EPA Penalties Increased to Almost $1.5 Million

December 28, 2020
Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, EPA is required to adjust the statutory maximum (and minimum) amount of civil monetary penalties to reflect inflation, maintain the deterrent effect of statutory civil monetary penalties, and promote compliance with the law. The EPA's civil penalty policies, which guide enforcement personnel on how to exercise the EPA's discretion within statutory penalty authorities, take into account a number of fact-specific considerations, e.g., the seriousness of the violation, the violator's good faith efforts to comply, any economic benefit gained by the violator as a result of its noncompliance, and a violator's ability to pay.
Although criminal penalties are typically higher, the new maximum civil penalties under the major environmental statutes are:
Maximum Civil Penalty
Clean Air Act
Clean Water Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act
Toxic Substances Control Act
Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
Battery Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund)
Safe Drinking Water Act
One way to avoid penalties is to have Environmental Resource Center conduct a comprehensive environmental audit of your facilities.
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OSHA to Strengthen Penalty Collection
OSHA has announced a new initiative designed to better collect citation penalties.
OSHA is implementing a series of three penalty payment letters to be sent seven, 30 and 60 days after an establishment fails to timely pay a penalty based on a final order. In addition, OSHA will contact establishments by phone 14 days after the payment comes due. Establishments that pay their penalties by their due date will not receive the new letters or phone call.
If an establishment fails to make a civil monetary penalty payment from an inspection resulting in a citation, and is not on an affordable payment plan, OSHA will place the establishment on a priority list for further inspection. In addition, OSHA compliance safety and health officers will gather employer identification numbers (EIN) as part of the pre-inspection preparation.
“These steps will enhance the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement program,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “The Department will ensure that firms with safety and health violations are held accountable and pay their debts to the United States Government.”
OSHA’s initiative is part of broader efforts across the U.S. Department of Labor. Today, the Department announced a final rule intended to improve the Department’s debt-collection policy. The rule, which builds on a June 2020 Secretary’s Order to improve Department’s collection of delinquent debts and enhance the deterrence and effectiveness of the Department’s enforcement programs, encourages second and subsequent demand letters to be sent more rapidly. Prior to this final rule, the existing rule provided that “second and subsequent demands shall generally be made at 30-day intervals from the first.” The final rule amends the current rule to more clearly allow agency heads or their designees to send demand letters at intervals separated by less than 30 days.
“By getting demand letters out with quicker action, the Department will maximize collections of delinquent debts owed to the Government,” said Chief Financial Officer James Williams. “The Department owes it to the public to ensure we are doing everything possible to hold violators accountable for their actions.”
“Expediting the notifications to employers who have not paid OSHA fines will work to improve OSHA’s enforcement presence,” said Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. “At the conclusion of an OSHA inspection where a final order is issued, employers must abate hazards to protect workers and pay assessed civil monetary penalties.” 
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
EPA Finalizes Ozone NAAQS, Retaining Current Standards 
EPA announced its decision to retain, without changes, the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) set by the Obama-Biden Administration. With this action, EPA stated that the agency is following the principles established in the earliest days of the Trump Administration to streamline the NAAQS review process and to fulfill the statutory responsibility to complete the NAAQS review within five-years.
The action marks the second time in Clean Air Act history that the agency has completed an ozone NAAQS review within the congressionally mandated five-year timeframe.
“For only the second time in agency’s history, EPA is fulfilling its statutory obligation to complete NAAQS review for ozone within a five-year time frame,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our actions today show the Trump Administration is fulfilling its promise of protecting human health and environment for all Americans, regardless of where they live.”
The decision to retain the existing ozone standards comes after careful review and consideration of the most recent available scientific evidence and technical information, consultation with the agency’s independent science advisors, and consideration of more than 50,000 public comments on the proposal.
Since the beginning of the Trump Administration, EPA has re-designated to attainment eight nonattainment areas for the 2008 8-hour ozone standards. In this same timeframe, U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions have dropped ten percent and volatile organic compound emissions have dropped three percent. Similarly, national average ozone concentrations have gone down four percent. Since 1990, national average ozone concentrations have dropped 25 percent.
In May 2018, EPA issued a “Back-to-Basics” memo to improve EPA’s process for reviewing the NAAQS. The memo laid out goals to get EPA back on track with Clean Air requirements, statutory deadlines, and the issuance of timely implementation rules, to ensure continued improvements in air quality across the country. Today’s action is the first NAAQS review to do so and charts a path to continue this statutory responsibility in the future.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set NAAQS for criteria pollutants. Currently, ozone (and related photochemical oxidants) and five other major pollutants are listed as criteria pollutants. The law requires EPA to periodically review the relevant scientific information and the standards and revise them, if appropriate, to ensure that the standards provide the requisite protection for public health and welfare.
