Electronic Hazardous Waste Might be Required Soon
The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), held a hearing recently on Electronic Submission of Hazardous Waste Manifests—Modernizing for the 21st Century. Currently, those possessing hazardous waste must keep a multi-page, paper manifest to track the materials from cradle-to-grave that is eventually submitted to state authorities and the EPA for filing. Members and witnesses discussed the benefits of streamlining this burdensome reporting requirement using 21st century technology to help reduce costs and increase public safety. Electronic reporting would be instantaneous and immediately available to authorities, a much more efficient process than the current paper reporting requirements.
“EPA’s fiscal year 2013 budget states a fully-implemented ‘electronic manifest system is estimated to reduce the reporting burden for firms regulated under RCRA’s hazardous waste provisions by $76 to $124 million annually,’” said Chairman Shimkus. “Especially at a time of unacceptably high unemployment, an enormous Federal debt, and limited state budgetary resources, Congress should be looking for ways to lighten the fiscal burden generated by the paper manifest system, but do so in a way that makes sense for tracking, enforcement, and public health concerns.”
Suzanne Rudzinski, Director of EPA’s Solid Waste and Emergency Response Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR), explained the arduous process that defines the current system for handling hazardous waste. Under present guidelines, the original manifest document is drafted by the originator of the waste, is signed and passed along to successive possessors of the hazardous waste, and eventually sent back to the originator for their records and formal submission. Rudzinski explained, “All of the manual processing steps described above add up to a very significant paperwork burden. We estimate that the completion and processing of all these forms results in an annual paperwork burden that exceeds $200 million.”
Lisa Silvia, Senior Waste Inspector for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), endorsed the idea of transitioning to an electronic system. She remarked that an E-Manifest system, “Would ensure national consistency and compliance, save time and costs, make information more accessible, and provide for safer roads and emergency response.”
Calling a transition to electronic tracking long overdue, David Case, Executive Director of the Environmental Technology Council, an association representing the hazardous waste management industry, urged the subcommittee to move expeditiously on legislation to move from the current paper system to a system that takes advantage of modern technology. In describing the many costs the current system imposes on the industry, he said, “An electronic system could reduce this time and expense considerably, for all the parties involved, and result in a system that is more efficient, reliable, accessible, and timely.”
EPA to Revise NAAQS for Particulate Matter
Based on its review of the air quality criteria and the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM), EPA published in the June 29 Federal Register revisions to the primary and secondary NAAQS for PM to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare, respectively, and to make corresponding revisions to the data handling conventions for PM and ambient air monitoring, reporting, and network design requirements. The agency also proposed revisions to the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permitting program with respect to the proposed NAAQS revisions.
With regard to primary standards for fine particles (generally referring to particles < to 2.5 µm in diameter, PM2.5), EPA proposed to revise the annual PM2.5 standard by lowering the level to within a range of 12.0 to 13.0 ?g per cubic meter, so as to provide increased protection against health effects associated with long- and short-term exposures (including premature mortality, increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits, and development of chronic respiratory disease) and to retain the 24-hour PM2.5 standard. EPA is proposing changes to the Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5 to be consistent with the proposed primary PM2.5 standards.
With regard to the primary standard for particles generally less than or equal to 10 ?m in diameter (PM10), EPA is proposing to retain the current 24-hour PM10 standard to continue to provide protection against effects associated with short-term exposure to thoracic coarse particles (i.e., PM10-2.5).
With regard to the secondary PM standards, EPA is proposing to revise the suite of secondary PM standards by adding a distinct standard for PM2.5 to address PM-related visibility impairment and to retain the current standards generally to address non-visibility welfare effects. The proposed distinct secondary standard would be defined in terms of a PM2.5 visibility index, which would use speciated PM2.5 mass concentrations and relative humidity data to calculate PM2.5 light extinction, translated to the deciview (dv) scale, similar to the Regional Haze Program; a 24-hour averaging time; a 90th percentile form averaged over 3 years; and a level set at one of two options--either 30 dv or 28 dv.
EPA to Update and Extend Deadline for 2010 Cement Standards
In response to a federal court ruling and data from industry, the EPA is proposing changes to its 2010 air standards for the Portland cement manufacturing industry. The proposal would continue the significant emission reductions from the 2010 standards while providing industry additional compliance flexibilities, including more time to implement the proposed updates by extending the compliance date for existing cement kilns from September 2013 to September 2015.
