A federal court ordered EPA to propose a new rule on hazardous lead levels in paint and household dust within the next 90 days -- not the six years proposed by the Trump administration.
While lead paint was banned in the United States 40 years ago, older coatings remain on the walls and ceilings of many of the nation's homes, where it can be breathed in and endanger children's development.
The new expedited order "is going to protect the brains of thousands of children across the country," Eve Gartner, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, told The New York Times. Earthjustice helped argue the case for organizations that support tougher standards.
"It's going to mean that children that otherwise would have developed very elevated blood lead levels will be protected from the damage associated with that, assuming EPA follows the court order," she said.
The new 2-to-1 decision came from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. Earlier, the Obama administration had proposed a six-year delay on revisions to lead paint rules, a move the court had called unreasonable.
"Indeed EPA itself has acknowledged that 'lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the U.S. for children ages 6 and younger,' and that the current standards are insufficient," the ruling said, adding, "The children exposed to lead poisoning due to the failure of EPA to act are severely prejudiced by EPA's delay."
An agency spokesman said the EPA is reviewing the court's decision, and would not say if the agency planned to appeal or seek review with the Supreme Court.
Register for California Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Anaheim, CA, on January 9-11 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Atlanta Hazardous Waste and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Atlanta, GA, on January 23-25 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Indianapolis Hazardous Waste and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Indianapolis, IN on January 30 – February 1 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
EPA to Publish State Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Electric Utility Generating Units
In light of the EPA’s proposed repeal of the Agency's Clean Power Plan (82 FR 48035, October 16, 2017, EPA has issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes on a potential new rule establishing emission guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing electrical generating units. In the ANPR, the Agency requested comment on the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of the federal government, state governments, and regulated entities in developing and implementing such a rule, and asked for information regarding the appropriate scope of such a rule and associated technologies and approaches.
According to the ANPR, EPA will propose publication of guideline documents for use by the States, with that guideline document containing, among other things, an emission guideline that reflects the Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER), as determined by the Agency, for the category of existing sources being regulated. The guideline documents will provide information for the development of State plans, such as, an emission guideline that reflects the application of the BSER (considering the cost of such reduction) that has been adequately demonstrated.
Guidelines for Shipping Lithium Batteries
In their continuing effort to improve safety, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. Postal Service recently collaborated and rolled out a set of safety guidelines for mailing lithium batteries. Everyone that ships lithium batteries and electronic devices containing lithium batteries must be aware that certain requirements must be met to ensure safety. Both agencies are responsible for enforcing the safety standards regarding the appropriate labeling and shipment of hazardous materials under PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Regulations for the safe transportation of lithium batteries in commerce. Go here for a copy of the safety guidelines.
New Cautions Against Refilling DOT 39 Cylinders
With safety as its primary mission, PHMSA produced and launched a YouTube video and poster that cautions you to never refill DOT 39 cylinders, such as the 1 lb. cylinders used for camping. While many types of propane cylinders are designed to be refilled, a DOT 39 cylinder of any size is strictly non-refillable. Hazardous materials incidents involving refilled DOT 39 cylinders, have been reported and include one fatality. If you have any questions about refilling any cylinder, please contact a qualified refiller, or PHMSA’s HAZMAT Info Center at 1-800-467-4922, https://www.phmsa.dot.gov, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Revised Wool Fiberglass Manufacturing NESHAP
EPA has completed its final residual risk and technology reviews for the Wool Fiberglass Manufacturing source category regulated under the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP). As a result of the review, the Agency has readopted the existing emission limits for formaldehyde, established new emission limits for methanol, and a work practice standard for phenol emissions from bonded rotary spin lines at wool fiberglass manufacturing facilities. In addition, the EPA revised the emission standards promulgated on July 29, 2015, for flame attenuation (FA) lines at wool fiberglass manufacturing facilities by creating three subcategories of FA lines and established emission limits for formaldehyde and methanol emissions, and either emission limits or work practice standards for phenol emissions for each subcategory of FA lines. The revised NESHAP became effective on the date of December 26, 2017, the date it was published in the Federal Register.
Environmental Impact of Severe Winter Weather
What you do during severe winter conditions and cold can create certain environmental problems, indoors or out.
