What to Do with COVID-19 PPE

May 18, 2020
Wipes, gloves, masks, and other PPE that are potentially contaminated with COVID-19 are considered regulated medical waste (RMW).  When these are generated at work, they must be accumulated in the same manner as other medical wastes.  Unless your facility is a hospital, clinic, or research institution, you might not be set up for the storage of medical waste.  
Regulated medical waste is regulated at the state level, therefore each state might have somewhat differing requirements.  However, in most cases, you must:
  • Store COVID PPE in red biohazard bags, labeled with the biohazard symbol. It's a good idea to keep the biohazard bags inside a rigid outer box that is kept closed. If you have sharps, they must be stored in rigid containers.
  • Don’t mix COVID PPE with other solid or liquid wastes. Also, keep PPE out of recycling bins.
  • Don’t overfill the container. If there are sharps, fill the container no more than 2/3 full.
  • Designate a location for the safe storage of the RMW. Keeping it in a cool and well-ventilated area can prevent the contents from becoming putrid.  Also, ensure that the area is secure so that only authorized employees and vendors can gain access.
  • Check your state regulations for storage time limits, additional labeling requirements, authorized transporters, and treatment/disposal requirements
  • Develop and implement an exposure control plan per 29 CFR 1910.130. Also, review OHSA has standards relating to the use of gloves and eye, face and respiratory protection at 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I.
At home, OSHA standards don’t apply and many state RMW rules might not apply as well.  However, at home you should double bag masks and PPE before disposal, and keep these items away from children, animals, and recycling bins. Unfortunately, masks and other PPE have become a new type of litter. Do your part in disposing of these items safely.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week.  This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue serve you and keep our excellent employees employed, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
If you have enrolled in a seminar in May or June in many cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements.  For details, call 800-537-2372.
Is Shortness of Breath an Early Symptom of COVID-19?
Silent hypoxia occurs in some COVID-19 patients when blood oxygen saturation levels are exceedingly low, indicating they aren't getting enough oxygen to their lungs, yet these patients do not show symptoms of breathlessness. In response to suggestions of widespread monitoring for silent hypoxia, American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, M.D., issued the following statement:
“In patients with silent hypoxia, the amount of oxygen carried in our blood, otherwise known as blood oxygen level, is lower than expected compared to the other vital signs. Silent hypoxia is not usually an early symptom to occur in COVID-19 patients. They frequently arrive at the emergency room for other reasons, such as muscle aches, fatigue, fever and cough. Typically, when a patient begins to demonstrate silent hypoxia, they already have other COVID-19 symptoms and may be in critical condition.
“While it has been suggested that widespread monitoring for low blood oxygen is a possible solution, the American Lung Association advises that monitoring blood oxygen levels should not be a form of self-detection for COVID-19. It is important to contact your doctor if you have any signs of COVID-19, instead of solely relying on a  pulse oximeter  reading. You should monitor for gastrointestinal symptoms, muscle soreness, fatigue, and changes in taste and smell as well as the more common initial symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.
“Patients with silent hypoxia do not appear like the typical patient with pneumonia or the early phases of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can be associated with COVID-19. Their lungs are not adequately oxygenating the blood, but patients will feel relatively well without shortness of breath, which is why this condition can be considered ‘silent.’
“There are several theories as to why this occurs with COVID-19. One theory is that the virus may affect the airways of the lungs as well as the blood vessels flowing through the lung. For normal oxygen levels to occur, the blood flow through the lung needs to match where the airflow through the lungs is occurring. The virus may be disrupting this normal matching of blood flow and airflow. This disruption may not be enough for us to sense a feeling of shortness of breath since the lung has not become stiffer or congested as it might in other pneumonias or ARDS.
“A theory for the ‘silent’ nature of this low blood oxygen level is that COVID-19 may not be affecting the lungs’ ability to get rid of carbon dioxide in these patients. If carbon dioxide levels rise, we feel the urge to increase our breathing and sense some shortness of breath.
“We may not know the real reason behind what is causing silent hypoxia in some patients until further studies are done. An essential part of the mission of the American Lung Association is to provide clear and accurate information, using our mission arms of education, advocacy and research to help find the answers we need.”
Learn more about COVID-19 at  Lung.org/covid19.
Ethylene Oxide Exposure Limit Increased
After years of extensive study, public input and peer review, TCEQ has finalized its updated safe exposure level for ethylene oxide.
The agency has established a long-term effects screening level of 2.4 parts per billion, which is the health-protective air concentration used to determine limits for proposed air permits in Texas. TCEQ’s previous ethylene oxide ESL, a preliminary standard, was 1 ppb.
TCEQ’s final ethylene oxide ESL comes during a unique period of strain on the nation’s medical industry. TCEQ’s ethylene oxide cancer dose-response assessment demonstrates that this chemical, which is used to sterilize half of the approximately 40 billion medical devices used in the United States every year, poses less risk than was previously thought.