In December 2011, the US Court of Appeals determined that EPA’s standards were legally sound, but asked the agency to account for rules finalized after the cement standards were issued. The proposed updates to certain emissions limits, monitoring requirements, and compliance timelines—which are expected to result in additional cost savings for industry—are being made in response to this court remand and petitions for reconsideration of EPA’s 2010 final rule, which will dramatically cut emissions of mercury, particle pollution (PM), and other air toxics from cement production.
Based on new technical information, EPA is proposing to adjust the way cement kilns continuously monitor for particle pollution and would set new particle pollution emissions limits and averaging times to account for these changes. The proposed rule would not apply to kilns that burn non-hazardous solid waste; those kilns would be covered by other standards. The proposed extended compliance date would allow industry to reassess their emission control strategies in light of the proposed changes to the PM limits and monitoring methods.
EPA will accept comment on the proposed changes for 30 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing if requested to do so. EPA will finalize the rule by December 20, 2012.
Rail Car Special Permits Incorporated into Hazardous Material Regulations
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has merged the provisions of seven widely-used special permits for railroad tank cars into the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), in accordance with the agency’s ongoing initiative to reduce regulatory burdens without lowering safety standards.
In a final rule published in the Federal Register, PHMSA has amended the HMR to allow certain practices that previously required a special permit, for companies to be able to follow. PHMSA received public comments on the then-proposed rulemaking for 60 days beginning August 18, 2011.
Incorporating special permits like these into the HMR will provide users with greater flexibility, eliminate the need for numerous renewal requests, reduce paperwork burdens, and facilitate commerce while maintaining an appropriate level of safety.
Special permits are used to approve hazmat transport not explicitly authorized in the HMR, provided an equivalent level of safety is maintained. For more information, see the 2010 document by PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety titled Plan for Converting Special Permits into Regulations of General Applicability.
PHMSA continues prioritize its agency-wide pledge to review its regulations for entries that are obsolete or need to be updated, consistent with the president’s Regulatory Review Initiative, which calls for federal agencies to check regulations for effectiveness, relieve the private sector of unnecessary burdens and regulations where costs outweigh benefits, and encourage feedback about these regulations from the public.
The agency has issued numerous proposals for rulemakings in recent months that would eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements for a number of hazmat items, including auto safety components and a list of miscellaneous amendments to the HMR.
This rulemaking also responds to two petitions for rulemaking, P-1497, concerning the use of electronic shipping papers, and P-1567, concerning the removal of the Association of American Railroad’s AAR-600 portable tank program for previously-adopted standards that meet or exceed the AAR-600 requirements.
In addition, this rule corrects an error that appeared in final rule published on May 14, 2010 [75 FR 27205], issued under Docket No. PHMSA-2009-0289 (HM-233A), by expanding Federal Railroad Administration approval oversight of certain toxic inhalation gases in DOT specification 105J400W tank cars with a maximum gross weight on rail greater than 263,000lb but not greater than 286,000lb.
The final rule becomes effective July 25, 2012 however voluntary compliance is authorized now.
Federal Court Upholds Clean Air Rules Aimed at Reducing GHGs Contributing to Global Warming
A federal appeals court has upheld EPA’s climate pollution emission standards after yet another round of legal challenges.
In a unanimous opinion covering four cases, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld EPA’s endangerment determination, its clean car standards, and its pollution permit requirements for big new industrial facilities.
Yes, they even went after Clean Car Standards—you know, the ones that require cars to get 35.5 mpg by 2016, which saves everyone money on gas, reduces dependence on oil, and is even great for car manufacturers.
This gives EPA the green light to finalize the second round of clean car standards later this summer that will cut new car carbon emissions by half and double fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
A study shows 54.5 mpg standards will create about 570,000 jobs by 2030: Gearing Up: Smart Standards Create Good Jobs Building Cleaner Cars.
“These rulings clear the way for EPA to keep moving forward under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to limit carbon pollution from motor vehicles, new power plants, and other big industrial sources,” says David Doniger, senior attorney for the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
“The court upheld the agency's careful determination, based on a mountain of scientific evidence, that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants threaten our health and our planet,” says Doniger.
EPA took these actions in the first place in response to the Supreme Court's landmark 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which says the EPA’s job under the CAA is to protect us from dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our health and drives our increasingly extreme weather.
