The municipal wastewater treatment plant in Gooding, Idaho, has reached a $7500 settlement with the EPA for violations of their Clean Water Act Permit. Known as National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, these discharge permits are part of the backbone of the nationÆs system to protect rivers and lakes from city and industrial pollution.
EPA is focusing attention on priority watersheds where facilities are discharging wastewater to rivers and streams that are already at their limits to receive certain pollutants. In the City of GoodingÆs case, the facility received several warnings, both written and verbal, during the past several years.
Violations at the plants routinely exceeded their permit limits for chlorine, biological oxygen demand (BOD), fecal coliform, and ammonia. High-levels of these pollutants can harm or kill aquatic life, and can make people ill if polluted water is ingested.
According to Jim Werntz, EPAÆs Idaho Operations Office Director, ôsmall communities have a responsibility to manage their wastewater treatment systems so that rivers and streams are protected from pollution.ö He added, ôThis is especially important when the plants discharge into rivers that are already degraded by pollution caused by upstream users.
Agreement Will Lead to Better Understanding of PFOA
As part of EPAÆs ongoing efforts to better understand the potential health effects of perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), EPA and PFOA manufacturers have agreed to conduct tests to determine if incineration of fluoropolymers and fluorotelomer-treated products are a source of PFOA in the environment. The consent agreements are part of the agency's ongoing process with industry and other interested parties to ensure the development of information that will help EPA determine the sources of PFOA, the routes of exposure, any potential risks, and what voluntary or regulatory actions, if any, would be appropriate to protect human health and the environment.
The principal test sponsor for the fluoropolymers incineration testing is the Fluoropolymer Manufacturers Group. The companies within the fluoropolymer group that signed the Enforceable Consent Agreement, committing them to testing, are: AGC Chemicals Americas, Inc., Daikin America, Inc., Dyneon, LLC, and E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company. The principal test sponsor for the fluorotelomer incineration agreement is the Telomer Research Program, which includes AGC Chemicals Americas, Inc., Clariant GmbH, Daikin America, Inc., and E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company.
PFOA is a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which are used in the manufacture of a wide range of non-stick and stain-resistant surfaces and products. PFOA may also be produced by the breakdown of fluorotelomers, which are used to impart water, stain, and grease resistance to carpets, paper and textiles. Additional information on the consent agreements and PFOA are available from EPA.
VA DEQ Fines Merck $500,000 for Exceeding Air Permit Limits
The Virginia DEQ announced an agreement with Merck and Co. Inc. to settle alleged air quality violations at the companyÆs Stonewall Plant in Elkton, Virginia.
The consent order stems from a notice of violation DEQ issued to Merck, a pharmaceutical company, in December 2003 for exceeding the plantÆs permit limits for methyl chloride and combined hazardous air pollutants. The agreement includes a civil penalty of $500,000, of which $300,000 will be used to modify diesel school and transit buses in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg to reduce air pollution.
The money most likely will be used to install diesel oxidation catalysts on about 190 school and transit buses. This will decrease particle pollution in the diesel exhaust by at least 20 percent and will reduce childrenÆs exposure to air pollution. The money also may be used to fund environmental projects in other localities if approved by DEQ.
Upon confirmation that an error was made in reporting emission levels of methyl chloride from the facility, Merck notified DEQ and corrected the problem. DEQ and Merck worked to develop a plan to bring the facility back into compliance. Alleged violations at the Stonewall plant included exceeding the plantÆs permit limits for methyl chloride and combined hazardous air pollutant emissions from one of the facilityÆs manufacturing processes. Other alleged violations include failure to correctly monitor and measure hazardous air pollutants from the plantÆs system that conveys and treats wastewater generated during the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.
The settlement requires that Merck improve its monitoring of the air pollution control system for methyl chloride emissions, upgrade the plantÆs wastewater conveyance and treatment system, increase monitoring of hazardous air pollutants associated with the wastewater system, and conduct performance testing of its pollution control equipment. In addition, Merck must report to DEQ on the progress of these projects and apply early for renewal of the Stonewall PlantÆs air permit.
