EPA released a draft strategy to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing for public comment. Under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, EPA is required to develop a strategy to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing by June 22, 2018. The draft document incorporates input from a November 2017 public meeting held on the development of the draft strategy, as well as written comments submitted after the meeting, and draws upon EPA research on test methods.
“We welcome the draft strategy as a progressive step to reduce and ultimately replace the use of animals to regulate chemicals in the US through the implementation of TSCA reform,” said Catherine Willett, director of science policy at The Humane Society of the United States.
The draft strategy follows the progress EPA has made finalizing three important rules and proposing a fees rule as outlined by the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act. EPA is working to implement the new law, the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years.
This draft strategy will be available for comment for 45 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0559. Comments received will be considered in the Agency's development of the final strategy.
A public meeting will be held on the draft strategy in Washington, DC on April 10, 2018.
For more information on TSCA implementation,
Charleston Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Charleston, SC, on March 19-21 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Jacksonville Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Jacksonville, FL, on March 27-29 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in New Orleans, LA, on April 3-5 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
S.H. Bell Ordered to Monitor Manganese Emissions to Protect Public Health
EPA and the US Department of Justice announced a final consent decree with S.H. Bell, Co. requiring the business to monitor and take measures to reduce manganese emissions from its 92-acre raw products storage and material handling facility that spans the Pennsylvania-Ohio border in Ohioville, Pennsylvania and East Liverpool, Ohio.
Under the consent decree, S.H. Bell is required to take measures to provide both immediate and long-term reductions in fugitive manganese emissions. S.H. Bell has been performing these measures since January 2017 when the consent decree was lodged in federal court. These safeguards include:
- Fugitive dust control measures (such as rolling doors, and a baghouse with monitoring/recording systems)
- A tracking system for manganese materials
- Video recordings of certain facility operations to help the company and regulators determine the source of manganese emissions detected in the future
- Fence line monitoring with EPA-approved monitors
- Required steps to investigate and, if needed, take corrective action if emissions exceed specified trigger levels
The consent decree requires S.H. Bell to collect air monitoring data from three fence line locations surrounding the facility and take specific actions if its monthly or annual ambient air manganese concentrations exceed certain action levels. The EPA website contains the air monitoring data collected at S.H. Bell’s fence line from August 20, 2017, onwards, as well as reports relating to any exceedances of the action levels.
The consent decree is based on the government’s authority under the Clean Air Act and CERCLA. This federal action builds upon steps previously taken by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Manganese is a naturally occurring element found in many soils, rocks and foods and is used in the production of steel and other industrial processes. Manganese can be toxic when inhaled by humans at elevated exposure levels leading to neurological and neuropsychological damage.
USG Interiors Fined $59,500 for Air Quality Violations
Increased pollution and an enforcement action resulted from nearly three dozen air quality permit violations at a northeastern Minnesota ceiling tile-making facility, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced recently.
USG Interiors, LLC, manufactures acoustical ceiling tiles at its plant at 35 Arch Street, Cloquet, Minnesota. The tile-making process involves combining a variety of raw materials into a slurry that is dried, cut and coated. The process requires an air quality permit that limits nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Impacts from these air pollutants on humans can include respiratory and cardiovascular illness; nitrous oxide is the main contributor to ground level ozone and can cause visibility issues.
Between July 2014 and October 2016, the company self-reported that it violated its air quality permits for emissions exceedances or missed equipment testing 32 times. As a result, USG agreed to pay a $59,500 penalty and completed three compliance actions, including submitting a compliance and testing plan that the MPCA approved, for future equipment performance testing.
DENCO II Fined $22, 141 and Ordered to Improve Wastewater Compliance
DENCO II, LLC, an ethanol plant in Morris, Minnesota agreed to pay a fine and take steps to prevent discharges of polluted stormwater and wastewater into nearby surface waters, including wetlands that drain to the Pomme de Terre River. The company also agreed to correct several other problems following an investigation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The company’s discharge permit allows the plant to release stormwater and wastewater containing limited concentrations of various pollutants to nearby surface waters. The plant discharges directly to an 8.1-acre wetland complex that flows to the Green River and then the Pomme de Terre River roughly a mile from the facility.