Previous assessments of the chemical’s risk by other agencies forced the closure of some ethylene oxide sterilization facilities in other parts of the country and threaten more closures. These closures have already caused a shortage of pediatric tracheostomy (breathing) tubes, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an alert about possible additional disruptions in the supply of sterile medical devices.
While the agency’s assessment is a purely scientific exercise and does not consider the implications for the supply of sutures, surgical kits, and other medical devices, TCEQ’s final ESL for ethylene oxide may help mitigate these supply chain risks. Using the most current science, the new limit remains protective for people living near facilities that emit ethylene oxide while providing flexibility for the medical sterilization industry to continue its own critical role in patient care in the state of Texas.
TCEQ began its cancer dose-response assessment for ethylene oxide in 2017 and published a draft assessment for public comment in 2019. A revised assessment was then peer reviewed by an independent, external panel of scientific experts, who completed their work in early 2020. The resulting rigorous final assessment, responses to public and expert comments, and other information regarding ethylene oxide can be found at www.tceq.texas.gov/toxicology/ethylene-oxide.
You Can Listen by Phone to Sentencing in Atchison Chlorine Gas Case
A phone line will be in operation for the public to listen to the federal sentencing scheduled for May 27 in the Atchison Clean Air Act case, according to U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister.
During the hearing, a federal judge will sentence Harcros Chemicals, Inc., and MGP Ingredients Inc., both of which have pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Air Act when a cloud of toxic chlorine gas was released over Atchison, Kan., in 2016.
The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in room 401 of the Frank Carlson Federal Building at 444 S.E. Quincy St. in Topeka before U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree.
To listen to the hearing by phone, call 1-888-363-4749 and enter access code 8354715#. The line will allow listening only and participants should mute their telephones. Rules of the court prohibit recording or rebroadcasting the proceedings.
More information about the case is available at  https://www.justice.gov/usao-ks/victim-witness  .
OSHA Inspector Sentenced for No-Show Inspection
On March 2, 2020, a court sentenced Ricardo D. Peacock to complete a three-year term of probation and pay $5,926 restitution to OSHA. Peacock previously pleaded guilty to making a false statement while acting as an OSHA representative (18 U.S.C. § 1001).
Peacock worked for OSHA as a compliance and safety officer. In January 2015, he submitted a report claiming to have conducted an inspection of a worksite when, in fact, he had not.
Hours of Service Rules Revised by DOT
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a final rule updating hours of service (HOS) rules that the agency says will increase roadway safety by updating existing regulations for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
“America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
“The Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration listened directly to the concerns of truckers seeking rules that are safer and have more flexibility—and we have acted. These updated hours of service rules are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen. 
First adopted in 1937, FMCSA’s hours of service rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial drivers. In 2018, FMCSA authored an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to receive public comment on portions of the HOS rules to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.
Subsequently, in August 2019, the Agency published a detailed proposed rule which received an additional 2,800 public comments. 
Based on the detailed public comments and input from the American people, FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service offers four key revisions to the existing HOS rules:
  • The Agency will increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status.
  • The Agency will modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver’s 14 hour driving window.
  • The Agency will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • The Agency will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
FMCSA’s final rule is crafted to improve safety on the nation’s roadways. The rule changes do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent CMV operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break.
In addition, FMCSA’s rule modernizing hours of service regulations is estimated to provide nearly $274 million in annualized cost savings for the U.S. economy and American consumers. The trucking industry is a key component of the national economy, employing more than seven million people and moving 70 percent of the nation’s domestic freight.
The new hours of service rule will have an implementation date of 120 days after publication in the Federal Register. 
Truckers have played a key role in getting America through the COVID-19 public health emergency. FMCSA has provided regulatory relief to commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food, and household goods to Americans in need. The nation’s truck drivers have been on the front lines of this effort and are vital to America’s supply chain. The latest information, declarations, and resources on FMCSA’s response to the COVID-19 are available at  https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/COVID-19  
EHS Hour - Keep Up-to-Date and Learn Something New
Even though you might not be able to get to the office or attend meetings, you can still keep up with the latest EHS requirements and learn something new. Environmental Resource Center is introducing the EHS Hour as live, online sessions to help keep you informed and productive.
With your subscription, you can attend all of the sessions for just $250 per month, or you can attend any single session for $49 per person. Each session will be held from 11:00 am to noon Eastern Time.
Upcoming sessions include:
COVID-19 Related Workplace Investigations Now Easily Searchable on Interactive Map in NM
You can now easily view workplaces investigated on COVID-19 related matters by the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).
The GIS map includes information about the business and complaints received by NMED, as well as the response received from the business during the investigation. Investigations do not necessarily result in citations or indicate wrongdoing by a business.
New Mexico law states that every employer must provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or physical harm to their employees, including COVID- 19.
