EPA Regulates Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Sector

May 16, 2016

As a further step in the Obama Administration’s commitment to take action on climate change and protect public health, the EPA is announcing comprehensive steps to address methane emissions from both new and existing sources in the oil and gas sector. For new, modified and reconstructed sources, EPA is finalizing a set of standards that will reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air emissions in the oil and natural gas industry. EPA is also starting the process to control emissions from existing sources by issuing for public comment an Information Collection Request (ICR) that requires companies to provide the information that will be necessary for EPA to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources.

“Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding commonsense ways to cut methane—a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change—and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”

The recent actions are part of the Administration’s strategy under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce methane emissions, and keeps the Administration on track to achieve its goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025.

Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Methane is the second most prevalent GHG emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly one-third of those emissions comes from oil production and the production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas.

The final standards will significantly curb methane emissions from new, reconstructed, and modified processes and equipment, along with reducing VOC emissions from sources not covered in the agency’s 2012 rules. These sources include hydraulically fractured oil wells, some of which can contain a large amount of gas along with oil, and equipment used across the industry that was not regulated in the 2012 rules.

After reviewing the more than 900,000 comments received on its August 2015 proposal, EPA updated a number of aspects in the final rule that increase climate benefits, including removing an exemption for low production wells and requiring leak monitoring surveys twice as often at compressor stations, which have the potential for significant emissions. The final rule also provides companies a pathway to align the final standards with comparable state-specific requirements they may have.

The final standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Natural gas that is recovered as a result of the rule can be used on site or sold. EPA estimates the final rule will yield climate benefits of $690 million in 2025, which will outweigh estimated costs of $530 million in 2025. Reductions in VOCs and air toxics are also expected to yield benefits; however, EPA was not able to quantify those benefits.

The standards also are expected to reduce 210,000 short tons of ozone-forming VOCs in 2025, along with 3,900 tons of air toxics, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. Ozone is linked to a variety of serious public health effects, including reduced lung function, asthma attacks, asthma development, emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and early death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes. Air toxics are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects.

The final actions also include two rules that clarify permitting requirements for the oil and natural gas industry: the Source Determination Rule and a final federal implementation plan for the Minor New Source Review Program in Indian Country.

Over the past year, new science and data have shown that methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources are substantially higher than was previously understood. To build on the agency’s current knowledge, EPA is issuing an ICR that seeks a broad range of information, including the types of technologies that could be used to reduce emissions and their associated costs. The information the agency receives in response to the ICR will provide the foundation for developing regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources.

EPA will collect the information through a general survey for all owners/operators of existing sources and a more detailed survey for specific facilities. EPA anticipates receiving data from the operator survey later this year and expects to conclude all aspects of the ICR in the first part of 2017. In addition, the agency is announcing plans to issue a voluntary Request for Information to seek information on innovative strategies that can accurately and cost-effectively locate, measure, and mitigate methane emissions.

Earlier this year, EPA launched the Methane Challenge Program, which provides a new way for U.S. oil and gas companies to achieve—and be recognized for—ambitious commitments to reduce methane emissions. This flexible program has the potential to foster significant cost-effective emission reductions across the oil and gas sector and to provide transparency on the progress partner companies are making to reduce emissions.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

In the first major modification to the hazardous waste regulations in over 10 years, EPA plans to modify and reorganize the hazardous waste generator rule. When adopted, the rule will provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed and close important gaps in the regulations.

Attend Environmental Resource Center’s live, online session on April 18 to learn:

  • New requirements for documenting hazardous waste determinations
  • Revised requirements for when and how to submit the Notification of Generator Status form to EPA
  • How to take advantage of the episodic generation exclusion to avoid reclassification to a larger generator status
  • Definitions of important new terms – “Very Small Quantity Generator” and “Central Accumulation Area”
  • How to mark containers, tanks, and containment buildings with new information required at central accumulation areas and satellites
  • New conditions under which containers can be left open at satellite accumulation areas
  • Updated time and volume limits for satellite accumulation areas
  • New documentation requirements for contingency plans and biennial reports
  • New requirements for shipping hazardous waste from a VSQG to another facility owned by the same organization

Click here to register online or call 800-537-2372.

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final rule on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This rule, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on July 8 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US

Bring your questions to this live webcast. Click here to register online or call 800-537-2372.

