October 04, 2021
EPA has proposed
to codify the definition of “parent company” for purposes of reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Although the existing regulation requires facilities reporting to TRI to identify their parent company in annual reporting forms, no codified definition of this data element exists. Among the facilities reporting to TRI are those with complicated corporate ownership structures. As such, effort is required each year by reporting facilities and EPA to clarify how the parent company data element should be represented on the form. A codified definition of parent company would allow EPA to address various corporate ownership scenarios explicitly and reduce the reporting burden caused by regulatory uncertainty. The proposed rule would clarify existing regulations to reporting facilities and add a foreign parent company data element, if applicable, while improving the Agency's data quality.
This proposal addresses the following ownership scenarios:
- A facility is owned by a single company, which is not owned by another company;
- A facility is owned by a single company, which is owned by another company;
- A facility is owned by multiple companies, including companies that are themselves owned by other entities;
- A facility is owned by a joint venture or cooperative;
- A facility is owned, at least in part, by a foreign company; and
- A facility is owned by the federal government, or a state, tribal, or municipal government.
EPA is also proposing to require facilities reporting to TRI to utilize standardized naming conventions for parent company reporting, as provided in the annual TRI RFI, available as a downloadable
Excel file. These naming conventions address common formatting discrepancies, such as punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations (for example, “Corp” for “Corporation”).
Plastic Shopping Bags Release Thousands of Dissolved Compounds in Sunlight
Although plastics are durable and strong, a little sunlight can split them apart into microscopic pieces and spur reactions, producing new molecules that can end up in the environment. But how the polymers and additives in these materials influence this process is a mystery. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology
have shown that additives in commercial shopping bags boost sunlight’s ability to convert these solid materials into thousands of dissolved compounds within days.
Once plastic pollution gets into the environment, its fate is still largely unknown, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Some of the plastic items, such as polyethylene shopping bags, float in water, which exposes them directly to the sun’s rays. Previous researchers have shown that the pure polymers commonly used to make these items produce water-soluble molecules and gases when placed in ultraviolet light, a component of sunlight. However, plastics in consumer goods aren’t pure; a variety of carbon-based organic additives and mineral additives are mixed in to give them color or make them more stable. So, Collin Ward and colleagues wanted to see exactly how the composition of single-use shopping bags influenced the dissolved compounds generated by sunlight over short periods.
With X-ray diffraction, the researchers examined four polyethylene plastic bags from big-box retailers and a pure polyethylene polymer film for mineral additives. No additives were identified in the pure polymer, but calcium carbonate and titanium dioxide were found in three of the bags, and only calcium carbonate was found in the fourth bag. Next, the researchers put pieces of the plastic bags and the polymer into separate containers with water, and then in the dark or under simulated daylight for up to a week. Some water-soluble compounds were released from the different pieces in the dark. But in sunlight, more compounds were released, ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 dissolved compounds, which equates to 1.1-fold to 50-fold increases over the number of compounds released in the dark. Of the approximately 9,000 molecules generated by the pure polymer when exposed to sunlight, only about a quarter overlapped with those from the bags. Based on these results, the researchers say that sunlight’s reactions with solid plastics can transform them into a plethora of water-soluble compounds whose levels and identities vary, depending on the additives used.
General Aluminum Fined $1.67M After Worker Crushed by Machine
The Ravenna, Ohio, aluminum parts manufacturer with a history of safety violations now faces $1,671,738 in penalties for 38 safety and health violations following an investigation into the death of a 43-year-old worker struck by a machine's barrier door on March 30, 2021.
OSHA cited General Aluminum Mfg. Company allowed employees to bypass guarding mechanisms designed to protect employees from the barrier door closing on them and that a malfunction in the door's optic control existed prior to the deadly incident. The worker was loading a part info the machine when the barrier door closed on his head.
OSHA's investigation identified problems with machine guarding and a lack of protective procedures – commonly known as lockout/tagout
– throughout the facility. OSHA claims that General Aluminum Mfg. Company was aware of these problems and failed to address them adequately.
The company also lacked effective process safety management procedures and failed to protect employees from burn and explosion hazards caused by pooled water on the floor, provide personnel with appropriate protective equipment, train workers adequately about hazards and safety procedures, record employee training and develop emergency action plans.
“General Aluminum's failure to learn from recent incidents, and follow industry standards and their own company policies created unnecessary and avoidable hazards in its facility,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “A worker lost his life because the company put the value of production speed before the safety of their employees. OSHA will continue to hold bad actors accountable and emphasize the importance of complying with safety and health requirements that can save lives.”
