EPA recently released “Coming Together for Clean Water: EPA’s Strategy to Protect America’s Waters.” This strategy charts a path for meeting the nation’s clean water strategic plan goals over the next several years. Protecting the nation’s water resources is not only important to the health of the nation’s citizens and the environment, but clean water is also a critical resource for the economy.
In April 2010 Administrator Jackson brought a broad range of stakeholders together for the Coming Together for Clean Water forum. The discussion at the forum focused on how to reinvigorate the nation’s clean water programs to achieve a significant leap forward in clean water protections.
The Coming Together for Clean Water strategy presents a framework for how EPA’s national water program will address the challenges and highlights EPA’s priorities for achieving clean water goals. This strategy focuses on the following key areas: ensuring transparency and effectively reporting on the status of the health of all waters; increasing protection of source waters and healthy watersheds; restoring degraded waters and ecosystems; reducing the amount of pollution entering our waters that impact our health and our economy; and tackling new and emerging threats to our waters in a way that will ensure healthier, more livable communities. This vision for EPA’s programs is important to consistent and collaborative efforts between EPA, state and tribal partners, local government partners, the private sector, and the public in order to achieve significant improvements our nation’s water quality. For additional information, see http://blog.epa.gov/waterforum/.
How to Prepare for OSHA Adoption of the GHS for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
Environmental Resource Center is offering a new live webcast to help you prepare for OSHA’s upcoming adoption of the globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. It is expected that in August, OSHA will announce U.S. employers must begin to adopt the GHS.
This means that virtually every chemical label, MSDS (soon to be called “safety data sheet”), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on SDSs.
Theses dramatic changes will also impact other OSHA standards such as Flammable and Combustible Liquids, Process Safety Management (PSM), Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), Fire Prevention and Protection, Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, and many of the chemical-specific OSHA standards such as the Lead Standard.
At this live webcast, you will learn:
- GHS standards OSHA is adopting
- How the new standards differ from current requirements
- How to implement the changes
- Expected timetable for GHS implementation
Click this link to register or for more information.
Environmental Resource Center is making a limited number of advertising positions available in the Environmental Tip of the Week™, the Safety Tip of the Week™, and the Reg of the Day™. If you have a product or service that would be of interest to over 25,000 weekly readers, contact Amy Knight at email@example.com or 919-469-1585 for details.
Greener Process for Key Ingredient for Everything from Paint to Diapers
Scientists are reporting discovery of an environmentally friendly way to make a key industrial material—used in products ranging from paints to diapers—from a renewable raw material without touching the traditional pricey and increasingly scarce petroleum-based starting material. Their report on a new catalyst for making acrylic acid appears in ACS Catalysis.
Weijie Ji, Chak-Tong Au, and colleagues note that acrylic acid is essential for making paints, adhesives, textiles, leather treatments, and hundreds of other products. Global demand for the colorless liquid totals about 4 million tons annually. Acrylic acid is typically made from propylene obtained from petroleum. With prices rising, manufacturers have been seeking alternative ways of making acrylic acid without buying propylene. One possibility involves making it from lactic acid. But current processes for using lactic acid are inefficient, less selective, and require higher temperatures and the accompanying high inputs of energy.
The scientists’ potential solution is a new catalyst that can convert lactic acid into acrylic acid more efficiently. Lactic acid is a classic renewable starting material, produced by bacteria growing in vats of biomass such as glucose and starch from plants. In laboratory studies, the scientists showed that the new catalyst can convert lactic acid to acrylic acid more selectively at lower temperatures. This could mean better use of lactic acid, lower fuel consumption, and less impact on the environment, the scientists suggest.
Biodegradable Plastics from Waste Chicken Feathers
In a scientific advance literally plucked from the waste heap, scientists described a key step toward using the billions of pounds of waste chicken feathers produced each year to make one of the more important kinds of plastic. The new method was described recently at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
“Others have tried to develop thermoplastics from feathers,” said Yiqi Yang, Ph.D., who reported on the research. “But none of them perform well when wet. Using this technique, we believe we’re the first to demonstrate that we can make chicken-feather-based thermoplastics stable in water while still maintaining strong mechanical properties.”
