking from the towers in violation of its permit.
The plant has submitted a plan and documentation on storing, reporting and disposing of materials that could be industrial waste. Corn Plus failed to report several releases of materials that could potentially contaminate its stormwater including corn, syrup and oil, though most of the spills remained within the plant building.
Corn Plus has provided documentation, including photos, that it has cleaned up a dumpster area where rain water was passing through the garbage containers, potentially carrying pollutants, and draining across the land and off company property.
It has also agreed to train staff to follow the contingency plan in its permit when stormwater ponds may overflow due to high runoff events. The plant’s stormwater pond levels were too high several times and Corn Plus failed to follow its contingency plan 44 times from March 2012 through April 2016 that called for pumping the stormwater from the ponds to fermentation tanks until weather allowed applying the stormwater to land. The plant also failed to control its production to allow stormwater to be stored in fermentation tanks until land application was available from March 2012 through April 2016.
It has also agreed to submit required records on time. Corn Plus was late several times in submitting information to the MPCA, including discharge monitoring reports, stormwater pond inspection documents, an annual industrial stormwater report, documents on its wastewater and stormwater outlets, verification of repairs, and an annual report on spraying its stormwater to land.
The penalty and conditions are part of a stipulation agreement between Corn Plus and the MPCA. This type of agreement is one of the tools the agency uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
This recent agreement follows actions by Corn Plus to correct past air and water quality violations. In 2014, Corn Plus paid a $25,141 penalty and took action to correct air quality and noise violations. In 2011, the company took several steps to correct air permit violations, including falsifying air monitoring data and paid a $310,000 state penalty. In 2010, the company paid a $200,000 state penalty for water quality violations and agreed to environmental projects at the plant costing at least $691,000. In 2009, Corn Plus paid a $150,000 penalty as part of a settlement with the EPA for criminal charges related to water quality violations.
Fourteen Dust Emission Events Impacted Minnesota Residents
The air quality near Forbes, Minnesota should improve, thanks to dust control measures to be implemented at an Iron Range taconite facility. Area residents’ homes have been affected by dust from the facility more than a dozen times during a 31-month timeframe.
United Taconite LLC (Utac) has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for alleged state air quality violations adjacent to its Fairlane plant taconite facility near Forbes. The company is also required to update its dust control plan, determine most effective actions to address future dust releases and evaluate the applicability of new dust control technologies.
The agency determined the Utac-Fairlane facility began to periodically violate Minnesota’s fugitive, or airborne, dust rule in early January 2013. Thirteen additional events occurred between that date and July 30, 2015. The rule requires that facilities take steps to control avoidable amounts of particulate matter (dust emissions) from sources such as mining, roads, ore handling and stockpiles from becoming airborne.
Utac’s Fairlane taconite production facility includes a tailings basin where the company deposits tailings from taconite pellet production. These tailings can become airborne and be deposited around the tailings basin as fugitive dust.
The stipulation agreement is one tool that the MPCA uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
For more information, go to the MPCA's Enforcement webpage.
Trader Joe's Fined $500,000 for Refrigerant Leak Violations
The national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s Company has agreed to reduce emissions of potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) from refrigeration equipment at 453 of its stores under a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, Trader Joe’s will spend an estimated $2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and improve company-wide compliance. The company will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty.
The United States alleged that Trader Joe’s violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that is an ozone-depleting substance and potent GHG used as a coolant in refrigerators. The company also failed to keep adequate servicing records of its refrigeration equipment and failed to provide information about its compliance record.
“Taking action to combat climate change is a priority for the Obama Administration and this settlement will result in substantial cuts to one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The company-wide upgrades Trader Joe’s will make are not only good for the environment, they set a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks.”
“By reducing the amount of ozone depleting refrigerants and potent GHGs released into the atmosphere, this settlement will assist our efforts to control these two major global environmental problems,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The consent decree will also help assure Trader Joe’s future compliance with the Clean Air Act, by requiring heightened auditing, leak monitoring, centralized computer recordkeeping, and searchable electronic reporting to EPA.”
Trader Joe’s will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with federal stratospheric ozone regulations and to detect and repair leaks through a new quarterly leak monitoring program. In addition, Trader Joe’s will achieve and maintain an annual corporate-wide average leak rate of 12.1% through 2019, well below the grocery store sector average of 25%. The company must also use non-ozone depleting refrigerants at all new stores and major remodels and at least 15 of these stores must use advanced refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide which have significantly less global warming potential compared to typical refrigerants.