An MPCA investigation into records and practices revealed violations of the permit that included failure to adequately monitor, report, and correct discharges containing excessive amounts of organic material, total suspended solids, disinfectants used at the plant referred to as “residual oxidants,” as well as other pollutants. High levels of organic matter, such as dust from corn and distillers grains, can lower oxygen levels in waters into which they flow. Residual oxidants can include chlorine and bromine that are harmful to fish and other aquatic life. Records indicate these problems occurred between May 2010 and January 2018.
Other violations identified included missing records, insufficient and too few stormwater site inspections, monitoring deficiencies, water sampling quality control deficiencies, inadequate equipment calibrations, and other problems with documentation, reporting and operational controls.
In addition to paying a penalty of $22,141, the company agreed to take numerous other actions to correct problems. Some involve achieving the requirements of a schedule of compliance already in place to have the facility eventually meet effluent discharge limits for various types of dissolved salts that can be harmful to aquatic life. Currently, the facility discharges levels that can be harmful downstream.
According to the schedule of compliance, facility discharges must meet permit limits for salts (as measured by total hardness, total dissolved solids and specific conductivity) no later than by the end of 2020. The facility plans to switch its facility water supply from onsite groundwater wells to treated water from the city of Morris once the city constructs a new water supply treatment plant. Using treated city water will make it easier for the ethanol plant to meet the permit limits for hardness and other salts in its discharge water.
The penalty and required actions are part of a stipulation agreement with the MPCA to achieve the plant’s compliance with environmental laws. When determining penalties, the agency takes into account how seriously violations affected the environment, the number of times the plant has received penalties for similar violations, and also how promptly violations are reported to appropriate authorities. The process also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by the plant’s failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
Hazardous Waste Aerosol Cans Under Consideration for Universal Waste
The EPA has proposed a system for handling hazardous waste of aerosol cans that encourages recycling. EPA estimates the system could save at least $3 million per year in regulatory costs.
“Today’s proposal increases opportunities for safe recycling of aerosol cans, while also simplifying hazardous waste regulations,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
EPA’s proposal attempts to streamline the regulation of hazardous waste aerosol cans by adding them to the list of materials that can be managed under the universal waste management system. Hazardous waste batteries, certain hazardous waste pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and hazardous waste mercury lamps are already included on the federal list of universal wastes.
Aerosol cans are widely used for dispensing a broad range of products, including: paints, solvents, pesticides, food and personal care products, and many others. The Consumer Specialty Products Association estimates that 3.82 billion aerosol cans were filled in the US in 2015 for use by commercial and industrial facilities as well as by households. This proposal, if finalized, is expected to reduce the quantity of waste aerosol cans going to municipal solid waste landfills or waste combustors by promoting their collection and recycling and encouraging the development of municipal and commercial programs.
New California Regulations Allow Reservoirs to be Supplemented with Treated Recycled Water
Providing local water suppliers with a new tool to improve their drought resilience, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted water quality and other requirements to ensure the safe use of treated recycled water to augment surface water supplies.
“Cities and counties around the state are looking to stretch their local water supplies in the face of an increasingly uncertain water future,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Water efficiency and reuse are the smartest ways to help our water resources go further. Today’s action is another important step in expanding the sensible use of recycled water in California.”
The new regulations set requirements for the quality of treated recycled water that can be added to a surface water reservoir that is used as source of drinking water. The regulations also specify the percentage of recycled water that can be added and how long it must reside there before being treated again at a surface water treatment facility and provided as drinking water.
Adoption of the regulation went through a public process of review and comment over two years, including an independent scientific review and guidance by an Expert Panel created in 2014 to assist the State Water Board in developing regulations for recycled water. The panel determined the surface water regulations adequately protect public health.
In addition to water quality requirements, the regulations also require local water systems to engage the public in developing “surface water augmentation” projects. The regulations recognize that public education and maintaining public confidence in their water supplies are essential parts of a project’s success.
This action is the board’s latest effort to develop uniform statewide rules allowing for the expanded use of recycled water to indirectly supplement existing drinking water supplies. In 2014, the State Water Board set requirements for using treated recycled water to recharge groundwater. The same year the board adopted statewide rules for outdoor uses of recycled water and for irrigating crops.
The State Water Board is also working on regulations for “direct potable reuse,” in which treated recycled water is added directly into a drinking water system or into a raw water supply immediately upstream of a drinking water treatment plant. These rules are expected by 2023 after further research, expert consultation and public engagement to ensure the regulations protect public health while increasing drinking water supplies.