Dayton RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Dayton, Ohio, from July 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Raleigh RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Raleigh, North Carolina, from July 16–18 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Macon RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Macon, Georgia, from July 24–26 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)
OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, material safety data sheet (now called “safety data sheet” or SDS), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on SDSs.
Environmental Resource Center is offering webcast training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Register for an upcoming webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) offered on the following dates:
- July 18
- August 15
- October 2
DOT Issues Safety Alert on Transporting Fireworks
As the nation prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July, the DOT is working on many fronts to help prevent unnecessary accidents and fatalities due to the unsafe transport of fireworks.
From June 28 through July 8, the department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will conduct a nationwide roadside inspection sweep to ensure that commercial motor vehicles transporting fireworks categorized as Class 1 Explosives are operating in full compliance with federal and state safety standards.
FMCSA inspectors, in partnership with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and state law enforcement, will examine the driver, vehicle, and hazardous materials loads. They will take into account safety permits, shipping papers, placards, load securement, packaging, marking, labels, and all other requirements for the transportation of fireworks categorized as Class 1 Explosives.
In addition, the department’s PHMSA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have issued safety information for consumers and commercial operators about how to safely handle and transport fireworks.
PHMSA’s safety alert covers the transport of consumer fireworks, which are explosives covered by the HMR.
The safety alert outlines the requirements for these explosives, which must be labeled and packaged properly. PHMSA also provides the following resources about transporting fireworks and hazardous materials:
Inspection Guidance for Class 1 Hazardous Materials Shipments
Explosive Approvals—Regulatory Guidelines for Shipping and Transporting Fireworks
Consumer Fireworks Advisory Safety Letter
Safety Guidance for Shipping Consumer Fireworks
Getting Fireworks Home Safely in Your Vehicle
Because of the tremendous fire risk they pose to aircraft both in the air and on the ground, the FAA is reminding the traveling public that fireworks of any kind, including sparklers, are prohibited aboard aircraft. This includes both carry-on and checked bags.
All of these efforts are designed to increase public and industry understanding regarding the safe transport of fireworks.
Fourth US State to Adopt Paint Producer Responsibility Law, Projected to Save Local Governments Millions
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed into law the nation’s fourth program requiring paint manufacturers to safely manage leftover latex and oil-based paint from households and painting contractors. The legislation was supported by the paint industry and resulted from a multi-stakeholder negotiation facilitated by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).
The bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and Representative Donna Walsh, will slash tax dollars spent on paint disposal, increase recycling jobs, and reduce waste. Similar laws have also passed in Oregon, California, and Connecticut in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively.
“With the new program established in the Paint Producer Responsibility Law, Rhode Island will have convenient options for residents to safely recycle or dispose of unwanted paint by taking it to a participating retailer or household hazardous waste program,” said Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit. “Thanks to the cooperation of the paint industry, we will be able to increase our recycling, save money for municipalities, and provide a valuable service to our citizens. All at no cost to state taxpayers.”
The EPA estimates that about 10% of all paint purchased in the US becomes leftover—around 64 million gallons annually. The cost for municipalities to manage leftover consumer paint averages $8 per gallon, making paint a half a billion dollar per year management cost. As a result of this law, Rhode Island could reap financial benefits up to $1.7 million annually if all 220,000 gallons of leftover paint available each year in Rhode Island is collected and recycled.
“ACA is pleased to have Rhode Island as the fourth state in the US to implement the PaintCare program. PaintCare will provide Rhode Island residents convenient access to locations throughout the state where they can easily return unused paint for recycling and proper disposal,” said Alison Keane, Vice President of Government Affairs for the American Coatings Association.
The bill calls for the creation of a statewide leftover paint stewardship program that would be managed by a stewardship organization. The program would be funded by an assessment on retail paint products, which would cover the cost of paint collection, reuse, recycling, and the safe disposal of remaining unusable paint. In addition, the legislation mandates the establishment of convenient collection sites throughout Rhode Island, as well as comprehensive consumer education and outreach efforts.
Ohio to Reduce Hazardous Waste Reporting Requirements
Ohio Senate Bill 294 (SB294) allows the Director of Ohio EPA to report certain hazardous waste management data to the Governor biennially now instead of annually. Since the Director does not need that information annually, and the federal hazardous waste rules require the hazardous waste report biennially, Ohio EPA intends to match our rules with their federal counterpart provisions, and change certain annual reporting requirements to biennial reporting requirements. This will make Ohio’s rules equivalent to their federal counterparts for this concept.
