DOT Revises Hazardous Material Regulations to Conform to International Standards
DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration has released a proposed rule to amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to maintain alignment with international standards by incorporating various amendments, including changes to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements. These revisions are necessary to harmonize the HMR with recent changes made to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods—Model Regulations, and subsequently address a petition for rulemaking. Among the changes proposed, are:
Authorization to allow wood as a material of package construction for certain explosives
Revised vessel storage codes for explosives
Adopt a new packaging type: Flexible Bulk Container
Adopt new requirements for chemicals under pressure and distinguish them from liquefied gases
Specify minimum size requirements for identification number markings on non-bulk packages
Changes to the hazardous materials table to add, revise, and remove proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, and bulk cargo aircraft maximum quantity limits
Pittsburgh RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from September 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Houston, TX RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management in Texas and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Houston, Texas, from September 18–20 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 1-800-537-2372.
Columbus, OH RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, in Columbus, Ohio, from September 25–27 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 the upcoming webcast on How to Prepare for OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) offered on October 2.
EPA to Shut Down LEPC Database
Despite best efforts to keep the National Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) Database current and accurate, EPA has found that it has become significantly outdated. Discussions of whether to maintain or remove the database have been on-going since the 2008 Nationwide Survey of LEPCs. After discussions with key stakeholders, including State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), LEPCs, EPA Regional Offices, and industry, the decision was made to remove the database on September 1st, 2012.
Each state has designated a SERC that is responsible for implementing the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) provisions within its state. The SERC’s duties include:
Establishing procedures for receiving and processing public requests for information collected under EPCRA
Reviewing local emergency response plans
Designating local emergency planning districts
Appointing an LEPC for each district, and
Supervising the activities of the LEPC
EPA will continue to maintain the SERC Contact webpage. This page contains information for SERC points of contact, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and pertinent webpage links. Use this page to contact your SERC for LEPC contact information.
Some SERCs provide LEPC contact information on their websites. Here are two examples:
EPA continues to maintain the Tier II Chemical Inventory Reports/Tier2 Submit website to assist with reporting: .
Additionally, the Federal Reading Rooms website has recently been updated to reflect changes in EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) contact information, appointments, and locations for those seeking Risk Management Plans for their local chemical facilities.
California Proposes Regulations for Recycling Old, Mercury-Filled Thermostats
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has published proposed regulations that establish performance goals for the collection and recycling of used thermostats containing toxic mercury.
A 2006 state law banned the sale of new mercury-added thermostats. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that when released into the environment, can cause significant harm to human health and the environment. Though no longer sold in California, an estimated 5–10 million mercury-added thermostats are still in use in California homes and businesses. State law also bans the disposal of mercury-added thermostats in solid waste landfills, and a 2008 law, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act, requires the former producers of mercury-added thermostats to establish a collection and recycling program for waste thermostats.
Under the proposed regulations, manufacturers would be required to collect and recycle over 65,000 mercury containing thermostats in 2013, or 30% of the estimated total number of mercury thermostats becoming waste. Each year, for the following five years, recycling goals would increase until 2017, when the goal would be a 75% collection and recycling rate, or in excess of 147,000 mercury thermostats.
These goals reflect the legislative mandate for DTSC to establish goals resulting in the collection and recycling of the maximum feasible number of out-of-service mercury-added thermostats. These extended producer responsibility regulations focus on setting performance goals that the thermostat industry, rather than state and local government, is responsible for meeting.
The thermostat manufacturing industry currently operates a non-profit corporation, the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC), for the purpose of collecting and properly disposing mercury-containing thermostats. TRC now represents 30 manufacturers that historically distributed mercury-containing thermostats in the US. This national program provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) distributors, retailers who sell thermostats, or household hazardous waste programs with mercury thermostat collection and recycling services. The proposed regulations would require manufacturers who formerly sold mercury thermostats to meet these recycling goals either through participation in the TRC or an independently sponsored program.
DTSC will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations at 9 a.m. on October 2, 2012 in the Byron Sher Auditorium, Cal/EPA Building, 2nd Floor, 1001 I Street, Sacramento. At the hearing, statements or arguments, orally or in writing, will be accepted relevant to this proposal. Written comments must be submitted to DTSC no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 2, 2012.
Washington Seeking Comments on Proposed Oil Spill Readiness and Environmental Compensation Rules
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is seeking public comment on two proposed rules designed to enhance protection of the state’s environment, economy, and cultural resources from the impacts of a potential major oil spill.
To comply with a 2011 law, Ecology is proposing to update the state oil spill readiness—or contingency—plan rule, which sets requirements for preparedness planning before spills occur.
Existing state law requires oil tankers and tank vessels, commercial cargo, and fish-processing vessels, passenger ships, refineries, liquid fuel pipelines, and large oil-handling facilities to have oil spill contingency plans to operate in Washington.
