EPA Proposes Revisions to the Wastewater Treatment Exemptions for Hazardous Waste Mixtures

April 11, 2003
On April 8, 2002, EPA proposed revisions to the wastewater treatment exemptions for hazardous waste mixtures (68 FR 17233). Specifically, the Agency is proposing to add benzene and 2-ethoxyethanol to the list of solvents whose mixtures with wastewaters are exempt from the definition of hazardous waste under RCRA. EPA has also included a clarification that scrubber waters generated from the incineration of certain spent solvents would be eligible for the exemptions. In addition, EPA is proposing to allow facilities to perform direct measurement of solvent chemical levels at the headworks of the wastewater treatment system. Finally, EPA has proposed to expand the de minimis exemption to include non-manufacturing sites and wastes other than listed commercial chemical products if certain conditions are met.

A copy of the final rule and related materials, including a fact sheet, is available at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/id/headworks/index.htm.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed revisions to the wastewater treatment exemptions for hazardous waste mixtures, please call the RCRA, Superfund, & EPCRA Call Center at 800-424-9346 or locally within the Washington DC area at 703-412-9810.

Colorado Radiator Shop Owner Charged with Violating State Hazardous Waste Laws

Curtis Wayne Ford, owner of Western Slope Radiator in Grand Junction, Colo., was charged on March 21 in Mesa County Colorado District Court with violating the Colorado Hazardous Waste Act for allegedly storing hazardous wastes without a permit.

The unpermitted storage of hazardous wastes can present a human health hazard to individuals who visit or perform work at the facility.

This case is the result of a joint investigation by the Colorado State Attorney General's Office and the Denver Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by the Colorado Attorney General's Office in Denver. The bringing of charges is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.

Environmental Cleanup Company and its President Indicted on Three Counts of Mail Fraud

George L. Martin and his company, Latico International Inc., located in Denham Springs, La., were indicted on March 26 in U.S. District Court for Louisiana in Baton Rouge, La., on three felony counts of mail fraud.

The indictment alleges that on Feb. 28, 1999, March 31, 1999, and Jan. 10, 2000, the defendants submitted bogus invoices to Entergy seeking payment for environmental clean up services for polychlorinated biphenyl contamination, which were never performed. Entergy sent Latigo a check for $114,410.00 to pay the false bill.

Failing to perform environmental clean up services can create a public health risk.

During the evening hours of March 26, Martin was arrested based on information that he was a flight risk and had been liquidating his assets. If convicted on all charges Martin faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison and or a fine of up to $750,000. Latico faces a maximum possible sentence of up to five years probation and/or $1.5 million in fines, if convicted.

This case is being jointly investigated by the New Orleans Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI, with assistance from EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baton Rouge. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.

Louisiana Corporation Sentenced to Largest Clean Air Fine in Louisiana History

PCS Nitrogen Inc., which operates a chemical plant in Geismar, La., was sentenced on March 17 to pay a $1.75 million fine in U.S. District Court for Louisiana in Baton Rouge for violating the Clean Air Act (CAA).

On March 28, PCS paid a $250,000 fine in Louisiana State Court for similar offenses. PCS will also serve five years' probation and complete the installation of over $9 million in additional pollution control equipment at its Geismar facility. This is the largest fine for an environmental offense in Louisiana history.

PCS admitted that employees at its Geismar facility failed to include 20 sources of air pollution in the company's CAA Title V air permit. Failing to include sources of air pollution in an air permit can lead to poor air quality, which can cause lung diseases.

The case was investigated by the New Orleans Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with assistance from EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baton Rouge.

Federal, Multi-State Deal Secures Significant Air Pollution Reductions From Industrial Giant Archer Daniels Midland

The Department of Justice and EPA announced a landmark Clean Air Act settlement with grain industry giant Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), which will cover operations at 52 plants in 16 states and cost the company an estimated $340 million. The settlement is the result of an unprecedented joint federal and state enforcement effort with 14 state and county entities signing onto the consent decree. Under the settlement, ADM will implement sweeping environmental improvements at plants nationwide that will eliminate at least 63,000 tons of air pollution a year.

ADM is a multi-national agribusiness based in Decatur, Ill., that owns and operates facilities across the nation which process corn, wheat, soybeans, and other oilseeds into value-added products used in the food, feed, ethanol and other industries. The manufacturing processes at ADM's plants result in emissions of significant quantities of regulated air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).