As of May 7, 2020, OSHA has investigated 123 workplace complaints related to COVID-19. From March 6 to May 8, OHSB received over 200 workplace complaints – twice the number normally received in a two- month period. COVID-19 related complaints include lack of access to proper personal protective equipment and alleged violations of the state’s emergency public health orders.
“Our eight OSHA inspectors are working around the clock to keep up with a staggering amount of COVID-19 related complaints and tips coming in,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Employers must take the necessary steps to keep workers safe.”
Resources for employers and employees are available on NMED’s COVID-19 page in English and Spanish.
Older, Larger Companies Benefit from Not Investing in Worker Safety, Study Finds 
Companies best equipped to provide safe workplaces are the least likely to do so, because they benefit financially from forgoing the cost of enacting workplace safety practices, a recent study found. In some cases, companies with worker injury claims were more than 50% more likely to survive than their safer counterparts.
When it’s cheaper to pay nominal fines for violating workplace regulations than to provide safe workplaces, that indicates current safety regulations are not enough to protect workers, researchers say.
Oregon State University  Public Health and Human Sciences associate professor Anthony Veltri was one of several authors on the study, an international collaboration between Mark Pagell, Mary Parkinson, Michalis Louis and Brian Fynes of University College Dublin in Ireland; John Gray of the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and Frank Wiengarten of Universitat Ramon Llull in Spain.
“Organizations that do not provide a safe workplace gain an economic advantage over those that do,” said Veltri, who studies occupational safety and health. “The goal of improving the longevity of a business conflicts with the goal of protecting the workforce.”
The study, published in the journal Management Science, looked at both short- and long-term survival of more than 100,000 Oregon-based organizations over a 25-year period. In this study, “survival” was defined as ongoing operations, even in the face of an ownership change.
Researchers determined whether a company provided a safe workplace by examining the company’s history of disabling claims, using data provided by the Oregon Department of Consumer Affairs. Disabling claims include those where a worker suffers a temporary disability that forces them to take at least three days off work, or where there is the expectation of a permanent disability. More costly claims stem from more severe incidents, and higher costs indicate more frequent or more severe claims.
Results from the study indicated that providing a safe workplace generally hindered organizational survival, as organizations with worker injury claims survived up to 56% longer than organizations with no claims. The effect was strongest among larger, older companies — those most likely to have the resources to invest in safety practices.
High claims costs were more likely to harm the survival of younger or smaller companies, or companies that are growing quickly. Thus they have a greater incentive to protect their workforce, but likely fewer resources to do so, the researchers said.
Companies with more than 100 employees and claims filed against them were more likely to survive compared with similar-sized companies without claims. That outcome holds until quarterly claims reach just over $9 million, a level that is unlikely to ever be reached.
Conversely, companies with fewer than 30 employees get no or minimal benefit from having claims relative to similar-sized companies without claims.
Despite the presence of regulatory bodies like OSHA, “Our results imply that the regulations of a developed economy are not enough to incent the elimination of poor safety,” the study says.
The researchers suggest that future regulations need to be written and enforced to reward innovation that both improves worker safety and improves the business’s likelihood of survival.
While the dataset did not allow researchers to explain why having claims makes a business more likely to survive, it allowed them to refute the idea that improving worker safety improves profits.
Although there are businesses that provide safe workplaces and also improve their competitiveness, such businesses are not the norm, the study says. And while organizations seeking to maximize their survival are unlikely to harm workers on purpose, they are correct in calculating that the costs of preventing all harm to workers is higher than the cost of not doing so.
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training.  Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home.  Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – May 27, June 11
Billion Dollar Biodiesel Scheme
A federal jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, convicted California businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, also known as Levon Termendzhyan, on March 16, 2020, of criminal charges relating to a $1 billion renewable fuel tax credit fraud scheme.
The convictions were announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah, Don Fort Chief of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Lance Ehrig of the Denver Area Office of EPA - Criminal Investigation Division, and Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Mentavlos of the Denver Area Office of Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
“Today’s guilty verdict brings Lev Dermen and his coconspirators to justice. They created and implemented this massive biofuel scheme to fund their greed at the expense of all taxpayers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The conviction should serve as clear notice that we will vigorously prosecute those criminals who engage in any form of tax fraud.”
“These guilty verdicts show that no amount of bank accounts, shell companies, burner phones, or transfers of millions of dollars to foreign countries will stop the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and our law enforcement partners from tracking down money stolen from the government and holding criminals responsible for their wrongdoing,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah. “I also want to thank the investigators, prosecutors, and support professionals who have dedicated so much time to this important case.”
“The defendants claimed both EPA Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program credits and IRS tax credits for biodiesel fuel that did not exist, defrauding taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Lance Ehrig, EPA Acting Special Agent in Charge. “With this action EPA and its enforcement partners are continuing to protect both the integrity of the RFS program and the American taxpayer.”
