Copper Surfaces Effective Against Coronavirus

February 16, 2021
EPA announced that certain copper alloys provide long-term effectiveness against viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. As a result of EPA’s approval, products containing these copper alloys can now be sold and distributed with claims that they kill certain viruses that come into contact with them. This is the first product with residual claims against viruses to be registered for use nationwide. Testing to demonstrate this effectiveness was conducted on harder-to-kill viruses.
“Providing Americans with new tools and information to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 is one of EPA’s top priorities,” said Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “Today’s action marks another step forward in EPA’s efforts to listen to the science and provide effective tools to help protect human health.”
EPA granted an amended registration to the Copper Development Association for an emerging viral pathogen claim  to be added to the label of Antimicrobial Copper Alloys- Group 1 (EPA Reg. No. 82012-1), which is made of at least 95.6% copper. Amended registrations allow previously registered products to make label changes (e.g., changes to product claims, precautions and/or use directions) and/or formulation changes. In this case, the amended registration is adding virus claims to the product registration.
New efficacy testing supported by the Copper Development Association and conducted according to EPA's protocols  demonstrated certain high-percentage copper alloy products can continuously kill viruses that come into contact with them. Based on testing against harder-to-kill viruses, EPA expects these products to eliminate 99.9 percent of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, within two hours.
Antimicrobial copper alloys can be manufactured into a wide range of surfaces, including doorknobs and handrails. These high-percentage copper alloy products will be added to the List N Appendix , the Agency’s list of residual antiviral products that can be used to supplement routine cleaning and disinfection to combat SARS-CoV-2. To find products for routine cleaning and disinfection, see EPA’s List N.
The use of antimicrobial copper alloy products supplements but does not replace standard infection control practices. Individuals should continue to follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state, and local public health guidelines, including critical precautions like mask wearing, social distancing, and ventilation. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person.
For more information on how copper alloy products can be used against viruses, see  EPA's website or the product’s label in the Pesticide Product and Label System.
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Minnesota Blueprint to Control PFAS
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released Minnesota’s PFAS Blueprint — a strategic, coordinated approach developed by multiple agencies to protect families and communities from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The blueprint included 10 priority areas centered on additional research, new health guidance, drinking water and food protections, as well as additional tools for cleanup and prevention.
“Every day, these ‘forever chemicals’ are produced, used, processed, and released into the environment, yet we aren’t fully aware of the toxicity and dangers of PFAS,” said Laura Bishop, commissioner of the MPCA. “Using almost two decades of knowledge and experience in researching and managing PFAS, Minnesota has developed a comprehensive, statewide blueprint to protect communities and families from PFAS contamination.”
The blueprint also included immediate, short- and long-term strategies that state agencies, the Minnesota Legislature, industries, and local governments should consider to prevent, manage, and clean up PFAS contamination. Over the coming months and years, state agencies will further develop these strategies and engage Minnesotans on how best to implement them. Some PFAS strategies can be developed by using existing authorities and resources. Many other strategies will require legislative action, including the following priorities for the 2021 legislative session:
Designating PFAS as hazardous substances. Designating PFAS as hazardous substances would enable a faster, more efficient response to releases of PFAS that threaten drinking water, communities, and families. Minnesota would join a handful of states making this designation. In January 2020, a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to designate PFAS as hazardous substances, but never received a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Requiring companies to disclose information on contaminants. If enacted, the MPCA would require Minnesota facilities to submit information on the use of PFAS and other contaminants in products and processes when monitoring shows unexplained presence of contaminants in the environment.
Identifying sources of PFAS in the environment. A $700,000 funding request would provide the MPCA the ability to gather additional and better information to identify potential PFAS sources and prioritize investigations when large amounts of PFAS may have been used, produced, or discarded.
Evaluating PFAS waste going to landfills, compost facilities, and wastewater treatment plants. Minnesota does not have adequate data to evaluate materials entering wastewater and solid waste facilities that contain high levels of PFAS. A two-year funding request of $500,000 will expedite state agencies’ understanding of how waste coming into these facilities is affecting PFAS levels in the water that leaves wastewater and solid waste facilities.