Thermoplastics are one of two major groups of plastics, and include nylon, polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and dozens of other kinds. They are used to make thousands of consumer and industrial products ranging from toothbrush bristles to soda pop bottles to car bumpers. Thermoplastics got that name because they need heat (or chemicals) to harden from a liquid into a final shape, and can be melted and remolded time and again. The other group, thermosetting plastics, harden once and can’t be remelted again.
Yang pointed out that both kinds of plastics are made mainly from ingredients obtained from oil or natural gas. Because of concerns about petroleum supplies, prices, and sustainability, dozens of scientific teams are working to find alternative ingredients. One major goal is to use agricultural waste and other renewable resources to make bioplastics that have an additional advantage of being biodegradable once discarded into the environment.
“We are trying to develop plastics from renewable resources to replace those derived from petroleum products,” said Yang, who is an authority on biomaterials and biofibers in the Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Utilizing current wastes as alternative sources for materials is one of the best approaches toward a more sustainable and more environmentally responsible society.”
Chicken feathers are an excellent prospect, Yang explained, because they are inexpensive and abundant. Few shoppers think about it, but every shrink-wrapped broiler in the supermarket cooler leaves behind a few ounces of feathers. Annually there are more than 3 billion pounds of waste chicken feathers in the United States alone. These feathers can be processed into a low-grade animal feed, but that adds little value to the feathers and may also cause diseases in the animals. All too often, they become a waste disposal/environmental pollution headache, incinerated or stored in landfills.
Yang explained that chicken feathers are made mainly of keratin, a tough protein also found in hair, hoofs, horns, and wool that can lend strength and durability to plastics. Yang added that the mechanical properties of feather films outperform other biobased products, such as modified starch or plant proteins.
To develop the new water-resistant thermoplastic, Yang and colleagues processed chicken feathers with chemicals, including methyl acrylate, a colorless liquid found in nail polish that undergoes polymerization—that’s the process used in producing plastics in which molecules link together one by one into huge chains. This process resulted in films of what Yang’s group terms “feather-g-poly(methyl acrylate)” plastic. It had excellent properties as a thermoplastic, was substantially stronger and more resistant to tearing than plastics made from soy protein or starch, and as a first among chicken-feather plastics had good resistance to water.
EPA Seeks Comment on Proposed Standards to Protect Aquatic Ecosystems
The EPA is proposing for public comment standards to protect billions of fish and other aquatic organisms drawn each year into cooling water systems at large power plants and factories. The proposal, based on Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, would establish a common sense framework, putting a premium on public input and flexibility.
“This proposal establishes a strong baseline level of protection and then allows additional safeguards for aquatic life to be developed through a rigorous site-specific analysis, an approach that ensures the most up to date technology available is being used. It puts implementation analysis in the hands of the permit writers, where requirements can be tailored to the particular facility,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “The public’s comments will be instrumental in shaping safeguards for aquatic life and to build a commonsense path forward. The input we receive will make certain that we end up with a flexible and effective rule to protect the health of our waters and ecosystems.”
Safeguards against impingement will be required for all facilities above a minimum size; closed-cycle cooling systems may also be required on a case by case basis when, based on thorough site-specific analysis by permitting authorities, such requirements are determined to be appropriate. EPA is proposing this regulation as a result of a settlement agreement with Riverkeeper, Inc., and other environmental groups.
Flexible Technology Standards:
Fish Impingement (being pinned against screens or other parts of a cooling water intake structure): Existing facilities that withdraw at least 25% of their water exclusively for cooling purposes and have a design intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day (MGD) would be required to reduce fish impingement under the proposed regulations. To ensure flexibility, the owner or operator of the facility will be able to choose one of two options for meeting best technology available requirements for reducing impingement. They may conduct monitoring to show the specified performance standards for impingement mortality of fish and shellfish have been met, or they may demonstrate to the permitting authority that the intake velocity meets the specified design criteria. EPA estimates that more than half of the facilities that could be impacted by this proposed rule already employ readily available technologies that are likely to put them into compliance with the proposed standard.