“The biofuel tax credit program was established by the government to promote a clean fuel alternative to traditional fuel options. Mr. Dermen used his company Noil Energy Group to conspire with the Kingston family to corrupt the biofuel tax credit program in an effort to steal over $1 Billion from taxpayers and launder the proceeds of this fraud,” said Don Fort, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation. “This trial was the culmination of years of investigative effort that traced money through a variety of countries and states through a complicated fraud scheme to eventually put money in the pockets of Mr. Dermen. The complicated nature of the scheme shows the determination with which the defendants had to defraud the American public for the sole purpose of lining their own pockets.”
“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) will investigate all allegations of financial crimes impacting the Department of Defense," stated Michael Mentavlos, Special Agent in Charge, DCIS Southwest Field Office. "DCIS, along with our investigative partners, will diligently pursue all appropriate criminal, civil and administrative actions against individuals who violate the taxpayer's trust for illicit financial gain.”
According to evidence presented at a seven-week trial, Dermen was the owner and operator of Noil Energy Group, a California-based fuel company; SBK Holdings USA, a Beverly Hills real estate investment company; and Viscon International, a Nevada fuel additive corporation. From 2010 to 2016, Dermen conspired with the owners and operators of Washakie Renewable Energy (Washakie), a Utah-based biodiesel company, including its Chief Executive Officer Jacob Kingston, his brother, Chief Financial Officer Isaiah Kingston, and others, including their mother, Rachel Kingston, and Jacob Kingston’s wife, Sally, to fraudulently claim more than $1 billion in renewable fuel tax credits from the IRS.
The IRS administers refundable federal tax credits designed to increase the amount of renewable fuel used and produced in the United States. As part of their scheme, Dermen and Jacob Kingston shipped millions of gallons of bio- diesel within the U.S. and from the U.S. to foreign countries and back again to create the appearance that qualifying renewable fuel was being produced and sold. They also doctored production and transportation records to substantiate Washakie’s fraudulent claims for more than $1 billion in IRS renewable fuel tax credits and credits related to the EPA renewable fuel standard. To further create the appearance they were buying and selling qualifying fuel, the coconspirators cycled more than $3 billion through multiple bank accounts.
As a result of the fraudulent claims, the IRS paid more than $511 million to Washakie and the Kingstons that was distributed between them and Dermen. Jacob and Isaiah Kingston sent more than $21 million in fraudulent proceeds to SBK Holdings USA, Inc., Dermen’s California-based company, and sent $11 million to an associate of Dermen’s at his request. Jacob Kingston used $1.8 million of the fraud proceeds to buy Dermen a 2010 Bugatti Veyron, and they exchanged gifts including a chrome Lamborghini and a gold Ferrari.
Dermen and Jacob Kingston also laundered $3 million through Dermen’s company, Noil Energy Group, to purchase a mansion in Sandy, Utah for Jacob Kingston and his wife Sally. Dermen also laundered $3.5 million through his California company, SBK Holdings USA, Inc., to purchase a mansion in Huntington Beach, California.
Throughout the scheme, Dermen assured Jacob Kingston that he and the Kingstons would be immune from criminal prosecution because they would be protected by Dermen’s “umbrella” of corrupt law enforcement personnel. Jacob and Isaiah Kingston transferred over $134 million in fraudulent proceeds to companies in Turkey and Luxembourg at Dermen’s direction, in purported payment for protection.
The jury found Dermen guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering concealment money laundering, and expenditure money laundering.
The Kingstons, who are members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the “Order,” each pleaded guilty on July 19, 2019 for their role in this scheme. Jacob Kingston pleaded guilty to crimes relating to the $1 billion biofuel fraud, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aiding and assisting in the filing of false claims with the IRS, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
In his plea agreement, he admitted to laundering fraudulent proceeds through Order-related entities and transferring millions in fraudulent proceeds to Order-related entities. Jacob Kingston admitted to conspiring to obstruct justice for attempting to bribe government officials, tamper with witnesses, and destroy evidence based on his agreeing with his family to hide evidence and replace computer hard drives once they learned of an impending search warrant. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Jacob Kingston faces a maximum of thirty years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release and other monetary penalties. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
Isaiah Kingston pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme, including to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aiding and assisting in filing false claims with the IRS, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Rachel Kingston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. In her plea agreement, she admitted to creating false invoices, back dating documents, and concealing records in advance of a federal search warrant. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Sally Kingston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering; she faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. They each also face a period of supervised re- lease. As part of their plea agreements, the Kingstons will be ordered to pay $511 million in restitution to the United States and to forfeit the proceeds of their crimes.