Responding when PFAS are found in closed Minnesota landfills. When unexpected PFAS contamination is found at a closed Minnesota landfill, the MPCA needs access and funding to protect communities and families.
Protecting Minnesotans from fish contaminated with PFAS. PFAS has been detected in remote Minnesota waterways and fish tissue. New and ongoing water monitoring is needed to identify the extent of PFAS contamination in Minnesota and to develop safe fish consumption advice. Governor Walz recommended $400,000 over the next two years to sample fish and water for PFAS.
Protecting drinking water and agricultural lands by understanding PFAS in wastewater and landfill leachate. The MPCA has sought $1.4 million to better understand the impacts of elevated levels of PFAS in wastewater biosolids, compost contact water, and landfill leachate and to evaluate potential treatment options. More information will ensure Minnesota’s drinking water is safe and farms are productive.
“Immediate action is needed to protect Minnesotans from harmful chemicals such as PFAS,” said Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL – White Bear Township). “Working together, we can prevent PFAS contamination and ensure polluted sites are cleaned up.”
Within the next two years, state agencies will consider several short-term strategies, including developing plans to monitor PFAS at national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permitted facilities and in groundwater at active landfills; and making progress on statewide water quality standards for PFAS Class 1 drinking water. Long-term strategies could include limiting or banning PFAS in known non-essential uses, including food packaging, and helping businesses switch from PFAS-containing products.  Short and long-term strategies identified in the blueprint are interconnected to each other. State agencies expect to regularly revisit and revise the blueprint as new information is gathered about PFAS and progress is made on strategies.
"Chemicals like PFAS in our water threaten our public health, wildlife, our beloved Minnesota environment, and our economy. This is a major challenge that we must address as policymakers,” said Sen. Jennifer McEwen (DFL – Duluth). “That’s why I am co-authoring Senator Bigham’s bills to ban PFAS in food packaging and create a working group to investigate PFAS contamination in our water and soil. I am grateful for the MPCA's leadership in identifying where PFAS is present, taking the steps necessary to clean it up, and in taking every action possible to stop further use of this harmful chemical in consumer products.”
With more than 5,000 structures and over 9,000 identified chemistries, PFAS are present in the environment and will remain so for generations. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects. In Minnesota, the first ‘discovery’ of PFAS contamination occurred in the early 2000s, when drinking water contamination was found in the East Metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. Since then, PFAS have been detected in water, sediment, soil, and fish all across Minnesota — from Duluth and Brainerd to Lake Bde Maka Ska and Pine Island and places in between.
Emerald Kalama Chemical, LLC Cited for Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA has settled with Emerald Kalama Chemical, LLC for alleged hazardous waste storage and handling violations at their Kalama, Washington facility. Emerald Kalama Chemical has agreed to pay a $121,478 penalty as part of the agreement.
During the visits, inspectors found multiple violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Washington’s EPA-approved Dangerous Waste program. These violations related to the storage and handling of hazardous wastes containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the emissions standards applicable to storage containers and equipment.
Emerald Kalama Chemical shares the airshed with the town of Kalama (home to over 2,000 residents) in Cowlitz County, Washington. Failure to manage these wastes appropriately can lead to emissions of VOCs and hazardous air pollutants to nearby communities.  
RCRA gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from cradle-to-grave. This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes containing VOCs. The Department of Ecology administers RCRA within Washington State via its Dangerous Waste program. EPA has the authority to enforce Washington’s Dangerous Waste program. 
For more on EPA’s National Compliance Initiative, see the following link:
Maintenance Supervisor Guilty of Asbestos Violations
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced on February 10 that James S. Marshall, 68, of Farmington, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa to negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act. The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $125,000 fine.