Spill contingency plans outline the response actions each company will take to quickly minimize the impacts from an oil spill. Ecology reviews, approves, and continuously tests each plan using lessons learned through spill readiness exercises and actual responses to spills.
Ecology’s proposed update to the state spill contingency plan rule will require oil companies operating in Puget Sound and on the Columbia River to invest more in response equipment and training personnel to enhance on-water oil cleanup activities and aerial surveillance capability. Other improvements include boosting response capability at night and during fog, rain, and other inclement weather.
Ecology has calculated that a major spill could cost Washington’s economy $10.8 billion and adversely affect 165,000 jobs due to disruptions to maritime shipping and public port activities, recreation and tourism, and damage to state fish, shellfish, and wildlife.
The draft updated contingency plan rule also is designed to ensure local resources like commercial fishing vessels and citizen volunteers are able to effectively participate in an oil spill response.
Ecology also proposes to change the mathematical formulas in the state natural resource damage assessment rule. The formulas are used to calculate the dollar value for oil spill-related damage to state environmental, economic, recreational, and cultural resources. Examples of such resources include salmon and wildlife habitat, shellfish beds, public parks, and beaches, and lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, and wetlands.
The 2011 law increased the state compensation range for calculating environmental damages from oil spills involving 1,000 gallons or more. The previous value was from between $1 to $100 per gallon of oil spilled. But under the new law, the value for larger spills was revised to between $3 and $300 per gallon spilled.
The exact value is set based on the specific type of oil spilled as well as the species and habitat impacted by the spill.
Compensation for natural resource damage is separate from penalties for oil spills and from reimbursing the state for its response and cleanup costs. Monetary damages are deposited into a special state account, which is used to pay for habitat restoration and enhancement activities in areas affected by spills.
The public comment period for both proposed rules is open until October 4, 2012.
Ecology will hold three public hearings for the draft rules.
For comments or questions about the draft oil spill contingency plan rule, contact Sonja Larson at email@example.com or call 360-407-6682. Comments and questions regarding the proposed natural resource damage assessment rule can be directed to Rebecca Post at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-407-7114.
Washington Adopts Changes to Improve UST Safety
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has adopted changes to the state’s rule for preventing leaks from underground storage tank (UST) systems containing petroleum and other hazardous substances.
The state Legislature directed Ecology to revise the rule to implement changes to the state’s compliance program required by state and federal laws. The program addresses the serious threat that leaking systems pose to human health and the environment. Leaks from UST systems can contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for 60% of Washington’s residents.
Ecology currently regulates more than 9,500 systems at more than 3,600 facilities throughout the state. A majority of the systems are located at gas stations. Others are owned and operated by other businesses and by local, state, and federal governments.
Each year, about 50 new releases are confirmed at regulated facilities. The rule changes—which take effect October 1, 2012—will help to reduce the number and severity of those releases. The rule changes:
Authorize Ecology to stop regulated substances from being delivered to systems that don’t comply with regulatory requirements.
Require training for people who operate and maintain systems. Operators must be trained by December 31, 2012.
Require secondary containment of new tanks and pipes.
Require containment under new dispenser systems.
The adopted rule amendments are needed to maintain Ecology’s federally-delegated UST program and to continue to receive federal funding for the work.
Washington Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to Standards for Cleaning Up In-Water Sediments
The public is invited to review and comment on draft rule changes to the state’s Sediment Management Standards (SMS) for cleaning up contaminated in-water sediments.
In 1991, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted the SMS rule to guide management of sediments. The SMS rule is used to conduct environmental cleanup work, manage the dredging of sedment for navigation and cleanup, and manage sources of contamination to sediment from dischargers.
The proposed changes will clarify requirements for cleanup of contaminated sediment sites to make the cleanup process more effective. They include:
Clarifying requirements for cleanup of bioaccumulative chemicals that pose risks to human health and the environment. Examples of such chemicals include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and mercury.
Integrating the cleanup requirements in the SMS and Model Toxics Control Act rules. The Model Toxics Control Act is the state’s cleanup law, which stems from a voter-approved citizens initiative in 1988.
Adopting freshwater standards to protect aquatic life that lives in and on sediments.
The proposed changes do not include a revised fish consumption rate for sediment cleanup projects. Ecology heard a number of concerns about identifying a specific rate, including questions about how it could impact a separate process to update water quality standards.
After reviewing public comments, Ecology decided to clarify current requirements that specify that site-specific cleanups are designed using a reasonable maximum exposure standard. This is based on protecting Washingtonians on the high end of average fish consumption, which in turn will protect all those who eat fish from Washington waters.
Ecology is accepting public comments through October 15, 2012. Ecology also will hold several public hearings throughout the state.
Ecology will review, consider, and respond to all comments. The proposed changes may be modified based on public comments.
Ecology expects to adopt the rule in late 2012 or early 2013.
