March 29, 2002

Safe Drinking Water Act

  • April 1, 2002 - Consumer confidence report must be prepared by community drinking water systems that sell water to other community water systems.

Clean Air Act

  • April 6, 2002 - Existing sources subject to the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for flexible polyurethane foam production manufacturing facilities under 40 CFR 63, Subpart III, must provide EPA with a notification of compliance status.
  • April 22, 2002 - Existing sources subject to organic hazardous air pollutant emission controls under 40 CFR 63, subpart H, for equipment leaks from Groups II and IV chemical process units must submit semiannual report to EPA.
  • April 30, 2002 - Fossil-fuel fired steam generating units subject to new source performance standards for electric utility steam generating units must submit quarterly reports for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and opacity emissions.


The D.C. Circuit Court rejected all remaining challenges to EPA's 1997 protective ambient air standards for fine particles (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog).

The Court rejected the claim that EPA acted arbitrarily in setting the national ambient air quality standards. In a unanimous decision the three-judge panel found that EPA "engaged in reasoned decision-making" in establishing levels that protect public health and the environment.

EPA is moving ahead in partnership with state and local governments to develop programs to meet the fine particle and ozone standards. At the same time, EPA is in the process of making a final decision in response to the Court's earlier directive to consider any potential health impacts from ground-level ozone, or smog.

The Clean Air Act requires that EPA review all its air standards every five years to make sure they reflect the latest and best scientific evidence. In 1997, based on thousands of new health studies, EPA toughened the standards for smog and, for the first time, set a standard specifically for fine particles equal to or smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. Fine particles include airborne soot from sources such as diesel trucks and power plants; smog is caused by emissions from cars, power plants, chemical plants, petroleum refineries and a variety of other sources.

EPA's new standards were challenged by the American Trucking Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other state and business groups. In February 2001 the Supreme Court upheld EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to set national air quality standards that protect the American public from harmful effects of air pollution. This most recent decision rejected the remaining claims that EPA's decision was arbitrary and capricious and not supported by the evidence.


As part of an EPA initiative to promote flexible, innovative ways to recycle more wastes while reducing the nation's reliance on fossil fuels, the Agency has proposed an action signaling a shift in manufacturing from waste management to productive recycling and resource conservation. The proposal would conserve natural resources by supplementing crude oil sources in electricity production, petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing.

Specifically, EPA is proposing to allow certain hazardous byproduct materials to be processed with gasification technology, in order to produce a clean, safe source of power generation. This promotes increased energy efficiency while reducing the volume of hazardous waste that would otherwise be treated and disposed of on land.

Gasification is a technology that puts coal and other carbon-containing materials under high temperature and pressure to convert them into synthetic gas. This gas is then used as a fuel to generate electricity or steam, or as a basic chemical building block for many uses in the petrochemical and refining industries. When used as a fuel, the synthetic gas, or "syngas," is cleaner than almost any fuel in use today and is comparable to natural gas. In the petroleum refining industry alone, up to seven to 10 million tons of hazardous byproducts currently managed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) could be transferred to gasification systems.

EPA's proposal would exclude from hazardous waste regulations petroleum refining byproducts and possibly other industry byproducts provided certain conditions are met. These materials would be processed, along with fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, coke, and possibly municipal solid waste and sewage sludge, to produce a synthetic gas. Processors would have to meet certain conditions to make sure the byproduct materials are handled carefully and that the syngas meets stringent purity standards.

Other related activities to be announced this spring include waste minimization strategies, additional energy recovery projects and a retail initiative targeted towards consumers.

For additional information or to order documents, call the RCRA Call Center at 1-800-424-9346 or 703-412-9810.


California State Senators Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) have introduced legislation to address the growing crisis of discarded and often toxic electronic waste.

Electronic waste or E-waste is one of the fastest growing and most toxic waste streams. Some 6-7,000 computers and televisions become obsolete in California every day. Most of these devices contain toxic levels of lead and other hazardous materials. As a result, the state has banned their disposal in landfill.

Recent news reports have documented overseas pollution resulting from the improper management and discard of obsolete US electronics.

The legislation would require electronics manufacturers to establish (SB 1619, Romero), and/or finance (SB 1523, Sher), an electronic scrap recovery and recycling system for California. Additionally, SB 1619 would establish e-scrap recovery goals and require electronics makers to label what hazardous materials have gone into their devices and that they are to be recycled.

"We've got a looming flood on our hands," said Senator Romero. "Technology continues to get better and better, adding over 6,000 old computers a day to the stockpiles sitting in closets, garages and offices alone. We need the Silicon Valley innovation that created our electronic revolution to help solve this problem."

A recent study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board found that Californians are storing more than 6 million old computers and televisions in their homes. Each of these devices contains an estimated 4 to 8 pounds of toxic lead.

Hazardous waste in computers and televisions makes them expensive and difficult to recycle.

"While a handful of cities and counties have opened recycling stations for e-waste, local governments and ultimately taxpayers are looking at a $1.2 billion price tag for handling the e-waste onslaught over the next five years," said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste (CAW), a nonprofit recycling advocacy group.

"Most consumers aren't aware that their old TVs and computers contain hazardous materials. Local governments simply don't have the resources to deal with this crisis, let alone educate consumers about how to handle these hazardous devices," said Murray. "This legislation proposes a reasonable market-based approach for manufacturers to share in the responsibility for addressing this crisis before it poses a greater threat to public health and the environment."