The total estimated GHG emissions reductions from this settlement are equal to the amount from over 6,500 passenger vehicles driven in one year, the CO2 emissions from 33 million lb of coal burned, or the carbon sequestered by 25,000 acres of forests in one year.
EPA regulations issued under the Clean Air Act require that owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contain over 50 lb of ozone-depleting refrigerants repair any leaks within 30 days. Damage to the ozone layer results in dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet solar radiation, increasing skin cancers and cataracts. R-22 is also a potent GHG with 1,800 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Approximately one-quarter of Trader Joe’s equipment units use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that are non-ozone-depleting, but have a high global warming potential. An added benefit of repairing refrigerant leaks is improved energy efficiency of the system which can save electricity.
The settlement is the third in a series of national grocery store refrigerant cases, including cases previously filed against Safeway, Inc., and Costco Wholesale Corp. The recent settlement also supports the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by reducing HFC emissions, as well as EPA’s proposal under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act that aims to update requirements and improve refrigerant management practices for refrigerants that are GHGs, but not ozone-depleting, such as HFCs. This is the first EPA settlement with requirements to repair leaks of HFCs in order to further reduce GHG emissions.
Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia, California, is a privately held chain of specialty grocery stores in the U.S., with 461 stores located in 43 states and Washington, D.C. and 2014 revenues of $9.38 billion.
The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. It will be available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.
Pesticide Distributor Fined for Failure to Properly Label High-Risk Pesticide
Recently the EPA announced a settlement with Snowden Enterprises, Inc., over the distribution of a misbranded restricted use pesticide. The firm, located in Fresno, California, has agreed to pay $34,320 in civil penalties, and has corrected all the identified compliance issues.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation inspected the facility in October 2013. Based on evidence collected during that inspection, EPA asserted that Snowden Enterprises had several violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates the safe distribution, sale and use of pesticides in the U.S.
Snowden Enterprises distributes a restricted use pesticide called ‘The Fruit Doctor,’ which can cause irreversible eye damage, skin burns, and is fatal if inhaled in high concentration. The product is used as a fumigant on grapes to suppress the spread of gray mold disease. EPA classifies pesticides as restricted use or general use pesticides. The restricted use pesticides are not available for purchase or use by the general public because of the potential to cause adverse effects to the environment and injury to applicators or bystanders. These products should only be used by a certified applicator or someone under the certified applicator's direct supervision.
Snowden Enterprises distributed ‘The Fruit Doctor’ pesticide as compressed sulfur dioxide gas in cylinders of various sizes with misbranded labels that were not approved by EPA. On its small cylinders, the firm used labels that lacked hazard and precautionary statements and first aid information. On large cylinders and cylinder cases, the company used labels that had a logo placed over the text, obscuring the first aid information. The text on pesticide labels must appear on a clear contrasting background and not be obscured or crowded. Precautionary statements and first aid information helps pesticide applicators protect themselves when using the pesticide and respond quickly should an accident occur.
“Selling mislabeled pesticides is a serious violation that can result in harm to public health and the environment,” said Kathleen Johnson, EPA’s Enforcement Division Director for the Pacific Southwest. “It is extremely important that first aid and hazard statements are clearly visible.”
FIFRA authorizes EPA to review and register pesticides for specified uses, to regulate safe storage and disposal of pesticides, and to conduct inspections and enforce pesticide requirements. Under FIFRA, EPA labels should include directions for use and precautionary statements which are designed to minimize the risks associated with the product, including the required use of personal protective equipment such as protective eyewear and gloves, designed to minimize contact with the product.
Yuengling Fined $2.8 Million for Clean Water Act Violations
The EPA and the Department of Justice recently announced that D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc., has settled Clean Water Act (CWA) violations involving its two large-scale breweries near Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
In a consent decree filed recently in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the company has agreed to spend approximately $7 million to improve environmental measures at its brewery operations after it allegedly discharged pollutants into the Greater Pottsville Area Sewer Authority municipal wastewater treatment plant. Yuengling will also pay a $2.8 million penalty.
In addition, the consent decree includes a requirement to implement an environmental management system (EMS) focused on achieving CWA compliance at the facilities. Yuengling must hire a third party consultant to develop the EMS and a third party auditor to ensure proper implementation at the facility operations.
The company allegedly violated Clean Water Act requirements for companies that discharge industrial waste to municipal publically owned wastewater treatment facilities numerous times between 2008 and 2015. Companies must obtain and comply with permit limits on discharges of industrial waste that goes to public treatment facilities, which in many cases require “pretreatment” of waste before it is discharged. The case was referred to EPA by the Greater Pottsville Area Sewer Authority (GPASA).
