September 26, 2022
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recently released the final report for the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure assessments (EA) conducted in ten sites across the United States. The PFAS exposure assessments, which began in 2018, provided information to communities about the possible levels of PFAS in their bodies. The PFAS exposure assessments did not look at what types of health problems the exposure might cause.
The final report summarizes levels of PFAS in blood and urine from residents living in locations known to have had elevated levels of PFAS in their drinking water near current or former military bases and compares results to national PFAS levels. PFAS blood levels are shown by age, race/ethnicity, sex, number of years living in the community, drinking water consumption patterns, and other exposure parameters. The report also presents results from household dust and tap water samples and explores relationships between blood results and the environmental sampling data.
The exposure assessments found:
- Average age-adjusted perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) blood levels are higher than national levels in all ten EA communities.
- Average age-adjusted perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) blood levels are higher than national levels in most EA communities.
- Other PFAS blood levels were higher than national levels in some, but not all, EA communities.
- The elevated level of PFAS may result from past drinking water contamination in the EA communities.
The report also found some demographic and lifestyle characteristics were linked with higher PFAS blood levels. All tap water samples collected during the ATSDR-led EAs were below the EPA 2016 health advisory and state public health guidelines for PFAS in drinking water.
Transchem, Inc. Fined for Violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act
The EPA recently announced a settlement agreement with chemical import and distribution company Transchem, Inc. for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act
(TSCA). The company has agreed to pay a $147,617 civil penalty.
EPA found that Transchem failed to accurately report the total annual volume of six chemical substances that it imported in 2015 at its Carlsbad, California facility. EPA also found that the company failed to submit a notice to EPA 90 days before it imported and distributed a chemical substance subject to a “significant new use” rule.
“It is essential that companies accurately report the quantity of chemicals that they import into the U.S., as well as provide notice about these substances when they are subject to significant new use rules, so that EPA can evaluate the potential risks to communities and the environment,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Companies that do not comply can face significant penalties.”
Under TSCA, chemical importers and manufacturers are required to submit Chemical Data Reporting information to EPA every four years. EPA uses this data to track the chemicals being imported into the country and assess the potential human health and environmental effects of these chemicals. EPA makes the non-confidential business chemical information it receives available to the public. In addition, EPA can determine that the use of an existing chemical substance in a new way that might create concern for human health and the environment is a "significant new use." If EPA makes such a determination, TSCA requires a notification to EPA before the chemical substance can be used in the new way.
New Permit in North Carolina Enforces Existing Law to Protect People and River from PFAS Pollution
Cape Fear River Watch and the Southern Environmental Law Center said that the final permit
just issued for a new Chemours’ groundwater treatment system by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality sets the strongest limits on discharges of toxic PFAS pollution in the United States after the two groups and many residents urged the agency to strengthen the permit. On behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted comments in May
on the draft permit to DEQ that pushed for the changes now reflected in the final permit.
“Enforcing existing law to require that the polluter, Chemours, nearly eliminate PFAS pollution from its discharge into a major drinking water source for over 300,000 North Carolinians is an important milestone in the fight to stop PFAS pollution,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “DEQ listened to the community by issuing a permit that ensures Chemours will use the best available technology to nearly eliminate PFAS from its new treatment system, protecting the Cape Fear River and families downstream.”
The agency’s earlier draft permit would have authorized significantly more PFAS pollution from the groundwater treatment system—a treatment system required under the consent order negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, with the Department of Environmental Quality, and Chemours.
“Our lawsuit against Chemours forced the company to drastically reduce discharges, and it showed that technology can remove these toxins to near non-detectable levels,” said Dana Sargent, executive director of Cape Fear River Watch. “We are grateful that DEQ heard our communities’ outrage and heartache and imposed protective permit limits.”