Ohio EPA intends to make the annual/biennial amendments as soon as possible before the next report would otherwise be due. Under these intended rule changes, your “Hazardous Waste Annual Report” currently due March 1, 2013 for 2012 data would not be required to be submitted to Ohio EPA. Your first biennial report would be due March 1, 2014 for 2013 data.
Ohio EPA does not intend to change any other reporting requirements in this rule-making. If you would submit other reports or information with your annual report (e.g., the annual ground water monitoring data required by rule 3745-65-94), then those annual reporting requirements will not change under the suggested amendments in these 9 “Biennial Set” rules. OEPA is researching changes in other existing reporting requirements, but the Agency is not prepared to suggest additional changes at this time.
New Emerging Contaminants Website
The EPA Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office has developed a new Emerging Contaminants website with updated versions of existing technical and emerging contaminant fact sheets and a new fact sheet for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
New EPA Data Show Coal Ash Problem Much Worse
The EPA recently released information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash dumps nationwide. The information comes pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice. The EPA received this information from electric utilities pursuant to an information collection request it sent to hundreds of coal-fired power plants in 2010.
The data reveal that there are at least 451 more coal ash ponds than previously acknowledged—significantly increasing the known threat from coal ash. The EPA had admitted to 710 ponds, and these numbers increase that total to at least 1,161. In addition, the agency previously did not know how many ponds were unlined. This data indicates that at least 535 ponds (46%) operate without a liner to prevent hazardous chemicals from reaching drinking water sources.
While 562 ponds are recorded as having a liner (64 plants did not answer the question), the EPA has not yet released data regarding what kind of liner is employed. Only a composite liner is sufficient to prevent the escape of dangerous levels of contaminants, and the EPA has estimated that the use of composite liners at coal ash ponds is very low.
“The public health threat from toxic coal ash continues to grow,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. “The data reveal that coal ash is being disposed in hundreds of units that are not fit to contain hazardous chemicals. The increased danger posed by coal ash dumps underscores the need for EPA to act. Congressional attempts to cater to the polluters and deny the EPA the authority to protect millions of Americans living near these sites are dangerous and misguided.”
The new data also reveal a significant increase in the number of coal ash landfills. In 2010, the EPA estimated that there were approximately 337 coal ash landfills, and the agency admitted that it did not know how many of these dumps had basic controls such as liners to stop the landfills from leaking. Today we know that there are at least 393 coal ash landfills (active, planned, and retired), 43% of the active and retired landfills lack liners; 52% of these active and retired landfills lack leachate collection systems.
“The new EPA data confirms that we are just beginning to realize the threat coal ash dumps pose to drinking water supplies and the health of nearby communities,” said Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney, Environmental Integrity Project. “Unlined ponds and landfills leach the toxic pollutants in coal ash—including known carcinogens like arsenic—into drinking water supplies and waterways, placing communities and the environment at risk. Federal standards are long overdue, yet Congress has tried to strip the EPA of its authority to require, and enforce, basic safeguards.”
Unfortunately, the EPA did not reveal the existence of all of the nation’s coal ash dumps. According to the agency, many utilities made a confidential business information claim on the information they submitted, and the agency is unable to release this information until it determines that data related to waste management would not be protected.
The transportation bill is must pass legislation that will create 2.9 million jobs and fund much needed repair and maintenance work for our nation’s roads—the House of Representatives passed a coal ash amendment last month that would allow hundreds of ponds like the one that spilled in Tennessee in 2008 to operate indefinitely without basic safety standards. Household garbage would be better regulated than toxic coal ash. Just last week, the House of Representatives voted again to support the coal ash amendment. Senate and House conferees have been negotiating behind closed doors to potentially include this dangerous amendment that would continue to risk the health and safety of millions of American living near these dumps.
Ralcorp Commercial Bakery to Pay More than $1.3 Million for Air Violations
The EPA and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have announced a CAA settlement with Ralcorp’s Cottage Bakery in Lodi, California, after the facility failed to obtain permits and install proper air pollution controls. The company will pay a penalty of $625,000.
In addition, the company paid $750,000 to install and operate a thermal oxidizer that reduces volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 95%. VOC emissions are considered a precursor to ozone and particulate pollution. San Joaquin Valley violates the federal air quality standard for both ozone and particulate pollution and has some of the poorest air quality in the nation.