“Yuengling is responsible for serious violations of its Clean Water Act pretreatment discharge limits, posing a potential risk to the Schuylkill River which provides drinking water to 1.5 million people,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “This history of violations and failure to fully respond to orders from the Greater Pottsville Area Sewer Authority and EPA to correct the problems resulted in this enforcement action.”
“It is vital that companies using municipal wastewater treatment facilities strictly follow pretreatment guidelines and permit limits for their wastewater. It is what good neighbors expect, and it is what the law requires,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement requires Yuengling to put into place an environmental management system designed to manage compliance with the Clean Water Act in a systemic, planned, and documented manner to establish a top-down, prevention-focused approach. The settlement also mandates independent audits of Yuengling’s compliance with the consent decree, among other requirements.”
In a complaint filed concurrently with the settlement, the United States alleged that Yuengling violated pretreatment permit requirements, including discharge limits for biological oxygen demand (BOD), phosphorus, zinc and pH to the GPASA treatment plant, at least 141 times from 2008 to 2015.
Pretreatment helps remove or change the composition of pollutants in wastewater. Unpermitted or excessive industrial discharges may interfere with the operation of public wastewater treatment plants, which are generally designed to handle sewage and domestic waste, leading to the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated wastewater into local waters.
In addition to the monetary penalty, Yuengling has also agreed to take measures that will prevent future violations including:
- Designing and implementing an environmental management system for both breweries to ensure compliance with environmental laws
- Conducting a series of environmental audits and inspections to ensure ongoing environmental compliance
- Constructing a comprehensive pretreatment system at the Old Brewery
- Optimizing and improving operation and maintenance of the pretreatment system at the New Brewery
- Developing and implementing a communication and notification plan to quickly notify GPASA of any changes to the brewery facilites’ wastewater that may impact the public treatment facility
- Hiring two certified wastewater treatment operators; and implementing a process to identify, investigate and respond to any future CWA violations quickly and efficiently
The consent decree, which is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval, is available online.
Some Household Products Emit Unhealthy Levels of Ozone, Study Finds
A number of consumer products and home appliances, none of which are tested or regulated for ozone emissions, emit enough ozone to pose potential health risks to their users, a new California Air Resources Board (CARB) study has found.
The study, “Evaluation of Ozone Emissions and Exposures from Consumer Products and Home Appliances,” highlights a critical gap in consumer protection. The paper was published online recently in the journal “Indoor Air.”
The CARB study measured ozone emissions and impacts on indoor ozone levels and associated exposures from 17 consumer products and home appliances that emit ozone either intentionally or as a by-product of their functions. In all, five products in three categories emitted ozone at levels that may result in potential health effects. The five products included a residential ozone laundry water treatment appliance, two fruit and vegetable washers, and two facial steamers. Due to its strong oxidative ability, ozone is widely advertised for disinfection or odor removal by manufacturers.
The use of some products was estimated to contribute up to 87% of total daily exposures to ozone. An ozone laundry water treatment system, when used for one wash cycle, increased room ozone concentrations by 0.11 parts per million (ppm), which is higher than California’s 1-hour health-based air quality standard for outdoor ozone (0.09 ppm). And, it increased personal exposure concentrations by as much as 0.42 ppm. The personal exposure concentration is the concentration that users of the product are exposed to as a result of their close proximity to the product. This exposure level exceeds the level of a Stage 2 smog alert, which is called when 1-hour average outdoor ozone concentrations reach 0.35 ppm. Such an alert has not been called in California since 1988.
For some products, one use does not increase room ozone concentrations markedly, but repeated use can result in high exposure concentrations. For example, a fruit and vegetable washer increased personal exposure concentrations by an average of 2.55 ppm, or more than 28 times higher than California’s 1-hour health-based standard for outdoor ozone (0.09 ppm), when it was used for three continuous wash cycles with reused water.
While many consumer products and home appliances can emit ozone, ozone emissions have only been regulated for air cleaners. Ozone generators—purported air cleaners that intentionally produce ozone and which are inaccurately marketed as producing “safe” levels of activated oxygen that remove indoor air pollutants—and other types of air cleaners, such as some ionizers and electrostatic precipitators, have been found to increase indoor ozone concentrations to harmful levels. In response, CARB adopted a regulation in 2007 to limit ozone emissions from indoor air cleaning devices to no more than 50 ppb. ARB has certified over 1,600 models of air cleaning devices that meet the ozone emission standard. In addition, CARB has identified a list of potentially hazardous ozone generators sold as air purifiers.