Fish Entrainment (being drawn into cooling water systems and affected by heat, chemicals or physical stress): EPA is proposing a site-specific determination to be made based on local concerns and on the unique circumstances of each facility.
This proposed rule establishes requirements for the facility owner to conduct comprehensive studies and develop other information as part of the permit application, and then establishes a public process, with opportunity for public input, by which the appropriate technology to reduce entrainment mortality would be implemented at each facility after considering site-specific factors.
Because new units can incorporate the most efficient, best-performing technology directly into the design stage of the project, thus lowering costs and avoiding constraints associated with technology that has already been locked in, the proposed rule would require closed-cycle cooling (cooling towers) for new units at existing facilities, as is already required for new facilities.
The public will be able to comment on the proposal upon its publication in the Federal Register. EPA will conduct a 90-day comment period, and will carefully consider those comments before taking final action on the proposal. The administrator must take final action by July 27, 2012.
Website Maps Water Violations
EPA has released on the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) web site a National Clean Water Act Trends Map designed to help the public compare water quality trends over the last two years. The National Clean Water Act Trends Map expands the 2008 Annual Noncompliance Report Map, adding maps for the 2009 Annual Noncompliance Report as well as the 2008 and 2009 CWA NPDES Majors Reports. The interactive website enables you to determine the number of violations in each state, the percentage of enforcement actions, and other useful data.
New York Announces New Program for Electronic Waste Recycling
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act went into effect on April 1st. The new law establishes the most comprehensive electronic waste, or e-waste, product stewardship program in the country. The law also establishes a statewide e-waste recycling goal and requires manufacturers to recycle their share of the statewide goal based on market share.
“This is a huge win for the environment and consumers, who will now be able to recycle electronic waste at no cost,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “Manufacturers of TV’s, computers, printers, copiers and other electronic products are stepping up to help New York meet our ambitious recycling goals and lower costs for local governments.”
The law requires manufacturers who sell electronic equipment covered by the law in New York to register with DEC and to establish a convenient program for the collection of electronic waste that would be free of charge to all consumers, schools, governments, businesses with fewer than 50 employees and not-for-profits with fewer than 75 employees. In addition, all registered manufacturers must create a public education program to inform consumers about how to return products covered under the law. Typical consumer electronics that are covered include televisions, computers, printers, keyboards, mouses, DVD/VCR/DVR players, video game consoles, and MP3 players.
Manufacturers are required to accept any electronic product they manufacture or an item of another manufacturer’s brand if offered to the consumer when purchasing the same type of electronic equipment. For example, if someone is buying a new computer that is a different brand than the one they currently own the manufacturer must accept the old computer.
“This new program will prevent millions of pounds of electronic waste from entering New York’s limited landfills,” said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee. “The rapid evolution of technology has meant these products seemingly become obsolete almost as soon as they are manufactured and because they contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium they can damage our food and water supplies.”
“As we move into spring cleaning, New Yorkers finally have a safer way to get rid of their old electronics,” said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This cutting-edge recycling program requires manufacturers to provide all consumers in the state with well-publicized and convenient options for getting rid of used electronics. As we start clearing our old appliances out of our apartments, closets and garages, we will look to manufacturers to make sure all New Yorkers know how to safely give them back for recycling.”
Under the new law, consumers include any individual, state agency, public corporation, public school, school district, private or parochial school, board of cooperative educational services or governmental entity located in New York State and businesses. Manufacturers may charge a fee for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees, not-for-profit corporations with more than 75 full time employees.
The law also establishes a ban on disposal of e-waste that is phased-in beginning April 1, 2011 for manufacturers, retailers, collection sites, and consolidation and recycling facilities. Beginning January 1, 2015, individuals and households will no longer be able to place or dispose of any electronic waste in a landfill or waste-to-energy facility, or place electronic waste for collection which is intended for disposal at such types of facilities.
Key benefits for consumers are:
- The manufacturer is required to provide details of their electronic waste take-back program on their website, including how they will take back their brand of products, locations where electronic waste can be dropped for and recycled for free, or how to ship back equipment to the manufacturer free of cost.