Albco Refinery Fined $44,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations
Ohio EPA reached a settlement with Albco Foundry Inc. for past hazardous waste violations and issued an administrative consent order on July 20, 2005. The violations occurred at its facility located in Lisbon, OH. The settlement includes a $44,000 penalty of which $19,500 will be deposited into the state's hazardous waste cleanup fund. Violations included:
+ Failure to provide employee training
+ Failure to make arrangements with local response authorities
+ Failure to include current phone numbers in the site contingency plan
+ Failure to have an emergency coordinator on-site
+ Operation of a storage facility without a permit
+ Failure to inspect emergency equipment
+ Failure to conduct and document weekly inspections
+ Failure to date and label containers ôHazardous Wasteö
+ Failure close containers when not adding or removing hazardous waste
NJ Clean Air Council Calls for Action on Air Pollutants
The NJ DEP announced that the Clean Air Council annual report indicates that unfiltered diesel exhaust is a significant source of harmful air pollution adversely impacting the health of residents and increasing health care costs.
The Council report states that diesel-powered engines, such as those found in trucks and school buses, are responsible for a significant amount of the particulate air pollution in NJ, especially in areas of high traffic and large populations such as urban areas. DEP supports legislation passed last month, which requires the use of air pollution control technology to reduce particulate emissions from school buses, transit, buses, garbage trucks as well as publicly owned on-road and non-road vehicles.
"This report validates the economic and public health importance of our initiative to reduce soot emission," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "All New Jersey residents will play a role on this issue when our soot reduction initiative is presented to voters as a public question."
"The Clean Air Council is dedicated to improving air quality for all New Jersey's residents, while ensuring a healthy legacy for generations to come," said Leonard Bielory, M.D., Public Hearing Chairman of the Clean Air Council. "The link between poor air quality and the increased risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as asthma, is a significant public health concern. By further reducing harmful air pollution we can improve the health of New Jersey residents, as well as reduce health care costs and alleviate the financial burden that air pollution places on businesses and the State."
The Council notes that scientific research over the past 30 years indicates a direct link between poor air quality and increased incidence of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature deaths. The health care costs associated with treating conditions caused or aggravated by air pollution are high because of the loss of productivity with time away from school and work and the high number of emergency room visits. In New Jersey, more than two million people under the age of 65 are without insurance, and rely on hospitals as the only source of medical care.
The Clean Air Council, created in 1954, is comprised of representatives from public, private and non-profit groups who serve in an advisory capacity to the DEP regarding air matters.
EPA Promotes Partnership to Reduce Truck Idling Emissions
EPA Region 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and Businesses for the Chesapeake Bay sponsored a workshop in Pennsylvania to promote idling reduction practices to truckers and to encourage trucking companies to join the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership. Workshop participants, representing small and medium-sized trucking companies, discussed the benefits of reduced truck idling, saving fuel charges and reducing emissions. The companies were told about grant funding and loan opportunities for equipment purchases that will enable drivers to turn off their engine blocks, while maintaining comfortable cabin conditions and engine temperatures during rest periods. Auxiliary power units, aerodynamic and logistical improvements, driver training techniques, and advanced truck stop electrification systems were also discussed.
DOT Website Assists Persons with Disabilities for Emergency Preparedness
The DOT launched a new web site containing information to help ensure safe and secure transportation for persons with disabilities in the event of a disaster or emergency.
The new site includes advice on emergency preparedness, transportation accessibility, and evacuation methods for certain modes of transportation, such as rail and transit systems. Disabled individuals can learn how to react in situations ranging from evacuations of mass transit systems to being trapped in a car during a blizzard or hurricane.
The site also includes links to Department of Homeland Security web pages that provide information on preparing for specific emergencies, including natural disasters such as severe weather, fire and earthquakes, as well as man-made disasters such as spills of hazardous materials. In addition, the site also provides information for transportation providers on how to respond to the unique needs of people with disabilities during an emergency.
The new site was developed in response to an executive order issued by President Bush on July 22, 2004, which directed federal agencies to support safety and security for individuals with disabilities during natural and man-made disasters.
Partnership to Improve Water Security in U.S. and Israel
EPA and the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures signed an agreement July 19 to work together to improve water supply system security in the United States and Israel. Joint projects could include work on contamination warning systems, conducting field testing of sensor technologies, water supply risk assessment and management, and emergency response.
"Safeguarding our water supply is vital both for the well-being of our citizens and the preservation of our environment," said Judith E. Ayres, assistant administrator for International Affairs. "The statement of intent we have signed will foster greater collaboration between our nations to help protect this precious resource from unintentional or intentional contamination."