Baltimore RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baltimore, MD, on June 7–9 and save $100. Ensure you have the training you need to ship dangerous goods by air at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on June 10. To register for these courses click here or call 800-537-2372.

Baton Rouge RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA, on June 7–9 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Chattanooga RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Chattanooga, TN, on June 14–16 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Site Remediation

EPA has proposed to amend the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP): Site Remediation (Site Remediation Rule by removing exemptions from the rule for site remediation activities performed under authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Liability Act (CERCLA) and for site remediation activities performed under a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action or other required RCRA order. EPA is also proposing to remove the applicability requirement that site remediations be co-located with at least one other stationary source regulated by another NESHAP. The agency is seeking comment on these issues, but is not requesting comment on any other issues or provisions of the final Site Remediation Rule at this time.

EPA Revokes Certification of Section 608 Refrigerant Trainers

In accordance with the standards for certifying programs established in appendix D of 40 CFR 82, subpart F, technician certifying programs must submit an activity report to EPA on a biannual basis (such that EPA receives the report by every January 30 and June 30) that provides certain information about the certification tests administered. The programs in the Table below have repeatedly failed to submit activity reports. The regulations at 40 CFR 82.161 establish criteria and procedures for such programs to become approved technician certification programs that can provide the certifications that are required for technicians under Section 608. As provided in 40 CFR 82.161(e), “[i]f at any time an approved program violates any of the above requirements,” which reference the standards in appendix D that are cited in 82.161(c), “the Administrator reserves the right to revoke approval in accordance with Section 82.169.” These programs were sent certified letters explaining that EPA had not received required activity reports and listing which reports were missing. In the letters, the programs were offered the opportunity to come into compliance by submitting missing reports.

In a Federal Register notice published December 2, 2015 (80 FR 75456), the programs below were given thirty days from the date of publication of that notice to submit their missing reports. The notice announced that failure to submit these reports so that they were received by January 4, 2016, would result in an automatic suspension of the program's approval to offer the technician certification exam and of its approval to issue Section 608 technician certification cards. The notice also announced that automatic program revocation would occur on February 1, 2016, for each of those certifying organizations that were so notified of impending suspension and revocation and that failed to provide missing reports, unless the organization requested a hearing in accordance with the regulations published at 40 CFR 82.169 before that date. The Agency received no replies from most of the organizations listed below. Therefore, the approval to certify technicians has been revoked by EPA for all the programs listed below:

  • ACI Environmental Safety Training Institute
  • California Career Center
  • Delaware County Community College
  • Delaware Skills Center Building Maintenance
  • Delaware Technical & Community College
  • Educational Services
  • HVAC/R Training, Inc.
  • nSolution
  • Niagara County Community College
  • Nugent Associates
  • San Diego City College
  • Southern Technical College
  • Unified Industries, Inc.
  • Vatterott College
  • Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI)
  • CDTA, Inc.
  • Motorcoach Training Specialist

Washington State Environmental Penalties for First Quarter 2016

The Washington Department of Ecology issued $89,500 in penalties of $1,000 or more January through March in 2016.

Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.

The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.

Ecology strives to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s air, land, or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.

Click here for a complete list of penalties.

Waters Technologies Corp. Fined $199,500 for Hazardous Waste Allegations

A Taunton, Massachusetts, company that manufactures materials used in laboratory analysis has agreed to pay $199,500 to settle claims by the EPA that it violated state and federal hazardous waste laws.

Waters Technologies Corp. generates a range of hazardous wastes that include ignitable waste, corrosive waste, reactive waste, characteristically toxic waste, waste solvents, and off-specification waste.

The case stems from a March 2014 inspection by EPA in which inspectors identified numerous violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA alleged that the company failed to follow standards for the storage of hazardous wastes in tanks and to follow several regulations requiring the company to monitor potential air emissions from equipment that contains volatile organic waste. EPA also alleged that the company failed to ensure that waste solvents would not be released from its facility. The alleged violations could have resulted in releases of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to the environment.

"It is essential that companies handling, managing or storing hazardous materials make sure they carefully follow hazardous waste laws, including laws pertaining to air emissions from hazardous waste tanks, which help ensure protections for workers, their surrounding community, and the environment," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

Immediately after the EPA inspection, Waters Technology voluntarily contracted with a third-party consultant and put in place practices and technologies that brought the facility into compliance with relevant hazardous waste regulations, thus minimizing the risks of emission of hazardous wastes to the environment and employee exposure to hazardous wastes.

