August 26, 2019
EPA is meeting another statutory requirement under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by proposing to designate 20 chemical substances
as High-Priority Substances
for upcoming risk evaluations. The proposed designation is a required step in a new process of reviewing chemical substances currently in commerce under the amended TSCA.
“By proposing to prioritize 20 chemicals for risk evaluation, EPA is realizing another one of the key requirements of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st
” said Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. “Taking public comment will help advance our understanding about how these chemicals are used in commerce and brings EPA one step closer to completing the prioritization process.”
EPA is issuing designation documents for each chemical substance describing the chemical-specific information, analysis and basis EPA used to support the proposed designation. The 20 proposed chemicals are the same the agency identified in March as potential High-Priority Substances. The agency is asking stakeholders and the public to submit comments by November 21, 2019
The 20 proposed high-priority candidate chemicals include seven chlorinated solvents, six phthalates, four flame retardants, formaldehyde, a fragrance additive, and a polymer precursor.
EPA is required to complete the prioritization process and make final designations for 20 High-Priority Substances by December 2019. Finalizing these designations will begin the three-year risk evaluation process to determine if they present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment under the conditions of use. If the agency determines any substance presents an unreasonable risk, it is required under TSCA to undertake risk mitigation – a regulatory action.
Last week, EPA designated another 20 chemicals as Low-Priority Substances as part of the prioritization process. A low-priority designation, when final, means these substances do not require risk evaluation at this time in EPA’s determination.
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Two Auto Parts Companies Fined for Emissions Control Defeat Devices
EPA announced settlements with two automotive parts manufacturers for violations of the Clean Air Act. The companies manufactured or sold aftermarket auto parts that bypass or disable required emissions control systems, otherwise known as defeat devices. The two companies will pay $15,000 in penalties.
“Emissions controls on cars and trucks protect public health and the environment from excessive air pollution,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “We will continue to investigate and bring companies into compliance, so everyone can breathe easier.”
Cars and trucks manufactured today emit far less pollution than older vehicles. This occurs through careful engine calibrations and emissions controls in exhaust systems such as catalytic converters and diesel oxidation catalysts. Aftermarket defeat devices disable these controls and cause higher emissions. EPA testing has shown that these devices can increase vehicle emissions substantially.
The announcement highlights two separate administrative settlement agreements:
- APEX Integration, Inc. manufactured and sold 44 aftermarket exhaust systems for gasoline-powered vehicles that bypassed catalytic converters. The company, headquartered in Orange, Calif., will pay a $5,000 penalty.
- JAMO Performance Exhaust, LLC. sold aftermarket exhaust system parts for diesel-powered trucks that enabled the removal of catalytic converters on vehicles. The Nevada company, headquartered in North Las Vegas, Nev., will pay a $10,000 penalty.
Both companies’ penalty amounts were reduced due to financial hardship.
Pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter create poor air quality. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health impacts due to exposure to these pollutants.
Mobile sources are a significant contributor to air pollution. Aftermarket defeat devices that disable mobile source emission controls exacerbate this problem. To address that, EPA has developed a National Compliance Initiative
that focuses on stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of defeat devices
on vehicles and engines used on public roads as well as on nonroad vehicles and engines.
If you suspect someone is manufacturing, selling or installing illegal defeat devices, or is tampering with emissions controls, tell the EPA by writing to email@example.com
EPA to Issue No New Requirements for Hazardous Substance Spill Prevention
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final action
establishing no new regulatory requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 311(j)(1)(C) authority for hazardous substance discharge prevention.
“EPA’s analysis concluded that current requirements for hazardous substance discharge prevention are protective of human health and the environment and, therefore, additional requirements are unnecessary,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Protection of our nation’s waterways is a top priority for EPA, and we will continue to use our many programs and tools to protect and respond to threats in our waterways.”
During the 40 years since CWA section 311(j)(1)(C) was enacted by Congress, many EPA statutory and regulatory requirements have been established to prevent and address CWA hazardous substance discharges. Based on a review of the existing EPA programs along with the frequency and impacts of reported CWA hazardous substance discharges, the agency determined the existing EPA regulatory framework meets the requirements of CWA section 311(j)(1)(C) and is serving to prevent, contain, and mitigate CWA hazardous substance discharges.