The Ministry of National Infrastructures has responsibility for land, water, and energy infrastructure development and administration in Israel. The ministry also sponsors extensive research into energy resources and water desalination. EPA and the Israeli government have enjoyed a strong working relationship on environmental protection since 1991. Both nations are members of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles and the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue initiative.
GAO Recommends Strengthening TSCA
The General Accountability Office reviewed EPAÆs efforts to control the risks of new chemicals not yet in commerce, assess the risks of existing chemicals used in commerce, and publicly disclose information provided by chemical companies under TSCA.
GAO recommends that the Congress consider providing EPA additional authorities under TSCA to improve its ability to assess chemical risks and that the EPA Administrator take several actions to improve EPAÆs management of its chemical program. The GAO found that EPA has limited ability to publicly share the information it receives from chemical companies under TSCA. TSCA prohibits the disclosure of confidential business information, and chemical companies claim much of the data submitted as confidential. While EPA has the authority to evaluate the appropriateness of these confidentiality claims, EPA states that it does not have the resources to challenge large numbers of claims. State environmental agencies and others are interested in obtaining confidential business information for use in various activities, such as developing contingency plans to alert emergency response personnel of the presence of highly toxic substances at manufacturing facilities. Chemical companies recently have expressed interest in working with EPA to identify ways to enable other organizations to use the information given the adoption of appropriate safeguards.
Sixteen Leaders in Pesticide Stewardship Recognized
Sixteen members of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) were recognized for their efforts in preventing pollution and reducing pesticide risk at a ceremony July 15 in Arlington, Va. The 2005 "PESP Champions" used most or all of the following integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to reduce the human health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use: (1) sampling to accurately determine pest population levels; (2) training and demonstrating IPM practices; (3) employing cultural practices such as crop rotation or removing food and habitat for structural pests; (4) controlling or managing pests through biologically based technologies; (5) applying less toxic or reduced-risk pesticides such as insect growth regulators; and (6) using conventional pesticides only when absolutely necessary.
The 2005 "PESP Champions" are: Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program, Selkirk, N.Y.; Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association, Oakland, Calif.; Central Coast Vineyard Team Paso Robles, Calif.; Edison Electric Institute, Washington, D.C.; General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.; Glades Crop Care, Inc., Jupiter, Fla.; IPM Institute of North America, Inc., Madison, Wis.; Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, Lodi, Calif.; New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association, Methuen, Mass.; North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, San Francisco, Calif.; Steritech Group, Inc., Charlotte, N.C.; Southwest School IPM Technical Resource Center, Dallas, Texas; University of Wisconsin - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Madison, Wis.; U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Hop Industry Plant Protection Committee, Moxee, Wash.; and Walnut Marketing Board, Sacramento, Calif.
Launched in 1994, the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program is a voluntary public/private partnership to reduce pesticide risk. More information on the accomplishments of the 2005 PESP Champions is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/PESP/
EPA Asks for Comments on Pesticide Review Process
To ensure that pesticide registrations continue to meet current health and safety standards, EPA is seeking public comment on a proposed approach to review each existing pesticide registration every 15 years. This new registration review program, mandated by the Food Quality Protection Act, will begin in 2006 and make sure that, as the ability to assess risk evolves and as policies and practices change, "older" pesticides will still meet the statutory standard of no unreasonable adverse effects.
In developing this program over the past several years, EPA consulted with and received significant input from the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and other key stakeholders regarding the design of registration review. Under the proposed process, the agency would assess any changes that have occurred since the agency's last registration decision on the pesticide. EPA would determine the significance of such changes and whether additional restrictions are needed to ensure that the pesticide meets current requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Registration review will replace the re-registration and tolerance reassessment programs which are nearing completion. As in those programs, the registration review process would allow for substantial public participation, but unlike those "one-time reassessment" programs, registration review will reoccur for each pesticide every 15 years.
During the 90-day comment period for this proposal, the agency will hold public information meetings on the proposed rule.