General Aluminum management signed formal settlement agreements previously to resolve OSHA citations for machine guarding and lockout/tagout violations found during inspections conducted between 2015 and 2017, and hired a third party consultant to conduct comprehensive machine guarding and lockout/tagout audits between 2017 and 2019. The audits identified specific machine guarding and lockout/tagout program deficiencies and provided recommendations that the company failed to fully implement.
“After conducting repeated inspections at the plant and receiving formal assurances that safety procedures would be implemented, the company's failure to do so is unacceptable. Employers are legally responsible for keeping workers safe on the job,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago.
Founded in 1943, General Aluminum Mfg. Company produces engineered automotive castings. The company employs about 1,200 workers nationwide and 220 employees at the Ravenna/Rootstown location. Owned by Park Ohio Holdings Corp. in Cleveland, the company also has locations in Conneaut and Wapakoneta, Ohio, and in Freemont and Huntington, Indiana.
Tampa Smelter Fined $312,000 for Exposing Workers to Unsafe Levels of Airborne Lead, Despite Experts’ Warning
Despite warnings since March 2020 of unsafe measures of lead exposure, a Tampa battery recycling facility and smelter failed to make changes that resulted in worker exposure to lead inhalation hazards, a federal workplace safety investigation found.
OSHA cited Envirofocus Technologies LLC – operating as Gopher Resource LLC – with a willful violation for exposing workers to inhalation hazards. The company also failed to provide employees with adequate respirators that could have kept worker exposure to hazardous substances at or below the allowable level.
- Allowing cadmium, lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
- Not implementing adequate engineering and work practice controls to prevent lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
- Failing to provide an annual update of the written compliance program for cadmium, inorganic lead and arsenic.
- Allowing workers to share aluminized jackets that were damaged and stored in the open, and exposed to lead.
- Requiring workers to wear respirators that were not fit-tested annually.
- Using shoveling, sweeping or brushing methods to remove lead accumulations.
- Not identifying all hazards on entry permits.
Proposed penalties total $319,876. “This employer put their bottom line above the safety and well-being of their workers,” said OSHA Area Director Danelle Jindra in Tampa. “Every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and they should never have to decide between their own health and earning a living. Continuing to put workers in harm’s way is unacceptable, and OSHA will continue to hold employers like Gopher Resource responsible.”
OSHA also cited A & B Maintenance & Construction Inc.
, a Tampa-based company that provides supplemental maintenance at the Gopher facility, for exposing workers to health hazards by failing to maintain a written respiratory protection program and allowing lead exposure in excess of the permissible exposure limit. The company faces $16,384 in penalties.
Gopher Resource is a secondary lead smelter. It recycles automotive batteries by separating the battery components to capture lead, acid and plastic, then processes those materials.
JBS Foods, Inc. Cited for Repeated Safety Failures After Worker's Death at Swift Beef's Colorado Facility
OSHA cited JBS Foods, Inc. – one of the nation's largest meat and pork suppliers – again, for exposing employees to safety hazards at its Greeley facilities, this time following the death of a worker who was installing a paddlewheel.
OSHA investigators responded to the March 27 incident and determined that JBS failed to adequately secure a paddlewheel being installed to churn chemicals used in processing animal hides. The paddlewheel along with the trolley and hoist used to lift it fell. An employee fell into an oval vat which contained the chemicals.
OSHA cited JBS Foods, Inc. – operating as Swift Beef Co. – for eight serious violations related to the unsafe lifting process, for hazardous chemical and training violations. JBS faces $58,709 in proposed penalties following this investigation.
The fatality occurred after several other incidents at the same facility, including a JBS worker who suffered an arm amputation after being pulled into a conveyor belt; another worker who suffered laceration injuries while removing a hide; and a third worker who was exposed to a thermal burn hazard. As a result, OSHA cited the company for 11 serious violations, including failing to ensure proper machine guarding and not implementing safe process procedures.
“Injuries are all too common for workers in the meat processing industry, but most are preventable when required safety and health regulations are followed,” said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “At the height of the pandemic, food processing industry workers helped feed our nation and keep our economy moving. The employees at this facility deserve better than to fear for their lives and their safety when they come to work.”