EPA stated that the final action complies with a consent decree addressing CWA section 311(j)(1)(C) and is based on public comment regarding EPA’s proposed approach. Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “the Trump administration is – yet again – giving polluters a free pass at the expense of people who live near industrial sites that pollute lakes, streams and rivers. Toxic chemical spills pose an unnecessary risk to poor and disadvantaged communities who rely on these water bodies for their drinking water. We intend to continue fighting to ensure EPA issues regulations to prevent spills, as Congress ordered it to do more than 45 years ago.”
New Tool Calculates Cost of Electricity by Resource Used
Ever wondered whether there is a cheaper and cleaner resource that your utility could use to generate the electricity keeping our homes and businesses running? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) launched a tool
that can help utilities, institutions, state and local policymakers, and the public get better answers about the changing economics of today’s power sector.
The NRDC tool improves upon existing methods to compare – on an apples-to-apples basis – the cost of producing power from different technologies in each state and region of the country. They include large solar facilities, onshore wind farms, as well as gas, coal, and nuclear plants.
“This tool will provide important additional data to help shape the planning process for meeting our energy needs on a local, state, or regional level,” said NRDC Power Sector Director Sheryl Carter. “At a time when cities, states, universities, and utilities are considering aggressive climate goals, this knowledge is essential to establishing informed emissions-reduction targets and renewable portfolio standards.”
For each power source, the tool calculates the levelized cost of the electricity (LCOE), which is the minimum price that electricity must be sold at in order for the energy project generating it to break even. This includes factors such as the cost of building and operating it, as well as how often and how long it will run over its lifetime. Additional site-specific costs are not traditionally included in the LCOE since they vary based on a number of factors such as transmission need or fuel price fluctuations, but it is the preferred method to compare resources.
Along with the current generation mix in each state, the tool developed by NRDC allows users to see exactly how the levelized costs for different technologies are expected to change annually through 2030 for their state and across the country. That can help with making planning decisions to ensure customer electricity needs are met with the cheapest and cleanest resources.
“Solar and wind are already among the least-cost sources of electricity generation across the entire country, and they are expected to become increasingly competitive in the coming years,” Carter said. “Our tool helps make planning for those changes easier.”
Users simply open the tool, select the state they would like to examine, and compare the cost of generating electricity from various technologies. Those looking to dive deeper can modify several cost and performance assumptions, as well as policies such as a price on carbon, to see how the resulting electricity costs change.
The publicly available tool improves upon other LCOE calculators by using the most up-to-date cost assumptions, and by relying on measured electricity output for recently built solar and wind installations on a state-by-state basis.
A detailed blog about the tool by NRDC Schneider Fellow Madhur Boloor can be found here
Santa Clara Waste Water Company and Green Compass Environmental Solutions Sentenced in 2014 Explosion and 2015 Possession of Unreported Chemicals
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that Santa Clara Waste Water Company and Green Compass Environmental Solutions, LLC (corporate defendants) were sentenced for their roles in a November 2014 explosion at 815 Mission Rock Road in Santa Paula that injured numerous employees and first responders, and for the subsequent storage of undisclosed hazardous chemicals on site uncovered by police in 2015.
On November 18, 2014, at approximately 3:45 a.m., an explosion occurred at 815 Mission Rock Road, Santa Paula, a wastewater treatment facility owned and operated by the corporate defendants. The investigation revealed the blast was caused by the mixing and disposal of hazardous chemicals into a 5,040-gallon vacuum truck not rated to hold nor transport such chemicals. Numerous employees of the corporate defendants as well as firefighters and paramedics who responded to the scene and rendered aid were injured either by the initial explosion or by inhaling toxic vapors which developed on site shortly afterwards from the chemicals that exploded out of the vacuum truck.
In November 2015, a search warrant was served at the corporate defendants' facility in Santa Paula which led to the discovery of approximately 5,500 gallons of sodium hydroxide, also known as Petromax, stored within a locked shipping container. These chemicals were required by law to be reported into the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS), yet the corporate defendants' officials had not reported their possession of Petromax since 2013.
