EPA Administrator Christie Whitman addressed the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies where she emphasized EPA's commitment to assist local utilities in safeguarding the nation's water systems. Whitman detailed a nearly $90 million national effort that EPA, working with many partners, is undertaking to make drinking water and wastewater utilities as safe as possible as quickly as possible. Whitman also discussed clean water issues facing the nation such as non-point source pollution and watershed protection.
The largest drinking water systems, those regularly serving over 100,000 people, will be eligible to apply for grants to support completion of vulnerability assessments and other security planning. Since September 11, water systems across the county have been on heightened alert and increased security measures. These vulnerability assessments will help systems undertake a more in-depth, comprehensive analysis. As a result, they will identify their potential vulnerabilities and security upgrades. Collectively, these large systems provide service to nearly half of Americans served by public water systems.
EPA will work cooperatively with states, tribes and appropriate organizations to further develop and disseminate tools and support security efforts at small and medium drinking water and wastewater systems.
The nearly $90 million was appropriated by Congress in an FY 2002
supplemental. Requests for applications for the grants will be
distributed in the upcoming weeks.
GOVERNMENT AND FERRO CORPORATION SETTLE CLEAN AIR ACT CLAIMS
The Justice Department, EPA, the state of Indiana, and the city of Hammond, Ind. jointly entered into a $3 million settlement of claims against Ferro Corporation for the company's violations of the federal and state "new source review" provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and of related state and local ordinances.
The CAA's new source review program is designed to prevent deterioration of our nation's air quality and requires certain facilities to obtain permits before they construct new sources of pollution, and to install air pollution control equipment that will reduce the amount of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. The requirements to install controls and obtain permits apply to new major sources of pollution and to existing facilities that are "modified" and increase their level of emissions.
From at least 1980 until June 2000, Ferro Corporation manufactured Pyro-Chek, a flame retardant, at its Keil Chemical Division in Hammond. While manufacturing Pyro-Chek, Ferro unlawfully emitted tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) each year, primarily in the form of ethylene dichloride, a probable carcinogen. VOCs are linked with the formation of smog, which is a lung irritant. VOCs and particulate matter are also known to contribute to respiratory illnesses, especially in children and the elderly.
In June 2000, Ferro completely shut down and dismantled its Pyro-Chek facility. However, the rest of Ferro's chemical manufacturing business at the Hammond plant remained in operation. As a result of Ferro's Pyro-Chek shut down, the risk to human health from excess emissions of ethylene dichloride has been abated at its Hammond facility.
Under the agreement, Ferro is obligated to pay the federal, state and city governments collectively civil penalties totaling $3 million: $1,050,000 to the United States, $600,000 to the state of Indiana and $1,350,000 to the city of Hammond. Additionally, Ferro is obligated to hire an independent consultant to conduct an environmental management system audit at its Hammond facility. The audit should assist Ferro in achieving and maintaining compliance with all environmental laws at that facility.
Additionally, as a state and city environmental project, the company will finance a brownfield cleanup project in the city of Hammond, which is valued at $844,000. Known as the Industrial Fuel and Asphalt Site, it consists of 30 acres that housed an oil refinery and an asphalt plant from the 1950s until 1985. Once the cleanup is completed, the city of Hammond plans to convert the IFA Site into an industrial park with a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The consent decree was filed in the United States District Court
in Hammond, Ind. and is subject to a 30-day public comment
Safe Drinking Water Act
- April 1, 2002 - Consumer confidence report must be prepared by community drinking water systems that sell water to other community water systems.
Clean Air Act
- April 6, 2002 - Existing sources subject to the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for flexible polyurethane foam production manufacturing facilities under 40 CFR 63, Subpart III, must provide EPA with a notification of compliance status.
- April 22, 2002 - Existing sources subject to organic hazardous air pollutant emission controls under 40 CFR 63, subpart H, for equipment leaks from Groups II and IV chemical process units must submit semiannual report to EPA.
- April 30, 2002 - Fossil-fuel fired steam generating units subject to new source performance standards for electric utility steam generating units must submit quarterly reports for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and opacity emissions.
EPA SNURs PERFLUOROALKYL SULFONATES
In the March 11 Federal Register, EPA issued a significant new use rule (SNUR) under section 5(a)(2) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for13 chemicals, including polymers, that are derived from perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOSH) and its higher and lower homologues. These chemicals are collectively referred to as perfluoroalkyl sulfonates, or PFAS. This rule requires manufacturers and importers to notify EPA at least 90 days before manufacturing or importing these chemical substances for any purpose. EPA believes that this action is necessary because the PFAS component of these chemical substances may be hazardous to human health and the environment. The required notice will provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate an intended new use and associated activities and, if necessary, prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs. This action promulgates a portion of the proposed SNUR originally published in the Federal Register October 18, 2000. This action also removes from the SNUR two chemicals that were listed erroneously in that original proposal.