Jacob and Isaiah Kingston both testified at Dermen’s trial. U.S. District Judge Jill N. Parrish will set Dermen’s sentencing at a later date. At sentencing, he faces a maxi- mum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and concealment money laundering, and 10 years in prison for expenditure money laundering. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
Curtis Technology Fined $150,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations
Curtis Technology Inc., a San Diego firm that makes specialized coatings, was sentenced in federal court to pay a $45,000 fine and $114,297 in clean-up costs for illegally transporting hazardous waste from its facility without a manifest.
Curtis Technology Inc. (CTI) pleaded guilty in February, admitting that it conducted metal finishing operations at its location on Sorrento Valley Road, which generated various wastes, including ferric chloride, alkaline, waste filter cake, solvents and other chemicals. The company admitted that between December 12, 2015 and August 22, 2019, the CTI owner and a maintenance employee transported chemicals, including waste ferric chloride, waste filter cake, waste alkaline, waste solvents and other chemical wastes, from the CTI location on Sorrento Valley Road to the CTI owner’s three residences located on Wrelton Drive, Corte Morea, and Bourgeois Way, without an accompanying hazardous waste manifest.
On November 8, 2019, a maintenance worker for CTI told the FBI that beginning in 2017, at the direction of the company owner, he transported various chemicals (both unused and waste) to be stored at the owner’s three residences in San Diego. The employee stated that the chemicals were hazardous, and that some could react with others stored at the same location if they were to come in contact with each other, potentially resulting in explosion. The employee further stated that he had been to the residences prior to 2017 with the owner and had observed containers of unknown chemicals at the residences prior to his first deliveries at each location. The chemicals he delivered were stored in five-gallon buckets with lids and jars with lids, and included selenium, cesium, ferric chloride, alkaline and filter cake (solids strained from liquids or sludges). All three residences where the chemicals were stored were unoccupied, and none of the chemicals were labeled as hazardous waste. None of the chemicals transported to the residences by the employee were accompanied by a hazardous waste manifest.
On November 14, 2019, federal search warrants were executed at the three residences identified by the employee as places where the hazardous waste was being stored. Collectively, at the three sites, over 300 containers of waste chemicals were discovered. At one of the locations, chemicals deemed too unstable to transport were discovered. The area was evacuated, the San Diego Fire Department Bomb Squad arrived, and the chemicals were detonated on site. The remaining chemicals were removed from the sites, and disposed of as hazardous waste through the EPA Superfund program at a cost of approximately $114,000. The illegal activity occurred after the company had been subject to an adverse administrative action relating to its management of its hazardous waste.
“This company was so cavalier and irresponsible about the storage of chemicals that it knowingly put an entire neighborhood at risk,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “This sentence holds the company accountable for its illegal actions.”   Brewer also commended the prosecution team headed by AUSA Melanie Pierson for their diligence in this case.
“The illegal transportation and storage of dangerous chemicals and hazardous waste could have easily resulted in a serious injury or death,” said San Diego FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel. “Today’s conviction demonstrates the FBI's commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those individuals who do not follow proper hazardous waste protocol and put the community at risk.”
“The defendant illegally stored chemicals in a residential area that were too unstable to safely transport for disposal,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Scot Adair of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “These actions required the evacuation of a neighborhood to allow local law enforcement officials to detonate the chemicals safely. EPA and our law enforcement partners are committed to addressing these risks and enforcing our environmental laws.”
Pennsylvania Real Estate Developer Sentenced for Illegally Removing Asbestos from Former Westinghouse Facility
Vikas Jain, a resident of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in federal court on March 18, 2020 for violating the Clean Air Act. Jain, 48, was sentenced to one month of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release that will include nine months of home detention.
Jain controlled various business entities focusing primarily on residential and commercial real estate development and management. In approximately May 2012, Jain, through one such entity, purchased the George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park (the Westinghouse Facility), a multi-building commercial and industrial complex located on approximately 150 acres in Churchill, Pennsylvania. The Westinghouse Facility was built between approximately the 1950s and 1970s, and it comprised over one million square feet of testing, laboratory, and office space across more than a dozen buildings. Jain acknowledged he sought to re- develop the Westinghouse Facility and surrounding property for commercial and residential mixed-use purposes.
Jain further admitted that, prior to completing the purchase of the Westinghouse Facility, he obtained the results of an earlier environmental assessment of the property, which identified the presence of asbestos- containing materials (ACM) in, among other substances, floor tile and pipe insulation located throughout the complex. Between approximately May 2012 and February 2017, Jain, through entities he controlled, leased space at the Westinghouse Facility to third-party tenants, including television production companies. For the most part, however, the Westinghouse Facility remained unused and unoccupied.
In connection with one licensing agreement in approximately 2015, Jain obtained two asbestos-abatement permits from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) allowing for the proper removal of ACM in portions of two of the buildings at the Westinghouse Facility. The removal was completed by a licensed abatement contractor. Later, in early 2017, Jain, through a contractor working on the redevelopment project, obtained a proposal from a different licensed abatement entity to inspect another building that he intended to demolish. The proposal was never consummated.