Ohio EPA Revises Water Quality Trading Program Rules
Ohio EPA is proposing revisions to the water quality trading program rules that would clarify when and how water quality trading could be used. The voluntary credit trading program only affects stakeholders participating in water quality trading.
Water quality credit trading is a tool for achieving water quality improvements. Because sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant, trading programs are used to allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions from another source at a lower cost.
For example, a new tri-state water quality credit trading program recently was announced for Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky that would encourage trades between industry and agriculture in the Ohio River basin. Farmers in the three states could implement relatively low-cost land management strategies that would reduce agricultural runoff heavy in phosphorus and nitrogen compounds. Those reductions would generate credits for farmers, which they could sell to industrial facilities. This allows the same water quality improvement to be achieved but at a lower overall cost.
The following rule changes are proposed to Ohio’s statewide voluntary trading program:
Add that a water quality credit would not cause or contribute to a violation of water quality standards;
Allow water quality credits to be used to comply with the technology-based limits for total nitrogen and phosphorus defined in the anti-degradation rule;
Disallow water quality credits from being generated through nonpoint source load reductions funded through Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program;
Not allow water quality credits to be generated by using habitat restoration projects or by best management practices that were implemented to comply with a nutrient management plan required in a permit-to-operate;
Change the size of hydrologic unit codes;
Revise water quality baseline provisions for areas where there is not an approved water quality plan, or where water quality fully supports designated uses; and
Add compliance requirements for permittees participating in a water quality trading program.
Water quality trading works best when:
There’s a driver that motivates facilities to seek pollutant reductions, such as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirement or other more stringent requirement in a discharge permit;
Sources within a watershed have significantly different costs to control a pollutant of concern;
Necessary levels of pollutant reduction are not so large that all sources in the watershed must reduce as much as possible to achieve the total reduction needed; and
A watershed stakeholder and regulator are willing to try an innovative approach and engage in solving trading design and implementation issues.
Pennsylvania Suspends Vapor Recovery Mandate for New Gas Stations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced it will not enforce a requirement for new gas stations to install costly vapor recovery systems.
Current regulations require facilities in southeast and southwest Pennsylvania to maintain vapor recovery systems, which are attached to gas pump nozzles to siphon off fumes while pumping gasoline.
A notice regarding the issue has been submitted for publication in Pennsylvania Bulletin.
“These so-called Stage II vapor recovery systems must still be operated and maintained at existing facilities until further notice,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “We will, however, use our discretion to not enforce these requirements for any new gas station in the greater Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas because the diminishing benefits do not justify the cost of installing new systems.”
There are also gas stations in the southeast and southwest regions of the state that could become subject to the rules for the first time because of an increase in their business. Krancer explained that DEP will use the same discretion to not enforce the mandate for those stations.
Vapor recovery systems are required for about 1,600 gasoline-dispensing facilities in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bucks, Butler, Chester, Delaware, Fayette, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.
On July 5, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Act 135. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-47), amended the Air Pollution Control Act to direct DEP to review its current compliance strategy of utilizing low Reid Vapor Pressure gasoline during the summer ozone season to comply with federal ozone air quality standards. The law also directs DEP to seek waivers from this requirement in the event of a fuel supply disruption.
Because recent models of most vehicles include vapor recovery technology in the cars and trucks themselves, EPA is allowing states that can demonstrate widespread fleet turnover to remove from their State Implementation Plans Stage II vapor recovery requirements for gasoline-dispensing facilities once state regulations are repealed.
EPA issued guidance on August 7 that will help DEP determine what, if any, additional requirements Pennsylvania will need to implement in order to repeal the Stage II requirements and revise its State Implementation Plan.
“Gas station owners should note that DEP’s enforcement discretion does not protect an owner or operator from potential legal challenges by third parties,” Krancer said.
Pennsylvania Urges Consumers to Prepare for New Electronics Recycling Law
The Pennsylvania DEP is advising consumers and businesses of new rules for recycling electronic devices that will take effect on January 24, 2013.
Enacted in 2010, the Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act requires that consumers not dispose of covered devices, such as computers, laptops, monitors, and televisions, with their trash. This means that trash haulers will no longer be able to take covered devices unless the municipality has a curbside electronics collection program that ultimately sends the devices to an electronics recycler.
“Proper recycling is important because there are millions and millions of devices; they have a limited useful life span; and they contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury as well as other materials that do not belong in the normal trash stream,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said.
Many devices also contain valuable metals such as gold, silver, and platinum and base metals like copper, iron, and aluminum that can be separated and reused in new products.
“We can all do our part to contribute to a healthier and cleaner environment by ensuring that these electronic devices are properly recycled and not placed in the trash,” Krancer added.
The law also requires manufacturers of devices to provide for the collection, transportation, and recycling of these devices by establishing one-day events, permanent collection programs, or mail-back programs.
DEP’s Recycling Hotline is 1-800-346-4242.