Also published in the March 11 Federal Register is a supplemental
proposed rule that addresses the remainder of the chemicals
listed in the original proposed SNUR. In the original proposed
SNUR, these chemicals had been referred to collectively as
perfluorooctyl sulfonates, or PFOS, but commenters noted that
this generic usage of the term PFOS was inconsistent with the use
by the manufacturer, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing
Company (3M), of PFOS to refer only to chemicals with an
eight-carbon, or C8, chain length. Many of the chemicals in the
SNUR include a range of carbon chain lengths, although they all
include C8 within the range. Accordingly, EPA uses the generic
term PFAS to refer to any carbon chain length, including higher
and lower homologues as well as C8, and the term PFOS to
represent only those chemical substances that are predominantly
WHITMAN ANNOUNCES $10 MILLION FOR STATES TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH AT BEACHES
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced $10 million in grants available to eligible states and territories to protect public health at the nation's beaches. The funds are targeted to improve monitoring the quality of water at beaches and notifying the public of beach warnings or closings.
"Overwhelmingly, beaches are one of America's top vacation locations," Whitman said. "With this money we hope to reduce the risk of exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in the water while people enjoy our incredible water resources."
"We are committed to providing assistance to states, tribes and local health agencies to better monitor the quality of water at our beaches and notify the public when there may be a problem," Whitman continued.
State and local monitoring and notification programs often differ across the country and provide varying levels of swimmer protection. These grant funds are designed to insure that the public receives equal protection when it travels to various beaches across the country.
Available to 35 eligible states and territories, the grants vary from $150,00 to $530,893. The grants are based on criteria including the length of beach season, the miles of beaches and the number of people using those beaches.
Beach tourism is a significant economic driver for local communities. EPA estimates that Americans make a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year, spending about $44 billion.
Additional beach information, including information for states
and territories interested in applying for the grants, is
available on EPA's beach Web site at:
ENVIRONMENTALISTS SUE OVER TRANSMISSION LINES FROM MEXICO TO US
As President Bush attended the U.N. Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico to discuss world poverty, Earthjustice and Wild Earth Advocates, representing Border Power Plant Working Group, filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging permits granted to two companies planning to build electrical transmission lines from Baja, Mexico into California. The lines are being built to bring power from two electrical generation plants being built three miles inside of Mexico to supply power to the United States.
The lawsuit seeks to require environmental impact statements prior to the issuance of federal permits needed for the transmission lines to cross international boundaries. Operation of the plants would significantly degrade US air and water quality and would likely harm public health and the environment in the border region of Imperial Valley, California, and Mexicali, Mexico.
Operation of the plants would generate substantial air pollution that would cause further deterioration of air quality in California's Salton Sea Air Basin, a region that is already unable to comply with the air quality requirements of the Clean Air Act (EPA and several state agencies have stated that this non-compliance is due in part to pollution from Mexico).
The border power plants would also discharge highly saline wastewater into the New River, which flows north across the US border and discharges into the Salton Sea. Both these water bodies already fail to meet the water quality standards of the Clean Water Act, and the principal problem associated with the Salton Sea is high salinity. Operation of the proposed border power plants would threaten the Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge, a key habitat for birds in the Imperial Valley.
Much of the air and water pollution will result from the cooling systems the plants will use. Although Mexico is a world leader in the use of the cleaner "dry" cooling systems, the US developers of the border plants have proposed to use "wet" cooling systems that emit much more particulate matter into the air and greater concentrations of contaminants into the water. If the same power plants were constructed in Imperial County, California, they would be required to use dry cooling to eliminate particulate emissions.
"The Department of Energy did an environmental assessment before issuing the permits to build the transmission lines but their study ignored the impacts of the power plants even after the EPA advised them to include such consideration," said Julia Olson an attorney with Wild Earth Advocates. "Not surprisingly, DOE concluded that the plants would have no significant environmental impact and granted the permits."
The suit challenges the permits and the associated environmental assessment for the transmission lines. It also challenges the DOE's failure to prepare an EIS and failure to evaluate the combined environmental impacts from the transmission lines, the pipeline being constructed to provide fuel to the plants, and the operation of the plants themselves. The suit alleges the National Environmental Policy Act requires that these connected actions be assessed jointly. The suit also challenges the failure to consider alternatives to this action, including granting a conditional permit for the transmission lines linked to a commitment that the power plants will comply with US environmental standards and use best available technologies.
This suit would establish a precedent applicable to future border power plants that may be built to provide energy for US markets, both in Mexico and Canada. The suit will also provide an incentive for the US and Mexican governments to collaborate to establish air quality standards and measures to reduce pollution in the US-Mexico border region. Such initiatives are under way, but are not currently a high priority for either government.