“The very essence of the Clean Air Act is to protect people from dangerous, and potentially deadly, hazardous air pollutants,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “As maintenance supervisor for the property owner where work was being done, the defendant had an obligation to look out for the safety of the hired contractors. Unfortunately, his failure to do what he should have, put their health at risk.” 
“Defendant Marshall’s negligence was not without consequence,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent-in-Charge of the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in New York. “Following his failure to properly identify regulated asbestos containing material, he continued to place workers at risk of being exposed to asbestos.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant was a Maintenance Supervisor with the Finger Lakes Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Developmental Disabilities Services Office. As part of his duties, Marshall was involved in the cleanout of the Hillcrest Building, a building owned by OPWDD and located on E. Maple Avenue in Newark, NY. In November 2014, the OPWDD solicited public bids for the cleanout of the Hillcrest building, and in December 2014, a third-party contractor was awarded the contract. The defendant was not involved in the awarding of the bid, nor was Marshall involved with the approval of contract documents.
In April 2015, during the cleanout of the Hillcrest Building, asbestos was released into the ambient air, which negligently placed other individuals in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. On April 9, 2015, the defendant responded to the Hillcrest Building and told the workers that a licensed third-party testing company had conducted the sampling at the Hillcrest Building and that such sampling yielded negative results for asbestos. However, based on Marshall’s prior experience with the Hillcrest building, and other buildings on the Newark campus, he should have been aware of the possibility of asbestos-containing material throughout the Hillcrest building. Following the defendant’s conversation with the workers, some of the workers chose to continue to work in the building on April 9 and 10, 2015, and during such work, asbestos was released into the ambient air. Marshall failed to take any further measures to protect the health of the work crew.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Tyler Amon. Additional assistance was also provided by the New York State Department of Labor, Asbestos Control Bureau.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 10, 2021, before Judge Siragusa.
Range Resources Paid $294,000 In Penalties After DEP Received Inaccurate and Conflicting Information Regarding Well Activity Status
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) executed a consent assessment of civil penalty (CACP) with Range Resources - Appalachia, LLC (Range Resources), an oil and gas operator that owns conventional wells, on Thursday, January 7, 2021, in the amount of $294,000 for violations of the 2012 Oil and Gas Act (Oil and Gas Act) regarding wells ineligible for inactive status listed on its inactive status request to DEP. DEP received Range Resources’ CACP payment on Friday, January 8, 2021.
“It’s the law: inactive wells need to be viable for future use. If wells are not viable for future use, then they should be classified as abandoned wells and are required to be plugged,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is committed to ensuring the safety and health of all Pennsylvanians and will continue to enforce violations of the commonwealth’s environmental protection laws.”
The Oil and Gas Act mandates that wells must satisfy several criteria to be granted inactive status, including being viable for future use within five years. If wells are not viable for future use then they are ineligible for inactive status, and after 12 consecutive months of no production, the well would be classified as abandoned and must be plugged.
Range Resources applied for inactive status on Friday, September 29, 2017, for its Shirocky No. 1 (Shirocky) well, located in Fayette County, indicating that it intended to return the well to production at a future date.
However, Range Resources concurrently included its interoffice communication with its inactive status well application that stated its Shirocky well had no viable future use despite conflicting information in its inactive status application. Therefore, the Shirocky well was ineligible for inactive well status because it had no viable future use and should have never been listed on the request. It should have been classified as abandoned and subsequently plugged.
Unplugged abandoned wells can be an extreme hazard to the health and safety of people and the environment. Leaking wells can contribute to air, water, and soil contamination.
Pennsylvania’s oil and gas fields are riddled with about 200,000 to 560,000 abandoned wells representing a legacy of a century of largely unregulated oil and gas development.
After receiving Range Resources’ interoffice communication that conflicted with its Shirocky inactive status application, DEP issued a subpoena to Range Resources for information related to other wells that Range Resources had requested inactive status. The information developed based on Range Resources’ response to the subpoena indicated that between Tuesday, July 16, 2013, and Monday, October 11, 2017, 42 of Range Resources’ conventional wells were placed on inactive status but were never used again. Some of the wells had not been in use for 12 months at the time Range Resources submitted its applications for inactive status.