What homeowners can do - gasoline-powered generators provide emergency electricity, but generators also release deadly carbon monoxide (CO).
What companies, municipalities and airports can do - deicing chemicals improve safe transportation on roads or airplanes, but misused chemicals can also contaminate waterways or drinking water sources.
Around your home:
People get sick or die each year from carbon monoxide or "CO" poisoning due to unsafe use of generators.
- Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours.
- Never try to heat your home using a combustion appliance such as a gas stove, oven, barbeque grill, or dryer. Never operate any gas-burning heater or other appliance in a poorly vented or closed room, or where you are sleeping.
Highways and Walkways
- Use de-icers that are safer for the environment.
- Road Salt Application and Storage: Application and storage of deicing materials, most commonly salts such as sodium chloride, can lead to water quality problems for surrounding areas. Municipalities in areas with snowfall that requires deicing must ensure proper storage for materials such as road salts.
- Application Practices – See the results of this study about minimizing the loss to the environment of chemicals used in controlling snow and ice on highways.
- Airport deicing effluent guidelines - Airports are required to obtain stormwater discharge permits and ensure that wastewater associated with the deicing of airfield pavement at commercial airports from deicing operations is properly managed.
- Storm Water Technology Fact Sheet: Airplane Deicing Fluid Recovery Systems (PDF) - This describes the recovery of spent ethylene glycol or propylene glycol through a three-stage process typically consisting of filtration, contaminant removal, and distillation.
StarKist Co. Fined $6.5 Million for Clean Water Act Violations
The U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA have reached a revised $6.5 million settlement with StarKist Co. and its subsidiary, StarKist Samoa Co., to resolve federal environmental violations at their tuna processing facility in American Samoa.
In addition to the $6.3 million penalty announced in September, StarKist will pay $200,000 to address alleged Clean Water Act violations found before the original consent decree was finalized by the court. The American Samoa government has also been added as a co-plaintiff in the revised action, formalizing its role as a partner in the implementation of the settlement. Under the agreement, StarKist will pay $2.6 million to American Samoa and $3.9 million to the United States.
As specified in the original consent decree, the company will also provide $88,000 in emergency equipment to American Samoa for responses to chemical releases.
“This revised agreement commits StarKist to addressing stormwater pollution, which will provide important protection for Pago Pago Harbor,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss with the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Working with our valued partners at American Samoa EPA, we will monitor the company’s progress toward full compliance with this very significant settlement.”
“Pago Pago Harbor is our greatest natural resource,” said American Samoa EPA Director Ameko Pato. “We are firmly committed to working with EPA and StarKist to ensure that this local treasure is protected for generations to come.”
The additional violations included unauthorized stormwater discharges to Pago Pago Harbor from Starkist’s stormwater system. The revised consent decree requires StarKist to obtain authorization for its stormwater discharges and take steps to reduce and eliminate discharges to the harbor.
After full implementation of the wastewater treatment system upgrades, the facility’s annual discharge of pollutants into Pago Pago Harbor, including total nitrogen, phosphorus, oil and grease, and total suspended solids, will be reduced by at least 85% – more than 13 million pounds.
StarKist Samoa Co. owns and operates the tuna processing facility, located on Route 1 on the Island of Tutuila in American Samoa. StarKist Samoa Co. is a subsidiary of StarKist Co. which is owned by Korean company Dongwon Industries. StarKist Co. is the world’s largest supplier of canned tuna. Its American Samoa facility processes and cans tuna for human consumption and processes fish byproducts into fishmeal and fish oil.
CNX Gas Fined for Drilling Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that CNX Gas Company, LLC (CNX) has agreed to two civil penalties totaling $433,500 for violations at well sites in Greene County. A penalty of $241,000 was assessed for violations at CNX’s GH9AHSU and GH53BHS well sites, and $192,400 for violations at the GH58HHS and GH46AHS well sites.
The penalties mark the culmination of a long-term investigation by DEP, and are based on impacts to groundwater in a special protection watershed, high quality surface waters, including Jacobs Run and an unnamed tributary to Jacobs Run, and vegetation, as well as the severity of the violations which occurred in 2015 and 2016.
“If incidents occur, it is incumbent on the operator to promptly address the cause, remediate the site, and prevent a reoccurrence,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP inspectors and investigators work diligently to ensure that safeguards are in place and operators are held accountable if they fail.”