At the corporate defendants' sentencing, each company was placed on three years formal probation and ordered to pay victim restitution in the amount of $2,647,621.35. Each corporate defendant is prohibited from engaging in any business activity in Ventura County in which it:
- oversees employee occupational safety
- is responsible for filing documentation pertaining to meeting regulatory compliance standards
- is responsible for implementing Hazardous Materials Response Plans;
- is required to collect samples from waste streams for the purpose of waste classification
- supervises employees whose duties include handling hazardous materials and waste
- is responsible for establishing·compliance with an industrial wastewater discharge permit
- is involved in the transportation of hazardous waste requiring the completion of a hazardous waste manifest; or (8) interacts with any local, state or federal regulatory agency representative
for the purpose of onsite compliance inspections
To date, $950,000 in restitution has been collected and distributed to the victims. This amount, combined with the $2,647,621.35 the corporate defendants were ordered to pay in restitution, results in a total amount of court-ordered restitution of $3,597,621.35. Eight other charged individual co-defendants have entered pleas for their respective roles in the 2014 explosion and 2015 conspiracy to hide chemicals from regulatory inspectors. Marlene Faltemier, the final co-defendant whose charges remain pending at this time, is due back in court on September 6, 2019, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 22 before Judge Kent M. Kellegrew.
The investigation and prosecution of this case is the result of a joint effort by the California Attorney General's Office; the Ventura County District Attorney's Office; the EPA; the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT); the State Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA); and the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
Precision Marine Required to Protect Arizona Waterway
EPA has reached a settlement agreement
with Mesa-based Precision Marine, Inc. over federal Clean Water Act violations. Under the terms of the settlement, Precision Marine will improve its operations to prevent pollutants from its boat building and repair business from reaching into Saguaro Lake, which lies within the Salt River watershed. The company will also pay a $7,200 fine.
During a June 2018 inspection, EPA found pollution prevention measures were inadequate to prevent stormwater from Precision Marine’s boat repair activities from contaminating local waterways. Stormwater discharges from boat building and repair facilities may contain pollutants such as copper, zinc and oil.
“Saguaro Lake is an important waterway enjoyed by many Arizonans,” said Mike Stoker, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “We are pleased Precision Marine will upgrade its operations to ensure this important resource is protected.”
EPA coordinated the inspection with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and determined the facility was operating without the appropriate permits. The inspectors observed a leaking outdoor air cooler causing industrial pollutants to flow directly into the lake. Inspectors also observed boat repair, maintenance and cleaning operations taking place without the necessary containment systems to trap and prevent excess pollutants from running offsite.
Under the Clean Water Act, industrial facilities must obtain a permit from the state before discharging industrial stormwater. The permit requires that industrial facilities install and maintain controls to prevent or minimize the pollutants in runoff from their sites.
Oregon DEQ Fined 16 Companies for Environmental Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 16 penalties totaling $183,080 in July for various environmental violations. A detailed list of violations and resulting penalties is at https://go.usa.gov/xEQJn.
Fines ranged from $825 to $31,527. Alleged violations included failing to control sediment runoff from construction sites, failing to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to safely remove asbestos during a home renovation, and failing to test and monitor an underground fuel storage tank for potential leaks.
DEQ issued civil penalties against the following organizations and individuals:
- Baker Creek Development, LLC, 17,259, McMinnville (stormwater)
- Biggs Petroleum LLC, $31,527, Rufus (stormwater)
- Black Rock Fuel, Inc., $3,525, Portland (underground storage tanks)
- Carco Industries, Inc., $5,600, Tualatin (stormwater)
- Carl Budd Hoffman, $28,800, Portland (solid waste)
- Caroline Hulse Bessonette, $20,135, Central Point (underground storage tanks)
- Cascade Investment and Management Group, LLC, $5,232, Redmond (on-site wastewater)
- Central Coast Excavating, Inc., $3,000, Newport (underground storage tanks)
- City of Sweet Home, $825, Sweet Home (wastewater)
- Humbert Asphalt, Inc., $4,400, Milton-Freewater (air quality)
- Migizi Group, inc., $3,600 , Newport (underground storage tanks)
- Pacific Recycling Inc., $11,200, Eugene (stormwater)
- RJW & Sons, Inc., $5,669, Albany (underground storage tanks)
- Scott and Terry Parker, $14,800, La Grande (asbestos)
- Tyler Rolen, aka Thompson Creek Road Grading and Excavation, $3,036, Applegate (stormwater)
- Wood Waste Management, LLC $24,472, Portland (solid waste)
The organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment.