Failure to Train CompanyÆs Training Director Leads to Penalty
Ferro Corporation was fined over $20,000 by the OEPA for a range of hazardous waste violations at its facilities in Ohio. Violations included:
+ Disposal of hazardous waste as scrap metal
+ Failure to provide employees with annual training
+ Failure to maintain written training descriptions
+ Failure to maintain a list of all spill control equipment in a contingency plan
+ Failure to provide annual training to the training director, who provided training to facility employees
+ Failure to provide spill control equipment in a hazardous waste storage area
+ Failure to maintain a list of persons qualified to act as emergency coordinator
+ Failure to close a hazardous waste container when not adding or removing waste
Emissions Trading Proposed to Help Improve Visibility
Expanding upon the Clean Air Visibility Rule, EPA proposed an emissions trading program to help state and tribal governments improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. The proposal outlines an alternative emissions trading program that gives flexibility for states or tribal government in ways to apply Best Alternative Retrofit Technology (BART). The BART requirements would be satisfied if the trading program meets or exceeds the visibility benefits resulting from BART.
The BART requirements of the Clean Air Visibility Rule apply to industrial facilities, built between 1962 and 1977, that emit air pollutants that reduce visibility by causing or contributing to regional haze. The Clean Air Visibility Rule, including the BART requirements finalized on June 15, 2005, will provide approximately $240 million annually in visibility improvements in southeastern and southwestern parks. The rule will also provide substantial health benefits in the range of $8.4 - $9.8 billion each year -- preventing an estimated 1,600 premature deaths, 2,200 non-fatal heart attacks, 960 hospital admissions, and more than 1 million lost school and work days. The total annual costs of this rule range from $1.4 to $1.5 billion. The proposal applies to an emissions trading alternative that states and tribes may use to improve visibility in specially protected areas.
The proposed emissions trading rule will be open for public comment for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA will take final action on this issue by November, 2005. For information about EPA's regional haze program, this proposal and how to make public comment, visit EPAÆs BART website.
Texas uses Helicopter to Look for Unreported Emissions
A helicopter has been hovering over refineries, pipelines, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities looking for unreported emissions. The helicopter is part of a study being conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The helicopter is equipped with a new, cutting-edge-technology camera that can detect volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions invisible to the eye. VOCs are a class of compounds that include common things like gasoline and other solvents as well as industrial chemicals such as ethylene and propylene. The exercise is part of a study to identify VOC sources that have been unreported or under-reported. The purpose of identifying the emissions is to improve the region's air quality by advancing the understanding of ozone formation, thus leading to improved air quality planning efforts.
VOCs combine with nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight and light winds to form ground-level ozone. "The best result of this study will be if we find substantial VOC emissions that have never been detected or accounted for before," said TCEQ Commissioner R.B. "Ralph" Marquez.
The HAWK infrared camera "sees" VOCs such as gasoline vapors, ethylene, or methane as a dark cloud. When the camera detects VOCs, equipment on the helicopter will note the time and location and other information about the emission. A letter will then be sent to the facility where the emission was noted asking for information about the emission, such as the specific compound involved, the amount of the emission, the type of process that was in operation at the time of the emission, and other information.
The helicopter will be flying over the area through the end of July. The agency will also be making observations with the camera from a state vehicle, from a boat near industrial facilities, and from stationary vantage points in the study area. The data will be analyzed by Lamar University to determine if the camera can be a useful tool in further air emission source identification and characterization studies. Final results of the study are due in December. The effort will cost about $100,000. It is part of the much larger TexAQS II study, which will undertake several studies to better understand ozone formation in the eastern half of Texas.
Ohio Extends RCRA Permits to 10 Years
A change to rule 3745-50-54 of the Ohio Administrative Code which increases the maximum duration of a hazardous waste installation and operation permit from five years to ten years became effective on July 11, 2005. OEPA amended this rule to reflect a change in Ohio Revised Code 3734.02 (E)(2) which was effective on April 15, 2005.
EPA Seeks Comments on Air Toxics Rule
EPA will reopen for public comment certain aspects of its final air toxics regulation for the plywood and composite wood products industry. The agency is taking this action in response to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Integrity Project. In a separate but related action, EPA is proposing amendments to the air toxics standards for the plywood and composite wood products industry that will streamline requirements for demonstrating that an individual facility poses a low risk to public health.
The environmental groups' petition asks for reconsideration of nine aspects of the final rule and requests a stay of the risk-based compliance alternatives which allow facilities to meet requirements by demonstrating that their emissions have a minimal impact on human health. Although EPA is not granting the petitioners' request for a stay, the agency will provide a 45-day comment period on the nine aspects of the petition with the reconsideration notice's publication in the Federal Register.
