On Dec. 12, Andrew Bronson, the Superintendent of Wastewater Utility Division in Juneau, Alaska, was indicted for allegedly tampering with effluent samples from the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Facility in 1998. As a result, inaccurate levels were allegedly reported on facility Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) that were submitted to EPA as required by the Clean Water Act. The facility had an extensive history of wastewater permit violations in 1997 and 1998.
Tampering with DMRs can cause sewage treatment plants to
discharge excessive levels of bacteria, pathogens, and solids
which can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. If
convicted, Bronson faces a maximum of up to two years
imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $10,000. The case was
investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI
and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the
District of Alaska.
FAA PROPOSES $59,500 PENALTY AGAINST SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO. FOR HAZMAT VIOLATIONS
The Federal Aviation Administration, Southern Region, has proposed to assess a $59,500 civil penalty against Sears, Roebuck & Co., of Hoffman, Ill., for allegedly violating Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations.
FAA alleges that Sears, Roebuck & Co. improperly offered a fiberboard box containing 12 eight-ounce glass containers of cologne, a flammable liquid, to UPS for transportation by air on a regularly scheduled UPS cargo flight. Ground handling employees at the UPS sort facility in Louisville, Ky., discovered the shipment after it caught fire during unloading.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered the hazardous materials for transportation when they were not packaged, labeled, marked, classed, described, documented, or in condition for shipment as required by regulations. Sears, Roebuck & Co. also did not make available at all times the required emergency response information.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. has 30 days from receipt of the FAA notice
to submit a reply to the agency.
FAA PROPOSES $59,500 PENALTY FOR IMPROPER SHIPMENT OF PEPPERMINT EXTRACT
The Federal Aviation Administration, Southern Region, has proposed to assess a $59,500 civil penalty against Starwest Pharmaceuticals, of Rancho Cordova, Calif., for allegedly violating Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations.
FAA alleges that Starwest Pharmaceuticals improperly offered a fiberboard box containing five four-ounce glass bottles of peppermint extract, a flammable liquid, to UPS for transportation by air on a regularly scheduled UPS cargo flight. Ground handling employees at the UPS sort facility in Louisville, Ky., discovered the shipment leaking.
Starwest Pharmaceuticals offered the hazardous materials for transportation when they were not packaged, labeled, marked, classed, described, documented, or in condition for shipment as required by regulations. Starwest Pharmaceuticals also failed to ensure employees were trained to properly package and handle hazardous materials, and did not make available at all times the required emergency response information.
Starwest Pharmaceuticals has 30 days from receipt of the FAA
notice to submit a reply to the agency.
TEXAS WASTE TRANSPORTER CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL MANIFEST IN HAZARDOUS WASTE DIVERSION TO MEXICO
On Dec. 19, Cleanmex International Corp., of Brownsville, Texas, was charged with violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by falsifying a hazardous waste manifest. Cleanmex imports hazardous waste generated by maquiladora plants in Mexico into the United States for proper disposal.
In December 1995, Cleanmex prepared a manifest that allegedly
falsely stated that hazardous paint waste was imported from
Mexico to a Texas waste disposal facility. However it is further
alleged that the paint waste was actually returned to a Mexican
waste disposal facility which charged a lower rate. Cleanmex then
allegedly billed its customer at a much higher fee for the
disposal cost for Texas. The case is being investigated by EPA's
Criminal Investigation Division and the Texas Natural Resource
Conservation Commission. It is being prosecuted by the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas in
EPA SETS FIRST-EVER WATER QUALITY CRITERIA FOR NUTRIENTS, METHYLMERCURY
EPA is taking a significant step to protect waters from excessive nutrients that can choke waterways and lead to algae blooms, including Pfiesteria and red tide, resulting in fish kills and potentially harmful human health effects. For the first time, the agency is setting water quality criteria which serve as recommendations to states and tribes for water quality standards for nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous. States are expected to adopt or revise their nutrient standards by 2004, based on the new criteria. The new criteria are expected to significantly reduce nutrients in the nation's waterways. In a l998 water quality report to Congress, nutrients were listed as a leading cause of water pollution. About half of the nation's waters surveyed by states do not adequately support aquatic life because of excess nutrients. In 1998, states reported that excessive nutrients have degraded almost 3.5 million acres of lakes and reservoirs and over 84,000 miles of rivers and streams to the point where they no longer meet basic uses such as supporting healthy aquatic life.