Range Resources used the inactive status period to delay the eventual plugging of unproductive wells without returning them to active status. A well granted inactive status is required to be plugged, or returned to active status, within five years of the date inactive status was granted. Operators can apply for an extension of inactive status.
Range Resources should have classified the wells with no viable future use as abandoned and plugged them. Similar to the Shirocky well, these wells were ineligible for inactive status and should have never been included in the requests.
DEP issued a notice of violation to Range Resources regarding the Shirocky well. Additional violations were addressed with the operator leading up to the CACP.
Range Resources plugged its wells with no viable future use, which DEP confirmed. Following this action, DEP assessed Range Resources a civil penalty of $294,000. DEP received Range Resources’ CACP payment on Friday, January 8, 2021. The plugging and payment satisfied the conditions of the CACP.
DEP deposited the money received from the CACP into an account for DEP’s Well Plugging Program and will use this money to plug orphan wells that have no responsible operator and that pose risks to public safety and the environment.
“Assuring operators plug idle wells addresses liabilities now, instead of leaving them for future generations,” said McDonnell.
Trinity Rail and Maintenance Services Cited for Confined Space Violations
An OSHA workplace safety investigation has found a Hugo rail car products and services provider did not follow federal safety standards for working in confined spaces after two workers died from inhaling toxic fumes.
OSHA determined that an employee of Trinity Rail and Maintenance Services Inc. became unresponsive after entering a natural gasoline rail car with the intent of cleaning the space on Aug. 12, 2020. A second employee entered the rail car and was also overcome after attempting to rescue the fallen worker. Both workers were eventually recovered and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
OSHA found that the company failed to require a permit to allow entry into the rail car, ventilate the space, monitor hazards inside a confined space and complete entry permits for work inside a confined space, as required. OSHA cited the company for 11 serious violations and two willful violations, and has proposed $419,347 in penalties.
“Work inside confined spaces is a dangerous job and federal workplace safety standards must be followed to avoid disaster,” said OSHA Area Director Steven A. Kirby, in Oklahoma City. “As is the case here, failing to follow OSHA standards can be the difference between life and death.”
Based in Dallas, Trinity Rail and Maintenance Service Inc. is one of the nation’s largest rail car servicing and maintenance providers with facilities in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas. It is a subsidiary of Trinity Rail, which leases and services an owned and managed fleet of more than 125,000 rail cars.
Paper Mill Fined $28,500 for Air Release
The Packaging Corporation of America’s Wallula paper mill has been fined $28,500 by the Washington Department of Ecology for air pollution released from the facility’s wastewater treatment plant.
Packaging Corporation of America’s Wallula mill is required to reduce emissions from its wastewater treatment plant to comply with federal air quality regulations. Packaging Corporation of America failed to meet these requirements over a period of seven weeks in August, September and October of 2020 due to issues in its wastewater treatment plant.
The treatment problems resulted in an additional 7 tons of methanol and other types of hazardous air pollution to be emitted from the plant over a total of 57 days. Along with the penalty, Ecology is requiring the mill to increase monitoring to prevent future issues.
“Complying with air pollution regulations is essential for protecting air quality for everyone in Washington,” said James DeMay, manager of Ecology’s Industrial Section, which regulates the mill. “Although Packaging Corporation of America failed to meet these requirements last year, we have been pleased with their efforts to correct the issue and come back into compliance.”
The company may appeal Ecology’s penalty within 30 days to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board.
KAG West Cited for Stormwater Violations
EPA announced it has settled a Clean Water Act case it brought against KAG West, LLC, a petroleum transport and delivery facility in Tacoma, Washington for violations of the Washington Industrial Stormwater General Permit. The company agreed to pay a penalty of $133,225.