The consent order requires Chemours to stop the GenX and other PFAS pollution at its source, the Chemours’ Fayetteville Works Facility, provide clean drinking water to North Carolinians with contaminated wells, and ensure the Cape Fear River is safe for downstream communities. The river is the drinking water source for Wilmington, NC, and New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick Counties downstream. GenX and other PFAS have been found at high levels in the treated drinking water for these communities.
The Environmental Protection Agency released a final health advisory for GenX in June of 2022. The new health advisory, which is 10 parts per trillion, shows that GenX is much more harmful to human health than previously anticipated. A timeline of the contamination discovery, litigation and consent order can be found here
Petrochemical Producer Agrees to Comprehensive Program to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution from Leaking Equipment
ALTIVIA Petrochemicals, LLC has agreed to a consent decree that would require it to pay a $1,112,500 civil penalty and improve leak detection and repair work practices to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act
(CAA) at a petrochemical manufacturing facility in Haverhill, Ohio. Emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), such as phenol, from leaking equipment impact the environment and may cause serious health effects including anorexia, vertigo and blood and liver effects.
According to the seven-count complaint, filed on Oct. 5, 2021, in the Southern District of Ohio, ALTIVIA allegedly violated CAA requirements to monitor and repair leaking equipment, demonstrate compliance with regulations applicable to chemical plants and control HAP emissions from equipment as required.
“This case and settlement show that the Department of Justice will litigate vigorously against companies that violate federal environmental law,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The significant civil penalty obtained will serve as deterrent against future non-compliance and the compliance program will require ALTIVIA to upgrade its monitoring and maintenance practices to help prevent future violations due to fugitive emissions.”
“Prevention or immediate detection and repair are critical when protecting health and the environment,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are vigilantly ensuring compliance with the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws.”
“This consent decree will benefit communities in Ohio by reducing hazardous air pollution,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “The settlement, which resolves years of Clean Air Act violations, will require ALTIVIA to improve its Clean Air Act compliance efforts and to implement monitoring and repair best practices.”
In addition to paying a penalty, ALTIVIA will implement a comprehensive program to reduce emissions of HAPs from leaking equipment such as valves and connectors. These emissions, known as “fugitive” emissions because they are not discharged from a stack, but rather leak directly from equipment, are generally controlled through work practices, like monitoring and repairing leaks. The settlement requires ALTIVIA to implement enhanced work practices, including more frequent leak monitoring, better repair practices and innovative new efforts designed to prevent leaks.
In addition, the enhanced program requires ALTIVIA to replace valves with new “low emissions” valves or valve packing material designed to significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks of HAPs. The settlement further requires ALTIVIA to control similar emissions from a previously uncontrolled process tank. The estimated cost of these controls is $730,000. The compliance program and engineered controls will reduce HAP emissions by up to 97 tons per year.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html
Two Roofing Companies Face More Than a Million Dollars in Total Fines for Repeatedly Putting Workers at Risk of Dangerous Falls
Two Washington roofing companies on the Department of Labor & Industries
(L&I) severe violators list are facing large fines for allowing roofers to work on top of homes without using fall protection, among other safety violations.
Allways Roofing, Inc., Snohomish
L&I has inspected Allways Roofing 11 times in the past three years—all prompted by reports of roofers not wearing fall protection.
The two most recent citations include $788,000 in fines. Allways Roofing has amassed nearly $2.5 million in penalties over the past 15 months:
- August - $201,727
- July - $586,281
- November 2021 - $424,964
- May 2021 - $1,243,000
Many of the violations for which L&I inspectors have cited the company are for repeatedly ignoring fall protection rules. The egregious and willful citations are the most severe penalty imposed by L&I. Several of these citations are still in the appeals process.
Falling from heights is one of the leading causes of workplace deaths and serious injuries. Allways Roofing has had at least seven serious injuries including five falls from heights and two eye injuries from nail guns.
“On the latest inspections, we heard from a concerned neighbor who saw a worker nearly fall off a roof before the foreman was able to grab them just before they went over the edge,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “It’s only a matter of time before we’re inspecting a fatality at one of their worksites.”