Headquartered in Greeley, JBS Foods is a world leader in beef, poultry and pork production, with operations in the U.S., Australia and Canada. Its products are sold under more than 40 brand names in the U.S. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of JBS S.A. based in Brazil, the world's largest processor of fresh beef and pork, with more than $50 billion in annual sales.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations
and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Montana DEQ and Volkswagen Settle Air Quality Violation
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reached a settlement with Volkswagen (VW) for air quality penalties related to devices, known as “defeat devices,” that were designed to cheat emissions tests and were installed in a range of vehicle models—including VW Jetta, Audi A3 and Porsche Cayenne Diesel cars—from 2009-2016 before the cars were sold. The defeat devices allowed the vehicles to pass emissions tests, while they were actually producing emissions five to 40 times the federal emission limit for nitrogen oxides (NOx). After installing the devices pre-sale, Volkswagen also sent software upgrades that unknowing Montana car dealerships downloaded to cars during maintenance. The software updates made the defeat devices worse, by detecting when the steering wheel of a car moved—indicating that it was being used on the road rather than being tested—and then turning off the emissions controls when it was driven on the road. Montana owners of the vehicles were not aware of the devices in their vehicles or the subsequent software downloads that disabled the emission controls.
Volkswagen has agreed to pay DEQ a total of $357,280, or $280 per car for the 1,276 cars that were sold in Montana and that received the software update. This settlement is in addition to past state and federal settlements and criminal plea agreements with Volkswagen, which have funded projects throughout the state including transit buses and electric vehicle charging stations.
“DEQ takes our mission to champion a healthy environment seriously and through this settlement, Volkswagen is held accountable for violating Montana’s air quality laws,” said DEQ Director Chris Dorrington.
$3 Million Civil Penalty in Federal Settlement Requiring $5 Million in Safety Improvements and Clean Air Act Compliance at Eight Natural Gas Processing Plants
$3 Million Criminal Penalty for RMP Violations
Five subsidiaries of West Texas Gas Inc. will spend up to $5 million on compliance measures in a settlement that resolves allegations in the United States’ complaint, that they violated federal Clean Air Act chemical accident prevention requirements at several of their natural gas processing plants. The companies will pay more than $3 million in civil penalties to resolve claims stemming from fatal chemical accidents and accident prevention program violations.
In a related criminal case, Big Lake Gas Plant L.P., one of the subsidiaries that operated a gas plant in Big Lake, TX, pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment and one count of violating the Clean Air Act.
The settlement requires the subsidiaries to take steps to prevent chemical accidents and improve safety at eight natural gas processing plants that the companies own and operate. Seven plants are located in Texas and one is in New Mexico. The plants use a variety of chemical processes containing toxic substances and flammable hydrocarbons, such as butane, methane and propane.
“The tragic deaths due to the failure by West Texas Gas to safely manage hazardous chemicals, as required by law, demonstrates the severe dangers that these violations pose to workers, nearby communities and the environment,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement requires West Texas Gas to take concrete steps to prevent future accidents and will improve air quality in the vicinity of these facilities.”
“West Texas Gas’ Clean Air Act violations cost lives,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s settlement sends a strong message to industry that the Justice Department will vigorously enforce Clean Air Act requirements that protect workers, neighboring communities, and the environment by preventing dangerous chemical releases like these.”
“This company’s blatant disregard of clean air regulations had devastating real-world consequences,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah for the Northern District of Texas. “Our hearts go out to the families of the employees killed in the fires that prompted the investigation. We are hopeful that the safety measures stipulated in this settlement will protect against similar incidents.”
The civil complaint alleges that WTG Gas Processing L.P., WTG South Permian Midstream LLC and Davis Gas Processing Inc. violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act and the related chemical accident prevention regulations. The EPA identified the Clean Air Act violations addressed in the settlement during a series of inspections of the companies’ natural gas processing plants. The EPA inspections were initiated after a catastrophic fire in November 2015 killed an employee at WTG Gas Processing, L.P.’s East Vealmoor Gas Plant in Coahoma, TX. Thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic substances were also released into the air. Other serious fires, resulting in millions of dollars of damage, occurred at some of the companies’ other plants, and an August 2018 leak of toxic hydrogen sulfide resulted in the death of another company employee in Big Lake, TX.
Under the settlement, the companies must hire an outside, independent engineering firm to recommend actions that the companies will complete to improve process safety at six of the eight plants. The six plants must also implement an environmental management system to improve their compliance with all federal, state and local air pollution related requirements, not just those dealing with preventing chemical accidents. The companies have elected to permanently shut down the remaining two plants.
Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act and the risk management program regulations contain a comprehensive set of requirements to prevent accidental releases of hazardous air pollutants, an important objective of the Clean Air Act. These regulations require owners and operators of facilities, such as natural gas processing plants, chemical plants and petroleum refineries to perform adequate and timely equipment inspections and repairs, train employees involved in the operation and maintenance of equipment, evaluate the hazards of the chemical processing equipment and ensure that operating procedures contain clear and comprehensive instructions to safely operate process equipment.