Under the settlement, ADM will install state-of-the-art controls on a large number of units, shut down some of the oldest, dirtiest units, and take emission limits on others. Additionally, ADM's oilseed operations will accept new, more stringent emission limits for VOC and HAP emissions – limits the regulators expect will set new standards for the industry.

The United States and its co-plaintiffs alleged that ADM failed to accurately estimate its emissions from hundreds of process units, and expanded other units without the installation of required air pollution control technology, violating the Clean Air Act. The complaints, filed in federal district court in Illinois, allege that these ADM plants are major sources of air pollution. The complaints explain that these plants are subject to the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) requirements, as well as the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) of the Act. As such, they were required to install air pollution controls to reduce emissions and to get the appropriate preconstruction and operating permits. This is the first major NSR/PSD settlement involving the grain and oilseed processing industry.

Co-plaintiffs include the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas; the Iowa counties of Linn and Polk, as well as the Nebraska county of Lancaster.

EPA estimates that ADM will spend $340 million over a 10-year period to implement the entire injunctive relief package, which includes $213 million for capital improvements such as air pollution control equipment. ADM will also fund extensive environmental audits at all facilities, continuous emission monitoring, operation and maintenance, as well as an environmental management system that will assist the company and regulators in tracking compliance with the consent decree.

In addition, ADM will pay a civil penalty of $4.6 million that will be shared with the co-plaintiffs, and will spend $6.3 million on supplemental environmental projects. Much of the supplemental money will be spent on retrofitting diesel engines in school buses, to result in significant reductions of air emissions from those mobile sources.

The consent decree was lodged with the federal district court in the Central District of Illinois. It will be subject to a 30-day public comment period before it can be entered by the court.

US Announces Clean Air Act Coal-Fired Power Plant Settlement with Alcoa

The Justice Department and EPA announced a major Clean Air Act settlement with Alcoa, Inc. under which the company will spend an estimated $330 million to install a new coal-fired power plant with state-of-the-art pollution controls to eliminate the vast majority of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from the power plant at Alcoa's aluminum production facility in Rockdale, Texas.

This settlement resolves allegations filed in federal court by the United States and its co-plaintiffs, Neighbors for Neighbors, Inc., Environmental Defense, and Public Citizen, that Alcoa has unlawfully operated the Rockdale facility since it overhauled the Rockdale power plant without installing necessary pollution controls and without first obtaining proper permits required by the "New Source Review" program of the Clean Air Act.

The Rockdale facility, located northeast of Austin, is currently the single largest non-utility source of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions in the nation. Prevailing winds carry air pollutants directly into the Austin metropolitan area. The plant consists of two aluminum smelters, a power plant that generates electricity for the smelters, and a strip-mining operation that supplies lignite coal for the power plant itself. The company produces aluminum for cans, truck wheels, die-casts, machinery, systems and components for appliances, as well as telecommunications.

The combined effect of the pollution controls mandated by the settlement will be to reduce the company's emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 90 percent. More than 52,000 tons of SO2 and 15,000 tons of NOx – a total of more than 68,000 tons of pollutants – are expected to be removed from the air of central Texas each year.

SO2 and NOx are significant contributors to acid rain; NOx also increases low-level ozone which causes smog; fine particulate matter causes haze. All these pollutants cause severe respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

In the 1980s, just as the Rockdale power plant was nearing the end of its useful life, Alcoa undertook a $63 million program known as the "Betterment Project" to extend the life of the Rockdale power plant, rather than retire the power plant and build a new facility with state-of-the-art pollution controls. After the completion of the four-year program, pollution from the Rockdale facility increased over 13,000 tons each year as a result of Alcoa's changes.

Under the terms of the settlement, Alcoa will elect, within roughly one year, one of three options for achieving the required emissions reductions: to install state-of-the-art pollution controls for SO2 , NOx, and particulate matter (PM) on its existing power plant; to replace its existing power plant with new electricity generating units and pollution controls; or, if the aluminum production facility is to discontinue operations, to shut down the power plant completely. Alcoa will implement one of these changes by the end of 2007, and will implement additional pollution reduction measures in the interim as well. Last fall, Alcoa submitted a permit application for new power plant units to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, indicating that Alcoa intends to pursue the option of replacing its existing units with new units and pollution controls.