In the agreement, the agency noted that between March 2017 and March 2019 KAG West did not comply with its permit when it failed to:
  • install and/or maintain Best Management Practices to reduce stormwater pollution,
  • immediately cleanup spills,
  • use secondary containment to contain spills,
  • follow sampling and monitoring procedures,
  • file required annual reports, and
  • train its employees on the company’s stormwater pollution prevention plan.
“Handlers of large amounts of petroleum have a fundamental responsibility to make sure these kinds of operational problems don’t occur,” says Ed Kowalski, director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Division. “When they don’t comply with their permits, EPA and the Department of Ecology will enforce the law.”
EPA estimates the company's failure to comply with its permit requirements resulted in 14,000 pounds of pollutants to annually enter Blair Waterway and Commencement Bay, a Superfund site.
This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions taken by EPA Region 10 to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Uncontrolled stormwater runoff can cause serious problems for people and the environment, including flooding and property damage; sediment choked rivers and streams; impaired recreational opportunities, including fishing and swimming and in some extreme cases, threats to public drinking water systems.
Shell Fined $191,000 for Anacortes Refinery Release
EPA and Equilon Enterprises LLC -- doing business as Shell Oil Products US -- have agreed on a legal settlement resolving violations of the federal Clean Air Act stemming from a February 2015 release of toxic vapors from the company’s Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Washington. Shell paid a penalty of $191,000.
In the Consent Agreement and Final Order filed in late December, EPA alleged that during maintenance activities on February 20, 2015, Shell employees deviated from the facility’s operating procedures which resulted in the release of un-combusted toxic vapors. Shell calculates its errors caused the release of about 700 pounds of un-combusted air pollutants including hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, mercaptans, pyrophoric iron, and benzene. The release lasted from about 1 pm to 4:30 pm.
In the stagnant weather conditions, the vapors did not disperse and caused strong odors to reach the Swinomish Indian Reservation, the City of La Conner, and nearby areas.  More than 550 people in these areas were impacted by the release, some of whom sought medical attention.
During an inspection following the release, EPA identified several violations of the Risk Management Program requirements of the Clean Air Act, including violations of the Hazard Assessment Requirements, Process Safety Information Requirements, Operating Procedure and Management of Change Requirements, and Mechanical Integrity Requirements. The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requires Shell to develop and implement a Risk Management Plan and program to detect and prevent or minimize accidental releases and to provide a prompt emergency response to any such releases to protect people’s health and the environment. Shell has corrected the violations.
In addition to the EPA penalty paid by the company, Shell paid penalties of over $420,000 to the Northwest Clean Air Agency and the Washington Safety and Health Agency for violations of local and state environmental and worker safety regulations related to the February 2015 release and investigations resulting from that release.
This settlement falls under EPA’s Chemical Accident Risk Reduction National Compliance Initiative, an effort focused on reducing the risk to human health and the environment by minimizing the likelihood of chemical accidents.
Scientist Develops Method to Find Toxic Chemicals In Drinking Water
Most consumers of drinking water in the United States know that chemicals are used in the treatment processes to ensure the water is safe to drink. But they might not know that the use of some of these chemicals, such as chlorine, can also lead to the formation of unregulated toxic byproducts.
Johns Hopkins Environmental Health and Engineering Prof. Carsten Prasse has proposed a new approach to assessing drinking water quality that could result in cleaner, safer taps.
“We are exposing people in the United States to these chemical compounds without knowing what they even do,” Prasse said. “I’m not saying that chlorination is not important in keeping our drinking water safe. But there are unintended consequences that we have to address and that the public needs to know about. We could do more than what we’re doing.”
Among disinfection byproducts, only 11 compounds are currently regulated in drinking water, according to his paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. This is in stark contrast to the more than 700 disinfection byproducts that have so far been identified in chlorinated drinking water, he said.
Prasse said the number of disinfection byproducts that are regulated in drinking water have not changed since the 1990s, despite clear scientific evidence for the presence of other toxic compounds.