In the related criminal case against Big Lake Gas Plant L.P., the plant admitted that in 2018, it negligently released hydrogen sulfide into the ambient air. Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas that can compromise the human nervous system and respiratory tract and can cause life-threatening health effects if not handled properly. One employee died as a result of exposure sustained while working at the plant, and another employee was injured. The company further admitted that it knowingly failed to properly update its risk management plan following the incident, an update required by law.
Under the terms of its plea agreement, the plant agreed to pay a $3 million fine, and acknowledged it may be ordered to pay restitution to victims, as well as the costs of supervision.
The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Firestone Polymers Fined Over $3 Million for Air Violations
The Department of Justice (DOJ), EPA and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) announced Firestone Polymers, LLC (Firestone) has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and several other federal and state environmental laws at the company's synthetic rubber manufacturing facility in Sulfur, Louisiana. The company will also pay a total of $3.35 million in civil penalties.
The settlement requires several actions from Firestone, including meeting emissions limits, operating and maintenance requirements, equipment controls, limiting hazardous air pollutants from facility dryers, conducting inspections of heat exchangers, installing controls and monitors on covered flares, and installing flaring instrumentation and monitoring systems. After being notified of the violations but prior to the consent decree being lodged, Firestone took other compliance measures, including installing and operating a regenerative thermal oxidizer system to receive waste gases from dryers, reducing n-hexane solvent concentrations, and inspecting and testing heat exchangers.
DOJ, on behalf of EPA and co-plaintiff LDEQ, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The complaint alleges that the facility emitted excess amounts of pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and hazardous air pollutants including 1,3-butadiene, n-hexane, styrene, formaldehyde, methanol, and others and failed to comply with requirements related to equipment such as dryers, cooling towers, and flares; leak detection and repair; mechanical integrity; and monitoring and reporting. The complaint also asserts violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act; the Pollution Prevention Act; and Louisiana state air pollution control requirements.
“This settlement will ensure cleaner air for the citizens of Louisiana and the communities near Firestone’s plant,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “It also enforces the company’s obligation to inform local communities of potential chemical hazards to aid state and local efforts to control accidental releases.”
“Businesses such as Firestone Polymers have a sacred obligation to protect Louisiana’s environment and to use our natural resources wisely,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook for the Western District of Louisiana. “This settlement sends a clear message that those who don’t honor this obligation will be held accountable.”
“The Clean Air Act is vital to protecting people’s health, and the Sulfur Firestone facility violated these protections as Louisiana’s highest emitter of three types of hazardous air pollutants,” said Acting Regional Administrator David Gray of the EPA. “EPA’s legal and enforcement team, working with DOJ and LDEQ, held the company accountable for reducing emissions, and won additional benefits for environmental justice communities in Southwest Louisiana with improved air monitoring systems. I congratulate our team for their hard work on behalf of the people of Louisiana.”
“The violations detailed in the complaint represent Firestone’s disregard for the Clean Air Act, which is an underlying authority for environmental regulation in the United States” said Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown of LDEQ. “LDEQ and our federal partner, EPA, will vigorously pursue any violators of the CAA. These penalties and the beneficial environmental project under the consent decree are the result of our efforts. The beneficial environmental project’s funds will be used to support additional ambient air monitoring in the Westlake and southwest Louisiana areas, which will assist LDEQ’s efforts to improve air quality for these communities.”
As part of the consent decree, Firestone will pay a civil penalty of $2,098,678.50 to the United States and $1,251,321.50 to LDEQ for a total of $3,350,000. Firestone will also complete a Beneficial Environmental Project in Louisiana by funding ambient air monitoring system upgrades in several locations in Southwest Louisiana.
The consent decree
was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Landfill Cited for Methane Emissions
The settlement also includes an Administrative Order on Consent which reduces emissions by requiring Riverbend to conduct enhanced monitoring, inspection, and tracking measures to find and address landfill emissions.
The one square mile municipal solid waste landfill and recycling center has an air permit issued by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. It has been in operation since 1982 and is owned and operated by Waste Management, Inc.
Under the Clean Air Act, Riverbend Landfill is required to capture the emissions generated as the garbage breaks down. To ensure they are capturing the emissions adequately, Riverbend Landfill is also required to conduct surveys of the surface of the landfill to see if any gases are leaking at least 4 times per year. This survey involves traversing the landfill using an instrument that measures methane present in the air. If methane emissions above 500 parts per million are measured, the landfill must take corrective action to ensure those emissions are captured.
In 2018, an inspection by EPA discovered nine separate instances of methane emissions greater than 500 ppm at different areas of the landfill. When reviewing facility records, it was discovered that the emissions surveys conducted by Riverbend Landfill did not find any areas above 500 ppm between 2015 and 2018, including their surface emission monitoring studies before and after EPA’s inspection.