New EU Directive on E-waste Comes into Force
The European Union (EU) has adopted new rules on electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), which aim to allow EU member states to combat the illegal export of waste more effectively.
The new directive, which also seeks to improve e-waste recycling levels, drew upon research from a number of sources, including Basel Convention research and data. Recent studies by the Basel Convention on e-waste in Africa have highlighted the ongoing stream of used electrical and electronic equipment reaching the continent from industrialized countries, including the EU member states, for recycling or disposal.
The Basel Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Electrical and electronic equipment can contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well brominated flame retardants, which can damage human health and the environment.
Hazardous substances are released during various e-waste dismantling and disposal operations, posing serious health risks to workers.
The new EU directive aims to improve collection schemes in member states, where consumers can return used electronic and electrical items free of charge, thereby increasing the recycling and re-use of products and materials.
The directive introduces a collection target of 45% of electronic equipment sold that will apply from 2016 and, as a second step from 2019, a target of 65% of equipment sold, or 85% of e-waste generated.
From 2018, the directive will be extended from its current restricted scope to all categories of e-waste, subject to an impact assessment beforehand.
The new directive will also oblige exporters to test whether equipment works or not, and provide documents on the nature of shipments that could be thought illegal.
The new rules entered into force on 13 August 2012.
In preparing its proposal for the new directive, the European Commission examined research conducted by the Basel Convention’s Coordinating Centre for the African Region, based in Nigeria.
The EU also consulted two Basel Convention Country Fact Sheets on e-waste in Nigeria and Ghana.
Studies in Ghana carried out under the Basel Convention’s e-waste Africa programme, which has received financial assistance from the EU as well as other donors, revealed that in 2009 around 70% of all imports were used electrical and electronic equipment. Around 30% of the used equipment was determined to be non-functioning, and hence should have been defined as e-waste.
According to a recent Basel Convention study, the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to West Africa of electronic and electrical equipment, followed by France and Germany.
UN Launches Sustainable Development Network to Help Find Solutions to Global Problems
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a new independent global network of research centers, universities, and technical institutions to help find solutions for some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social, and economic problems.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) will work with stakeholders including business, civil society, UN agencies, and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development.
This initiative is part of the work undertaken in response to the mandate on post-2015 and the outcome of UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which took place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in June.
The Solutions Network will be directed by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to Secretary-General Ban on the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will operate in close coordination with the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
“The post-2015 objectives will help the world to focus on the vital challenges of sustainable development and the SDSN will be an innovative way to draw upon worldwide expertise in the campuses, universities, scientific research centers and business technology divisions around the world,” Mr. Ban said.
The High-level Panel will advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the MDGs, and it will hold its first meeting at the end of September, in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. It is expected to submit its findings to the Secretary-General in the first half of 2013, and those findings will inform his report to Member States.
The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a Global Partnership for Development.
According to the news release, given that politics around the world too often focuses on short-term issues while governments often lack the timely information needed for long-term sustainable-development strategies, it is essential that scientists and technology experts outside of government support the development of long-term analyses, demonstration programs, and development pathways.
The SDSN is expected to provide an independent global, open, and inclusive process to support and scale up problem-solving at local, national, and global levels.
Substantial emphasis will be placed on collaboration across countries to analyze common problems and learn from each other’s experiences. The network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated systems approaches to addressing the complex economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting governments.
New Zealand Fishing Company Found Guilty of Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Justice
A federal jury in Washington, D.C., has returned guilty verdicts against Sanford Ltd., a New Zealand fishing company, on six counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). The jury also found a company employee guilty of two other charges.
Sentencing has been scheduled for November 16, 2012. Sanford faces a maximum fine of up to $500,000 on each count, for a total potential penalty of $3.0 million. Sanford’s primary chief engineer, James Pogue, faces up to up to 20 years for obstruction of justice and six years for knowingly failing to maintain an accurate oil record book.
According to the government’s evidence, in July 2011, the US Coast Guard (USCG) conducted a Port State Control examination on the Fishing Vessel (F/V) San Nikunau, when the vessel entered port in Pago Pago, American Samoa. The examination revealed that the vessel had been making false entries and omissions in its oil record book that vessels are required to maintain accurately in order to account for their handling of oil waste generated by the vessel.
According to evidence presented at trial, Sanford operates the San Nikunau a vessel that routinely delivers tuna to a cannery in Pago Pago. Over the past five years, Sanford was paid over $24 million for tuna deliveries. Sanford was convicted of numerous charges, including conspiracy and causing the vessel to enter to the port of Pago Pago with a falsified oil record book that failed to accurately account for how the vessel was managing its bilge waste and for obstruction of justice for falsely stating in the oil record book that required pollution prevention equipment had been used when it had not. Sanford was also convicted of discharging machinery space bilge waste into the port of Pago Pago without using required pollution prevention equipment including the oil water separator.