In the prior review of the ozone standards, which was completed in 2015, the Obama-Biden EPA increased the stringency of the levels of the ozone standards to 70 parts per billion (ppb), from the 2008 standard of 75 ppb.
Vijay Limaye, a climate and health scientist at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) said “in the darkest days of a global health crisis, EPA is taking an outrageous step by retaining a weak, outdated standard for ozone that fails to protect people’s health. Instead of issuing this do-nothing rule, EPA should strengthen the standard on ozone to 60 parts per billion. That would better protect the 122 million people living today in areas that exceed the current unhealthy standard.”
Learn more about EPA ozone standards at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution.
EPA to Regulate Several PBT Chemicals Under TSCA
EPA has released final rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that will reduce exposure to five chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). PBT chemicals are of particular concern not only because they are toxic but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time and can build up or accumulate in the body. Addressing these chemicals is a critical step in the agency’s efforts to protect the health of Americans – including children, workers, and subsistence fishers. 
EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn said, “by working with a wide variety of stakeholders, we were able to put in place restrictions on five PBT chemicals that will protect our families and our environment.”
TSCA required EPA to take expedited action on specific PBT chemicals to address risk and reduce exposures to the extent practicable. EPA identified these five PBT chemicals for expedited action, following criteria outlined in TSCA. The final rules released today limit or prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and/or distribution in commerce for the following:
  • Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE): A flame retardant in plastic enclosures for televisions, computers, audio and video equipment, textiles and upholstered articles, wire and cables for communication and electronic equipment, and other applications.
  • Phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)): A plasticizer, a flame retardant, an anti-wear additive, or an anti-compressibility additive in hydraulic fluid, lubricating oils, lubricants and greases, various industrial coatings, adhesives, sealants, and plastic articles.
  • 2,4,6-tris(tert-butyl) phenol (2,4,6-TTBP): An intermediate/reactant in processing, and is incorporated into formulations destined for fuel and fuel-related additives;
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD): A chemical used as a halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbon that is produced as a byproduct during the manufacture of chlorinated hydrocarbons.
  • Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP): A chemical used to make rubber more pliable in industrial uses.
EPA used public comments received on the proposed rules issued in June 2019 to inform these final rules. Additionally, the agency conducted extensive outreach with the public and other stakeholders in developing the final rules, including holding a webinar on chemical use information and carrying out a consultation with tribes.
In a related action, last week EPA announced the receipt of a manufacturer-requested risk evaluation (MRRE) for two other PBT chemicals within the octahydro-tetramethyl-naphthalenyl-ethanone (OTNE) chemical category. EPA will soon open a public comment period on the MRRE request and, if granted, these chemicals would be subject to the full TSCA risk evaluation process.
A summary of the final rules and the risk management actions for each chemical can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/prepublication-versions-final-pbt-rules.
Oregon Employers Must Not Retaliate Against Employees Who Need to Quarantine
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) is reminding employers that they are not allowed to retaliate against any employees who need to quarantine or isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks is intended to curb the spread of coronavirus in all workplaces by requiring employers to implement a comprehensive set of risk-reducing measures. The temporary rule took effect Nov. 16, with certain parts phased in, and is expected to remain in effect until May 4, 2021.
“If employees have been told or need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19, they must be allowed," said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Also, their employer must not penalize them for doing so. If employers violate this rule, it could be costly."
The potential penalties for a violation of this temporary rule is between $100 and $12,750 for a violation that is not willful and between $8,900 and $124,749 for a willful violation.
There are several important points in the temporary rule about employees and quarantine. Among them are:
  • Whenever the Oregon Health Authority, local public health agency, or medical provider recommends an employee be restricted from work due to quarantine or isolation for COVID-19, such as through identification during contract tracing activities, the affected employee must be directed to isolate at home and away from other nonquarantined people.
  • If an employee must quarantine or isolate for COVID-19, the employer must allow the employee to work at home if suitable work is available and the employee's condition does not prevent it.
  • Employees who quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 – either due to the temporary rule or because their employer takes extra precautions – must be allowed to return to their previous job duties if they are still available and without any adverse action.
  • Decisions about testing and returning to work after an employee has been in quarantine or isolation must be made according to applicable public health guidance and be consistent with guidance from the employee's medical provider.
Under ORS 654.062(5), employees are protected from discrimination or retaliation. This includes employees who follow this COVID-19 temporary rule, employees who make a complaint if their employer is not following this rule, and employees who are exercising their rights under the law.
See all of the resources available to comply with the rule.  Read the full text of the rule.