PPG Industries, Inc., Fined $59,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

Pittsburgh-based manufacturer PPG Industries, Inc., will pay a $59,000 penalty to settle alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations at the company’s coatings manufacturing and research facilities in Springdale, Pennsylvania, the EPA announced recently. The settlement addresses compliance with regulations designed to protect public health and the environment by requiring the safe, environmentally sound storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

The alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) included failure to keep hazardous waste storage containers secured and deficiencies in documentation related to handling and disposal of hazardous waste.

The violations involved hazardous materials such as waste paint, waste coatings, and spent solvents, including ignitable waste, cadmium, chromium, lead, and methyl ethyl ketone.

In addition to protecting public health and the environment, RCRA regulations are also designed to help the government and industries avoid long and extensive cleanups.

The settlement reflects the company’s compliance efforts, and its cooperation with EPA in the investigation. As part of the settlement, PPG has not admitted liability, but has certified its compliance with applicable RCRA requirements.

Veolia ES Technical Solutions LLC Faces $57,240 in Fines for Hazardous Waste Violations

The EPA has issued a complaint against Veolia ES Technical Solutions, LLC, for alleged violations of its federal hazardous waste permit at its Middlesex, New Jersey facility. Under the terms of the complaint, Veolia must comply with hazardous waste management requirements and faces fines up to $57,240 for failing to perform monthly emissions monitoring to detect leaks in the company’s pumping equipment, and for failing to keep its hazardous waste containers closed.

“Companies that handle hazardous wastes must ensure that the waste is properly stored and handled,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Emissions of hazardous waste from leaking equipment and containers can pose a serious danger to employees and those living in the surrounding community.”

Veolia’s hazardous waste permit requires it to properly store, handle, and dispose of hazardous waste to safeguard public health and the environment. Specifically, Veolia must effectively train its staff and ensure that containers holding hazardous waste are closed and sealed pursuant to federal guidelines. Many types of toxic hazardous waste can evaporate, making it especially important that containers are properly sealed in order to prevent airborne releases from affecting on-site workers and people in surrounding communities.

In July 2015, the EPA conducted inspections of Veolia’s Middlesex, New Jersey facility. During the investigation, EPA inspectors determined that Veolia had not performed monthly air emissions monitoring on pumps used in the transfer and storage of hazardous waste from April 2012 to April 2015. EPA inspectors also observed numerous hazardous waste containers at Veolia’s facility that were left open in violations of federal guidelines, which only allow containers to be open while adding or removing contents.

Are Toxic Phthalates in Your Home?

Newly disclosed information shows that hormone-disrupting chemicals are used in a broader range of household products than previously known. For the first time, manufacturers of paints and cleaning products available across the country have been required to disclose their uses of hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, revealing phthalates used as a fragrance ingredient as well as a plasticizer in these products.

A new national report—What Stinks? Toxic Phthalates in Your Home—presents data generated by a Maine chemical use reporting requirement, for products sold across the country. The report was conceived and authored by the Maine-based Environmental Health Strategy Center and Prevent Harm and is cosponsored by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Safer States, Breast Cancer Fund, Ecology Center, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

In addition to the first-time disclosures about toxic phthalates in specific paints and cleaners, manufacturers reported the use of phthalates in vinyl clothing, shoes, and fragranced personal care products. Reporting companies included 3M, which revealed phthalates in the fragrances of cleaners, disinfectants, and deodorizers, and the Gap, Inc., which reported phthalates used to soften the plastic tips of shoelaces and drawstrings.

“This data provides new examples of products that are letting these hormone—assaulting chemicals infiltrate our bathrooms, kitchens, schools—and, ultimately, our bodies,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Maine-based Environmental Health Strategy Center and Prevent Harm, lead sponsors of the new report. “To protect public health, manufacturers, and retailers should move quickly to replace phthalates with safer substitutes.”

Chemical-use disclosure required by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is the basis for the report, and shows 14 manufacturers reported the use of four phthalates in 130 products.

Phthalates are tied to reproductive harm, learning disabilities, and asthma and allergies—even at low levels of exposure. Strong science linking phthalates to health hazards has led to strong restrictions throughout Europe, and several phthalates are prohibited in children's products in the United States.