The violations for which CNX was cited include:
- Failure to properly control, dispose and collect flowback and drilling fluids
- Failure to maintain containment during drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities
- Unauthorized disposal of residual waste
- Unauthorized discharge of industrial waste into the waters of the commonwealth
- Failure to maintain erosion and sedimentation best management practices (BMPs) in accordance with the associated permit
- Failure to implement effective BMPs to minimize erosion and sedimentation
- Failure to maintain alternate waste storage practices requested by CNX and approved by DEP
Remediation at the well sites was completed and included cleanup of any soil, groundwater, and surface waters impacted by the spills in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act and DEP’s technical guidance documents.
EPA Sued by 8 States for Refusal to Require Upwind States to Control Air Pollution
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, lead a coalition of eight Attorneys General, against the EPA to force action under the Clean Air Act to ensure upwind states adequately control the pollution that blows into New York and other downwind states.
At least one in three New Yorkers breathe air with unhealthy levels of smog pollution, with some analyses placing it as high as two in three New Yorkers (approximately 12.7 million people). The EPA’s own studies demonstrate that pollution from states upwind of New York contributes substantially to the state’s harmful levels of smog.
“Millions of New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air as smog pollution continues to pour in from other states,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to act. Yet the Trump EPA has abandoned its responsibilities – repeatedly failing to act to control smog pollution that jeopardizes New Yorkers’ health. Attorneys General will continue to act to protect those we serve.”
The suit challenges the EPA’s denial of a petition that New York and several other states filed in late 2013 for the Agency to add nine additional states to the “Ozone Transport Region,” a group of states established under the federal Clean Air Act that must act in concert to reduce smog pollution within the region.
Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the suit are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Reducing smog levels is vital to protecting the health of New Yorkers. Elevated levels of smog can cause a host of significant health effects, including coughing, throat irritation, lung tissue damage, and the aggravation of existing medical conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema. According to the American Lung Association’s “2017 State of the Air Report,” the New York City metropolitan area ranks as the 9th most smog-polluted city in the nation.
Congress created the Ozone Transport Region to help states address pervasive smog problems in the northeastern United States. By statute, the Region consists of 11 states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont – and the District of Columbia metropolitan area.
In December 2013, New York and other northeastern states submitted a petition under the Clean Air Act asking EPA to add nine additional states shown or projected through modelling and analysis to contribute to violations of federal smog standards in the Ozone Transport Region. These nine states are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. When EPA took no action on that petition, a coalition of states led by Attorney General Schneiderman filed suit against the EPA to compel it to act. Attorney General Schneiderman and the coalition of states subsequently negotiated a consent decree that required EPA to approve or disapprove the petition no later than October 27, 2017. On that date, Trump EPA Administrator Pruitt denied the states’ Ozone Transport Region petition.
The suit, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asks the court to review Administrator Pruitt’s denial of the petition. The coalition will ask the court to determine that the denial is unlawful and to vacate it.
Each state within the Ozone Transport Region must develop and implement plans that achieve controls on pollutants that contribute to the formation of smog. However, despite enacting stringent in-state controls on sources of these pollutants, many states within the Region – including New York – are not able to meet federal health-based air quality standards for smog, significantly due to upwind smog pollution.
Modeling and analysis performed by EPA, as well as by states, has shown that interstate transport of air pollution from upwind states outside of the Ozone Transport Region –including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – contributes significantly to violations of the 2008 federal smog standard within the Ozone Transport Region. In addition, preliminary modeling demonstrates that emissions in these states, as well as North Carolina, are projected to contribute to violations of the recently updated 2015 federal smog standard in the Region.
States outside and upwind of the Region are not required to – and generally do not – impose controls as stringent as those required of those within the Region. However, the federal Clean Air Act provides for states to petition EPA to add states to the Ozone Transport Region, and for EPA to add states when the Agency has reason to believe that the interstate transport of air pollution from them significantly contributes to exceedances of the federal standards for smog in the Region.