If your employer is requiring you to work during your quarantine or is retaliating against you because you are in quarantine, you can file a complaint with Oregon OSHA.
Enforcement of Polystyrene Foam and Plastic Bag Bans Delayed in Maine
A statewide ban on single-use plastic carry-out bags had been scheduled to go into effect January 15, 2021 and the polystyrene foam disposable food service container ban had been scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2021 however, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has delayed its enforcement of the laws that ban the use of these products until July 1, 2021.
The Department has taken this approach in response to several practical and logistical effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has disrupted traditional food marketing and packaging supplies. Demand for groceries, "curbside pickup," and takeout food has increased, while the demand for paper bags and thicker reusable plastic bags has also increased resulting in substantially less supply of both 4 mil reusable plastic bags and paper bags - the substitutes allowed for single-use plastic carry-out bags under the bag law. Additionally, due to concerns over possible virus transmission, many retailers have asked customers not to bring reusable bags from home, moving consumers back to store-supplied single-use bags.
The pandemic is also causing a similar disruption with alternatives to polystyrene foam disposable food service containers that fall under the ban. In addition to a disruption in available packaging supplies, COVID-19 safety protocols have led to greater caution with handling of food and beverages and increased demand for disposable food service ware. Schools, homeless shelters, and other groups are providing more food in disposable packaging than before the pandemic. Therefore, the Department has decided to exercise its enforcement discretion to not enforce both the single-use plastic carry-out bag ban and the polystyrene foam disposable food service container ban until July 1, 2021.
The delay in enforcement of these bans is not intended to downplay the importance of eliminating single-use plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene foam disposable food service containers from the waste stream, but rather to address current concerns related to impacts of the pandemic. The Department strongly encourages those that use single-use plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene foam disposable food service containers to use this additional time to focus on procuring alternatives to these products and on depleting current stocks of these products before the July 1, 2021 enforcement date. The Department previously delayed the statewide prohibition on single-use plastic carry-out bags from its effective date of April 22, 2020.
More information regarding the plastic bag ban and the polystyrene foam food service container ban can be found on the Department's website at:
BC Systems Fined for Violating Chemical Accident Prevention Requirements
EPA announced a settlement with the corporation BC Systems/Fresh Express (BC Systems) to resolve violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. BC Systems will pay a $186,975 civil penalty for violating chemical accident prevention requirements at the company’s storage and distribution facilities in Yuma, Arizona, and Salinas, California.
BC Systems industrial refrigeration systems use anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical highly corrosive to skin, eyes and lungs.
Several violations were found during EPA inspections in 2017 and 2018:
  • Failure to meet the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements to safely manage anhydrous ammonia.
  • Failure to meet the Clean Air Act’s risk management program requirements for ammonia refrigeration system hazard review, pipe and instrument labeling, operating procedures, and maintaining mechanical integrity.
  • Failure to meet the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requirements to accurately submit chemical inventory information regarding the ammonia to the States of Arizona and California and local emergency response agencies.
“Preventing accidental releases is paramount in our mission to protect human health and the environment,” said John Busterud, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the country’s Pacific Southwest. “This settlement ensures BC Systems takes appropriate steps to make its facilities safer for neighboring communities.” In addition to paying the civil penalty as part of the settlement, BC Systems has addressed the violations at both facilities.
Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Catastrophic accidents at these facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. The BC System facilities were inspected as part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to reduce the risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases at facilities, such as anhydrous ammonia refrigeration facilities.
For more information on the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Program and EPA’s work related to hazardous chemicals, please visit these websites:
EPA Proposal Would Increase Flexibility, Reduce Burden Under TSCA Fees Program
The 2016 amendments to TSCA provided EPA with expanded authority to collect fees from chemical manufacturers, importers, and in some cases, processors, to help defray the costs associated with overall TSCA implementation efforts. TSCA further required EPA to establish a fee structure by rule. EPA finalized the TSCA Fees Rule in October 2018. TSCA also directs EPA to review and, if necessary, adjust fees every three years.
In March 2020, the agency announced its plan to initiate a new rulemaking process to update the fees rule to resolve implementation issues raised by stakeholders. Today’s proposal includes revisions to address these issues.
EPA released for public comment proposed updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Fees Rule. TSCA requires that EPA collect fees from chemical manufacturers and processors to help fund implementation to ensure that public health and the environment continue to be protected. Prior to this proposal, the agency engaged in an open and transparent dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders. These discussions helped inform a proposal that reflects real-world situations, narrows the broad scope of current requirements, significantly reduces the burden on American businesses, and increases the flexibility for surrounding TSCA fees requirements.