A growing number of states, including California, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, have passed laws that authorize mandatory disclosure of chemicals in products that may harm the health of babies and children. But reporting requirements still exempt many types of common household products.

“That means it’s likely the data reported represents just the tip of the iceberg for uses of phthalates in household products,” Belliveau said. “It also is very likely that many manufacturers are illegally failing to disclose their uses of phthalates.”

Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers, making vinyl plastic flexible. However, fragrance ingredients constituted the most frequent use of phthalates by manufacturers reporting in Maine.

Phthalates were reported as an ingredient in fragrance for more than half of the products. “Fragrance” can include dozens of chemicals, and there is no requirement that companies must disclose these ingredients publicly. In more than a third of the products reported in Maine, phthalates use is as a plastic softener in clothing, toys, and home maintenance products.

Among the priority chemicals for which Maine requires disclosure are four types of phthalates: diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

"This report shows why we need real reform on the federal level to close the fragrance loophole. Consumers must have full disclosure of phthalates and other potentially harmful ingredients," said Melissa Cooper Sargent, environmental health educator for the Ecology Center. "Congress must act now to fix the Toxics Substances Control Act."

“This new report can help retailers identify the types of products where phthalates are still hiding on store shelves,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “Big retailers should use their purchasing power and influence to drive these unnecessary toxic chemicals out of fragrance and plastics.”

“In the absence of any federal laws requiring ingredient disclosure for cleaning products and fragrance ingredients, this new data provides crucial information women can use to reduce their exposure to chemicals like phthalates that can cause reproductive harm,” said Erin Switalski, executive director of Women's Voices for the Earth. “We urge the cleaning product companies that have reported using phthalates to commit to the elimination of this toxic chemical.”

“his report shows that our families are being exposed to dangerous ingredients that are hiding in the products we use every day,” said Janet Nudelman, Breast Cancer Fund Director of Program and Policy. “Consumers have an urgent right to full disclosure of all, and not just some, of the chemicals such as phthalates in their personal care and cleaning products so they can make safer, more informed purchases.”

EA Report Shows that Nearly Half of Nation’s Wetlands Are in Good Health

The EPA recently released the first-ever National Wetland Condition Assessment, showing that nearly half of the nation’s wetlands are in good health, while 20% are in fair health and the remaining 32% in poor health.

The National Wetland Condition Assessment is part of a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys designed to advance the science of coastal monitoring and answer critical questions about the condition of waters in the United States.

“America’s wetlands are vital for reducing water pollution, reducing flooding, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, offering recreational opportunities, and contributing goods to economy,” said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “We know that protecting our wetlands is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like flooding and managing pollution and nutrients damaging our country’s water quality.”

Physical disturbances to wetlands and their surrounding habitat such as compacted soil, ditching, or removal of plants, are the most widespread problems across the country, and nonnative plants are also an issue particularly in the Interior Plains and West.

EPA conducted the National Wetland Condition Assessment in partnership with state environmental agencies and other federal agencies, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The assessment supplements the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Status & Trends program, which has been documenting changes to the extent of wetland area in the U.S. for more than 30 years. EPA’s collaboration with states and other federal agencies on the National Wetland Condition Assessment catalyzed and dramatically accelerated state efforts to monitor and assess wetlands.

Taken together, these surveys increase understanding of these dynamic, extremely important ecosystems that were once actively removed throughout much of the U.S. With new insight gained over time, the assessment will enable EPA and partners to more effectively manage and protect existing wetlands and hopefully restore some of those that have been lost.

EPA is also launching the National Wetland Condition Assessment Campus Research Challenge to encourage graduate students to identify and use the data to address one or more key and innovative questions and hypotheses on water quality, wetland health, or wetland ecology. The research may examine relationships nationally, eco-regionally, or for other subpopulations of interest. The challenge closes January 2017 and the winners will be announced March 17, 2017.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative Fined $1 Million for Clean Water Act Violations

The EPA and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently announced a $6 million agreement with the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative to resolve Clean Water Act violations at its processing facility near Renville, Minnesota. The company manufactures refined sugar, liquid sugar, and other products from sugar beets. The Renville facility produces over 475,000 tons of sugar, 100,000 tons of dried and pelleted pulp and 10,000 tons of molasses from some 3 million tons of sugar beets.