Comparing the results from EPA’s inspection and Riverbend Landfill’s surveys, EPA determined that Riverbend Landfill did not conduct adequate surface emission monitoring. EPA also determined that the Riverbend Landfill failed to monitor cover integrity monthly, as required. They also failed to perform required monthly monitoring in an onsite well. Riverbend landfill neither confirms nor denies EPA’s alleged violations in this matter.
Landfills are the third largest source of methane pollution, which is one of the main contributors to climate change. In addition to methane emissions, landfill gases contain Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). HAPs emitted by municipal solid waste landfills can include, but are not limited to, vinyl chloride, ethyl benzene, toluene, and benzene. All of the airborne toxic chemicals emitted from MSW landfills can cause adverse health effects provided sufficient exposure.
Arizona Streamlines and Eliminates Unnecessary Regulations
ADEQ officials thanked Governor Doug Ducey for signing House Bill 2580 (HB 2580) into law. Sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin, this legislation reduces unnecessary regulations, while continuing to promote environmentally responsible economic growth in Arizona.
In response to Governor Ducey’s Executive Order 2015-01
, HB 2580 is part of ADEQ’s continuous evaluation of existing statutes and rules to identify and remove, simplify or correct duplicative, contradictory and ambiguous regulatory hurdles. HB 2580 successfully repeals 15 pieces of statute, amends an additional five statutes, and enables ADEQ to streamline three sections of rule from the Arizona Administrative Code, offering tangible benefits to both Arizona taxpayers and industry.
“This is the latest in a series of omnibus bills I have sponsored to make it easier to do business with ADEQ without reducing ADEQ’s ability to protect public health and the environment,” said Representative Gail Griffin.
“ADEQ is committed to achieving positive mission outcomes through efficient, effective government at the speed of business,” said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera. “Streamlined regulations eliminate waste from our processes and increase our capacity to work with our customers to do more mission-critical work for Arizonans and our unique environment."
The latest in a series of bills enacted to improve the ADEQ regulatory structure, HB 2580 accomplishes the following:
- Repeals a duplicative requirement to adopt a process related to Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF) boundaries. (A.R.S. §49-289.01(C))
- Repeals requirements for state-owned hazardous waste facilities that were adopted in 1980 since there are no such sites, no intention of creating any, and to eliminate conflict with a mandate that state statute not be more stringent than federal law. (A.R.S. §49-902 – §49-905)
- Repeals a one-time requirement to conduct a hazardous air pollutants study and issue a report, which was satisfied in 1995. (A.R.S. §49-426.08)
- Repeals the diesel roadside testing pilot program and its corresponding civil penalties, which were determined as unfeasible in 2002 . (A.R.S. §49-542.06 and §49-542.07)
- Repeals the requirement for the Department to write rules related to changing air quality attainment area designations, since the federal Clean Air Act already mandates the process. (A.R.S. §49-405(B)(2))
- Repeals the annual requirement for consumers of newsprint to certify the amount of recycled newsprint purchased the previous year, since it no longer provides environmental benefit. When this statute was enacted in 1990, landfilled newsprint made up a significant portion of the nation’s waste stream. Since then, newsprint in the waste stream has decreased by 85 percent. (A.R.S. §49-834)
- Aligns air quality public hearing notice timeframes with federal and state regulations. (A.R.S. §49-425)
- Makes the development of criteria governing disbursement of solid waste planning and assistance funds to county, city or town management agencies discretionary instead of mandatory, since funds have never been appropriated for this purpose. (A.R.S. §49-724)
- Removes a requirement to include a summary of Pollution Prevention Report reviews in an annual report that, due to a statutory change in 2003, the agency is no longer required to produce. (A.R.S. §49-964(C))
- Removes a requirement for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) to review Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program Contracts, since the requirement for JLBC to review the initial contract was repealed in 2011 and JLBC has not unfavorably reviewed any contract amendment for over a decade. (A.R.S. §49-545(G))
- Removes the requirement for ADEQ to develop a response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), including coordination with and reporting to a defunct legislative committee, since EPA did not adopt the CPP. (A.R.S. §49-459)
- Allows ADEQ to convene WQARF Community Advisory Board meetings at any time in response to a public or municipal request or site condition changes, instead of on a mandated quarterly basis. (A.R.S. §49-289.03(F)(2))
Boise White Paper LLC Fined for Releasing 1.4 Million Gallons of Untreated Wastewater to Rainy River
According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Boise White Paper LLC in International Falls discharged approximately 1.4 million gallons of untreated wastewater to the Rainy River as a result of power outages in October 2020 and May 2021. The company also discharged floating solids and visible pink foam to the Rainy River in March 2021. The foaming was caused by insufficient defoaming agent being added to effluent during production of colored paper. The release was not immediately reported and there was no recovery of accessible foam.