Specifically, the proposed updates to the original 2018 TSCA Fees Rule include:
  • Narrowing the scope of the rule by exempting importers of articles containing a chemical substance, companies that produce a chemical as a byproduct or manufacture or import as an impurity, companies that produce a chemical in de minimus amounts, companies that use chemicals solely for research and development purposes, and companies that manufacture a chemical that is produced as a non-isolated intermediate from fees.
  • Using cost data gathered over the last two years, instead of estimates, to update the fee calculations.
  • Ensuring fees are fairly and appropriately shared across companies by proposing a production-volume based fee allocation and including export-only manufacturers for EPA-initiated risk evaluations.
  • Allowing for corrections to be made to the list of manufacturers subject to fees for EPA-initiated risk evaluations after the final list is published, ensuring the accuracy of the list.
  • Increasing flexibility for companies by extending the amount of time to form consortium to share in fee payments.
  • Ensuring EPA can fully collect fees and enabling companies to better prepare for paying fees by allowing payments in installments for EPA-initiated and manufacturer-requested risk evaluations.
EPA’s proposal adds new fee categories associated with new chemicals activities. EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 45 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0493 on www.regulations.gov. EPA will use these comments to inform the final rule which the agency plans to issue in 2021.
Interim Guidance on Destroying and Disposing of Certain PFAS and PFAS-Containing Materials
PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, facilities using PFAS in production of other products, airports, and military installations are some of the contributors of PFAS releases into the air, soil, and water. Due to their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, many PFAS can be difficult to break down and very persistent in the environment with degradation periods of years, decades, or longer under natural conditions. Many PFAS are chemically and thermally stable and demonstrate resistance to heat, water, and oil.
EPA has released new interim guidance on destroying and disposing of certain PFAS and PFAS-containing materials for public comment. Specifically, the new interim guidance outlines the current state of the science on techniques and treatments that may be used to destroy or dispose of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials from non-consumer products, including aqueous film-forming foam for firefighting.
“With this interim guidance, EPA is providing important scientific information on available technologies that can assist with the destruction and disposal of PFAS,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This action is a critical part of our efforts to increase the understanding of PFAS and support our federal, state, tribal and local partners as we address these emerging chemicals of concern.”
In the limited time provided under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA), the interim guidance assembles and consolidates information in a single document that generally describes thermal treatment, landfill and underground injection technologies that may be effective in the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. To help ensure informed decision-making, the technology-specific information describes uncertainties and how those uncertainties should be weighed given situation-specific factors, such as the waste’s physical phase (liquid, solid, gas).
EPA’s ongoing research and development is leveraging in-house expertise and external partnerships to help address the knowledge gaps identified in the draft interim guidance. Additionally, there are many current research efforts being coordinated across the federal government to help address PFAS destruction. EPA will incorporate this increased knowledge into future versions of this guidance to help decision-makers choose the most appropriate PFAS disposal options for their particular circumstances.
As required by the FY20 NDAA, the interim guidance addresses PFAS and PFAS-containing materials including:
  1. Aqueous film-forming foam (for firefighting).
  2. Soil and biosolids.
  3. Textiles, other than consumer goods, treated with PFAS.
  4. Spent filters, membranes, resins, granular carbon, and other waste from water treatment.
  5. Landfill leachate containing PFAS.
  6. Solid, liquid, or gas waste streams containing PFAS from facilities manufacturing or using PFAS.
The interim guidance is not intended to address destruction and disposal of PFAS-containing consumer products, such as non-stick cookware and water-resistant clothing.
The agency has also provided guidance on testing and monitoring air, effluent, and soil for releases near potential destruction or disposal sites. EPA’s interim guidance captures the significant information gaps associated with PFAS testing and monitoring and identifies specific research needs to address the FY20 NDAA requirements.
EPA will accept comments on the Interim Guidance for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. For more information, please see www.epa.gov/pfas. EPA will then consider and incorporate comments, as appropriate, into a revised document. EPA will also review and revise the interim guidance, as appropriate, or at least once every 3 years.
Learn How to Ship Vaccines and Other Materials in Dry Ice
When shipped by air, dry ice is classified as a dangerous good and personnel involved with its shipment must comply with stringent requirements for packaging, marking, labeling, and shipping documentation. Anyone involved in the shipment of dangerous goods must be trained on how to prepare and ship these materials by air in accordance with DOT and IATA requirements.