In addition to the pollution reductions secured by the settlement, Alcoa has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.5 million, and spend at least $2.5 million on two additional projects that will partially offset the impact of past emissions. Specifically, Alcoa will provide roughly $1.75 million to the Trust for Public Lands and the Pines & Prairie Land Trust to purchase conservation easements in the area around the Rockdale facility. Alcoa also will spend $750,000 to retrofit school buses in the greater Austin area with pollution control devices, contributing toward a national initiative unveiled by Administrator Whitman this week.

The settlement was lodged with the United States District Court in Austin, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it can be entered by the court.

Legislation Would Ban Mercury Thermometers, Permanently Manage Surplus Mercury

Environmentalists applauded U.S. Senators Susan Collins and James Jeffords for their comprehensive legislation that would begin to eliminate and permanently manage surplus mercury. The bill was passed unanimously out of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would ban the sale of mercury fever thermometers, fund a thermometer exchange program to provide consumers with mercury-free alternatives and ensure that the mercury collected would be taken out of circulation for good.

The bill would also establish a federal task force to identify ways to permanently store mercury leftover from industrial production and military stockpiles and to reduce the mining, use and release of mercury on a global basis. This task force would deal with mercury waste. The task force would receive input from business and environmental groups and make recommendations for further Congressional action within one year.

Approximately 17 tons of mercury in thermometers are disposed of each year in solid waste in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Ten states, including the States of Maine and New Hampshire, and 30 cities, like Portland, Boston and San Francisco, have banned the sales of mercury thermometers. Many local communities are organizing exchange programs for consumers to obtain mercury-free digital thermometers when they trade in mercury thermometers.

Mercury uses in products and industrial emissions have contributed to the three-to-five fold increase in atmospheric deposition over the past century. Over the past several years, mercury use in the United States and other developed countries has steadily declined. In developing countries, however, mercury is still used widely in the manufacture of consumer products, like thermometers, in gold mining and in chlorine production where regulations are often lax.

New EPA National Initiative Promotes Reuse, Economic Revitalization in Superfund, Other Waste Cleanup Programs

Accelerating its efforts to revitalize communities and stimulate the economy by restoring contaminated properties, EPA announced a new national initiative to incorporate land reuse into its Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Brownfields, and Underground Storage Tank hazardous waste cleanup programs.

The "Land Revitalization Agenda" was announced by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman at the Harbor Point site (formerly AlliedSignal), a 27-acre peninsula in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The site was successfully cleaned up in Feb. 2000 under RCRA's Corrective Action Program. Plans for Harbor Point redevelopment call for 1.8 million square feet of mixed-used space, representing up to $400 million in new investment and creating as many as 5,000 jobs.

The national Agenda outlines 60 items that EPA can use to integrate land reuse into its cleanup programs throughout the country. Examples of these include: (1) EPA review of policies and practices concerning liability issues to promote, where appropriate, revitalization of properties, (2) EPA leveraging grant resources across multiple federal cleanup programs to facilitate area-wide cleanup and reuse of multiple contaminated properties, and (3) EPA piloting the use of written determinations stating that once-contaminated properties are ready for appropriate reuses.

EPA, U.S. Department of Justice and Maryland Department of Environmental Protection officials negotiated a RCRA Consent Decree with AlliedSignal to clean up the chromium-contaminated site, which resulted from 140 years of chemical manufacturing. AlliedSignal, now Honeywell, acquired the property in 1954 and facility operations resulted in significant amounts of chromium, a carcinogen, being discharged into the harbor. The subsequent chromium cleanup and closure project cost over $100 million.

To facilitate redevelopment, EPA has negotiated a Prospective Lessee Agreement (PLA), subject to public comment, to resolve potential environmental liability. The redevelopment master plan also calls for a major public park and promenade. EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region's Smart Growth Memorandum of Agreement helped bring about the PLA.

Reuse has occurred at 300 former Superfund sites. In the 1990s, EPA launched Corrective Action reforms aimed at accelerating cleanups at industrial sites. (Under RCRA Corrective Action, cleanups are required for all waste leaking into the environment from any source at a hazardous waste facility.) As a result, EPA and the states now have brought hundreds of RCRA facilities under control. Nearly 40 percent of these sites have either completed or made significant progress in their cleanups.

Learn more about the Land Revitalization Agenda at http://www.epa.gov/oswer/landrevitalization