Pogue, of Idaho, served as the chief engineer on the vessel between 2001 and 2010. Pogue was convicted of failing to maintain an oil record book for the vessel that accurately accounted for how the vessel was managing its bilge waste. In addition, Pogue was convicted of obstruction of justice for falsely stating in the oil record book that required pollution prevention equipment had been used when it had not.
Prior to the trial, Rolando Ong Vano, another chief engineer who worked on the vessel, pleaded guilty to charges in the case. He is to be sentenced September 7, 2012.
Italian Ship Owner and Chief Engineer Sentenced for Crimes Related to Illegal Discharges from Cargo Ship
A shipping company headquartered in Italy and the chief engineer of one of its ships were sentenced in federal court in Mobile, Alabama, for deliberately falsifying records to conceal discharges of oily wastewater from the ship directly into the sea. Giusseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A, was sentenced to pay a $1 million criminal fine, serve four years of probation, and make a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also fund and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan during the term of probation. Chief Engineer Vito La Forgia was sentenced to one month in jail.
Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A., the owner and operator of the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger, pleaded guilty on July 11, 2012, to a violation of APPS for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law. Vito La Forgia, the ship’s chief engineer, pleaded guilty on July 12, 2012, to violating APPS.
According to papers filed in court, between December 19, 2011, and January 25, 2012, Vito La Forgia and other senior Bottiglieri Shipping Company employees discharged oily bilge waste from the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger on multiple occasions as the vessel sailed from Singapore to Brazil and then from Brazil to Mobile. The vessel arrived in the Port of Mobile on January 25, 2012, and underwent a USCG inspection. Based on information provided to the USCG by engine department crewmembers and evidence discovered during the USCG’s inspection, it was evident that there were internal transfers and discharges of oily waste into the ocean that were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book as required. The deliberate overboard discharges of oily waste were accomplished through the use of a pipe that connected the ship’s purifier sludge tank with the ship’s bilge holding tank, the contents of which were then pumped overboard without first being processed through required pollution prevention control equipment designed to detect and prevent discharges containing more than 15 parts per million oil.
Federal and international law requires that all ships comply with pollution regulations that include proper disposal of oily water and sludge by passing the oily water through a separator aboard the vessel or burning the sludge in the ship’s incinerator. Federal law also requires ships to accurately record each disposal of oily water or sludge in an oil record book and to have the record book available for the USCG when the vessel is within the waters of the US.
ORNL Researchers Improve Soil Carbon Cycling Models
A new carbon cycling model developed at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) better accounts for the carbon dioxide-releasing activity of microbes in the ground, improving scientists’ understanding of the role soil will play in future climate change.
Predicting climate change depends heavily on the cycling of carbon dioxide, which is found in four main reservoirs: the atmosphere, biosphere, oceans, and soil. ORNL’s model was designed to replace traditional soil carbon cycling models.
“Soil is a big reservoir of carbon,” said co-author Melanie Mayes of ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division. “And most of the soil carbon cycling models in use today are so vastly simplified that they ignore the fact that decomposition is actually performed by microbes.”
In a paper published in Ecological Applications, the journal of the Ecological Society of America, ORNL researchers integrated data from scientific literature on carbon degradation in soil to form the Microbial-Enzyme-mediated Decomposition, or MEND, model that improves upon previous models.
“Our MEND model does a better job of representing the mechanisms of soil carbon decomposition than existing models,” Mayes said.
ORNL’s comprehensive model accounts for how the different forms of carbon in soil, or pools, react with extracellular enzymes excreted into the soil by microbes, allowing scientists to understand how quickly carbon is moving through soils.
The model simulates the carbon cycle, beginning after a decaying plant or animal releases carbon-rich materials into the soil. The organic material is degraded by enzymatic reactions, releasing dissolved carbon molecules that can be absorbed by microbes for growth or metabolism. These processes ultimately result in the release of carbon dioxide.
ORNL’s MEND model is the first model able to track degradation by accounting for most of the relevant processes and by estimating the parameters based on a comprehensive literature review. This model, which is based on the physiological functions of microbes, accounts for how temperature affects the ability of microbes to emit carbon dioxide. Soil can either store or release carbon depending on how rapidly carbon-rich materials in the soil are decomposed.
“What we think will happen is that as temperature goes up, microbial physiology will change, altering their ability to break down carbon chains and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” Mayes said. “If our models don’t account for this process, then our ability to predict future climate change will be less realistic.”
For the next six to eight months, ORNL’s team will run laboratory-scale experiments to ensure that the MEND model accurately represents the decomposition of carbon compounds in soils. Eventually, team members hope to incorporate their model into the publicly available supercomputing program called the Community Land Model, a module used in the Community Earth System Model that helps researchers predict future climate change.