- When purchasing new covered electronic equipment, information on how the equipment can be recycled must be provided in the product manual or separately with the purchase.
- Also, with the new covered electronic equipment purchase, a manufacturer must accept a piece of electronic waste of ANY manufacturer’s brand if offered by the consumer with purchase of covered electronic equipment of the same type by a consumer.
For more information on The Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act including a specific list of which electronic devices are covered by the law, which manufacturers have collection plans in place, and links to their websites, please visit the DEC website.
Clean Water Act Sections 303(d), 305(b) and 314 Integrated Reporting and Listing Decisions
Recently, the EPA released the Clean Water Act Sections 303(d), 305 (b), and 314 integrated reporting memorandum for the 2012 reporting cycle. This memorandum provides clarification on existing policy and regulations, including recommendations and options for States as they develop their 2012 integrated water quality reports. Specifically, this memorandum focuses on: 1) Timeliness of State Integrated Report submissions and EPA approval; 2) Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load Tracking and Implementation System data clarifications; 3) Availability of recent EPA guidance on Ocean Acidification; and 4) EPA’s intent to work with States to develop future guidance on the interplay between antidegradation and the 303(d) program.
Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals Recommended for Trade Watch List
United Nations chemical experts have recommended that two pesticides—endosulfan and azinphos methyl—and one severely hazardous pesticide formulation—Gramoxone Super—be included in the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent procedure. Three industrial chemicals—perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), its salts and precursors; pentaBDE commercial mixtures; and octaBDE commercial mixtures—were also recommended for inclusion.
The Convention’s Chemical Review Committee based its recommendation on a review of national regulatory actions taken by Benin, Canada, European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and Norway to ban or restrict the use of chemicals that pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.
“For the first time since the Convention entered into force in 2004, the Committee has recommended adding a severely hazardous pesticide formulation to the Watch List, advancing our Parties’ efforts to ensure that countries’ rights to know and trade chemicals safely are respected,” said FAO’s Peter Kenmore, Co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention.
Gramoxone Super is an herbicide containing paraquat dichloride, which is used to control weeds in cotton, rice, and maize. Burkina Faso had proposed to include Gramoxone Super as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation (SHPF) into Annex III of the Convention due to the problems experienced caused by this pesticide formulation under conditions of use in its territory.
PentaBDE and octaBDE commercial mixtures are brominated flame retardants. Due to their toxicity and persistence, their industrial production is set to be eliminated under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
“The recommendation to include these three industrial chemicals marks an acceleration in the rate of submission of industrial chemicals to the CRC for review of these substances known to harm human health and the environment. This is, as a result, in part, through the cooperative exchange of information from our sister scientific review committee under the Stockholm Convention,” said Donald Cooper, Co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention.
The recommendations will be forwarded to the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention in June 2011. The Chemical Review Committee was the first meeting in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to be held completely paperless. A paperless meeting has the benefit of considerably reducing the carbon footprint of the meeting.
Jointly supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Rotterdam Convention prevents unwanted trade in the chemicals included in its legally binding prior informed consent (PIC) procedure.
The Rotterdam Convention does not introduce bans but fosters information exchange mechanisms to help improve decision making about the trade of hazardous chemicals. It enables member Governments to alert each other to potential dangers by exchanging information on chemicals and to take informed decisions with regard to whether they want to import such chemicals in the future.
The Convention makes the international trade in hazardous chemicals more transparent and less vulnerable to abuse through its export notification provisions and by encouraging harmonized labeling of chemicals. Exporting member Governments are responsible for ensuring that no exports leave their territory when an importing country has made the decision not to accept a PIC chemical.
In this way, the Rotterdam Convention helps member Governments to improve their national capacity for chemicals management, and to protect human health and the environment. It also encourages all stakeholders to identify and promote safer alternatives.
EPA to Hold Listening Session on Whether to Add Vapor Intrusion as a Criterion for Superfund Sites
EPA is hosting its fourth public listening session on whether to include vapor intrusion threats as a criterion for considering hazardous waste sites for the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. The session will also include a discussion of EPA’s efforts to develop final technical guidance for handling vapor intrusion. Superfund is the EPA program to investigate and clean up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country. Vapor intrusion is the movement of pollution in vapor form from contaminated groundwater or soil into air, which is of particular concern when the vapor seeps into homes. This type of contamination is not currently considered when ranking a site to see if it should be put on the list of Superfund sites.