New York Diverted 520 Million Pounds of E-Waste in 6 Years
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced that the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act has driven the collection and recycling of more than 520 million pounds-or 260,000 tons-of e-waste from 2011 to 2016. The announcement was highlighted in DEC's second Electronic Waste Recycling Report, which documents e-waste recycling from 2013 to 2015, and outlines the strengths and challenges of the State's e-waste recycling program.
Commissioner Seggos said, "Over the first six years of the program, New York State has successfully diverted hundreds of millions of pounds of e-waste destined for landfills and combustion facilities to e-waste recyclers for reuse and recycling, helping conserve valuable natural resources. The e-waste report will help DEC improve New York's strong e-waste recycling program, and the documented progress of this comprehensive product stewardship program is yet another example of Governor Cuomo's commitment to protecting our environment."
The e-waste recycling report for 2013-2015 builds on data in the first report and includes information on overall collection results, collection methods, recycling and reuse rates, stakeholder participation, fees and surcharges, as well as DEC's compliance and enforcement efforts. The report also notes continued opportunities for business development, as a number of businesses have been launched or expanded as a result of the recycling/reuse of e-waste. The e-waste reports are available on DEC's website.
From 2013 through 2015, electronic equipment manufacturers, consumers, and the state's collection and recycling network successfully diverted nearly 300 million pounds of e-waste from the waste stream, which equates to a statewide collection rate averaging just over 5 pounds per capita.
DEC continues its efforts to address challenges associated with e-waste collection and recycling, particularly Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televisions and monitors by working with municipalities, industry representatives, recyclers, and others to improve CRT collection and recycling. In addition, while striving for overall stakeholder compliance, DEC is working to improve manufacturers' e-waste acceptance programs and continues public education and outreach, as well as enforcement, to ensure manufacturers are in compliance with the act's requirements.
To help municipalities implement e-waste recycling over the short term, New York has made $3 million in grant funding from the State's Environmental Protection Fund available to help municipalities across the state address the unintended costs associated with the collection and recycling of eligible e-waste. DEC is distributing nearly $1.2 million in grant funding to municipalities from the first two rounds of grant applications. Applications for the third and final round of available grant money are due to DEC by January 31, 2018, for expenses incurred between April 1 and December 31, 2017. Information regarding grants for municipal e-waste assistance can be found on the DEC website.
DEC is also developing draft regulations to clarify and strengthen provisions of the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act and will release draft regulations early next year. Information about the proposed e-waste regulations will be available on DEC's website and published in the Environmental Notice Bulletin.
Senator Tom O'Mara, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "Actions to better address the challenge of electronic waste are among the most important actions we've ever taken in New York government for the benefit of local economies, environments, and taxpayers."
E-waste recycling has become extremely burdensome and costly for local governments and property taxpayers. Through the Environmental Protection Fund's emphasis on e-waste and by implementing new policies, programs, and regulatory reforms over the past several years, New York State has taken some very effective steps. I look forward to continue working with and urging Governor Cuomo and his administration on short- and long-term strategies which make important fiscal, economic, and environmental sense locally, regionally, and statewide."
With the holiday season ending, DEC reminded consumers that it is illegal to dispose of old, unwanted televisions and other electronic equipment in the trash. Examples of electronic equipment that must be recycled include computers, printers, monitors, televisions and tablets. Manufacturers are required to provide consumers with free and convenient e-waste recycling opportunities. These opportunities include mail back, local collection events, permanent collection drop-off locations and free at-home pickup, depending on the manufacturer's program. For information on Recycling Consumer Electronic Waste, please visit the DEC website.
New Mapping Tool Allows Californians to See Local Pollutants and Toxins Online
Californians can now see air pollution and air toxics emissions data for industrial facilities in their neighborhoods on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) website. Emissions data for greenhouse gases (GHGs), as well as smog causing pollutants and air toxics has been updated through 2015 and can be accessed through the CARB Air Pollution Mapping Tool.
“This new tool is designed to improve transparency and accountability in California’s air pollution control program,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “Air quality monitoring reports are public information but they are often difficult for the public to access. Now anyone with access to a computer or a smartphone can look up emissions data for any major facility in the state.”
Transportation is the largest source of both GHGs and most air pollutants, but hundreds of refineries, factories and other facilities across the state also release tens of millions of tons of air contaminants. Development of this tool is an important step by CARB staff to address the requirements of AB 197 (E. Garcia, 2016) by providing broader and more user-friendly access to climate-changing gases and air quality data.