Group Wants EPA to Define Green Products and Processes
A group that includes members from industry, academic institutions, environmental groups, and community organizations called the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition wants EPA to craft guidance to help industry define green products and processes. It wants to expand the agency’s current Design for the Environment (DfE) program as detailed in a new report.
The report, Sustainable Materials Management: A New Materials Hierarchy, Solutions to Barriers, and Recommendations for a Path Forward, also calls on EPA to sponsor a regular dialogue on sustainable materials management and suggests changes to how the agency should evaluate strategies for handling municipal waste to reflect the ongoing shift to considering uses for used materials other than waste disposal.
In July EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus said “EPA has begun a transition from its traditional waste management program to a sustainable materials management program. We are moving in this new direction due to the significant environmental and economic benefits provided through reuse. We very much value perspectives from the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition and other organizations as we continue these efforts.”
EPA has been exploring for several years the creation of a standard or template to guide companies in performing and disclosing so-called lifecycle analyses of their products’ environmental impacts from raw materials to disposal.
Senators Introduce the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012
US Senators John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) and Max Baucus (D-Montana) have introduced bipartisan legislation that will ensure the safe and efficient recycling of coal ash into a valuable construction material for roads, buildings, and other infrastructure projects.
According to the Senators, the Hoeven-Conrad-Baucus Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012 provides strong state oversight for storage and management of coal residuals, while empowering industry to safely recycle it into useful and less-expensive construction materials. It takes a states-first approach that provides regulatory certainty for industry, local control for the states, and good environmental stewardship for the public.
Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-based electricity generation that has been safely recycled for buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure for years. The new bill will set up a state permitting program for coal ash under a section of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). It would ensure coal ash storage sites have requirements for timely and effective groundwater monitoring, protective lining, and properly engineered structures needed to protect communities and the environment. States that prefer could grant oversight to the EPA.
The new legislation enables states to set up their own permitting programs, but they must be based on federal standards for the management, disposal, and oversight of coal ash in order to protect human health and the environment. States and industry would have the predictability they need to manage residuals under the bill because the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful management program will be set in statute.
Hoeven outlined the new legislation on the US Senate floor in Washington, illustrating his comments with photos of Bismarck State University’s National Center of Energy Excellence and a rendering of the new North Dakota Heritage Center expansion, both of which incorporate recycled coal residuals in their construction.
“At a time when our nation very much needs jobs and economic growth, our bill will help to create both, while also helping to lower the cost of energy for American families and businesses,” Hoeven said. “North Dakota serves as a good example of how states can properly manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for its beneficial use in buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure with a material that is stronger and less expensive.”
“This bill takes a common-sense approach that keeps states at the forefront of regulating coal ash, but requires the states to meet a common set of standards to ensure that drinking water is safe,” Senator Conrad said. “This approach would ensure that coal-fired power plants can continue operating efficiently and providing affordable electricity to consumers. It will also mean that road builders can continue to use coal ash to make concrete roads and bridges both stronger and more affordable.”
“This is a commonsense approach that supports jobs while giving states like Montana and North Dakota the power to protect their own communities instead of bureaucrats calling the shots from Washington,” Baucus said. “This bill strikes a good balance to continue our strong commitment to protecting our outdoor heritage while supporting industries that turn coal ash into jobs building roads and bridges.”
The legislation is an amended version of a bill Senators Hoeven and Conrad introduced earlier. They’ve revised the measure to gain more bipartisan support, and the new legislation is now sponsored by 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
In addition to Hoeven, Conrad, and Baucus, cosponsors of the legislation include Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), and Jim Webb (D-Virginia).
EPA Takes Action Against Gas Stations to Protect Ground Water from Petroleum Contamination
The EPA has issued a legal complaint to the owners and operators of 22 USTs at gasoline stations in the Buffalo, New York, area for violating various federal regulations dealing with ground water from petroleum contamination. The complaint, which seeks $582,803 in penalties, was issued to Amerimart Development Company, Inc.; Qual-Econ Lease Co., Inc.; Commercial Realty Fund II; MJG Enterprises Inc.; and Clear Alternative of Western New York, Inc. (d.b.a. G & G Petroleum). These companies are either past or present owners or operators of gas stations in Buffalo, Amherst, and Tonawanda, New York. In addition to paying penalties, the complaint requires the facilities to all come into full compliance with the regulations.
Ground water is the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. When petroleum or other hazardous substances leak from underground tanks, such leaks are difficult and expensive to clean, particularly if they involve a public source of drinking water.
The complaint alleges that one or more of the companies failed to:
Test the protection systems for two tanks and two fuel lines
Meet corrosion protection or other new standards for two tanks and seven fuel lines
Conduct release detection every 30 days on 11 tanks
Perform annual tests of automatic line leak detector systems for 19 USTs
Provide adequate equipment to protect against tank overfills for 13 USTs
Conduct an annual line tightness test or conduct monthly monitoring of underground pressurized piping for 17 fuel lines
Properly cap off two temporarily closed USTs
Keep adequate records of release detection monitoring for three facilities
Respond to a request for information for one facility
The law authorizes EPA to seek between $11,000 and $16,000 per tank for each day a violation exists.