The company paid a $16,965 civil penalty to the MPCA and was required to:
- Make a plan to ensure no visible foam is released to the river.
- Identify how any release, spill, or unauthorized discharge will be reported immediately to the State Duty Officer.
- Provide at least 30 days advance notice of colored paper production at the facility and conduct toxicity tests on treated effluent during colored paper production, as directed by MPCA.
- Create a plan for preventing releases of untreated wastewater during power outages that will ensure emergency power to critical pumps is available to prevent unauthorized discharges.
MPCA rules and regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with regulatory requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected or could have affected the environment, and whether they were first-time or repeat violations. The agency also attempts to recover the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
Denco II, LLC Consistently Exceeded Industrial Wastewater and Stormwater Limits at Morris Ethanol Facility
Denco II, LLC consistently exceeded pollutant limits in its industrial wastewater and stormwater discharges at its ethanol production facility in Morris. The polluted discharges could reduce oxygen in the water and harm aquatic life when they reached lakes, rivers, and wetlands. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation uncovered violations between January 2018 and April 2021 that included:
Exceeding permitted pollutant in industrial wastewater and stormwater discharges. The company eliminated its wastewater discharge in 2019, but its stormwater discharge continued to exceed pollutant limits.
- Failing to prevent corn byproduct from getting into stormwater discharge.
- Failing to take action that could prevent excess pollutants in its stormwater discharges.
- Failing to record additives used in its wastewater streams that must be approved for use and used only in authorized amounts.
The company paid an $18,634 civil penalty to the MPCA and was required to develop and implement plans to minimize risks of future similar violations, and investigate and mitigate causes of unauthorized discharges.
Propane Distribution Terminal Cited for RMP Violations
EPA has finalized a settlement with Grafton & Upton Railroad Company for alleged violations of federal chemical accident prevention requirements
at the company's propane distribution terminal in N. Grafton, Mass. The company will pay a $52,000 civil penalty, automate the delivery of water for fire suppression in the winter, and deliver training to emergency responders.
In 2018, Grafton & Upton Railroad Co. (G&U) opened a new propane transfer terminal at its N. Grafton facility, which consists of a railroad siding off the main rail line with storage for propane rail cars, transfer stations, four 80,000-gallon storage tanks, and truck loading stations. The terminal is located near homes, a school, and other businesses. South of the terminal is a switching yard where CSX and G&U couple and de-couple railcars carrying other materials (such as asphalt and wax) for delivery to terminals south of Grafton.
Propane is subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention provisions, found in Section 112(r) of the Act and implementing regulations. Under these regulations, facilities storing and handling certain quantities of extremely hazardous materials must file a risk management plan (RMP) with EPA and comply with the other chemical accident prevention and mitigation requirements. The RMP also provides a summary of the company's accident prevention and mitigation program.
"It is important that facilities take all necessary actions to protect local communities by following chemical accident prevention steps," said EPA New England's Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. "Risk Management Plans are important because they identify the potential effects of a chemical accident and they identify steps the facility is taking to prevent an accident. RMPs also contain important information for emergency responders."
EPA alleged that G&U failed to file an RMP before the terminal opened for business. An EPA inspection concluded that the terminal generally was well-designed in accordance with industry standards, but EPA did raise additional concerns to ensure protection for the surrounding community. EPA particularly was concerned about whether water could fill the facility's water cannons quickly enough in the winter. The water cannons spray water to cool tanks in the event of a fire, but water must be manually turned on in the winter to avoid freezing pipes. Further, due to public concerns over siting of the facility, EPA provided an opportunity for public input before reaching this settlement. G&U has been responsive addressing concerns raised by EPA throughout the enforcement process.
Injuries Using E-Scooters, E-Bikes and Hoverboards Jump 70% During the Past Four Years
As consumers step up their use of e-scooters, hoverboards, and e-bikes to return to work, school and other activities, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds everyone to keep safety a priority.
According to advance data from a soon-to-be-released CPSC report on hazard patterns associated with micromobility products, injuries and deaths continue to rise, but data are certainly consistent with the notion that a lot of people staying home in 2020, led to a leveling off or slight reduction in scooter use.
Here’s what the latest data show:
- There were more than 190,000 emergency room (ED) visits due to all micromobility products from 2017 through 2020. ED visits had a steady 70% increase from 34,000 (2017), 44,000 (2018), 54,800 (2019) to 57,800 (2020).
- Much of the increase between 2017 and later years was attributable to ED visits involving e-scooters, which rose three times as much, from 7,700 (2017), to 14,500 (2018), to 27,700 (2019) and 25,400 (2020).