Allways Roofing has been, and will remain in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program and is subject to greater scrutiny.
United Roofing Solutions, Inc., Olympia
United Roofing Solutions, another company considered a severe violator, is also facing a new round of fines for repeated violations. L&I opened an inspection of the company last March after a compliance safety and health officer drove by a job site and observed six roofers on top of a house not wearing fall protection or safety glasses.
United Roofing Solutions has been inspected by L&I a dozen times since it opened in 2009 and has been cited and fined more than $500,000 for workers not wearing fall protection. In the most recent case, the company was cited for repeat, willful, serious violations for not using fall protection, a $305,254 penalty.
“United is showing intentional disregard for the safety of their workers,” said Blackwood. “We will be relentless in our efforts to protect their workers, even if they don’t.”
United Roofing Solutions has appealed the citation and fine. Allways Roofing did not file an appeal.
Information and training are key to preventing this type of workplace tragedy. L&I has a fall protection digital tool
to help employers and workers learn fall protection rules and other ways to stay safe on the job. If you see roofers working without fall protection, you can report it anonymously online
or call L&I at 800-423-7733.
Homeowners should do their homework as well. When hiring a company for roofing or any other construction project, use our Verify a Contractor
tool to make sure the business is registered. They can see if the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Hiring an unregistered contractor puts homeowners at financial risk if anything goes wrong on the project. There’s also information regarding any history the company may have of violating safety rules.
EPA Takes Enforcement Action Against Two New Jersey Companies for Misbranded Pesticide Spray
The EPA recently announced settlements with two New Jersey companies for violations of federal laws related to the distribution and sale of Zoono Microbe Shield, a registered pesticide, with false and misleading claims about its effectiveness and suitability for use as a disinfectant or sanitizer, including against the virus that causes COVID-19. The two settlements require the parties to pay significant civil penalties and reflect actions taken by each to come into compliance with the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
(FIFRA). Zoono USA will pay a $205,000 penalty and Zoono Holdings will pay $120,000.
“With settlements like these, EPA is making sure that consumers can safely rely on the claims made for pesticides registered by the EPA, while also encouraging regulated entities to come into compliance with critical environmental laws that protect public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “We are also committed to guarding against companies taking advantage of the fact that COVID-19 continues to pose a risk and to ensure consumer confidence and protect people’s health.”
Zoono Microbe Shield sprays were advertised and offered for sale on various websites, including Zoonousa.com, Zoono.com and Amazon websites. EPA’s review of the product’s labeling revealed that the companies had each sold the product with public health claims that substantially differed from statements submitted in connection with its registration with EPA and with other false and misleading claims, which is illegal under FIFRA. Numerous online purchases were made by individual consumers and institutions – such as community centers – located in areas with potential environmental justice concerns.
These violations raised particularly serious concerns as Zoono Microbe Shield labeling, particularly its online advertising, appeared to have diverged from allowable claims during the pandemic, increasing the likelihood that unsuspecting consumers purchased the Zoono Microbe Shield spray with the false expectations that it could be used as a sanitizer or disinfectant to prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as other germs, viruses and pathogens. Claims allowed for Zoono Microbe Shield as part of its registration include effectiveness against odor causing bacteria, bacteria which cause staining and discoloration, fungi and algae as a static agent. Significantly, approved uses allowed on Zoono Microbe Shield labeling do not include use as a disinfectant or sanitizer or any public health claims.
Oregon OSHA Issues More Than $144,000 in Penalties to Two Contractors for Exposing Employees to Fall Hazards
In separate enforcement actions, Oregon OSHA has issued fines totaling more than $144,000 to two contractors for violations – including repeat offenses – of fall protection rules at worksites in Salem and Woodburn. The violations put multiple workers at risk of serious injury or death from falls to lower levels.