The existing approach to evaluate chemicals in drinking water is extremely tedious and based on methods that are often outdated, he said. For instance, chemicals are currently evaluated for toxicity by expensive, time-consuming animal studies.
Applying those same methods to the growing number of chemicals in drinking water would not be economically feasible, Prasse said. At a minimum, he added, new methods are needed to identify chemicals that are of highest concern.
Prasse proposes casting a bigger net to capture a more diverse mix of chemicals in water samples. The “reactivity-directed analysis” can provide a broader readout of what’s present in drinking water by targeting the largest class of toxic chemicals known as “organic electrophiles.”
“This method can help us prioritize which chemicals we need to be paying closer attention to with possible new regulations and new limits while saving time and resources,” Prasse said.
This new approach, which takes advantage of recent advances in the fields of analytical chemistry and molecular toxicology, identifies toxicants based on their reactivity with biomolecules such as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The new approach simulates this process in order to identify toxic chemicals in drinking water.
“We know that the toxicity of many chemicals is caused by their reaction with proteins or DNA which alter their function and can result, for example, in cancer,” Prasse said.
Adherence to Health Precautions, Not Climate, the Biggest Factor Driving Wintertime COVID-19 Outbreaks
Wintertime outbreaks of COVID-19 have been largely driven by whether people adhere to control measures such as mask wearing and social distancing, according to a study by researchers affiliated with the Climate Change and Infectious Disease initiative based in Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute. Climate and a lack of population immunity are playing smaller roles during the pandemic phase of the virus, but will become more impactful as infections slow.
Wintertime outbreaks of COVID-19 have been largely driven by whether people adhere to control measures such as mask wearing and social distancing, according to a study published Feb. 8 in Nature Communications by Princeton University researchers. Climate and population immunity are playing smaller roles during the current pandemic phase of the virus, the researchers found.
The researchers — working in summer 2020 — ran simulations of a wintertime coronavirus outbreak in New York City to identify key factors that would allow the virus to proliferate. They found that relaxing control measures in the summer months led to an outbreak in the winter regardless of climate factors.
“Our results implied that lax control measures — and likely fatigue with complying with control measures — would fuel wintertime outbreaks,” said first author Rachel Baker, an associate research scholar in Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI). Baker and her co-authors are all affiliated with the HMEI Climate Change and Infectious Disease initiative.
“Although we have witnessed a substantial number of COVID-19 cases, population-level immunity remains low in many locations,” Baker said. “This means that if you roll back enforcement or adherence to control measures, you can still expect a large outbreak. Climate factors including winter weather play a secondary role and certainly don’t help.”
The researchers found that even maintaining rigid control measures through the summer can lead to a wintertime outbreak if climate factors provided enough of a boost to viral transmission. “If summertime controls are holding the transmissibility of coronavirus at a level that only just mitigates an outbreak, then winter climate conditions can push you over the edge,” Baker said. “Nonetheless, having effective control measures in place last summer could have limited the winter outbreaks we’re now experiencing.”
Cases have climbed in many northern hemisphere locations since November. In the United States, spikes in COVID-19 cases are thought to be tied to increased travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Notably, outbreaks were recorded in temperate locations such as Los Angeles in addition to regions with much colder conditions, Baker said. At the same time, large outbreaks were observed in South Africa from November to January, which are that country’s summer months.
“The greater incidence of COVID-19 in various environs really speaks to the climate’s limited role at this stage,” Baker said.
In May, the same authors published a paper in the journal Science suggesting that local climate variations would be unlikely to affect the coronavirus pandemic. The paper suggested that hopes that the warmer conditions of summer would slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in the northern hemisphere were unrealistic.
Gabriel Vecchi, a professor of geosciences and the High Meadows Environmental Institute and co-author of both studies, said that the virus currently spreads too quickly and that people are too susceptible for climate to be a determining factor.