- Injuries happened most frequently to upper and lower limbs, as well as the head and the neck.
- CPSC is aware of 71 fatalities associated with micromobility products from 2017 through 2020, although reporting is incomplete.
The hazards associated with micromobility products primarily fall into three broad areas: mechanical, electrical, and human factors. To address these hazards, CPSC staff continues to work with ASTM International and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to develop and make improvements to, voluntary standards. In support of these and other efforts, CPSC has done analyses of incident data and has done testing for the various hazards. CPSC also collaborates with federal partners and industry stakeholders to promote micromobility safety.
The best way to avoid injuries when using micromobility products:
- Always make sure to wear a helmet.
- Before riding an e-scooter, make sure to check it for any damage, which includes examining the handlebars, brakes, throttle, bell, lights, tires, cables and frame. Damage to the e-scooter can cause loss of control and lead to a crash.
Idaho DEQ Seeks Comment on Draft IPDES Construction General Permit
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking comment on a draft Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) permit for storm water discharges from construction projects of one acre or greater.
The draft permit would authorize the discharge of storm water and some non-storm water from construction projects of one acre or more within the state of Idaho for five years. The permit identifies the pollutants of concern, the required limits for each pollutant or parameter, and monitoring and reporting requirements necessary to ensure compliance with the permit and protect human health and the environment.
Written comments on the draft permit and fact sheet will be accepted through November 1, 2021, at 5 p.m. MDT. The draft permit and fact sheet are available for public review at DEQ’s state office (1410 N. Hilton St.), DEQ’s Regional Offices (Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Boise, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and Pocatello), and on DEQ’s website. A public meeting may be held, if requested in writing, by October 15, 2021.
Comments and questions regarding this process should be directed to Michael Snider, or on DEQ’s Public Comment Opportunities
page. Comments should address water quality considerations and include supporting materials where available. Comments should reference the construction general permit and permit number (IDR100000).
Recycling Company to Pay $34 Million for Multi-Year Bottle and Can Smuggling Scheme
Recycling Services Alliance, Inc. (RSA) and its operations manager will pay over $34 million for illegally filing claims for California Refund Value (CRV) based on thousands of fabricated weight tickets. The felony convictions for recycling fraud, forging/falsifying public documents and perjury are the result of plea agreements just approved by Sacramento Superior Court. The criminal judgment for RSA is $33 million restitution to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), plus a $1 million criminal fine.
“California’s Beverage Container Recycling program reduces litter and trash pollution, recycling 426 billion bottles and cans since the 1980s,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “CalRecycle’s collaboration with the California Department of Justice (CDOJ) and other state and local partners protects funds that belong to consumers who recycle.”
“As a participant in the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Program, Recycling Service Alliance Corp. should have helped increase California’s environmental stewardship through conservation and waste reduction,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Instead, the company employed a massive fraud scheme. Those who choose to take advantage of state programs in order to pad their pockets will be held accountable.”
Under the plea agreement, RSA and its operations manager admitted to fraudulently submitting claims for CRV refunds between January 2012 and September 2016. During that time, RSA fabricated weight tickets and other documents used to justify state payments and reimbursement claims, including:
- 44,555 weight tickets
- 44,555 shipping reports
- 2,727 processor invoices
CDOJ’s Recycling Fraud Team launched an investigation into RSA in May of 2015 after learning from CalRecycle investigators that the Sacramento facility may have been defrauding the Beverage Container Recycling Fund by receiving out-of-state beverage containers, then illegally redeeming the containers for CRV.
As CDOJ pursued its criminal inquiry, CalRecycle investigators completed an analysis of RSA claims and suspended the recycler’s certification, putting RSA out-of-business. CalRecycle investigators continued to work with the CDOJ, California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards, and the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s Weights and Measures Division to explore how RSA fabricated the weight tickets used to support their claims for CRV.
Grand Jury proceedings from Dec. 4 through Dec. 7, 2017 resulted in criminal indictments against RSA and operations manager Maximina Perez. A copy of the indictment is available here. On Sept. 2, 2021, RSA pleaded guilty to recycling fraud and will pay $33 million in restitution and a $1 million fine. On Sept. 3, 2021, Perez pleaded guilty to recycling fraud, forging/falsifying public documents and perjury. Perez was sentenced to seven years in prison, which will be suspended if she successfully completes five years of probation. Restitution for Perez will be decided at a future hearing.
Cascades Containerboard Packaging, Inc., Required to Correct Persistent Odors and Air Pollution Violations
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the execution of an Order on Consent with Cascades Containerboard Packaging, Inc., in Niagara Falls, that includes a $375,000 penalty and requires Cascades to undertake improvements to protect the community’s health and quality of life. Millions of dollars in new equipment upgrades and other DEC requirements will help ensure Cascades complies with the laws and regulations in place to protect air and water quality in the region.