The recent CARB study concluded that further research and actions, such as product design changes, development of industry standards, and/or regulations limiting ozone emissions from these other types of products, appear to be needed. CARB has developed a web page for more information on this study, including a list of ozone-emitting products similar to those studied. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission is the agency with authority over consumer products. CARB has shared the results of its study with the CPSC.
Ground level ozone, a key ingredient of smog, is a harmful air pollutant that can cause serious health effects and environmental impacts. These include respiratory problems such as increased asthma symptoms, and even premature death, as well as crop and forest damage. The use of some of the products tested can contribute a significant fraction of total daily exposure to ozone. Although their market share is unknown, these devices can easily be obtained due to their low price and widespread advertising online and on television.
For a fact sheet on results of the study on ozone emissions from consumer products and home appliances, visit here. Video is available here.
Food Processor Fined for Ammonia Release
Subject to court approval, a wholesale bakery and distribution company with facilities in Chelsea and Lawrence, Massachusetts, will purchase equipment for emergency responders and pay a cash penalty, settling allegations by EPA that the company violated federal environmental laws relating to the use of anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid at the two facilities.
Under a Consent Decree filed recently, JSB Industries, Inc., has agreed to pay $156,000 in civil penalties and provide emergency response equipment expected to cost $119,000 to fire departments in Chelsea and Lawrence. The Consent Decree resolves claims in a Complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA simultaneously with the Consent Decree, including failure to comply with accident prevention and mitigation provisions of the Clean Air Act, hazardous chemical reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and chemical release notification requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
The Chelsea and Lawrence facilities are in densely populated, urban neighborhoods, in close proximity to residences and other businesses. Among other things, EPA alleged that violations occurred at JSB's Chelsea facility where, in April 2009, approximately 2,000 lb of anhydrous ammonia was accidentally released from a refrigeration system there. Anhydrous ammonia is an extremely hazardous chemical that is corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs, can be immediately dangerous to life and health, and under certain conditions, is flammable and explosive. The 2009 Chelsea release exposed two firefighters to anhydrous ammonia, one of whom was hospitalized for medical treatment and triggered a shelter-in-place order by local authorities.
"Facilities that use hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid, have an obligation to carefully follow safety standards designed to protect nearby communities," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "This case illustrates the importance of complying with chemical accident planning, prevention and mitigation requirements, and underscores the critical role played by community right-to-know laws in helping prevent public health or environment harm from the release of hazardous chemicals and other potentially dangerous conditions resulting from chemical use."
The alleged violations include JSB’s failure to comply with the general duty clause of the Clean Air Act under which facilities using hazardous chemicals must identify hazards, design and maintain the facility in a safe manner by taking action to prevent accidental releases, and take steps to minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that do occur. Other violations alleged in the Complaint include the failure to notify national and state emergency response authorities about the ammonia release and failure to submit hazardous chemical inventory forms to state and local emergency response agencies.
The emergency response equipment to be provided under the settlement will enhance the Chelsea and Lawrence communities' emergency preparedness and improve their abilities to effectively respond to the release of hazardous chemicals. The equipment will help these communities better protect their residents and workers, many of whom are members of low-income and minority groups that may be disproportionately affected by the risks of environmental contamination. Among other things, the equipment provided under the settlement will help improve Chelsea's and Lawrence's abilities to rescue their citizens from environmental hazards, isolate and remove water contaminants, monitor and detect hazardous conditions, gain entry to confined spaces, and clean and maintain protective gear.
Failure to submit chemical inventory forms can put emergency responders at risk by withholding information regarding the presence and amounts of hazardous chemicals at a facility. EPA alleged that prior to the 2009 release, JSB failed to inform emergency response officials as required about its use of ammonia at the Chelsea facility. In this case, the failure to report may have substantially increased the risks of the release because the fire fighters who first arrived at the scene appear to have been completely unaware of the presence of ammonia at that location.
JSB is a family-owned company that does business as "Muffin Town." JSB operates out of its headquarters at 130 Crescent Street in Chelsea and from a newer facility at 309 Andover Street in Lawrence. The Chelsea facility is owned by 130 Crescent Ave. Realty Trust and the Lawrence facility is owned by JMG Andover Street Realty, LLC, both of which are closely affiliated with JSB President Jack Anderson. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the defendants do not admit liability for the violations alleged by the government. While JSB continues to use sulfuric acid (a regulated chemical) in heavy equipment batteries at its Chelsea and Lawrence locations, the company did remove the ammonia-based refrigeration system in Chelsea and replaced it, in 2012, with a less inherently dangerous nitrogen-based unit.