“The influence of climate and weather on infection rates should become more evident — and thus a potentially useful source of information for disease prediction — as growing immunity moves the disease into endemic phases from the present epidemic stage,” Vecchi said.
The most recent study provides insight on how scientists can determine the impact of various factors on the virus at various times, said co-author C. Jessica Metcalf, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and an HMEI associated faculty member.
“An important challenge that we tackle here is balancing the role of many potential factors on the trajectory of the epidemic,” Metcalf said. “As the pandemic progresses, both natural and vaccinal immunity will play an increasing role, underscoring the importance of developing a handle on the landscape of immunity.”
Critical factors to consider when projecting the future of COVID-19 are emerging variants of the virus, as well as how efforts to contain coronavirus have changed other diseases, said co-author Bryan Grenfell, the Kathryn Briger and Sarah Fenton Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs and associated faculty in HMEI.
In November, Grenfell and his co-authors in the Climate Change and Infectious Disease initiative published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as mask wearing and social distancing could result in large, delayed outbreaks of endemic diseases such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“The interaction between NPIs and immunity will become even more complex as a variety of vaccines are deployed and new viral variants arise,” Grenfell said. “Understanding the impact of these variables underlines the importance of immune surveillance and greatly expanded viral sequencing.”
The paper, “Assessing the influence of climate on wintertime SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks” was published online February 8th by Nature Communications. This work was supported by the Cooperative Institute for Modelling the Earth System(CIMES), the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). Additional authors of the paper include Wenchang Yang, an associate research scholar in geosciences at Princeton.
Refinery Cited for Hazardous Waste and RMP Violations
EPA announced settlements with Par Hawaii Refining, LLC, over violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its oil refining facilities on Komohana Street and Malakole Street in Kapolei.
Par Hawaii will carry out changes to reduce the risk of chemical accidents at the Malakole Street facility and conduct sampling at the Komohana Street facility to determine whether improper management of hazardous wastes contaminated local soil. Par Hawaii will also pay a combined $219,638 civil penalty.
“We are acting to ensure that oil refining facilities reduce the risk of releases of toxic substances, and properly store, manage and dispose of hazardous wastes to protect local communities and the environment,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Amy Miller. “Companies that do not comply with federal requirements will face significant fines.”
In March 2019, EPA inspectors found violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements under the facility’s Risk Management Plans (RMPs). These included process safety errors, such as incorrect maximum inventories for some crude unit vessels and inaccurate piping and machine diagrams. EPA also found operating procedures that were unclear and not current, such as an outdated emergency shutdown operating procedure in the control room.
When properly implemented, an RMP may help prevent chemical releases and minimize impacts to public health and the environment at facilities that store large amounts of hazardous substances and flammable chemicals. Under federal law, the facility’s RMP must be up to date and resubmitted at least once every five years. RMPs are used by EPA to assess chemical risks to surrounding communities and to prepare for emergency responses.
A September 2018 EPA inspection found the Komohana Street facility improperly managed hazardous waste from its refinery processes. EPA inspectors documented an oily residue being released onto an unlined asphalt pad and into nearby soil. The contaminants of concern included hexavalent chromium and benzene, which can escape into the environment and groundwater through improper waste management practices. The settlement requires Par Hawaii to develop and implement a sampling plan to determine the possibility of localized hazardous waste contamination on-site.
This settlement is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative (NCI): Reducing Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities. To learn more about this NCI, go to
Free Training: Operating a WWTP Laboratory
EPA is offering small wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) a series of technical assistance webinars on best practices for optimizing performance. These webinars can help you understand the root causes of common problems WWTP operators face and will provide suggestions and resources to help you fine-tune operations and fix noncompliance problems.
This webinar will cover operating a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) laboratory, common mistakes, and ways to improve results. The online webinar will be held February 24, 2021, from noon to 1:30 pm CST. Register to attend this EPA webinar at the following registration webpage:
Operating a Laboratory: Dos and Don’ts. More free training can be found at
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, call 800-537-2372 to find out how you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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