The Agency is soliciting public input on considering vapor intrusion in this ranking process. The Agency will consider information gathered during the comment period, as well as input from its public listening sessions, before making a decision on whether to issue a proposed rulemaking to add vapor intrusion as a criterion to the system to rank sites for the Superfund program.
EPA is also seeking input as it completes the development of the “Final Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guidance.” EPA released its “Draft Guidance for Evaluating the Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air Pathway from Groundwater and Soils” in 2002. EPA is incorporating new information that the Agency has learned about vapor intrusion and plans to issue final guidance by November 30, 2012.
The listening session will be held April 7 at EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center. For additional information and to register, go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/hrsaddition.htm.
EPA Proposes to Grant Clean Air Act Petition to Improve Air Quality in New Jersey
EPA has proposed to grant a petition submitted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to limit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant that are adversely impacting air quality in four New Jersey counties. The proposed rule, when final, would require the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, Pa. to reduce its SO2 emissions by 81% over a three-year period. Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory difficulties. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to these effects.
Under the Clean Air Act, when a facility impacts air quality in another state, the affected state can petition EPA and request that the facility be required to reduce its impact. In a September 2010 petition, New Jersey asked EPA to find that the Portland power plant is impacting the state’s air quality and to require the facility to reduce its SO2 emissions. These emission reductions can be achieved using proven and widely available pollution control methods.
New Jersey conducted several air quality modeling analyses to evaluate SO2 levels in the state. These analyses show that the level of SO2 in the air is exceeding the agency’s 1-hour national air quality standard and that the Portland plant is the main source of emissions. EPA also conducted its own modeling analyses and found the same results.
Typically a mix of sources from multiple locations is responsible for air quality issues in a specific area. However, in this case, the extensive analysis shows a clear connection between the emissions from the Portland plant alone and the elevated level of SO2 in New Jersey.
EPA will accept comment on this proposal until May 27, 2011. The agency is also holding public hearing on this proposed rule on April 27, 2011 in Oxford, New Jersey. The hearing will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to submit written or oral comments in person. A written record of the hearing will be compiled and submitted to the docket. Any questions posed at the hearing will be replied to in a response to comment summary issued with EPA’s final response to the petition.
New Jersey DEP Launches Coastal E-Permitting
The New Jersey DEP has launched a new program that will allow property owners to apply on-line for certain coastal permits, Commissioner Bob Martin announced recently.
While the DEP for years has utilized on-line permit application systems for its air, water and underground storage tank cleanup programs, the new on-line coastal general permit program is the first of its kind for the DEP’s Land Use Regulation Program. Property owners or their contractors will be able to apply on-line for permits and within minutes get decisions on projects to replace bulkheads with identically sized bulkheads or to replace docks in man-made lagoons.
“This new e-permitting program is an important step toward our continuing goal of transforming the DEP into a more customer-friendly and easier-to-navigate agency,” said Commissioner Martin. “By applying on-line, residents will be able to save a great deal of time and money over sending paper applications to the DEP. This is just our first foray into on-line applications for the Land Use Program, a program that, perhaps more than any other at the DEP, has the most direct impact on the average person.”
The public can now apply on-line for two types of general permits in coastal areas—a GP-14 for in-kind bulkhead replacements and a GP-19 for dock replacements in artificially constructed lagoons. Applicants are required to answer a short list of questions and certify their responses as truthful and accurate. A computer program will then provide an automated approval or rejection based on the answers to this application.
“By their nature, these types of permits have minimal environmental impact but can tie up DEP resources that could be better used elsewhere,” said Marilyn Lennon, Assistant Commissioner of the Land Use Regulation Program. “Applicants must still meet our environmental and construction standards, and our enforcement program will follow up with inspections to ensure the regulations are followed. But nothing is really changing, other than the process is becoming much quicker.