“DEC took swift action to hold Cascades Containerboard accountable for intolerable odors that adversely impacted the health and outdoor enjoyment of the surrounding neighborhood, particularly during the summer months,” Commissioner Seggos said. “DEC’s Consent Order builds upon our comprehensive investigation to find and address the cause of Cascades’ violations and brings the facility into full compliance for the protection of the Niagara Falls community and the region’s natural resources.”
DEC’s investigation this year revealed Cascades, a cardboard manufacturer, violated the State’s air and water quality laws and regulations governing operations at its 4001 Packard Road facility. Violations included: emitting noxious odors to the surrounding neighborhood; failing to properly operate and maintain the anaerobic digester and two activated sludge reactors; operating unpermitted air pollution emissions sources within the facility’s wastewater treatment plant and sludge processing and handling systems; failure to report equipment malfunctions; and releasing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emissions that exceeded the allowable ambient H2S concentrations off-site.
This enforcement action requires Cascades to pay a civil penalty of $375,000 with additional penalties if the facility fails to comply with the terms of the Consent Order. In addition, upon completion of the work required under the Order, Cascades has spent an estimated $2 million to modify and upgrade operations to prevent a recurrence of its violations.
In all, 19 action items, many of which have been completed or are ongoing, are required under the terms of the Consent Order to bring Cascades into full compliance, including:
- Conducting comprehensive air sampling to evaluate additional potential sources of odorous emissions;
- Continued monitoring fence-line hydrogen sulfide emissions and immediate mitigation when levels are exceeded;
- Submitting plans to replace temporary covers with permanent covers on sludge reactors, tanks, and other emission sources, as well as managing secondary sludge to mitigate potential odors;
- Evaluating operations to find and report any unpermitted emission sources and adding them to its Air State Facility permit application;
- Evaluating wastewater treatment and identifying improvements and implementation plans to ensure the system’s stability; and
- Maintaining a complaint hotline for the public to report complaints; submitting weekly progress reports to DEC summarizing complaints and planned corrective actions.
Additional terms required by the Consent Order supplement operational modifications that Cascades already performed over the past several months at DEC’s direction. DEC directed Cascades to adhere to a strict compliance schedule, establish and maintain a 24-hour odor complaint hotline (1-833-461-8898) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for public use, and submit bi-weekly progress reports to DEC. Despite initial measures undertaken by Cascades, verified odor complaints continued to be received from the community throughout the summer, culminating in the Order on Consent.
DEC will require strict adherence to the schedule of compliance under the Order and continue air quality monitoring to assess all potential impacts from Cascades’ facility while required work is completed. DEC continues to encourage the public to submit any comments or complaints regarding Cascades operations to DEC at email@example.com.
Global Real Estate Company Agrees to Pay $565,304 for Unauthorized Discharges at Construction Site
A global real estate investment company on Friday agreed to a $565,304 settlement with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board for releasing contaminated water at a commercial construction site in Riverside in violation of its stormwater discharge permit.
On three occasions in April 2020, Exeter Property Group and Exeter Alessandro Land, known collectively as “Exeter,” discharged sediment-laden water into tributaries of Sycamore Canyon Creek, which is located on a preserve for a multi-species conservation plan. The water flowed into a channel along a freeway and through a 1,300-acre city park and low-density housing, exposing humans and wildlife to bacteria, metals and organic compounds in violation of the General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activities.
A regional board investigation determined the unauthorized discharges were caused by the company’s failure to install and maintain required erosion and sediment controls. Specifically, perimeter controls were missing or ineffective in various areas. Staff also found that the site’s Stormwater Pollution and Prevention Plan, a key planning document for controlling pollutants and stormwater, was deficient.
“We take our responsibility to protect public health and the environment from incidents like this very seriously,” said Jayne Joy, executive officer of the Santa Ana Water Board. “The fines and penalties we impose are designed to deter exactly these types of activities, and in a broader sense, remind everyone that we are all stewards of the environment.”
Under the California Water Code, permit violations can result in an administrative civil liability of up to $10,000 per day, as well as $10 per gallon discharged in excess of 1,000 gallons.
Updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook Now Available
NIOSH and OSHA partnered to update a handbook on workplace safety and health information for small business employers. The updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook
highlights the benefits of implementing an effective safety and health program. The handbook provides self-inspection checklists for employers to identify workplace hazards and review important workplace safety and health resources for small businesses.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training
is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training
, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trivia Question of the Week