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
Scientists Find a Way to Quickly Determine the Purity of Water
Scientists from NUST MISIS together with colleagues from Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed a method for quick and effective analysis of the composition of water, which will help to solve the problem of industrial pollution. The methodology is based on the use of environmentally friendly nanoparticles with fluorescent properties. The method is also suitable for hard-to-reach or remote sources of water.
The development of manufacturing, especially near cities and industrial zones, is changing the environment and the natural composition of water. This is a big problem for modern science, as the need for new methods for determining the concentrations of toxic chemical elements and compounds is growing. Such measurements must be universal, fast, accurate and safe for both the environment and people.
According to researchers from NUST MISIS and Lomonosov Moscow State University, common methods do not meet the modern requirements of performance and versatility. To solve this problem, scientists suggested using fluorescence polarization analysis (FPA) to measure the concentration of heavy metals in water.
“This approach promises to reduce research time and increase measurement efficiency. Carbon quantum dots (CQD) were used for the test based on fluorescence polarization. These are environmentally friendly nanoparticles with sizes up to 10 nanometers, which possess controlled fluorescence properties, are stable in the aquatic environment and are selectively sensitive to copper cations,” said Anastasia Yakusheva, the research co-author, researcher at NUST MISIS.
According to Yakusheva, such a parameter as fluorescence polarization opens up prospects for a quick, simple and effective analysis of safety of the aquatic environment. The methodology based on FPA made it possible to simultaneously measure more than one hundred samples of water, reduce economic costs and increase the productivity of measurements. Another competitive advantage is that the method is suitable for hard-to-reach or remote sources of water.
Smart Sink Could Help Save Water
Barely hidden from his study participants, William Jou, a former graduate student in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, pulled off a ruse straight out of The Wizard of Oz. Except, instead of impersonating a great and powerful wizard, Jou pretended to be an autonomous sink. He did this to test whether a sink that adapts to personal washing styles could reduce water use.
A faucet with anything close to the brains of a mechanical engineering student doesn't yet exist. So, Jou and his colleagues in the lab of Erin MacDonald, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, made the next best thing: a faucet that seemed to automatically adjust to a user's preferences, but was actually controlled by Jou.
"We looked at the faucet because that's where a lot of water usage in the home occurs, but when you compare your sink to other products in the house - a thermostat or refrigerator - you see that there haven't been updates to how the sink works in a very long time," said MacDonald, who is senior author of the paper. "There have been small updates but nothing that really harnesses the power of technology."
Participants in this experiment had to wash dishes three times, with Jou secretly controlling the temperature and flow of the sink during the second washing only. With Jou involved, participants used about 26%t less water compared to their first washing. In the third round, they still used 10%t less water compared to the first round, even though the sink was back to being brainless. This shift in water use happened without participants knowing the experiment was about water conservation.
"Water conservation is particularly relevant given our location in California," said Samantha Beaulieu, a graduate student and co-author of the paper. "We also wanted to see if people's habits were adjustable; if interacting with this faucet could then change how people interact with a manual faucet. The results we found seem to indicate that's possible."
In order to create a situation where people would trust - and hopefully enjoy - a sink that makes water decisions for them, Jou closely monitored the participants' washing styles during their first round of cleaning so he could emulate them in the second round.
"As the algorithm, I'm trying to use that information to leverage their cognitive style or user behavior style to see if I can help them use less water while still keeping them happy," described Jou, who is lead author of the paper. "Whereas a lot of products today are made for general use, this is a product that's learning about you and adapting to what your style is."
In surveys after the experiment, 96 percent of participants who interacted with the smart sink (there was a control group that washed dishes three times without Jou) said they thought there was potential for smart faucets to save water. Many of them even expressed interest in buying such a product.
"Most people were pretty amazed by the sink," said Beaulieu. "A lot of people left the experiment asking what the algorithm was or asking how it worked or how to see more. We basically told them we'd have to wait until the end of the experiment to answer those questions."
While the results from and reaction to washing with Jou's assistance were impressive, the researchers were particularly heartened by how such a brief interaction with the "autonomous" function changed participants' water use.
"We didn't even plan on having that third step until very late in the research, when we were pilot testing," said MacDonald. "I never would have thought that having just one experience with 'William the Algorithm' people would retain the training and wash their dishes differently."