“Under the old system, applicants for these permits may have waited up to three months for a decision. Now they will be able to save time, money and aggravation—and we will be able to focus our resources on much bigger issues such as wetlands protection, proposals for extensive bulkheads projects, or proposals to expand docks or marinas in our bays,” Assistant Commissioner Lennon said.
Later this year, the Land Use Regulation Program expects to implement a system to allow applicants to submit wetlands delineations, or Letters of Interpretation, through an on-line system.
Users may access the e-permitting system at http://njdeponline.com. Follow the registration process and create an account. When setting up your profile, select Land Use Permitting. Instructions are available at this web site, or you may call the Land Use hot line at 609-777-0454 and select option 3 for Waterfront Development permits.
$48,700 Fine for SPCC Violations
EPA has fined Martin Operating Partnership, LP, of Beaumont, Texas, $48,700 for violating federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations outlined under the Clean Water Act. A federal inspection of oil storage and distribution terminals located at 10 Sulphur Plant Road and 1 Gulf States Road, in Beaumont, Texas, revealed the facilities’ SPCC plans did not conform to federal requirements, failed to describe procedures for the management of drainage from diked storage areas, and did not describe whether buried piping is present at the facilities, and if so, whether the piping is corrosion protected.
The inspection also revealed the terminals failed to construct all bulk storage tank installations to provide a secondary means of containment for the entire capacity of the largest single container plus sufficient freeboard for precipitation. The SPCC plans also failed to describe secondary containment at the truck and rail loading/unloading areas and did not address security components regarding master drain and flow valves and starter controls on pumps.
SPCC regulations require onshore oil storage and distribution terminals to provide spill prevention, preparedness and response to prevent discharges. The SPCC programs help protect our nation’s water supply. A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water.
California Legislature Approves Ambitious Renewable Energy Program
The California Assembly approved on a bipartisan vote of 55 to 19 one of the most ambitious renewable energy programs in the world, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of labor, consumers, utilities and conservation organizations who supported the bill. The Renewable Portfolio Standard, or Senate Bill 1X 2, would codify increasing the share of renewable energy supplied by California electricity providers to 33% by 2020.
The California Senate also approved the RPS bill with a bipartisan vote of 26 to 11 in February, and the State Assembly vote sends the bill to Governor Jerry Brown who has an ambitious clean energy agenda is expected to sign the legislation in the coming days. The new law will spur billions of dollars of investment in clean energy and infrastructure projects that help create jobs and diversify California’s energy supply in a state where clean-tech is already the fastest growing sector of the economy.
Fiber-Fab Fined for Failing to Report On-site Chemical Use and Releases
Fiber-Fab, a company that manufactures shower stalls and bath tubs, will pay a $17,000 penalty for failing to report the use and releases of styrene at its facility in 2008, according to an order issued by the EPA. The company is located in Gervais, Oregon.
“Companies that use industrial chemicals don’t operate in a vacuum—they have a responsibility to nearby neighborhoods and citizens to run safe, transparent operations,” said Kelly Huynh, manager of the Inspection and Enforcement Management Unit at EPA. “That includes reporting the chemicals they use and release at their facilities.”
An EPA inspector identified the reporting lapse during an inspection in June 2010. Under the federal Toxics Release Inventory Program, companies that use toxic chemicals are required to report annually about releases, transfers of toxic chemicals and waste management activities at their facilities. Fiber-Fab processed more than 25,000 pounds of styrene at its facility in 2008 without notifying federal regulators.
Styrene is a chemical widely used to make plastics and rubber. It is a respiratory hazard that can affect the nervous system.
The Toxics Release Inventory Program falls under the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act, which aims to inform communities and citizens of chemical hazards in their areas.
Cenex Harvest States, Inc. Cited for Risk Management Violations
Minnesota-based Cenex Harvest States (CHS), Inc., has agreed to settle a series of alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its facilities in Garretson, South Dakota for $35,200. This includes a $15,500 civil penalty and $19,700 which will be used to conduct several agricultural ammonia safety workshops in multiple states including North and South Dakota. These workshops will include information on how the EPA Risk Management Program requirements apply to agricultural ammonia facilities and how these facilities can meet these requirements. CHS will also remove large tanks of ammonia (a toxic substance) from the Garretson city center.