Attend this live interactive session and get your questions answered while you learn how to:
  • Classify and prepare shipments cooled with dry ice
  • Comply with both FAA and IATA regulations
  • Prepare shipments of dangerous goods packed with dry ice
  • Prepare shipping papers
  • Properly select, fill, and seal packages
  • Mark and label packages
  • Load, unload
  • Comply with requirements for ancillary equipment, such as trackers and temperature recorders
  • Implement essential safety and security procedures
Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast training is the best way to get certified. Learn from the experts at any of these upcoming sessions:
  • January 14 – 1:00-3:00 Eastern
  • February 22 – 1:00-3:00 Eastern
Also available is Environmental Resource Center’s online Dry Ice training that you can take anytime at your convenience.
For a complete list of other dangerous goods transportation courses, see this link.
Property Development and Environmental Consulting Companies Settle Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at Rockland Apartment Building
A Connecticut-based property development corporation, its related companies, and two asbestos consulting companies, will pay up to $285,000 to settle allegations regarding illegal asbestos abatement work during a large-scale renovation project at a low-income housing complex in an environmental justice neighborhood in Rockland, Attorney General Maura Healey announced.
“These companies put the health of their own workers and vulnerable residents at risk by not taking the required asbestos safety precautions,” AG Healey said. “We are working with our state partners to take action against companies that fail to comply with our important public health laws – especially in neighborhoods where low-income residents are disproportionately subjected to environmental harms and risks.”
“Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and MassDEP’s asbestos regulations are designed to protect public health and the environment,” said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) Southeast Regional Director Millie Garcia-Serrano. “MassDEP enforces asbestos regulations so that its handling, management, and disposal is done safely. Today's settlement memorializes the safe cleanup of these properties, requires payment of a substantial penalty and requires a comprehensive worker training program to ensure future safe building renovation practices by the company.”
The consent judgments, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, settle allegations that First Hartford Realty Corporation and its subsidiaries, EH&N Construction Company, FHRC Management Corporation, Rockland Place Apartments, LP, and LTI Environmental Services, Inc., (collectively, First Hartford) violated the state’s clean air law and its regulations governing asbestos by causing or allowing significant renovation work at Spring Gate, a 204-unit state and federally subsidized housing complex, to be conducted without using proper handling and abatement practices and without properly securing the asbestos for safe storage, transport, and disposal. The AG’s complaint further alleges that during the renovation at Spring Gate, First Hartford workers failed to contain, handle, and dispose of asbestos material legally and safely, despite prior knowledge that building material on the walls, ceilings, and floors at Spring Gate contained asbestos.
The consent judgment also settles allegations that Ted Riley & Company, Inc., doing business as Enviro-Safe Engineering (Enviro-Safe), and TRC Environmental Corp. (TRC), asbestos consulting companies hired by First Hartford to assess the asbestos abatement work, illegally cleared certain work areas as clean when, in fact, asbestos was still present. The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants’ illegal actions potentially put the health of their workers, the buildings’ tenants, and the general public at risk.
Under the settlement, First Hartford and its companies are required to pay $250,000 in civil penalties, $50,000 of which will be suspended pending compliance with the terms of the consent judgment. First Hartford and its companies are also required to provide additional asbestos training for staff members, provide asbestos inspection reports and maintenance records to MassDEP, contract with a licensed asbestos consultant and an asbestos abatement contractor to be available “on call” as needed, and develop an operation and management plan to inspect and manage asbestos materials remaining in the apartments. Under the terms of two separate consent judgments, TRC is required to pay $25,000 and Enviro-Safe is required to pay $10,000 in civil penalties for their asbestos violations at Spring Gate. 
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, and long-term disease for which there is no known effective treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin membranes of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart, that may not show up until many years after exposure, and that has no known cure, although treatment methods are available to address the effects of the disease.
AG Healey’s Office has made asbestos safety a priority. In November 2019, AG Healey released a report, highlighting the work of her office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air Initiative.” Since September 2016, the AG’s Office, with the assistance of MassDEP, has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in nearly $4.5 million in civil penalties. In her May 2020 brief on the environmental factors that compound the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on environmental justice communities in Massachusetts, AG Healey identified pursuing enforcement cases in such communities as an important step to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on the state’s families.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements.
This case was handled by Deputy Division Chief Betsy Harper and Assistant Attorney General Jillian Riley of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Daniel d’Hedouville, Asbestos Program Section Chief Cynthia Baran, former Asbestos Program Inspector Jeffrey Finnegan, and Environmental Engineer Michael Whiteside of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville.
Michigan EGLE Updated PFAS Cleanup Standards
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced that it has updated its cleanup criteria for groundwater used as drinking water to include five new PFAS compounds, bringing the total number of PFAS regulated in groundwater to seven.
Effective immediately, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHxA, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (also known as GenX) will join PFOS and PFOA as regulated compounds under Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). Part 201 is Michigan's primary environmental cleanup program and provides the regulatory framework for most contaminated sites in the state.