Cedyco Corporation Fined for Unlawful Discharges of Oil
A Delaware company was fined $557,000 for negligently discharging oil into the bayous of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, the DOJ announced.
Cedyco Corporation, headquartered in Houston, was sentenced in federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
On May 23, 2012, Cedyco pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act). The Clean Water Act (CWA) makes it a misdemeanor to negligently discharge harmful quantities of oil into navigable waters of the US.
All of the fine money will be directed to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to aid the USCG in responding to future oil spills. Additionally, Cedyco also agreed to cease operations and divest itself of all hydrocarbon business interests in the state of Louisiana.
Cedyco owned and operated several hydrocarbon facilities, including fixed barges, platforms, and wells, in the brackish bayous of South Louisiana. As a general matter, Cedyco’s facilities were poorly maintained and operated without plans and permits required by regulations issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) as administrator of the federal CWA. Cedyco’s negligent operation and poor maintenance of three of its facilities in Jefferson Parish led to harmful discharges of oil into the navigable waters of the US. The three facilities are the tank battery known as the Bayou St. Denis facility, the production and storage facility known as the Bayou Dupont facility, and the production well adjacent to the Bayou Dupont facility known as Well #10. Each facility will be addressed in turn.
Cedyco’s Bayou St. Denis facility was a tank battery located south of the Barataria Waterway. A May 29, 2008, joint inspection by the USCG and LDEQ revealed that the facility was storing oil without the required Facility Response Plan (FRP), Spill Prevention and Control (SPCC) Plan, and LDEQ permit as required under CWA regulations. The condition of the facility was extremely poor with corroded pipes and spilled oil on the deck. On June 15, 2008, enough oil was leaking from the facility that a sheen was visible on the surface of the water. A fisherman reported this sheen to the USCG, and a subsequent site visit by LDEQ on June 20, 2008, confirmed that oil was leaking into the adjacent waterway from the facility’s outfalls.
Cedyco’s Bayou Dupont facility is an oil storage and production platform located to the northeast of Bayou St. Denis, close to the Plaquemines Parish line. From February 18, 2008, to May 19, 2008, Cedyco operated this facility without a FRP, SPCC Plan and LDEQ permit. A joint USCG and LDEQ inspection on February 19, 2008, revealed that the facility was in extremely poor condition with pools of oily water and emulsified oil on the deck, as well as ample evidence of extensive corrosion and leaks. The required spill response equipment was either missing or defective. For example, an absorbent boom meant to soak up oil spills had a plant growing out of it. During rain events that took place from February 19, 2008, through May 18, 2008, the deck oil made its way unimpeded into the bayou through unfiltered outfalls and cracks in the deck and containment structures. The sources of this oil were not only chronic leaks and occasional spills, but at times resulted from acute events such as the leak from the slop oil tank that occurred on May 18, 2008. The May 18 slop oil tank spill was observed by an LDEQ inspector who took photographs at the scene. During the charged period, the quantity of oil that was present on the deck of Bayou Dupont facility was sufficient to cause a sheen when rain caused the oil to wash into the adjacent waterway.
Cedyco’s Well #10 is located in an area of bayou adjacent to the Bayou Dupont facility. Cedyco did not properly maintain Well #10, and as a result of that negligence, the well began to leak on or about May 17, 2008. The leak continued for at least two days. Before it was contained with boom, the leak resulted in an oily sheen that was detected as far as two miles downstream from the well. The leaking oil also resulted in an emulsion being deposited on the adjacent shoreline.
Filed photo exhibits are available at the USCG website: http://cgvi.uscg.mil/media/main.php?g2_itemId=1627304.
Settlement with City of Fitchburg Ensures that City Addresses Wastewater and Storm Water Discharges
Under the terms of a Consent Decree lodged in federal court, the City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. will pay a civil penalty of $141,000 for violations of the CWA. The City will also perform a Supplemental Environmental Project worth at least $100,000 and is implementing significant remedial measures to minimize future discharges of pollutants into the environment.
The Consent Decree is the result of a federal enforcement action brought by the DOJ, on behalf of the EPA and the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The complaint alleges that Fitchburg violated conditions of its permit controlling combined sewer overflows, bypassed wastewater flows around its secondary treatment system, violated numeric effluent limits on hundreds of occasions, and discharged untreated overflows from the collection system without permit authorization.
The Consent Decree to resolve the enforcement action imposes a schedule for addressing the City’s collection system and wastewater treatment plant deficiencies. It identifies specific combined system projects to prevent and control combined sewer overflows from significant portions of the City’s Collection System. The City will also be required to establish a Collection System operations and maintenance program to overcome systemic neglect of the Collection System. Similarly, the City will be required to develop operational changes and system upgrades to enable the City to comply with all of its permit limits.