The EPA’s investigation of the facility included an inspection conducted on July 27, 2009. The EPA’s investigation revealed that the facility had never applied for air pollution permits to install and operate the facility’s ovens and associated air pollution controls. Ethanol, a VOC, is generated during the leavening stage of bread manufacturing and is later released during baking. Cottage Bakery’s production facility includes three bread ovens installed at various times between 1997 and 2006.
Cottage Bakery is a large-scale commercial bakery with about 625 employees. The facility produces frozen bread and cake products that are used by retail bakeries and the food service industry throughout the US and Canada. Cottage Bakery, Inc., is owned by Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois.
Wisconsin Utility/Dairyland Power Cooperative Agrees to Reduce Emissions by More Than 29,000 Tons Annually
The EPA and the DOJ announced a CAA settlement with Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC) that will cover the utility’s three power plants in Alma and Genoa, Wisconsin. DPC has agreed to invest approximately $150 million in pollution control technology that will protect public health and resolve violations of the CAA. The settlement will also require that DPC spend $5 million on environmental mitigation projects and pay a civil penalty of $950,000.
Under the settlement, DPC must install pollution control technology on its three largest units and will be required to continuously operate the new and existing pollution controls and will be required to comply with stringent emission rates and annual tonnage limitations. The settlement also requires DPC to permanently retire three additional coal-fired units at the Alma plant, which have been out of operation since last year. The permanent retirement of these units will ensure that they do not restart without first complying with the CAA. The actions taken by DPC to comply with this settlement will result in annual reductions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 23,000 tons and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 6,000 tons from 2008 levels, in addition to significant reductions of particulate matter emissions. This settlement covers all seven coal-fired boilers at DPC’s three power plants.
The settlement also requires DPC to spend $5 million on projects that will benefit the environment and human health in communities located near the DPC facilities. DPC must pay $250,000 each to the US Forest Service and the National Park Service, to be used on projects to address the damage done from DPC’s alleged excess emissions. At least $2 million will be spent on a major solar photovoltaic development project. The remaining mitigation funding will be spent on one or more of the following projects: 1) installation of solar photovoltaic panels, 2) home weatherization projects, and 3) the replacement of DPC’s standard vehicle fleet with cleaner burning vehicles. The Sierra Club is a party to the settlement, which will also resolve violations alleged by Sierra Club in related litigation.
Reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including coal-fired power plants, is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. SO2 and NOx, two key pollutants emitted from power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. These pollutants are converted in the air to fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near DPC facilities, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children. Because air pollution from power plants can travel significant distances downwind, this settlement will also reduce air pollution outside the immediate region.
This is the 22nd judicial settlement secured by the DOJ and EPA, and the 23rd settlement overall, as part of a national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from power plants under the CAA’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed nearly 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.
The settlement was lodged yesterday in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
EPA Agreement with BASF Corp. on Air Pollution Brings Clean Diesel Project
The EPA has reached an agreement with BASF Corp., regarding alleged violations of the CAA at its Wyandotte, Michigan, chemical manufacturing facility. Under a consent agreement and final order, BASF has agreed to pay a $788,048 penalty and spend at least $250,000 on a supplemental environmental project to retrofit or replace municipal diesel engines in Wayne County, Michigan, with certified clean-diesel technologies.
BASF will also improve leak detection and repair practices and has made changes to its processes to reduce volatile organic compounds and air toxics (hazardous air pollutants) from the facility.
This agreement is part of an EPA national initiative to target and reduce illegal emissions of air toxics from leaks and reduce excess emissions from facilities that have a significant impact on air quality and health in residential areas.
OSHA Settles Whistleblower Case Against Pilgrim’s Pride
The Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., in Mount Pleasant, Texas, has entered into an agreement to resolve an investigation by OSHA into the company’s termination of an employee who raised environmental complaints, in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA).
OSHA initiated an investigation upon receiving a complaint from a manager for water reclamation at the company’s chicken processing plant who had alerted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) when process and storm water containing excessive amounts of chromium, lead, and mercury were discharged into the environment. According to the complainant, Pilgrim’s Pride stated that the TCEQ did not need to be notified and that sharing the information was not in the company’s best interest, and consequently terminated the complainant’s employment.