The tool allows users to search for individual facility data by name, industrial sector, year, type of facility and pollutant. Large emitters can be isolated by air basin, air district, county, town or zip code. Users can also see a number of overlays, including the statewide CalEnviroScreen map of disadvantaged communities and state assembly and senate districts. The mapping tool uses data from the state’s greenhouse gas mandatory reporting program. Local air districts provided data on criteria (i.e. smog-forming) pollution and air toxics emissions.
The mapping tool allows viewers to compare greenhouse gas emissions with toxics and criteria emissions from the same facility. Future versions of the tool will rely on mandates outlined in AB 617 (C. Garcia, 2017), which call for enhanced, publicly available criteria pollutant and toxic air contaminant reporting for large and high-risk facilities in the state. In the future, the tool will help provide a consistent approach to reporting toxics from individual facilities across local air districts.
Parts of California suffer the worst air quality in the nation. Communities in the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles Basin live in the country’s only two extreme non-attainment areas for ozone (smog). At some point during the year, more than 90% of Californians live within areas determined to have unhealthy air and much of the state now sees the growing impacts of climate change. Numerous state and federal regulations aim to reduce emissions, and with the Pollution Mapping Tool Californians can see for themselves the benefits of those programs in their communities. The Pollution Mapping Tool will be updated annually with 2016 data expected to be added in spring 2018.
Self-Produced Energy Up 28% in Michigan
The number of Michiganders who produced their own electricity in 2016 grew by nearly 430 over the previous year, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) annual report that tracks on-site renewable energy electric generation. The number of projects grew by 395.
In 2016, 2,582 residential, commercial and industrial customers participated in Michigan’s net metering program, up 427 from the previous year, according to the most recent Net Metering and Solar Program Report. The total capacity of net metering installations was approximately 21,888 kilowatts (kW), an increase of 4,823 kW – or 28% – from 2015. The program represents 0.024% of Michigan’s total retail electricity sales.
The state’s net metering program, established in 2008 under Public Act 295, is available to customers of rate-regulated utilities, cooperatives, and alternative electric suppliers. Net metering offsets part or all of a customer’s energy needs and reduces their electric bills. When customers produce more electricity than they need, power is provided back to the serving utility, permitting the customer to receive a credit.
Solar remains the leading form of energy generation, a position it has held since 2010. Wind is the second most popular.
About 2,500 of the net metering customers, or roughly 75%, have projects that are up to 20 kW. DTE Electric Co. has the most, at 1,418, followed by Consumers Energy Co. at 544 and Upper Peninsula Power Co. at 132. Seventy-two customers have projects of 21-150 kW; Consumers has 40 and DTE 27 of the total. All participating utilities except UPPCO have substantial room in their programs to add new customers.
Luce County in the Upper Peninsula is the only Michigan county without a net metering customer. Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties have the most customers, between 100 and 500 each. Luce and Gogebic have no solar installations while 12 counties – Crawford, Gladwin, Hillsdale, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Keweenaw, Lake, Luce, Montcalm, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Wexford -- have no wind installations.
Michigan’s new energy laws call on the MPSC to establish a distributed generation program and tariff to replace the current net metering program. Current and new net metering customers who enter the distributed generation program before the tariff is established and approved in a utility rate cases may continue to net meter for 10 years from the time they enroll. The new tariff will be considered as part of rate cases filed after June 1, 2018 and go into effect when the Commission decides those cases.
The report estimates the amount of solar installed in Michigan by the end of 2017 will be 120,530 kW, indicating significant solar project construction this year. That’s up from 57,999 kW in 2016 and 36,118 kW in 2015.
Holiday Tree Recycling Ideas
The holiday season is over and soon it’s time to take down the decorations and dispose of the tree. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has provided a few suggestions to help with tree disposal after the holiday season.
The Rockefeller Center tree, averaging 85 feet tall, is recycled annually after the holidays. The tree was first recycled in 1971 and used as mulch to spread across nature trails around the city. For the past several years, the tree has been milled and the lumber used in Habitat for Humanity projects. Mulched holiday trees reduce weeds, help regulate soil temperature and increase moisture retention. Many cities and towns offer tree-chipping services after the holidays, so check with the local public works or sanitation department to learn more.