Rather, as Jain admitted, beginning no later than approximately February 1, 2017, and continuing until February 28, 2017, he directed various workers to remove previously unabated ACM from two buildings at the Westinghouse Facility, including large quantities of ACM floor tiles, mastic, and pipe insulation. Jain further directed a worker to rent floor grinders, which the workers then used to remove and pulverize ACM floor tiles and mastic. Jain did not apply for or obtain an ACHD permit for the abatement activity, and workers con- ducted the removal of ACM without proper protective clothing or adequate respirators. Once removed, ACM debris was placed in black trash bags and taken by workers via a pick-up truck to a dumpster located outside of one of Jain’s residential rental properties. As the Jain admitted, the contents of the dumpster, including trash bags containing ACM, were subsequently taken to a local landfill that was not qualified to receive asbestos-contaminated waste.
Finally, Jain admitted that, after local Churchill authorities and ACHD investigators learned of the illegal asbestos abatement, he took steps to conceal the nature and extent of the removal activity, including by causing grinders to be removed from the Westinghouse Facility, cleaned, and, as to two grinders, returned to the equipment rental company prior to inspection by ACHD. At no time did the defendant inform ACHD that the grinders he presented for subsequent inspection had been cleaned of ACM or otherwise were not the same ones that had been used in the Westinghouse Facility.
The case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by a joint DOJ/EPA litigation team.
Food Processor Fined for Violation Linked to COVID-19
Oregon OSHA has cited National Frozen Foods in Albany for failing to implement physical distancing measures to protect workers from the spread of the coronavirus.
The citation, which carries a proposed penalty of $2,000, stems from an inspection launched April 20 in response to multiple complaints about the facility, which produces frozen fruits and vegetables.
“We expect employers to follow the appropriate requirements to protect workers against the spread of this disease,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Continuing to do business as usual at the expense of worker safety is not acceptable.”
Under a state executive order aimed at slowing the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are required to maintain physical distancing policies to keep workers at least six feet apart.
The practice at National Frozen Foods ran counter to those requirements, according to Oregon OSHA’s inspection, which included interviews of employees. The company allowed 18 employees – stationed at frozen packaging lines nine at a time during day and swing shifts – to work at a distance of two feet to four feet from each other.
The company allowed this practice to continue after multiple employees who worked on the packaging lines tested positive for COVID-19.
Oregon OSHA’s inspection centered on the position of employees and related operations involving packaging conveyor lines on the west side of the facility.
The division maintains and enforces rules requiring employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces, including implementing control measures to protect against health hazards. Under Gov. Kate Brown’s  executive order  – issued to address the public health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic –  Oregon OSHA is tasked  with enforcing requirements with respect to employers and potential worker exposures. The division continues to screen complaints, conduct spot checks, and initiate inspections.
In addition to its enforcement activities, the division offers employers a variety of  resources addressing COVID-19.
Washington State Environmental Penalties for First Quarter 2020
The Washington Department of Ecology issued $1,035,200 in penalties of $1,000 or more in the first three months of 2020. A detailed list of the violations and resulting penalties appears in the table below.
Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Ecology issues penalties in cases where non-compliance continues after providing warnings or technical assistance, or for particularly serious violations.
The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.
Ecology strives to protect, preserve and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s land, air or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.
Date Issued
U.S. Dept.
of Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy restricted state access to critical data vital to Ecology’s regulatory and oversight role at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Pik A Pop,
Ameristar store
Did not provide proof that annual registration fees for two underground storage tanks were paid. Did not provide required documentation of corrosion protection or leak detection for the tanks.
Bryon Seney
Illegally burned prohibited materials at a large solid waste dump site.
Clyde Burdine
Illegally burned construction/demolition debris and processed wood in a large fire pit.
Emerald Kalama
Chemical LLC
Violated the facility’s water quality permit by late submittal of a Pollution Prevention Plan Biennial Progress Report, and by exceeding maximum daily and average monthly limits for total suspended solids in wastewater discharges.
Pacific NW
Solutions Inc.
Operated an unknown and unpermitted reactor to produce 585 tons of 10-34 fertilizer at Two Rivers Terminal.
Gas N Go,
Industrial Power
Corp store
Did not provide proof that annual registration fees for two underground storage tanks were paid. Also did not provide insurance, display registration tags, or comply with service provider certification requirements.
Hayes Sand
& Gravel
Did not submit quarterly water quality discharge monitoring reports in all 4 quarters of 2019. Previously fined $1,500 for failing to submit reports in 2018.
Egg Lake
Did not submit quarterly water quality discharge monitoring reports in all 4 quarters of 2019, and did not respond to a notice of violation issued on Nov. 26, 2019.
Creation Inc.
Did not submit quarterly water quality discharge monitoring reports for facilities in Monroe and Granite Falls for the 2nd  and 3rd  quarters of 2019. Both facilities received a notice of violation in 2017 for not submitting reports.