Prior to OSHA issuing its investigative findings, the parties reached an agreement in which the employer will pay the complainant $50,000. Pilgrim’s Pride also has agreed to post a notice to employees advising them of their whistleblower rights, purge any derogatory information in the employee’s personnel file directly related to the incident and provide a neutral job reference. In exchange, the employee will not seek reinstatement.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FWPCA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government.
Any employee who believes he or she has been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
Gowan Construction to Pay $40,000 for Stormwater Violations
The EPA has reached an agreement with Gowan Construction, Inc., (Gowan) and the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) resolving alleged stormwater violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at an interstate highway construction project affecting the Sheyenne River near Harwood, North Dakota. Gowan is based in Oslo, Minnesota and maintains a branch office in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Under a consent agreement signed on June 12, 2012, Gowan will pay a penalty of $40,000. As part of the agreement, NDDOT has agreed to inspect active construction sites, review stormwater pollution prevention plans created for the department’s projects, and conduct reviews to ensure their contractors are complying with the CWA. NDDOT agreed to develop a website devoted to stormwater management that offers resources for contractors, and plans to continue to provide stormwater training opportunities for its contractors.
The alleged violations were discovered during an EPA inspection of Gowan’s construction site on Interstate 29, northwest of Fargo, in August, 2010. The project created a land disturbance of 220 acres (the size of 198 football fields), which intersected and overlaid the Sheyenne River. The Sheyenne River is a major tributary to the Red River of the North.
EPA observed unauthorized stormwater discharges at the site and alleged that Gowan and NDDOT had failed to maintain stormwater controls (such as silt fences, straw wattles, and silt curtains), failed to comply with inspection requirements, and failed to develop an adequate stormwater pollution prevention plan, all in violation of the CWA and their permit. The inspection was conducted when the project was 50% complete. During construction activities, 1100 tons of sediment was estimated to have been discharged in violation of the CWA. After EPA’s inspection an estimated 950 tons of sediment was reduced from entering surface water.
Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over disturbed and unprotected land surfaces. This runoff accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment, or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if unchecked and untreated. Sediment can kill fish directly, destroy spawning beds, suffocate fish eggs and bottom dwelling organisms, and block sunlight resulting in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses. In addition, sediment can impact the treatment of drinking water resulting in higher treatment costs, and can result in the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity and decrease the navigational capacity of waterways.
North Dakota developers, contractors, and other landowners who plan to conduct construction activities disturbing one acre of land or greater are required to obtain stormwater permit coverage with the North Dakota Department of Health.
Laboratory Fined $30,000 for Several Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Free-Col Laboratories of Meadville, Pennsylvania, which requires the lab to pay a civil penalty of $30,000; replace the laboratory supervisor; and fund an independent review of the lab.
Free-Col provides testing and analytical support for a variety of clients who seek DEP permits and authorizations. DEP uses such reports from independent laboratories to make regulatory decisions.
Free-Col is accredited under DEP’s National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program to test and analyze drinking water, non-potable water, and a variety of soils, chemicals, and liquids.
A DEP inspection in May 2011 found a number of violations, such as providing analysis outside of what the lab was accredited to do; improperly calculating analytical results; and not having sufficient corrective action protocols in place to address the violations.
As a result of DEP’s determination that these and other violations have not been addressed, Free-Col must comply with all terms of the agreement or face a $250-per-day fine, in addition to the $30,000 fine the lab has already been assessed. The lab has agreed to replace its laboratory supervisor within four months and, within six months, hire an independent third-party auditor to review the lab’s abilities to meet the conditions of its accreditation. Any issues the independent auditor’s report uncovers must be corrected within 120 days.
US Oil Fined $28,500 for Oil Spill
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has issued a $28,500 penalty to US Oil & Refining Co., for spilling an estimated 75 gallons of diesel fuel into the Blair Waterway on November 30, 2010.
The spill occurred while the Tacoma, Washington-based refinery was testing a new 8-inch pipeline located between two of its fueling docks along the waterway.
Shortly after the company filled the new line with low-sulfur diesel fuel from a storage tank, an operator saw fuel flowing down the face of the shore into Blair Waterway, which is part of Puget Sound.
The operator quickly traced the source of the spill to an open drain valve, located near ground level on the underside of the pipeline behind a concrete containment area. The worker closed the partially open valve, built a soil barrier to keep more fuel from reaching the waterway, and notified state and federal authorities of the incident.