“This agreement will prevent the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated wastewater to Beaver Creek and reduce pollution to the Mississippi River,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan. “EPA and MPCA will continue working with the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative to ensure full compliance with the law and to improve water quality.”

In 2013, SMBSC’s Renville facility discharged more than 28 million gallons of untreated wastewater, exceeding MPCA discharge limits and causing a fish kill in Beaver Creek. The consent decree requires SMBSC to pay a $1 million civil penalty and provide injunctive relief estimated to cost $5 million. The company must model the volume of its wastewater ponds, carry out contingency plans to address forecasted violations and audit its wastewater piping systems.

SMBSC is also required to remove drain lines from its spray irrigation fields, use automatic cutoff valves to help prevent further untreated wastewater discharges, and adequately maintain required monitoring records.

City of San Gabriel to Pay Penalty, Upgrade Sanitary Sewer System for Discharging Raw Sewage into Local Waterways

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) has entered into a settlement agreement with the city of San Gabriel over alleged violations of the Statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements for Sanitary Sewer Systems, and alleged discharges of untreated (raw) sewage and other pollutants into the Los Angeles River, the Pacific Ocean, and other water bodies in the region.

For the alleged discharges of untreated sewage to waters of the United States, San Gabriel is liable for a civil penalty of $67,106, and must make substantial upgrades to its sanitary sewer system, which is more than 75 years old in some areas.

The Regional Water Board alleged that on at least 12 different occasions, from May 2011 to July 2014, San Gabriel released pollutants and untreated sewage that reached storm drains that lead to the Los Angeles River, Alhambra and Rubio washes, the Pacific Ocean, and groundwater within Los Angeles County. Untreated sewage can contain pathogens harmful to public health, such as E. coli, salmonella, parasites, viruses, and rotavirus. Discharges of untreated sewage to water bodies can also impact aquatic life and result in closed beaches.

“Older sewer systems in our region, such as San Gabriel’s, pose a serious threat to public health and the environment, as they are susceptible to sewage spills,” said Samuel Unger, Regional Water Board Executive Officer. “Actions like we have taken against San Gabriel will help the city upgrade and better monitor its system, and reduce the amount of spills, which in turn will protect the community and surrounding waterways.”

As part of the settlement agreement, the City of San Gabriel will pay $26,866 of the civil penalty to the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account. The remaining $40,240 of the civil penalty will be suspended if the City follows through on several projects to upgrade and monitor the City’s sanitary sewer system. Those projects include initial and ongoing video analysis of the sewer system to identify areas where repair and upgrading is needed, increase pipe capacity and upgrade aging infrastructure, inspect the sewer system for hot spots every 90 days and do maintenance/repairs as necessary, supply quarterly progress reports to the Regional Water Board, and other requirements.

MLC Worcester LLC Fined $51,937.50 for Asbestos Violations

The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed MLC Worcester, LLC, a $51,937.50 penalty for violations of asbestos regulations that occurred during renovation of a multi-family residence it owns at 43 Illinois Street in Worcester. Under the terms of the settlement, MLC Worcester will pay a $10,000 penalty with the balance suspended provided it has no further violations for one year.

In January 2014, MassDEP inspectors responding to a complaint observed dry, friable asbestos-containing pipe insulation uncontained on the basement floor and in a pile of renovation debris on the ground outside. MassDEP was not notified prior to the asbestos removal work as required by the regulations.

MassDEP required MLC Worcester to retain a licensed asbestos contractor to clean up and decontaminate all affected parts of the property and properly package, label and dispose of the asbestos-contaminated waste.

MassDEP regulations require asbestos-containing materials to be removed wet and sealed while wet into leak-tight containers with warning labels. During asbestos abatement the work area must be sealed off and air filtration equipment operated. These requirements are designed to prevent a release of asbestos fibers to the environment, to protect building occupants and the general public from exposure to asbestos fibers, and to preclude other parts of the building from becoming contaminated. Notification is required to MassDEP 10 working days prior to commencing asbestos removal work so that MassDEP has the opportunity to conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the regulations.

"Prior to commencing renovation activity, contractors must identify asbestos-containing materials so they can be removed and handled in accordance with the regulations," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following required work practices protects workers, as well as the general public. Failure to do so will result in penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs."

Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP Regional Office.