The separate citations issued to Corvallis-based Iron Head Roofing, LLC and Canby-based JMJ Construction, LLC included the same violation of a basic safety requirement: Implementing adequate fall protection systems – such as a personal fall restraint system or other measures – where workers are exposed to falling six feet or more to a lower level.
For Iron Head Roofing, it was the fifth time since May 2019 that the company committed the same violation. For JMJ Construction, it was the fourth time since February 2020 that the company committed the same violation. The companies' previous violations of the six-foot trigger-height requirements were cited as part of separate Oregon OSHA inspections at different worksites.
Falls are one of the leading causes of death in the construction industry.
“Fall protection saves lives," said Renee Stapleton, acting administrator for Oregon OSHA. “It is an essential safety practice that employers must carry out when work is being done at heights. There is no excuse for neglecting it."
The citation issued to Iron Head Roofing followed an inspection that found four of six employees working on the roof of a house in Salem with no fall protection. The citation against JMJ Construction came after an inspection found an employee installing siding on a house with no fall protection. Another employee was using a scaffold with no fall protection, according to the inspection.
Both inspections were conducted under Oregon OSHA's emphasis program focused on fall hazards in construction. The prevention-based program accounts for the temporary nature of construction activity by directing inspectors to act based on observations while in the field, and to follow up on valid complaints and referrals.
Altogether, Oregon OSHA issued $144,900 in fines to both companies. The division's citation to Iron Head Roofing involved a single repeat violation carrying a total proposed penalty of $78,000. The citation to JMJ Construction, which involved several violations, carried a total proposed penalty of $66,900. The violations were as follows:
Iron Head Roofing
- Fall protection systems were not in place where employees were exposed to a hazard of falling six feet or more to a lower level. It was a fifth repeat violation of the rule. Proposed penalty: $78,000.
- Fall protection systems were not in place where employees were exposed to a hazard of falling six feet or more to a lower level. It was a fourth repeat violation of the rule. Proposed penalty: $58,500.
- A portable ladder did not extend at least three feet above an upper landing. It was the first repeat violation of the rule. Proposed penalty: $4,500.
- No personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems were put in place while a scaffold was in use. Proposed penalty: $3,900.
Under Oregon OSHA rules, penalties multiply when employers commit repeat violations. Each of the citations issued to Iron Head Roofing and JMJ Construction also included a standard penalty reduction based on the small size of the company.
Colorado Recognizes State Businesses for Commitment to Sustainability
The newly-formed Colorado Green Business Network is proud to announce that 42 Colorado companies have earned a spot as certified members. To certify, each of these companies demonstrated an impressive commitment to integrate sustainability into their daily operations. The Colorado Green Business Network community represents a diverse array of businesses across the state, large and small, that implement unique and inspiring projects to reduce their environmental impact.
The Colorado Green Business Network recognizes companies as Bronze-, Silver- or Gold-level members for voluntarily going beyond compliance with state and federal regulations and reaching toward the goal of true, operational sustainability.
This year, there are 11 Bronze Members, 19 Silver Members, and 12 Gold Members. The Colorado Green Business Network replaces the Environmental Leadership Program. The 95 additional leadership program members will be recognized as Legacy Members. Legacy Members have one year to recertify as a Colorado Green Business Network member.
In 2021 alone, business network members have saved more than 176.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity and generated another 27-million-kilowatt hours in solar power – equating to just over $15 million in avoided costs. Not only did members make an impact in resource reductions, but 37 members have also contributed to their communities by participating in clean-ups and improvement projects.
Three members, Apollo Energy, Dillon Amphitheater, and The Denver Foundation, made a commitment to eliminate single-use plastics by investing in reusable drink ware and water refill stations. Six other members --Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the Denver International Airport, Dogwood Consulting, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Management and Engineering Services, and Mesa County Valley School District 51-- have made commitments to renewable energy through solar energy production, wind power renewable energy certificates, and energy offsets.
In a video
, Gov. Jared Polis congratulated all of this year’s participants for going above and beyond in their sustainability journey.
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