As California faces more severe and frequent droughts due to climate change, as well as the pressures of a growing population, water recycling is part of a portfolio of state strategies for building local self-reliance and providing more sustainable, reliable water supplies, as outlined in Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s California Water Action Plan.
The approval of regulations for surface water augmentation streamlines the process for drinking water providers to diversify their water sources, in order to provide a relatively reliable, drought-resilient, and sustainable option for supplementing the water in a surface water reservoir that is used as a source of domestic drinking water supply.
Senate Bill 918 (Pavley, 2010) and SB 322 (Hueso, 2013) directed the State Water Board to investigate the feasibility of creating regulations for direct and indirect potable reuse. The State Water Board continues to support the wise utilization of all our water resources and recycled water is an important part of California’s water portfolio. Last year, the State Water Board funded more than $748 million worth of water recycling projects using Proposition 1 grant and loan funds, and low-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. These projects are projected to add 44,980 acre-feet of recycled water
per year to California’s overall water supply portfolio.
New Members to National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Appointed
Administrator Pruitt announced the appointment of eight new members to the Council. The meeting discussion focused on NEJAC’s workgroups including the Environmental Justice and Water Infrastructure Finance and Capacity Workgroup. EPA also announced that nominations are being accepted for four new members to fill vacancies.
"I am proud to announce this distinguished group of new members to the NEJAC,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Their significant experience and expertise will be invaluable to the NEJAC as it provides advice and recommendations to help the Agency improve public health, protect the environment, and support economic growth for all people.”
Established in 1993, the NEJAC provides advice and recommendations about broad, cross-cutting issues related to environmental justice to the EPA Administrator. New members – who come from academia, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, state and local governments, tribal governments, and industry – serve for a two-year term.
EPA selected new members from a large pool of highly qualified candidates. Selections were made in accordance with the NEJAC charter to achieve balance and diversity in terms of geographic location, gender, ethnicity, and stakeholder perspective. The new NEJAC members and their affiliations are:
Business and Industry
Jabari O. Edwards – J5 GBL, LLC, Columbus, Mississippi
Michael Tilchin – Jacobs Engineering, Washington, District of Columbia
Dewey F. Youngerman III – Continental Maritime of San Diego, San Diego California
Community Based Organizations
Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, PhD – West Atlanta Watershed Alliance and Procter Creek Stewardship Council, Atlanta, Georgia
Jerome Shabazz – JASTECH Development Services Inc. and Overbrook Environmental Education Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jeremy F. Orr, JD – Michigan State Conference NAACP, Detroit, Michigan
Sandra Whitehead, PhD – National Environmental Health Association, Washington, District of Columbia
State and Local Government
Karen Jacobs Sprayberry – South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia, South Carolina
EPA also requested nominations for additional new members to fill four new vacancies for terms through September, 2019. The deadline for applications is April 13, 2018, with appointments expected in October 2018. To maintain the representation outlined by the charter, nominees will be selected to represent: academic institutions (2 vacancies); business and industry (1 vacancy); and state and local government (1 vacancy).
Solar Cells Could Work Come Rain or Shine
Despite the numerous advances in solar cells, one thing remains constant: cloudy, rainy conditions put a damper on the amount of electricity created. Now researchers reporting in the journal ACS Nano have developed hybrid solar cells that can generate power from raindrops.
In areas where it frequently rains, solar cells might not seem like the best choice for energy production. The sky becomes cloudy, preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the cell. Researchers have been developing devices that can generate energy in rainy conditions. Previous studies add a pseudocapacitor or triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) to an existing solar cell, creating a device that can make energy from the motion of raindrops. But these devices are usually complicated to manufacture and are bulky. So Zhen Wen, Xuhui Sun, Baoquan Sun and colleagues wanted to develop a better hybrid energy harvesting system.
The researchers imprinted two polymers, PDMS and PEDOT:PSS, with grooves by placing them onto commercially available DVDs. PDMS is polydimethylsiloxane and PEDOT:PSS is poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate). Adding texture to the PDMS increased the TENG performance of this material when water drops touched it and then fell off it. The textured PEDOT:PSS layer acted as a mutual electrode for both the TENG and the solar cell. It was placed between the two devices and conducted energy from the TENG to the cell. Because the polymers are transparent, the solar cell could still generate energy from sunlight, as well as from falling raindrops. The team notes this simple design demonstrates a new concept in energy harvesting during various weather conditions.