EPA is also protecting human health from methylmercury, the form of mercury that is found in contaminated fish. The toxic methylmercury is taken up by plant and aquatic life and accumulates in the fish which can be consumed by humans. Methylmercury is toxic to the nervous system.
EPA is issuing under the Clean Water Act its first water quality criterion for methylmercury to be used by states in determining methylmercury levels in fish tissue. The new methylmercury water quality criteria are based on a new risk assessment (a reference dose) that EPA has developed in response to last summer's recommendation by the National Academy of Sciences. Both the new criteria and the new reference dose are based on updated scientific data on environmental fate and human health effects of methylmercury.
MERCURY RESEARCH STRATEGY UNVEILED
EPA's Office of Research and Development has released a five-year research strategy outlining and summarizing the health and ecological risks posed by mercury. The strategy identifies key scientific questions of greatest importance to the Agency, and charts a research program to reduce scientific uncertainties that limit EPA's ability to assess and manage mercury risks. EPA will study mercury issues such as transport and transformation; risk management for power plant combustion and other industrial sources; and human health and environmental effects and exposure.
Mercury exposure has been associated with both human nerve damage and growth impairment. Airborne mercury settles over waterways, polluting rivers and lakes and contaminating fish. In water, biological processes can transform mercury into a highly toxic form called methylmercury that builds up in animal and human tissue. As a result of their mothers' exposure to methylmercury, as many as 60,000 children are born every year in the United States at risk of nervous system damage. In a 1997 mercury report to Congress, EPA concluded that a plausible link exists between mercury from industrial and combustion sources in the United States and methylmercury concentrations in humans and wildlife. The study also estimated that from one to three percent of women of childbearing age eat fish in amounts that could put their fetuses at risk from methylmercury exposure.
A report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) this year confirmed EPA's Reference Dose (RfD) of 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day as a scientifically justifiable level for protecting human health from adverse effects of methylmercury. NAS also identified a set of research needs for methylmercury exposures and human health effects which EPA has incorporated in its new research strategy.
The "Mercury Research Strategy, Sept. 2000," (EPA/600/R-00/073)
is available at http://www.epa.gov/ORD/WebPubs/final where it can
be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format. Printed copies are
available through the National Service Center for Environmental
Publications at 800-490-9198.
BROADEST GUIDANCE EVER FOR ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS AND POLICIES
EPA released the most far-reaching internal guidance ever to assist its employees in analyzing the economic impacts of environmental regulations and policies. The guidelines will ensure that valuation of costs and benefits are treated consistently in all Agency economic analyses.
Entitled "Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses," the economic framework will assist EPA policy makers and analysts charged with developing environmental and health standards at the lowest cost. Recent advances in theoretical and practical work in the field of environmental economics were incorporated into the new framework. The guidelines assess costs and benefits in various segments of the population, particularly focusing on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
After an extensive peer review, EPA's Science Advisory Board, an
independent outside group, approved the new guidelines and
confirmed that they represent the best economic analysis
available. The guidelines, and further information on the office
that developed them, the EPA's National Center for Environmental
Economics, are available at http://www.epa.gov/economics.
TWO COMPANIES AND TWO SHIP CAPTAINS PLEAD GUILTY TO OIL POLLUTION CHARGES
On Dec. 19, Elmhirst Pte., Ltd., a Singaporean company that owns the Tanker Vessel "Neptune Dorado," Polembros Shipping Limited, a Liberian company that manages the ship, and Kiriakos Diaoglou, the ship's captain all pleaded guilty to violating the Ports and Waterways Safety Act.
The defendants' crimes occurred in August when they failed to inform the Coast Guard that oil had seeped into the ballast tanks of the ship, creating the potential for a serious explosion and the release of oil into San Francisco Bay. Hristoforos Sotiriadas, the ship's former captain, pleaded guilty to failing to disclose the hazardous condition of the ship when he turned it over to Diaoglou in June.
The companies were sentenced to $2.5 million in civil and criminal penalties and entered into a Corporate Compliance Agreement which will subject the entire Polembros fleet to oversight by an independent auditor and increased inspections. As a part of the plea agreement, Diaoglou will pay a $25,000 fine and Sotiriadas will pay a $5,000 fine. In addition, both men will be banned from operating vessels in the United States for a year and will have to go through re-training and re-certification before they can again operate vessels in American waters. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI, and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.