Public Schools
district, maintenance shop
Did not designate solid waste prior to disposal and follow regulatory procedures for designating waste as dangerous or extremely hazardous.
Zin Food Mart
Did not provide proof of insurance, leak detection, or payment of annual registration fees for underground storage tanks. Did not comply with service provider certification requirements.
Allen’s GTX Truck Stop
Did not provide proof that annual registration fees for two underground storage tanks were paid. Did not provide corrosion protection or proof that leak detection was being performed on the tanks.
Gas N Tote
Did not comply with underground storage tank requirements for reporting, recordkeeping, and release detection.
Gary Lewis
This case was mistakenly omitted from the 4th  Quarter, 2019,  list of penalties.
On March 10, 2019, the fishing vessel St. Michele sank and spilled 20 gallons of diesel to the Willapa River. The owner’s unsuccessful salvage attempt caused all the rest of the fuel aboard to escape to the river.
Los Angeles, California Area Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Restricted Pesticides
Luis Alberto Vargas pleaded guilty in federal court and admitted that he illegally smuggled pesticides into the U.S. from Mexico.
In his plea agreement, Vargas admitted that on September 9, 2019, he entered the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry as a passenger in a black Toyota Camry. He and the other occupants of the vehicle twice advised the primary inspector they were not bringing anything from Mexico. The primary inspector found three large suitcases in the trunk and referred the vehicle for secondary inspection.
Vargas acknowledged that the secondary inspector discovered two bottles of the Mexican pesticide Agroclor Clorpirifos Etil (1 liter each) and one 250 ml bottle of the Mexican pesticide Minartrin M Abamectina, concealed in a large suitcase in the trunk of the vehicle. Vargas admitted that he purchased the pesticides in Culiacan, Mexico, and smuggled the pesticides into the US.
The pesticides imported by Vargas were labeled in Spanish and did not bear any EPA registration number, as required by law for pesticides intended for use in the United States. Pesticides with the active ingredients of those imported by Vargas are restricted use pesticides in the United States and may be purchased and ap- plied only by certified pesticide applicators. Vargas admitted that he holds no such certificate. Moreover, the lawful importation of pesticides requires a Notice of Arrival to be provided to U.S. Customs pursuant to 19 CFR 12.112. Vargas further admitted that he provided no such Notice of Arrival for the pesticides in question.
“Laws regulating pesticides are meant to protect the public and the environment,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “We are aggressively prosecuting violators who don’t respect these important regulations.”
“The defendant knowingly smuggled unregistered pesticides into the country violating environmental regulations established to protect human health and the environment,” said Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Scot Adair of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in California. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that individuals who intentionally violate those laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”
“The smuggling and use of hazardous unregulated pesticide products is illegal and puts people's health, par- ticularly young children, at risk,” said Cardell T. Morant, Acting Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego. “HSI will continue to work with Customs and Border Protection, the Environ- mental Protection Agency, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other partners to prosecute those who threaten the health and safety of our communities for their own personal gain.”
Sentencing for Vargas is set for June 5, 2020.
Rulemaking to Limit Crude Oil Vapor Pressure Withdrawn
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that it is withdrawing its January 2017 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding vapor pressure for unrefined petroleum products and other flammable liquids. The decision  follows  an extensive study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories and the review of public comments regarding the role of vapor pressure limits in the transportation of crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail. The Sandia study concluded that imposing vapor pressure limits would not reduce the risks of transporting crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail.
In its decision to withdraw the ANPRM, PHMSA is no longer considering vapor pressure limits for the transport of crude oil by rail.  PHMSA also announced it has determined that Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Law preempts the State of Washington's  vapor pressure requirement for the transportation of crude oil by rail.
OSHA Alert for Rideshare, Taxi and Car Service Safety During Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA has issued an alert listing safety tips to help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in the car service industry.
Safety measures include:
  • Allowing drivers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus;
  • Providing alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol for both drivers and customers;
  • Limiting the number of passengers transported at a single time and installing plexiglass partitions between driver and passenger compartments where possible;
  • Routinely cleaning and disinfecting vehicle door handles and inside surfaces with EPA-approved cleaning chemicals from  List N  or that have label claims against the coronavirus;
  • Lowering vehicle windows to increase airflow; and
  • Encouraging drivers to report any safety and health concerns.
The alert is available for download in  English  and  Spanish.
OSHA Alert to Help Keep Retail Pharmacy Workers Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect retail pharmacy workers from exposure to the coronavirus.