How Cats and Dogs are Consuming and Processing Parabens
Many households can claim at least one four-legged friend as part of the family. But pets that primarily stay indoors can have increased rates of diseases, such as diabetes, kidney diseases and hypothyroidism compared with those that stay exclusively outside. Some scientists propose that chemical substances in the home could contribute to these illnesses. One group has examined how pets could be exposed to parabens, as reported in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Parabens are preservatives commonly found in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, and their use in human food products and dog and cat food is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The substances also have been shown to be endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs). Research has shown EDCs potentially interfere with hormones and have harmful effects on developmental, reproductive and neurological systems. Previous studies have examined the presence of other EDCs, such as heavy metals and bisphenol A, in pet food, but very little is known about parabens in this context. So, Kurunthachalam Kannan and colleagues wanted to examine the exposure of dogs and cats to parabens in commercially available pet food and analyze the substances in the animals’ urine.
The team examined 58 variations of dog and cat food, as well as 60 urine samples from animals. The paraben called methyl paraben and the metabolite called 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB) were the most abundant chemicals detected in pet food and urine. The researchers found that dry food contained higher levels of parabens and their metabolites than wet food. In addition, the researchers report, cat food had higher paraben concentrations than dog food. After the urine analysis, the group calculated the cumulative exposure intake for the dogs and cats. By comparing the calculations, the team concluded that dogs are exposed to other sources of parabens, besides food, whereas cats’ exposure is mainly from their diet. The group also notes that to their knowledge, this is the first time the occurrence of these substances has been reported in pet food and urine in the U.S.
New Jersey to Return to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will hold an informational meeting for the public and stakeholders on March 29 to discuss New Jersey’s plan to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a climate-change effort made up of states in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the DEP headquarters in Trenton and will include presentations on climate change, an overview of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas and energy picture, and an explanation of RGGI’s cap- and-trade mechanisms designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector while generating funds for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. Registration is required.
Two public-discussion sessions will focus specifically on the rules the DEP is developing to expeditiously return New Jersey to the cap-and-trade program, as directed by Governor Phil Murphy. The DEP is specifically looking for input on a rule being developed that will prioritize projects funded with RGGI auction proceeds. The other rule addresses the technical and regulatory aspects of rejoining the climate-change initiative.
“Governor Murphy has made New Jersey’s return to RGGI – and placing the state once again as a leader in fighting climate change and sea-level rise – a priority of his administration,” Acting DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said. “At the DEP, we are committed to rejoining RGGI as quickly as possible while fully engaging the public and all stakeholders.”
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which have key roles in implementing RGGI and disbursing auction proceeds, will be in attendance.
Initially a founding member of RGGI, New Jersey exited the program in 2012. Governor Murphy on Jan. 29 signed an executive order directing the DEP and Board of Public Utilities to take all necessary regulatory and administrative steps to rejoin RGGI. The executive order requires that auction proceeds emphasize projects that serve communities disproportionately impacted by the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.
Governor Murphy also recently formally notified the governors of the nine RGGI states of New Jersey’s intent to rejoin the effort, a condition in a 2005 memorandum of understanding that established RGGI. Current RGGI states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Rejoining RGGI aligns with the Murphy Administration’s goal of 100 percent clean energy for New Jersey by 2050 and focusing efforts on communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change. Transitioning from reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change to renewable energy will also strengthen New Jersey’s economy and protect residents from harmful pollution.
RGGI is the nation’s first multi-state, market-based cap-and-trade program designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. RGGI participants allocate, award and transfer carbon allowances through an auction process as an annual carbon-dioxide cap declines. The process encourages more market efficiencies, development of renewable energy, and technology improvements for power plants.
Proceeds from the auctions are disbursed to states for a variety of programs that include energy efficiency assistance for consumers, renewable energy, greenhouse gas abatement and electricity bill assistance.
The public information meeting will be held in the first-floor public hearing room at the DEP headquarters, 401 East State Street, Trenton.
To learn more about RGGI and to register for the public information meeting, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/aqes/rggi.html To view a copy of Governor Murphy’s letter to other RGGI state governors, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/docs/letter-to-rggi-governors20180222.pdf
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According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, every dollar invested in energy efficiency generates how much back into the economy?