Benevento Asphalt Penalized $59,515, Required to Implement Changes to Reduce Nuisance Emissions

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized Benevento Asphalt Corporation $59,515 for violations of the air quality plan at its Salem Street facility in Wilmington. Benevento is also required to implement best management practices to reduce fugitive emissions of nuisance dust and road dirt from exiting truck traffic.

"Asphalt plants must make compliance with air quality operating standards an essential part of business operations, to be protective of the environment and the health and safety of workers and facility neighbors," said Eric Worrall, director of MassDEP's Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.

Under its prior air quality plan approval, Benevento conducted air emissions compliance testing in August 2013, but could not demonstrate that it met the emission limits for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO). Benevento was also unable to ascertain the particulate matter emissions at that time.

After failing to demonstrate compliance with its plan approval, Benevento unilaterally modified its operations in 2014 by installing a flue-gas re-circulating system and modified its rotary drum, without the required pre-construction review and approval by MassDEP. While Benevento's modifications were subsequently shown to have reduced NOx and CO emissions to acceptable levels, they represent unapproved modifications, which is a violation.

To resolve the violations, the consent order with MassDEP requires Benevento to:

  • Obtain an air quality plan approval for the modifications and pay twice the applicable permit fee of $2,370
  • Demonstrate compliance with its particulate matter limits, including any alterations of operating procedures to mitigate dust and fugitive emissions from entering and exiting truck and vehicular traffic
  • Pay $25,500 of the penalty within 30 days - with the remaining $34,015 suspended, provided Benevento does not violate any of the provisions of the order

$65,000 Fine for Dumping Food Byproduct, Contaminating Creek

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the guilty plea of Russell Gerow related to the illegal discharge of waste whey into New York State waters without a permit. Gerow pleaded guilty yesterday before the Honorable Marianne Furfure in Steuben County Court to illegally making a point source discharge system in violation of the Environmental Conservation Law, a Class E felony.

“New York’s waters are amongst our greatest resources, and we must vigilantly protect them,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This plea sends the message, loud and clear, that my office will not tolerate illegal acts which endanger our natural resources.”

Gerow, 65, of Hartsville, New York, is the owner and operator of Skyline Farms, LLC, a waste removal business. Gerow admitted to creating an outlet for the discharge of industrial waste on his property on Purdy Creek Road without a permit.

According to the Attorney General’s felony complaint filed against Gerow, between May 2013 and September 2013, Gerow was hired by an Arkport cottage cheese manufacturer to haul away waste whey, a byproduct of the cheese production, and to lawfully dispose of the whey. However, instead of lawfully disposing of the waste, Gerow allegedly illegally dumped it into his property using the discharge system he created. Testing by chemists from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) revealed high levels of ammonia and phosphorus downstream from Gerow’s property but not upstream, demonstrating that the illegal discharge contaminated the waters of Purdy Creek.

“This is yet another example of polluters putting profit over the health of our environment,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Used correctly, this whey should have been returned to soil as a beneficial nutrient or transported to a waste water treatment facility for proper disposal. Instead, this defendant made the conscious decision to illegally dispose of the waste in a stream behind his property, degrading water quality with an excessive nutrient load. I applaud our DEC Encon Police Investigators and program staff along with the Attorney General’s office who brought this case to a successful conclusion.”

In August 2013, the DEC’s Division of Water received a complaint that Purdy Creek in the Town of Hartsville, Steuben County, was showing signs of distress. As a result, the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement commenced an investigation into the matter, in conjunction with uniform members and the DEC’s Division of Water and Operations. The DEC’s investigation, including a search warrant, revealed algae growth and contamination in Purdy Creek originating from Mr. Gerow’s Farm at 1520 Purdy Creek Road. DEC’s investigation revealed that Gerow had been illegally discharging whey at his farm and other locations, including a creek behind his property.

As part of his plea, Gerow paid a $65,000 fine to the DEC and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. Additionally, Gerow signed a Consent Order with the DEC requiring him to provide the DEC with access to the site on Purdy Creek Road and records of Skyline Farms, LLC.

Excavator Fined $20,000 for Violating Water Quality Regulations

A Leavenworth, Washington excavator has been fined $20,000 for violating water quality regulations when he constructed a bulkhead along the Wenatchee River without an approved plan, or federal, state, and local permits.

The work was conducted by Hillside Excavating owner Terry Drexler along two waterfront parcels in the Ponderosa Estates Community. Washington state departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources, along with Chelan County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, inspected the properties in response to a citizen complaint in June 2015.