The residential and nonresidential drinking water generic cleanup criteria are as follows:
CAS Registry Number
Drinking Water MCL
Generic Cleanup Criteria
Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)
Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA)
Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS)
Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA)
These new cleanup criteria values correspond with the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for municipal drinking water that EGLE adopted in August 2020. For drinking water, the PFAS levels are typically expressed in parts per trillion (ppt), whereas the groundwater cleanup values are typically expressed in parts per billion (ppb).
In January 2018 Michigan, using data from the EPA health advisory for drinking water, established groundwater cleanup criteria for PFOS and PFOA of 70 ppt (0.070 ppb) individually or combined. That criteria was automatically reduced to 0.008 ppb (8 ppt) for PFOA and 0.016 ppb (16 ppt) for PFOS with the establishment of municipal drinking water standards for PFAS.
“Scientific evidence supports designating these PFAS as hazardous substances due to their potential to pose unacceptable risks to public health and the environment,” said Mike Neller, director of EGLE’s Remediation and Redevelopment Division. “These five PFAS, as documented during EGLE’s development of state drinking water standards, have the ability to cause adverse health effects. Therefore, it is appropriate for us to identify these PFAS as hazardous substances under Part 201.”
The legal basis for development of the generic cleanup criteria is derived from Section 20120a (23) of Part 201. This provision allows the department to determine that a substance not listed in the generic cleanup criteria tables is a hazardous substance using best available information about toxicological and physical-chemical properties of the substance, and to use that information to develop a generic criterion. The new criteria developed pursuant to these provisions takes immediate effect on Dec. 21, 2020, and will remain effective and enforceable throughout the Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process.
“EGLE received a number of comments regarding the rulemaking process,” Neller added. “While we appreciate many of the concerns raised, there is no possible resolution to these concerns that would allow their consideration without unlawfully deviating from the strict process prescribed in statute and rule under Part 201. As directed by Section 20120a (5) of Part 201, these criteria must be the same as the state drinking water standards that were promulgated in August.”
Known to scientists as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS are a group of chemical contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products, and exposure to PFAS is correlated with several harmful and serious health effects. These compounds also are used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers.
To learn more about PFAS, visit the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team website: Michigan.gov/PFASResponse.
Multiple Employers Cited for COVID-19 Violations at Meat Processing Facilities
Cal/OSHA has cited eight employers for not protecting workers from COVID-19 during inspections at meat processing facilities across the state. The inspections were opened upon learning of a COVID-19 fatality and several illnesses, and after receiving complaints. The employers cited failed to take required steps to prevent COVID-19 infection in the workplace such as safe physical distancing procedures or proper face covering usage for workers in production areas.
“Enforcement of COVID-19 protections at meatpacking and food processing facilities has been a priority of Cal/OSHA given the high rates of positive cases and alarming number of deaths among food processing workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “These citations represent a portion of our enforcement efforts in these industries. More citations will be issued when violations are identified and inspections are closed.” 
The employers cited for COVID-19 violations include:
Employer Name
Worksite Location
Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Meat processing
CitiStaff Solutions
Staffing Agency
Unprogrammed Related*
Central Valley Meat Holding Company dba Central Valley Meat Co.
Meat processing 
OWB Packers, LLC dba One World Beef
Meat processing
California Farms Meat Company, Inc.
Meat processing 
CLW Foods, LLC
Meat processing
California Enterprises Employment, Inc.
Temporary employment 
Unprogrammed Related*
HR Staffing Solutions Inc.
Temporary employment 
Unprogrammed Related* 
*Indicates multiple employers at a worksite
Cal/OSHA on November 12 cited Smithfield Foods, Inc. in Vernon $58,100 in proposed penalties for multiple COVID-19 related violations, including two serious in nature, and its staffing firm CitiStaff Solutions was also cited $46,695for two serious violations. Both employers failed to ensure that workers used face coverings properly in production areas and during breaks and failed to provide effective training and instruction on how the virus is spread and how to disinfect areas properly. The investigators determined that Smithfield Foods, Inc. failed to adequately address at least 300 COVID-19 illnesses (including three that required hospitalization) amongst its employees and contracted workers hired by CitiStaff Solutions. Smithfield Foods, Inc. further failed to report serious COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA.
Central Valley Meat Co. was cited for not informing employees of possible exposure when coworkers were infected with COVID-19 and for failing to provide face coverings and ensure their proper use. Cal/OSHA opened a complaint-initiated inspection at the facility in Hanford on April 29 and identified violations in the employer’s training procedures and response to COVID-19 hazards. Citations were issued on December 11 with $50,000 in proposed penalties for two violations classified as serious.