Because of the high costs of handling and disposal, Murray noted that many charities and nonprofits, including Goodwill Industries, are no longer able to accept electronic discards.

A report by CAW, "Poison PCs and Toxic TVs: the Biggest Environmental Crisis You Never Heard Of," estimates the cost for recycling computers between $10 and $30 per unit, and disposal as much as $50.

Unlike Japan and Europe, the U.S. has no organized system of electronics recycling. As a result, recycling levels have languished at 10-15%. And much of the e-scrap that is recovered ends up being shipped overseas, causing environmental and health problems in Third World countries. According to a new report by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, as much as 50 to 80 percent of the United States' electronic waste that is collected in the name of recycling actually gets shipped out of the country, where it is exempt from US health and environmental laws.

Californians Against Waste, is a non-profit environmental organization working to promote waste prevention and recycling. Summaries of SB 1619 (Romero) and SB 1523 (Sher) can be found on downloaded from their web site at http://www.cawrecycles.org/Electronics/ewaste%20legislation.htm


The Justice Department, EPA and the state of Montana have announced an $87 million settlement with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), a subsidiary of BP p.l.c., and five other mining companies to control billions of gallons of highly acidic mine drainage that is contaminating the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Mont. The agreed-on remedy will prevent the mine drainage, which is filled with arsenic and heavy metals, from flowing out of the pit and endangering Butte's drinking water supply, Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River.

The Berkeley Pit is part of the Silver Bow Creek/Butte area Superfund site located in the Clark Fork Basin in southwestern Montana, and total costs of cleanup and control at the pit alone will likely reach $110 million. The remedy will be performed by ARCO and five other settling defendants -- ASARCO, AR Montana Corporation, Dennis Washington, Montana Resources, and Montana Resources, Inc.

Under the agreement, the settling defendants will pump and treat the pit's highly acidic mine water, which now amounts to over 30 billion gallons, to maintain the water below a critical level. Absent EPA's cleanup action, contaminated water from the pit would flow into Silver Bow Creek and area groundwater, polluting those bodies of water, and thereby endangering any persons relying on that water for drinking water and the fish population.

The Berkeley Pit site encompasses roughly 23 square miles near downtown Butte. Surrounding the Berkeley Pit are more than 3,500 miles of underground mine workings that were operated by several separate mines since 1865. Until 1982, all of these mine workings were de-watered by ARCO and its predecessors through a massive underground pumping system to allow mining to continue in the pit and the other underground mines.

In 1982, ARCO decided to cease mine operations and shut off the de-watering pumps. Groundwater in the area then started rising back to levels that existed before the mining and de-watering operations began. As the groundwater level rose, the Berkeley Pit rapidly filled with acid mine drainage from the pit walls, the network of underground mines, waste rock dumps and leach pads in the area.

"What was once a regulated mining and de-watering operation has now become a Superfund Site with the largest body of contaminated water in the United States," said John Cruden, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement is a big step in healing the scars from over a century of extensive mining in Butte, and it will go a long way to protecting human health and the environment in the area."

The mine drainage that exists in the Berkeley Pit is highly acidic and laden with arsenic and heavy metals such as aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, zinc and sulfate. These toxic attributes of the pit water led to the1995 deaths of 342 snow geese, which mistook the contaminated water for a safe migratory drinking stop.

The settling defendants will continue to implement EPA's cleanup plan for the Berkeley Pit, as ARCO has been for the past five years under a prior order from EPA. ARCO has taken the lead in implementing the remedial design and remedial action at this site, and the other settling defendants are reportedly contributing to the cost of this work under terms not disclosed to the government.

The settling parties also must reimburse roughly $3.25 million of the costs EPA so far has incurred at the site, and they will make an advance payment of $5.723 million to cover future costs that either EPA or the state will incur in overseeing and monitoring the cleanup. Since the cleanup plan is likely to take decades, the settlement also contains strong financial assurances and guarantees from the defendants that they will be able to continue to finance the significant costs of cleanup in the future.

The consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court in Montana, Butte Division and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.


The Justice Department and EPA have lodged a comprehensive environmental settlement with Solutia Inc., and Pharmacia Corporation, to investigate and address the serious polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in Anniston, Ala. Solutia was formerly known as Monsanto Company.

Under the settlement, Solutia and Pharmacia have agreed to continue the emergency cleanups of area residences that are the worst contaminated. The companies will also conduct a thorough, comprehensive study and evaluation of risks to human health and the environment caused by PCBs. PCBs are considered a probable carcinogen and are linked to neurological and developmental problems.

This settlement mandates Solutia and Pharmacia to hire EPA-approved contractors to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). For the first time, the RI/FS will comprehensively study and detect any areas of contamination, including, but not limited to, PCB contamination, as well as evaluate what risks environmental pollutants that are found may pose to public health and the environment. The RI/FS will determine the cleanup options and suggest a strategy for restoring this community. The cleanup will be strictly reviewed and overseen by EPA, as is the immediate cleanup of residences where high levels of PCBs already have been found.

The study will cover all areas where PCBs have been found, including the Solutia facility, the landfills, creeks, rivers, lakes, flood plains and residential, commercial and agricultural properties that surround the facility.

Included in the settlement is an agreement to establish a $3.2 million foundation to assist in funding special education needs for Anniston-area children.

The consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala. and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.