10 Years of WaterSense Saved More than a Trillion Gallons of Water and Billions on Utility Bills
Since the EPA launched the WaterSense program 10 years ago, Americans have saved $32.6 billion in water and energy bills and 1.5 trillion gallons of water, which is more than the amount of water needed to supply all of the homes in California for a year.
More than 1,700 utilities, local governments, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, builders, and other organizations have partnered with EPA to produce and promote water-efficient products, programs, and homes, "As we mark 10 years of WaterSense accomplishments, EPA thanks our WaterSense partners for helping American businesses and families save water through the use of water-efficient products and practices,” states EPA Associate Administrator Joel Beauvais in his recent blog post on the milestone.
WaterSense labeled products, which are independently certified to use at least 20% less water and perform as well or better than standard models, have been on the market since 2007 when toilets first earned the label. Since then, the number of labeled models has grown to more than 16,000, including products found in residential and commercial bathrooms, commercial kitchens, and for outdoor irrigation.
In addition to saving water, WaterSense labeled products save the energy associated with treating, pumping, and heating water. Since 2006 WaterSense labeled products saved the energy equal to the amount used to power 19.4 million homes for a year while preventing 78 million metric tons of associated GHG emissions.
EPA’s WaterSense program also certifies homes with WaterSense labeled fixtures and features. Compared to a typical home, a WaterSense labeled home can save a family an estimated 50,000 gallons of water a year, which is enough water to wash 2,000 loads of laundry and could curb utility bills up to $600. To date more than 700 homes have earned the WaterSense label.
EPA Enforces Ban on U.S. Army’s Cesspools on Oahu and Big Island
The EPA recently announced an agreement with the U.S. Army to close four illegal large capacity cesspools on Oahu and eight on the Big Island. The Army will pay a $100,000 fine, the first time EPA has imposed a civil penalty against a federal government facility for operating banned cesspools.
“The convening of the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu this week serves as a reminder of why EPA is focused on shutting down all large capacity cesspools,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect Hawaii’s coastal waters.”
EPA found that the Army continued to use the cesspools despite a 2005 ban under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control program. The Army had failed to close three large capacity cesspools at Wheeler Army Airfield and one at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, as well as eight on the Big Island at the Pohakuloa Training area and the Kilauea Military Camp.
As a result of EPA’s enforcement action, the Army has closed one cesspool, and replaced two others at Wheeler Army Airfield and another at Schofield Barracks with approved wastewater treatment systems. Under the settlement agreement, the Army must also close or replace all eight of the large capacity cesspools still in use on the Big Island.
Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. They are used more widely in Hawaii than any other state. Throughout Hawaii, over 3,000 large capacity cesspools have been closed since the 2005 ban, many through voluntary compliance. The EPA regulations do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools.
Property Owner and Son Sued for Extensive Alterations to Protected Wetlands
A Weston, MA property owner and his son have been sued after allegedly altering and filling large areas of protected wetlands, and keeping farm animals in close proximity to brooks that flow into a public water supply, Attorney General Maura Healey announced recently.
The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday, alleges Santo Anza, Sr. and his son Alexander Anza conducted numerous unauthorized activities on the property in violation of the state’s environmental protection laws. According to the complaint, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) inspected the Weston property and observed that the defendants had built a stone wall along the bank of Stony Brook, cleared trees and other vegetation, and filled protected wetlands with rocks, gravel, and wood chips to construct an expanded driveway, livestock grazing areas, and a staging ground for cleaning and dressing animal carcasses, among other violations.
The complaint further alleges Alexander Anza keeps chickens, geese, cattle, sheep, and pigs in fenced enclosures within 100 feet of Cherry Brook and Stony Brook, which feed into Stony Brook Reservoir, a drinking water resource for the City of Cambridge.
“We allege that these defendants compromised the integrity of our wetlands and waterways by altering protected areas and keeping farm animals near a public water supply,” said AG Healey. “Wetlands are an extremely important resource in Massachusetts, and no one should alter or destroy them for their own benefit.”
“Wetlands are valuable natural resources that provide many benefits, including flood protection, species habitat, and natural filtration for drinking water sources,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “MassDEP is committed to protecting these valuable resources, and supporting the appropriate prosecution of illegal wetlands alteration and filling activities.”
With the lawsuit, the AG’s Office is seeking an order requiring the defendants to restore the altered wetlands, remove all animals from within 100 feet of the waterways, and pay civil penalties.
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