An Ecology investigation revealed that the pipeline diagrams that US Oil had provided to its operators failed to identify the drain valve that subsequently was left partially open.
Separately, US Oil also paid a $1,500 assessment to the state to compensate the public for the environment harm caused by the spill—including damages to water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. The money will be used to fund restoration projects in the area where the spill occurred.
Ecology also is seeking to recover $8,600 from US Oil for costs associated with responding to the November 2010 spill.
Oregon Landlord Cited for Failing to Notify Tenants of Lead Paint Hazards
The Curtis O. Baney Marital Trust of Oregon failed to notify tenants of potential lead paint risks in housing near Klamath Falls, Oregon, according to a settlement with the EPA. The failure to notify renters is a violation of a federal law designed to protect tenants from lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 housing. The trust has agreed to pay a fine to settle the violations.
Many homes and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains high levels of lead. Lead from paint, dust, and soil can be dangerous if not managed properly. Lead exposure can harm young children, babies, and developing fetuses. People can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
Curtis O. Baney Marital Trust leases properties in Klamath Falls, Oregon, at the Cimarron and Maverick Apartments. From 2007-2010, Curtis O. Baney Marital Trust leased 50 residential units numerous times and failed to notify tenants about the potential presence of lead paint and lead-based paint hazards, as required by the Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule. Curtis O. Baney Marital Trust will pay a $24,600 penalty.
The rule requires landlords, property management companies, real estate agencies, and home sellers to inform potential lessees and purchasers of the presence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 housing. They must also provide the purchaser or lessee with a copy of the Lead Hazard Information Pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home before signing any contracts, and keep records showing they have met the federal requirements.
Armstrong Operating, Inc. Resolves CAA Violation
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has settled its administrative enforcement action against Armstrong Operating, Inc., for violations of the CAA of Montana.
Armstrong is the owner of the Peterson 2-13 well in Roosevelt County, Montana, and the BR 29-1 and Butka 17-1 wells in Richland County, Montana. Owners or operators of an oil and gas well facility with the potential to emit 25 tons per year or greater of a regulated air pollutant must apply for a Montana Air Quality Permit or register the facility within 60 days after the initial well completion. Armstrong failed to register the Peterson 2-13 well, BR 29-1, and Butka 17-1 wells.
To resolve the violation, Armstrong registered the wells and paid a $14,652 penalty.
Brideau Oil Corp. Assessed $13,225 Penalty for Failing to Report, Cleanup Oil Spill
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $13,225 penalty to Brideau Oil Corp., of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, for failing to notify MassDEP of a release of home heating oil within the required two hours, and failure to take timely cleanup actions.
On January 6, 2011, a release of an unknown volume of home heating oil occurred during a delivery in Leominster, Masachusetts. The release was a result of an over-fill during the delivery, causing oil to spill onto the soil basement floor and out the vent pipe to the ground.
On March 14, 2011, the Leominster Board of Health informed MassDEP of the release, following their investigation of a report of oil in the roadway outside the residence. Following notification by the Board of Health, Brideau Oil retained a contractor and Licensed Site Professional to initiate oil cleanup actions.
As part of a consent order with MassDEP, the company will revise its spill management plan to prevent future incidents of this nature. The company must also pay $6,612.50 of the assessed penalty, with the remainder suspended as long as there are no further violations for a year.
Washington Fines Public Utility District $10,000 for Oil Spill
Douglas County Public Utility District (PUD) No. 1 has received a $10,000 Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) fine for allowing 500 gallons of lubricating oil to leak to the Columbia River in March 2011.
The leak was discovered on March 20, 2011, from the No. 4 electrical generating unit inside Douglas County PUD’s Wells Dam project—a hydropower facility located at river mile 515.8 on the Columbia River. The Wells Dam is comprised of 10 large electrical generating units.
The PUD had taken the No. 4 unit out of service on February 21, 2011, to replace seals around the generator’s five turbine runner blades due to a previous loss of lubricating oil. This leak was not reported to Ecology. The utility put the unit back in service on March 17, 2011. On March 20, 2011, personnel discovered the new leak and immediately took the unit out of service. On March 21, 2011, the PUD reported the 500 gallons lubricating oil spill to state officials.