Holiday trees may also be used as a fish habitat in a private lake or fishing pond. To make the tree into a fish habitat, secure a cement block to the stump end of the tree with quarter-inch nylon rope. Ideally, the top of the tree will be four to six feet below the surface. If citizens do not have access to their own lake or pond, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation to find a collection location near you.
You can also help your friendly wildlife neighbors by decorating a tree as a food source. After removing all of the decorations from the tree, redecorate the tree with food items that can be eaten by birds, chipmunks and squirrels. These can include popcorn, cranberries or pine cones covered in peanut butter. You can also hang apple rings or create a bowl from an orange that has had the juice and pulp removed and filled with unshelled peanuts.
The tree will need to be secured so that it will not blow over with the first strong gust of wind. The best method for securing the tree is to dig a hole and place the trunk of the tree in it. The tree can also be staked for extra security. Not only will the tree provide a tasty snack when food is scarce, it will also serve as a haven from the harsh winter winds.
Some general things to remember about managing a tree after the holidays:
- Remove all of the trimmings -- most are reusable and could contaminate the environment or harm wildlife if left on
- Do not burn a tree in wood stoves or fireplaces if it is still green -- the resins could cause a flue fire
- Always dispose of the tree in an environmentally safe manner
Through proper management, a reused holiday tree may be a gift that keeps giving to the environment for years to come. More tips are available on the department's website.
After Slashing Fuel Tanks and Lighting Fuel Oil on Fire, Milton Fuel Supplier Fined $18K
Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources announced that Rowley Fuels of Milton, was fined $18,600 for illegally cutting open fuel oil storage tanks and lighting the fuel on fire. These actions violated multiple Vermont Hazardous Waste Management and Air Quality Regulations. Rowley Fuels distributes heating fuel, propane and other petroleum products, and provides installation and service for related equipment including above-ground fuel storage tanks. Many Vermonters rely on heating fuel for their homes and businesses in the winter, and suppliers provide important materials management services by properly storing, transporting, and disposing of these hazardous products. However, when heating oil is released to the environment, it contaminates soils, groundwater and drinking water, and endangers public health. Because of this risk, hazardous waste generators are responsible for operating in compliance with laws that protect public health and the environment.
In March 2015, the Agency received a complaint of black smoke coming from a facility owned by Rowley Fuels. The Milton Police Department and Agency personnel responded to the scene and found two Rowley Fuels employees had slashed open two old heating oil storage tanks and were burning the excess fuel. The employees stated they were working at the direction of their boss, Scott Allard, and that this was not the first time they had tried to get rid of excess fuel by burning it. Burning heating oil remnants in such an uncontrolled manner sends dangerous toxic pollutants and particulate matter directly into the air at ground level, where they can be easily inhaled.
Agency personnel observed multiple additional violations of the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Rules including improper and unsafe storage, handling, and clean-up of hazardous heating fuel materials. The Agency put Rowley Fuels on notice of these violations, and the company subsequently hired a consultant to conduct a site assessment. The site assessment estimated that 80 gallons of fuel was burned from the perforated tanks, or the equivalent of a large, full home hot water heater. Additionally, the consultant removed the two aboveground fuel storage tanks and excavated approximately 45 cubic yards, or approximately 18 pickup truck loads, of contaminated soil from the property.
“Proper management of petroleum, tank-bottom sludge, and hazardous waste protects human health and the environment,” says Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “Vermont’s fuel dealers are responsible stewards of our environment while providing an essential service to Vermonters. When open-burning of fuel and harmful release of petroleum do occur, Vermonters depend on the state to hold responsible parties accountable.”
Rowley Fuels has been ordered to stop burning waste fuel and is required to return the company to full compliance with Vermont Hazardous Waste Rules. On December 1, 2017 the Vermont Superior Court’s Environmental Division ordered a penalty of $18,637.50 for the violations.
The Agency has published fact sheets, education, and support to hazardous waste managers and home fuel tank owners. For more information, see DEC’s Storage Tank and Hazardous Waste Management pages at the Waste Management and Prevention Division Website.
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Trivia Question of the Week:
What percentage of new US electric capacity is produced by solar energy?