In June, Cal/OSHA became aware that several One World Beef Packer employees were hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19, including one employee who died. When Cal/OSHA inspected the Brawley facility, investigators noted that workers in the production lines and quality assurance area were not provided protective barriers and were working too close to each other. Furthermore, the employer failed to report the serious illnesses and fatality within the eight-hour time limit as required by law. Cal/OSHA cited One World Beef Packer $23,000 on December 11 for one serious violation and a regulatory violation for failing to report the serious illnesses.
After reports of outbreaks, Cal/OSHA opened inspections at meat processing plants in Vernon last June and July as part of a targeted enforcement effort. An onsite inspection at California Farms Meat Company confirmed the employer did not implement physical distancing procedures or install barriers in the production area, where workers separated chicken by hand and operated machines within close distance of each other. Cal/OSHA cited the employer $11,700 in proposed penalties on December 14 for the serious violation.
In July, Cal/OSHA opened inspections with CLW Foods and its staffing firms California Enterprises Employment and HR Staffing Solutions in Vernon. The employers were cited on December 14 for multiple violations, including some categorized as serious for failing to address COVID-19 hazards by training employees and ensuring proper physical distancing procedures on conveyor lines, in the production area and when employees took breaks. CLW Foods and California Enterprise Employment were also cited for failing to report serious COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA.
To assist employers with understanding their requirements to protect workers from COVID-19, Cal/OSHA has created guidance and resources. This includes a model written COVID-19 Prevention Program, COVID-19 information page and free webinars for certain industries from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.
Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers and workers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.
Lead and Copper Rule Updated
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was joined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Flint, Mich. Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Springfield, Ill. Mayor Jim Langfelder, Wisconsin State Senator Robert Cowles, Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta, and Jefferson County, Colo. Commissioner Libby Szabo to announce the first major update to the agency’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in nearly 30 years. This historic action strengthens every aspect of the LCR and accelerates actions that reduce lead in drinking water to better protect children from lead exposure.
“This new Lead and Copper Rule will protect children and families from exposure to lead in drinking water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For the first time in nearly thirty years, this action incorporates best practices and strengthens every aspect of the rule, including closing loopholes, accelerating the real world pace of lead service line replacement, and ensuring that lead pipes will be replaced in their entirety.”
In older homes and buildings, lead can leach from service lines, solder, and fixtures into tap water and become a significant source of lead exposure. In children, lead exposure can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. The U.S. has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels by phasing lead out of gasoline, banning lead paint, and implementing the old LCR. However, the old rule included deficiencies that are fixed by EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule. For example, the old rule created so many loopholes that only 1 percent of utilities actually replaced lead pipes as a result of an action level exceedance. The old LCR also allowed up to 48 months to pass in our small towns before corrosion control was in place after a water system exceeded the action level and failed to require all systems to test for lead in drinking water in their elementary schools or child care facilities.
According to the agency, the new Lead and Copper Rule better protects children and communities from the risks of lead exposure by testing drinking water at elementary schools and child care facilities, getting the lead out of our nation’s drinking water, and empowering communities through information. Improvements under the new rule include:
Using science-based testing to better locate elevated levels of lead in drinking water.
Establishing a trigger level to jumpstart mitigation earlier and in more communities.
Driving more and complete lead service line replacements.
For the first time, requiring testing in elementary schools and child care facilities.
Requiring water systems to identify and make public the locations of lead service lines.
“The revised LCR is a substantial milestone in our continued collective efforts across the country to remove lead from our communities,” said Wisconsin State Senator Robert Cowles. “Whether it’s local efforts such as those taken by Green Bay, Wisconsin to finish the removal of every lead lateral, statewide efforts such as those I’ve lead in Wisconsin to increase local flexibility for remediation strategies, or federal efforts such as the laudable LCR revisions, it’s pivotal that all levels of government stay involved in the fight to invest in our future by protecting children’s health. Thank you to Administrator Wheeler and the EPA for your important work on the revised LCR.”
“I applaud the EPA’s announcement today to further protect the health of our communities by strengthening our nation’s lead requirements. Identifying water systems with lead service lines, mandating replacements and providing federal funding opportunities are vital steps to ensuring the children in our schools and every citizen across our Commonwealth has access to safe drinking water,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta.
“Like other communities across the United States, lead service line replacement is one of the infrastructure challenges cities face. With our municipally-owned utility, Springfield is continuing our work to help homeowners reduce lead risks. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to help cities across our nation provide a solid path for lead pipe replacement initiatives, to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially our children,” said Springfield, Ill. Mayor Jim Langfelder.
“Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) commends EPA for getting the final LCR to the finish line and it’s a big step forward in reducing lead exposure and protecting public health. Implementing this regulation is going to require a significant collaborative effort between ASDWA’s members, EPA, and the water systems and their customers. Getting the lead out by removing lead service lines is a major infrastructure effort that is going to take significant commitments by all involved,” said ASDWA Executive Director Alan Roberson.
“The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is committed to protecting public health and commends EPA for publishing a final revised Lead and Copper Rule. We look forward to reviewing the rule in detail and assisting our 50,000 members in understanding and implementing it in their communities,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance.
“EPA’s rule condemns millions of Americans to drink lead-contaminated water for a generation. That’s unjust and illegal. To protect against the scourge of lead poisoning we must remove the 6 to 10 million lead pipes buried in communities across the country. EPA’s new rule will leave those pipes in use for decades—and in many cases forever. We can, and must, do better,” said Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
For more information on the new LCR, visit: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/final-revisions-lead-and-copper-rule. For information on lead service line replacement, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/pipereplacement.
New Mexico Finds Significant Emission Increases from Oil and Gas Operations
EPA, in conjunction with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), recently conducted helicopter flyovers of the Permian and San Juan Basins using forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology to determine emissions trends in oil and gas operations. FLIR technology makes emissions from oil and natural gas visible to the naked eye. The video data collected during the flyovers document higher-than-expected leak rates from oil and gas equipment across both basins.
Leaks, which include methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other air pollutants, were observed from a variety of oil and gas equipment, including storage tanks and flares. The Permian Basin’s overall leak rate was 5%, an increase from a 2% leak rate observed during 2019 flyovers of the same area. In the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico, the leak rate was approximately 3%. The San Juan Basin was not included in 2019 flyover inspections.
The emissions, which mostly result from equipment failures and unaddressed leaks, documented during the flyovers in the Permian and San Juan Basins are significantly higher than those reported by industry and are in line with those identified by non-governmental organizations and academia. The disappointing findings come after 18 months of intensive and ongoing stakeholder discussions with the oil and natural gas industry on reducing methane and VOC emissions.
“It’s clear that voluntary emissions reductions measures undertaken by some operators are not enough to solve this problem. This is an undeniable call to action for our department to strengthen our draft ozone precursor rules and for every oil and natural gas operator with leaking equipment documented in these videos to immediately get emissions under control,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Ozone levels in the oil and gas regions of New Mexico are already threatening our most vulnerable population’s ability to breathe, like children and the elderly, as well as those dealing with complications from COVID-19.”
While the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) is working to enact gas capture rules which will curb 98% of methane emissions from oil and gas operations, NMED is drafting proposed rules to reduce VOC emissions from the industry. NMED is required to regulate VOC emissions, but cannot legally regulate methane emissions under the state’s Air Quality Control Act. NMED’s revised proposed rules will be released in March of 2021. Upon implementation – and paired with compliance from operators - the EMNRD gas capture rules and the NMED ozone rules will result in substantial reductions in methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas field.
All the FLIR video footage from the flyovers is available through the Department’s interactive methane map and on NMED’s YouTube channel. Data in the methane map includes the name of the operator and geographic location of the methane and VOC emissions.
NMED and EPA will continue to conduct flyover inspections and make the video data available to the public using the methane map, YouTube and social media platforms.
The EPA and NMED will commence civil enforcement proceedings in response to the video evidence obtained from the flyovers that depicts potential violations of existing rules and permits.
Dispose of Holiday Greens and Christmas Trees Correctly to Protect Urban and Rural Trees
Trees and boughs can provide diseases and invasive species from out of state the perfect ride into our landscape. Pests of concern include elongate hemlock scale, a small insect established in the eastern U.S. where many decorative Fraser firs are grown. Feeding damage from this invasive insect can cause the needles of hemlocks, firs, and spruces to yellow and prematurely drop. Also, boxwood blight and Oriental bittersweet, sometimes found on wreaths and centerpieces, can endanger native trees and other landscaping.
To protect our environment, the State of Minnesota is asking residents to properly dispose of greenery and trees after the holiday season. At the end of the season, please follow these guidelines:
  • The best option for trees is to use a curbside tree collection or bring them to a designated drop-off site. Check with your waste hauler, city, or county to see what services are offered in your area.
  • Do not toss trees and greenery into backyard woods or your residential compost pile, which will spread the infestation.
  • Wreaths and other decorative greens can be put in trashcans.
  • If your city or county does not have an organized pick-up or drop-off, the last resort would be to burn the greens. Always check with local ordinances first, and follow them.
If you suspect your greenery or tree may be infested with an invasive insect or disease, contact the MDA’s Arrest the Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 or arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us.  More information on these threats can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) website.
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 Training is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, 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.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at brian@ercweb.com.
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