Ecology cited Drexler for using heavy earthmoving equipment along the Wenatchee River without approval, altering the stream bank, removing vegetation and disturbing soil, which can cause unstable slopes and dirty water.

Some 90 feet of shoreline was replaced by hardscape boulders, destroying diverse and complex vegetation that protects aquatic habitat. Straightened and smoothed stream banks cause flows to increase in velocity and can lead to flooding and damage to downstream properties.

Property owners who hired Drexler agreed to obtain necessary permits and hire an engineer to take action to minimize erosion this winter until a long-term solution can be designed.

The bulkhead wall must be removed and the shoreline stabilized, using large logs, native plants and strategically placed rock to restore the habitat lost, in consultation with professional biologists, engineers and permitting agencies.

Hillside Excavating has 30 days to pay the penalty or may file an appeal with the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

No Asthma Attacks in May, You Can Help

Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening chronic respiratory disease that affects the quality of life for almost 24 million Americans, including an estimated 6 million children. While asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled. The EPA has many resources to help educate kids, families, teachers, and healthcare providers on the environmental factors that can affect asthma, and how to avoid triggering attacks.

EPA’s “No Asthma Attacks” educational program features public service announcements, videos, websites and other education resources available for free. Included in these materials are ready-to-air radio segments in the Native American languages of Navajo, Lakota, and Anishinaabe.

EPA also partners with other federal agencies and national organizations to help raise awareness of asthma and the importance of managing common environmental asthma triggers. Partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Asthma Community Network, and the American Lung Institute. By working together, EPA and its partners encourage integration of outreach and education on environmental asthma triggers.

May is Asthma Awareness Month, but you can take action year-round to control environmental triggers and improve the quality of life for those living with this disease. For more information on asthma education and attack prevention, click here.

EPA Celebrates 20 Years of Healthier Air Along U.S.–Mexico Border

Recently, the EPA and the Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (SEMARNAT), the city of El Paso, Dona Ana County and the Ciudad Juarez celebrated the 20th anniversary of the binational Joint Advisory Committee (JAC). The committee was established to improve air quality in the Paso Del Norte Air Basin, along the U.S.–Mexico Border.

“This group continues to be a model for binational cooperation in our border communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Area residents should be proud of local leaders for their commitment to bringing healthier air to their children and families.”

The JAC is the first binational committee to partner citizens with government entities, by prioritizing and promoting strategies on both sides of the border to improve the environment and public health. Through the years, the committee has implemented a training program to inspect vehicles in Juarez—helping to reduce pollution from vehicles. The committee has also developed a network of ambient air quality monitoring stations with historic data that date back to 1990.

On May 7, 1996, the United States and Mexico signed an unprecedented agreement that defined the binational Paso del Norte air basin and created the JAC. The JAC includes business leaders, air quality experts, academicians, environmentalists, and public health officials working together to solve air pollution problems in the region and develop a comprehensive framework to manage a binational airshed and improve air quality.

Environmental News Links

Arizona DEQ Launches New Program to Remove Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) Free of Charge

Michigan DEQ Releases 2015 State of the Great Lakes Report

EPA Methane Leak Rules Take Aim at Climate Change

Air Pollution Rising at an 'Alarming Rate' in World's Cities

SUNY Buffalo Leads Universities on Using Renewable Energy

22 Years Later, Interface Still Leads Corporate World, Uses 96% Renewable Energy

Forecast Sees Largest Growth for Renewable Energy Sources

Detroit-Area Moms Hold Protest Against Hazardous Waste Dumping

Wrong-Way Driver Crashes Into Truck Carrying Hazardous Material on I-5

Information About Hazardous Materials Passing Along Railways Not Released to Public

DOT Site Security Plans – Potential Application to Pipelines as Offerors

States Regret RCRA Cuts, Explore Vision of Program

Commercial Fire Releases Hazardous Materials in Cedar Hill, Missouri

Turner Calls for Tougher Oversight of Hazmat Facilities

First-Alarm Fire at Warehouse Facility Containing Hazardous Materials in Phoenix

Chemical Breakdown

Trivia Question of the Week

Turning on the air conditioner in a car with a conventional gasoline engine reduces the fuel economy by how much?

a) 10%

b) 20%

c) 30%

d) 40%

Answer