Preventing sewage from contaminating surface and ground waters of the US is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives. The initiative continues EPA’s focus on municipal collection systems that are undersized or deteriorating. Municipal wastewater presents significant health threats to those using contaminated waters for recreational use and downstream drinking water systems.
NRDC, EWG Sue to Protect Millions of Californians from Contaminated Drinking Water
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have sued the California Department of Public Health for failing to protect millions of Californians from hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich for contaminating drinking water and sickening residents in the town of Hinkley, California. The agency was supposed to establish a safe drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium eight years ago, but has failed in its duty to safeguard citizens from the toxin.
An EWG analysis of official records from the California Department of Public Health’s water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 revealed that about one-third of the more than 7,000 drinking water sources sampled were contaminated with hexavalent chromium at levels that exceed safe limits. These water sources are spread throughout 52 of 58 counties, impacting an estimated 31 million Californians.
In 2001, the California State Legislature mandated the agency adopt a standard by January 1, 2004, giving it two years to do so. Eight years past its legal deadline, the agency still hasn’t made any visible progress and says it could take several more years before a final standard is completed. NRDC and EWG’s suit contends the department’s delay is unjustified and it must rapidly proceed to finalize the standard.
Drinking water sources in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Riverside were found to exceed the safe limits of hexavalent chromium, according to a 2010 EWG report that tested 25 US cities’ tap water for hexavalent chromium contamination.
The report also found this threat isn’t limited to California. At least 74 million Americans in thousands of communities across 42 states drink tap water polluted with total chromium, which includes hexavalent and other forms of the metal.
Even though hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, and other severe health effects, there is no national or state drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium. Therefore, water agencies don’t have to comprehensively monitor for or remove hexavalent chromium before it comes out of the tap.
The California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced a final Public Health Goal for hexavalent chromium in drinking water in July 2011, a preliminary step in creating a drinking water standard. The goal was set at 0.02 parts per billion, a level that does not pose a significant health risk to people.
While this goal has been set for more than a year, the department has not taken the necessary steps for setting a Maximum Contaminant Level—the maximum concentration of a chemical that is allowed in public drinking water systems—for hexavalent chromium.
The department’s plan to take several more years to finalize a rulemaking that is already eight years behind schedule is too long, especially since the agency could fall behind its own intended schedule, and industry pressure could delay the standard even more.
Communities adjacent to industrial facilities using hexavalent chromium or Superfund sites, such as low income communities like Hinkley and communities of color are among those most highly exposed to hexavalent chromium pollution. People can be exposed to hexavalent chromium by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, by inhaling it, or by exposure to contaminated soils.
Hexavalent chromium usually enters the drinking water supply by running off from industrial operations into surface waters or leaching from soil into groundwater.
Hexavalent chromium is used for the production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning, and as an anti-corrosive as well as a variety of niche uses. Due to its wide use by industry, hexavalent chromium is a common pollutant found at contaminated sites and has been documented at approximately two-thirds of Superfund sites.
Environmental News Links
Final NSPS for Nitric Acid Plants
No Means No: EPA Told Again Not to Regulate Through Guidance
Cities Split on Whether EPA’s New Flexible Stormwater Management Policy Will Save Money
White House Announces Seven Major Renewable Energy Infrastructure Projects
Clean Air Advocates Challenge Weak Air Pollution Requirements for Minnesota’s National Parks and Wilderness Areas
Keystone XL: Pipeline Construction Begins Amid Protests
The Rising Tide: Environmental Refugees
First Tar Sands Mine Stirs Water, Environmental Fears Out West
Johnson & Johnson Removing Harsh Chemicals from Products by 2015
Climate Models that Predict More Droughts Win Further Scientific Support
Toxic Taps: Lead is Still the Problem
NPDES Litigation Floodgates Swing Open
Mobile App Acts as a Personal Environmental Monitor
EPA Rules Pose Acceptable Reliability Challenges for Utility Industry
Climate Change Poses Risks to Food, Beyond US Drought
Refinery Fire Site Too Dangerous for Investigators (more: Warning System Attacked)
California’s Carbon Trading Market Will Launch in November
Environmental Disaster on Louisiana Bayou Highlights Radioactive Hazards of Oil and Gas Drilling
Zero Waste Hype from Some Companies is Misleading; Hazardous Waste Often Isn’t Diverted
Texas Permitting Program Stands
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Proposes New Fees
Will EPA Force Chemical Plants to Go Safe?
National Forest Desktop Backgrounds
Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind
Trivia Question of the Week
What is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)?
a. A framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.
b. A competition for students to design innovative environmental products.
c. An award for environmental engineers who identify and implement green solutions in the workplace.
d. A Congressional committee created to advocate for environmental legislation.