The PUD also paid $15,300 in December 2011 for damages to the state’s natural resources caused by the spill. Within 30 days Douglas County PUD must pay the penalty or may appeal it to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
MIG Corp. Penalized $4,000 for Diesel Fuel Spill
The MassDEP has assessed a $4,000 penalty to MIG Corporation of Acton, Massachusetts, for a release of diesel fuel that occurred as a result of bridge repair activities. The discharge of diesel fuel to surface water is a violation of the Massachusetts CWA.
On April 5, 2012, MassDEP Emergency Response staff received a call from a concerned citizen regarding the presence of an oily sheen. MassDEP personnel responded to the site immediately to investigate, and confirmed the presence of a petroleum sheen in the brook with diesel fuel contamination observed within the roadway right-of-way and along the stream bank. MassDEP personnel placed absorbent booms in the brook to contain the sheen.
MassDEP conducted an investigation, including interviews of Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MIG Corporation personnel, and determined that a trailer-mounted pump had previously been placed at the site to draw-down the brook and facilitate bridge repair. Although the pump had been removed from the location on March 29, 2012, MIG Corporation personnel acknowledged that there may have been diesel fuel spills that occurred during fueling of the pump, indicating that the diesel fuel contamination observed was likely due to those spills. Upon being notified of the evidence of the spills by MassDEP on April 5, MIG immediately arranged for the complete cleanup of the diesel fuel and restored the stream bank impacted during the cleanup.
In order to resolve the violation, MIG Corporation agreed to pay the $4,000 penalty. MassDEP also required that MIG Corporation re-train employees regarding appropriate response to spills of oil and hazardous materials, and the corporation must also purchased spill response equipment to be stored at its roadway construction projects so that MIG personnel will be able to contain and clean up minor oil spills quickly.
Trucking Company Fined $2,000 for Failing to Document Spill Cleanup Following Incident
MassDEP has issued a $2,000 penalty to J.B. Justice & Company, Inc., a trucking firm based in Houston, Texas, for failing to complete and submit final documentation of an oil spill cleanup related to a tractor-trailer fire on Route 291 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
On September 30, 2011, a tractor-trailer unit owned and operated by J.B. Justice caught fire on Route 291. MassDEP responded to the site and observed petroleum products, including diesel fuel and motor oil, had been released to pavement and the storm drainage system. A detailed inspection of the storm drainage system was also performed, including the discharge at the Connecticut River in Springfield. Storm drains were observed to contain petroleum products, and oily residue from the fire was present at the discharge impoundment.
J.B. Justice was required to retain an emergency response cleanup contractor to address the spill. Although the cleanup was successfully completed, J.B. Justice failed to submit documentation from the cleanup. The company also failed to respond to a Notice of Noncompliance issued in December 2011 that allowed an extension of the deadline to submit the required information.
Through this enforcement action, MassDEP penalized J.B. Justice $2,000 and ordered the company to submit final cleanup documentation within 30 days.
Pennsylvania Renews UST Program
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law extensions of two important programs that enable the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prevent and clean up contamination due to abandoned or leaking underground storage tanks (USTs). The programs, which were set to expire June 30, are extended through June 30, 2017.
“In addition to carrying out cleanups that protect public health and the environment from leaking fuel tanks, these programs also allow us to work with homeowners and small businesses to respond to heating oil spills and old tanks,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “I thank the legislature for taking swift action on this issue.”
Amendments to the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act in 1998 created the Underground Storage Tank Environmental Cleanup Program and the Underground Storage Tank Pollution Prevention Program.
The cleanup program authorizes DEP to use money from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund (USTIF) to clean up sites contaminated by old or leaking underground fuel tanks, typically when there is no financially solvent responsible party. DEP is currently involved with 25 such cleanups across the state. USTIF is supported by fees paid by tank owners on petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel and kerosene.
The cleanup program also allows DEP to provide reimbursement grants of up to $4,000 to owners of USTs, with a capacity of 3,000 gallons or less, for cleaning up heating oil releases.
The pollution prevention program provides funding of up to $2,500 per tank to individuals who have small USTs on their property that need to be pumped out, cleaned and plugged.
There are 23,436 actively regulated USTs in Pennsylvania.
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Trivia Question of the Week
The EPA estimates that hazardous waste generators prepare 2 to 5 million of what hazardous waste document each year?
a. Notification of Regulated Waste Activity
b. Biennial Report
c. Hazardous Waste Manifest
d. Notice of Violation