Safety measures for retail pharmacies include:
  • Encourage customers to submit prescriptions online or by phone. Allow customers to provide their insurance information verbally or virtually (e.g., through mobile apps or the pharmacy’s website);
  • Increase the use of self-serve checkouts to minimize worker interaction with customers;
  • Frequently clean and disinfect checkout and customer service counters;
  • Install clear plastic barriers between workers and customers at order/pickup counters;
  • Use signage and floor markers to keep waiting customers at least 6 feet from the counter, other customers and pharmacy staff; and
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns. It is illegal to retaliate against workers for reporting illnesses or for reporting unsafe or unhealthful working conditions.
The alert is available for download in  English  and  Spanish.
Steel Storage Tank Company Cited for Exposing Employees to Repeat Safety and Health Hazards
OSHA cited Alexander Tank Company – a manufacturer of steel storage tanks based in Luling, Texas – for exposing employees to amputation, confined spaces and other safety hazards. The company faces $234,528 in penalties.
OSHA cited Alexander Tank Company for 10 repeated and 12 serious safety and health violations, including failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures to prevent machines from unintentional startup, provide required machine guarding, and control permit-required confined space hazards while tanks were being welded. OSHA also cited the company for not providing employees with adequate respiratory and hearing protection.
“Employers must recognize the safety and health risks inherent to their work operations and environment, and take necessary precautions to protect workers who perform those operations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.
OSHA Alert to Help Keep Dental Industry Practitioners Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic
OSHA has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect dental industry workers from exposure to the coronavirus.
Measures that can help protect dental practitioners include:
  • Encourage workers to stay home if sick;
  • Maximize use of telemedicine for non-emergency consultations, and prioritize urgent and emergency procedures;
  • Install physical barriers or partitions between patient treatment areas;
  • Provide adequate ventilation and airflow in patient treatment areas so that air moves away from staff work areas;
  • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment with hospital-grade, EPA-approved cleaning chemicals from  List N  or that have label claims against the coronavirus;
  • Minimize the number of staff present when aerosol-generating procedures are performed and ensure staff who are present are appropriately protected;
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment, such as eye goggles, face shields and N95 respirators, as necessary to protect dental practitioners and support personnel; and
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
The new is available for download in  English  and  Spanish. Visit this  link  for more detailed guidance for dental industry workers.
Three Companies Fined for Anhydrous Ammonia RMP Violations
EPA has reached settlements with two agricultural storage and supply businesses to resolve alleged violations of federal Clean Air Act regulations.
EPA inspected both companies in response to accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia that resulted in injuries to their employees. EPA inspections determined that the companies failed to design their processes for handling anhydrous ammonia in compliance with good engineering practices, and failed to meet other requirements intended to ensure adequate measures are in place to prevent and respond to an accidental release from the facilities.
Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure may result in injury or death.
Midland Marketing Co-op Inc. owns one facility in Palco, Kansas; and Troy Elevator Inc. owns two facilities in Bloomfield and Blakesburg, Iowa. Each of the three facilities contain over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, making them subject to Risk Management Program regulations intended to protect communities from accidental releases of certain toxic or flammable substances.
In response to the EPA inspection findings, both companies took the necessary steps to bring all three facilities into compliance.
As part of its settlement, Midland Marketing Co-op agreed to pay a civil penalty of $19,999. The company also agreed to purchase emergency response and preparedness equipment for three local fire departments at an estimated cost of $25,569. Troy Elevator agreed to pay a civil penalty of $37,063 to resolve the alleged violations.
EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur each year at regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities.
Reducing risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA, which identified this goal as one of seven National Compliance Initiatives in 2019.
EPA Settlement with DTE Energy to Reduce Air Pollution in Southeast Michigan
DTE Energy will reduce pollution at five coal-fired power plants in southeast Michigan in a settlement with the EPA. The settlement also requires DTE Energy to pay a $1.8 million civil penalty and to undertake a $5.5 million mitigation project to improve air quality in the region by replacing old buses in the area with newer, cleaner ones.
“This settlement will improve air quality in Southeast Michigan to help protect people’s health and the environment,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “The company agreed to carry out a bus replacement project under the settlement that will go even further to make the air cleaner in the area.”
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the United States against DTE Energy in 2010, alleging that the company violated the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement with EPA, DTE Energy will install pollution controls or convert to natural gas all coal-fired units at its Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel generating stations. DTE must also meet enforceable emission limits for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at its Monroe Generation Station.  Upon completion of all requirements under this settlement, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions at all of DTE’s facilities in Southeast Michigan will be reduced by an estimated 138,000 total tons per year when compared to the year 2010.
The settlement also requires DTE to develop and implement a mitigation project to replace school buses or municipal transit buses in Southeast Michigan with new, more energy-efficient buses to reduce the public exposure to harmful particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.
This settlement will help protect human health and the environment while also ensuring that Detroit-area residents continue to have access to affordable electricity. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, two key pollutants emitted from coal-fired power plants, can harm human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze.  These pollutants are converted in the air into fine particles that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts and premature death.  Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit communities in southeast Michigan and beyond.
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
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 you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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