The researchers imagine a future where hospital sinks encourage employees to wash their hands properly and our personal sink and shower preferences can be transferred to hotels and friends' houses. Schools and neighborhoods could organize competitions to save water and raise water conservation awareness. Through additional features, the sink could even detect leaks.
That being said, creating this one sink required years of work and didn't even include an algorithm. In addition to implanting artificial intelligence, making a version for mass production that's actually autonomous would require sensors that could differentiate between users and between scenarios - such as washing a pot versus a fork versus hands. Still, the researchers are optimistic that studies like these could lay the groundwork to support those developments.
"We're all human beings - we have good days and bad days. A product like this could have a large impact because it's growing and learning with you as you change," said Jou. "This faucet is working toward saving water but it's also keeping its user happy. In the long term, products like this might be our future."
Notification Level Recommendations for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in California Drinking Water
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has recommended that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) set the notification levels
(NLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) at the lowest levels at which they can be reliably detected in drinking water using currently available and appropriate technologies. This recommendation is based on OEHHA's development of reference levels to protect against cancer and non-cancer effects, including effects on the liver and immune system. These recommendations supersede the recommended interim NLs for PFOA and PFOS that OEHHA provided to SWRCB in 2018.
Grocery Chain Settlement to Reduce Ozone-Depleting Emissions
Southeastern Grocers Inc. and its subsidiaries BI-LO LLC and Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. (SEG), owners and operators of regional grocery store chains BI-LO LLC, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket, have agreed to reduce emissions of potent ozone depleting gases from refrigeration equipment at 576 stores under a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, SEG will spend an estimated $4.2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and improve company-wide compliance. SEG will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty.
The United States alleged that SEG violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of class I and class II refrigerants, ozone-depleting substances used as coolants in refrigerators. SEG also failed to keep adequate servicing records of its refrigeration equipment and failed to provide information about its compliance record.
“Through this settlement, Southeastern Grocers will implement concrete steps to reduce leaks of ozone depleting gases from the refrigeration equipment in their stores,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “These steps will not only help to prevent damage to the environment, but should also help save energy.”
“This consent decree will help assure SEG’s future compliance with the Clean Air Act’s ozone-depletion program — by requiring leak monitoring, centralized computer recordkeeping, and searchable electronic reporting to EPA,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
SEG will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with federal stratospheric ozone regulations and to detect and repair leaks through a new bi-monthly leak monitoring program. In addition, SEG will achieve and maintain an annual corporate-wide average leak rate of 17.0% through 2022, well below the grocery store sector average of 25%. SEG must also use non-ozone depleting advanced refrigerants at all new stores, and an additional 15 existing, non-advanced refrigerant stores.
EPA regulations issued under the Clean Air Act require that owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contain over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants repair any leaks within 30 days. Damage to the ozone layer results in dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet solar radiation, increasing skin cancers and cataracts. An added benefit of repairing refrigerant leaks is improved energy efficiency of the system, which can save electricity.
The settlement is the fourth in a series of national grocery store refrigerant cases, including cases previously filed against Safeway Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., and Trader Joe’s Co.
Southeastern Grocers Inc., and its subsidiaries BI-LO LLC and Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., all headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, are privately held companies which own and operate regional grocery store chains BI-LO LLC, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket in the southeastern U.S., with 576 stores located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina and have a projected revenue of $8.45 billion in for the 2019 fiscal year.
was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
New Guidance to Support States in Regional Haze Planning
EPA has released guidance
to assist states as they develop plans to address visibility impairment for the second implementation period under EPA’s Regional Haze Rule. This is one of a series of implementation tools and guidance documents that will help focus states’ efforts and reduce and streamline the time and resources needed to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements for reducing regional haze in National Parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.
“Data show that state efforts have achieved significant improvements in visibility throughout the country with visual range improving by 20 to 30 miles in national parks and wilderness areas between 2000 and 2015,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are following our Regional Haze Roadmap to build on lessons learned during the first implementation period and provide enhanced support for states during the second implementation period.”
State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for the second implementation period of the regional haze program must be submitted to EPA by July 31, 2021. The 2019 guidance highlights the discretion and flexibilities states have within the statutory and regulatory requirements for their regional haze SIPs. The guidance will reduce planning burdens associated with preparing regional haze SIPs and will help states leverage the emission reductions from other Clean Air Act programs that also improve visibility. The guidance document is organized by SIP development step and provides example approaches and recommendations for each of the steps.
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