Separately, EPA is proposing changes to the rule that would allow facilities to use approved emissions estimates rather than conducting emissions tests for some hard-to-test units, and would extend the deadline for submitting demonstrations that facilities are low risk. The amendments will not affect the impact of the standards.
EPA issued the final air toxics rule for the plywood and composite wood products industry in July 2004. Air toxics are pollutants known, or suspected, to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Since 1990, EPA has issued 96 standards covering emissions from 174 industry source categories. By 2007, these rules will eliminate 1.7 million tons of air toxics every year.
EPA estimates that the July 2004 final rule will reduce air toxics emissions from the manufacturing of plywood and composite wood products by 11,000 tons per year, a 58 percent decrease from 1997 levels. The final rule also will reduce volatile organic compound emissions by 27,000 tons per year, a 52 percent decrease from 1997 levels.
The plywood and composite wood products industry manufactures plywood and veneer, particleboard, medium density fiberboard, hardboard, fiberboard, oriented strandboard and engineered wood products.
Duro Textiles Cited for Clean Air Violations
A notice of violation has been issued to Duro Textiles, LLC, the owner of several textile finishing plants in Fall River, Mass., for violating federal clean air requirements on numerous occasions. EPA has cited Duro for repeatedly failing to maintain required minimum temperatures at an incinerator used to control emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These violations may have compromised the incineratorÆs ability to destroy VOCs, which in turn may have caused excess VOC emissions.
ôOzone pollution can pose serious health risks û especially to those suffering from asthma,ö said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPAÆs New England office. ôGiven the high asthma rates in New England, we must take steps to ensure compliance with clean air requirements. Through active oversight and enforcement of these requirements, we can help ensure that all citizens breathe cleaner air.ö
As specified in a federally-enforceable state air permit, Duro was required to operate the incinerator at a minimum of 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. However, between Aug. 2002 - July 2004, Duro violated this temperature requirement nearly 1,700 times.
VOCs are a main contributor to ground-level ozone (also known as smog). Ozone can irritate peopleÆs respiratory systems, causing coughing and throat irritation. More seriously, exposure to ground level ozone can aggravate asthma and damage lung cells, and may cause permanent lung damage. These effects can be worse in children, exercising adults and people with respiratory ailments such as asthma.
Massachusetts currently does not meet EPAÆs national 8-hour ozone standard. Between 2000 and 2004, there have been an average of 16 days per summer when Massachusetts has exceeded the ozone standard.
In addition to citing Duro for incinerator temperature violations, EPA is also requiring Duro to test the incinerator to ensure that it can operate properly and effectively control VOC emissions, in accordance with its design specifications.
Duro also violated federally-enforceable VOC recordkeeping requirements at Duro Finishing and at the nearby Duro Plant #2. Duro failed to keep various types of daily VOC records at the two plants. These records enable federal and state authorities, as well as Duro, to evaluate ongoing compliance with VOC emission limits.
Self-Reporting Failure to Report Lead on Form R Reduces Fine from $85,000 to Zero
The EPA recently eliminated an $85,000 penalty against Jabil Circuit for self-disclosing its failure to submit toxic chemical reports, violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. Jabil Circuit manufactures electrical and electromechanical assemblies for certain industries. Between 2001 - 2003, Jabil Circuit failed to submit timely toxic release reporting forms to the EPA that account for the amount of lead releases Jabil had from the facility each year. The annual reporting is compiled by the EPA and release to the public as the Toxic Release Inventory report.
"This is a good example of how the EPA and industry can work together," said Enrique Manzanilla, Communities and Ecosystems Division Director for EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "Jabil disclosed the violation and corrected it, ensuring the company complied with federal law.ö
Federal law requires certain facilities using chemicals over certain amounts to file annual reports of chemical releases with the EPA and the state. The reports estimate the amounts released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management. This information is then compiled into a national database called the Toxics Release Inventory and made available to the public. The premise behind the program is that people have a right to know about toxic chemical emissions, and that facilities have a responsibility to inform surrounding communities about their use and release of toxic chemicals.
Under the agency's audit policy, the EPA may reduce penalties up to 100 percent for violations that are voluntarily discovered, promptly disclosed to the agency and quickly corrected. Because Jabil disclosed the reporting errors and met additional criteria, the agency applied the policy, reducing the potential $85,566 fine to zero.