EPA conducted a compliance inspection at the CHS facility in April of 2010 to assess compliance with federal risk management program regulations. The settlement requires CHS to implement improved maintenance and internal auditing of equipment used to store and process hazardous chemicals, as well as improves how the facility addresses correcting identified hazards. The settlement also requires CHS to ensure removing the ammonia from the city center will not adversely affect availability of ammonia for local customers.
Under the Clean Air Act, operations such as CHS must develop a risk management program and submit a risk management plan to assist with emergency preparedness, chemical release prevention, and minimization of releases that occur. EPA Inspectors found that the facility had not adequately implemented those regulations.
“Companies using chemicals and substances which pose a potential danger to their employees and the public are responsible for having a robust risk management program in place,” said Mike Gaydosh, director of EPA’s enforcement program in Denver. “Failure to do so places the environment, employees, and the nearby community at risk. CHS has been cooperative and has agreed to take corrective action and provide workshops to educate others about the dangers of ammonia to the community.”
CHS, which has operations in several states, is subject to the risk management regulations because it handles and stores large quantities of ammonia, classified as “extremely hazardous” by EPA. Exposure to ammonia can result in burns to the skin, eyes, and lungs; exposure at higher concentrations has resulted in fatalities. Failure to establish adequate programs and keep plans updated can increase the risk of accidents and reduce preparedness for emergencies.
Empire Cold Storage Fined $67,000 for Failure to Report Ammonia Release
Empire Cold Storage, a Spokane, Washington cold storage warehouse and packaged ice producer, will pay the EPA $67,142 for its failure to report an estimated 400 pounds of anhydrous ammonia release at their Spokane facility.
On July 14, 2007, the Empire facility released approximately 400 pounds of ammonia into the environment at its facility located at 1327 N. Oak Street in Spokane, according to the EPA settlement. Empire uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia at the facility as a refrigerant.
“When toxic gases like ammonia get released, prompt reporting can save lives,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “These cases are about protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.”
The leak occurred when a failed pressure gauge caused a release of anhydrous ammonia that lasted up to three hours. EPA alleges that Empire then failed to immediately notify local and state agencies about the release. While no injuries were reported at the time of the accident, ammonia is a pungent, toxic gas that attacks skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and can cause serious injury and death.
The ammonia release and the failure to notify appropriate agencies are violations of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
EPA Issues Order on Asbestos Cleanup at the Arsenal Business Center in Philadelphia
EPA issued an administrative compliance order on March 31, 2011 to the owner (Arsenal Associates) and the property management company (Hankin Management, Inc.), of the Arsenal Business Center (formerly known as the Frankford Arsenal), located at 2275 Bridge Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
EPA’s order, which becomes effective on April 6, 2011, addresses alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations of demolition and renovation activities involving buildings with asbestos-containing materials. The alleged violations were discovered during a series of inspections at the facility conducted by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health Air Management Services (AMS) and EPA between September 2010 and March 2011.
Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant that was once heavily used in insulation and other building materials. Prolonged exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause cancer and asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease. Removing asbestos-containing materials during demolition requires strict adherence to removal procedures outlined in the Clean Air Act in order to avoid public health risks.
The order alleges that Hankin and Arsenal violated the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations by failing to provide adequate notice to EPA of demolition/renovation projects involving asbestos; failing to adequately wet all regulated asbestos containing material which had been removed or stripped from the site and to ensure that all of these materials remained adequately wet until collected and contained in preparation for proper disposal; and failing to properly dispose of asbestos-containing waste material as soon as practical.
EPA’s order requires Arsenal Associates and Hankin Management to take several measures to address the alleged regulatory violations at the Arsenal Business Center and to protect public health. Future demolition and redevelopment activities at the site must be in compliance with EPA’s order.
Clean Air Act regulations require that regulated asbestos-containing materials (i.e., materials containing more than 1% asbestos) that may release asbestos fibers during demolition or renovation must be adequately wetted during removal, and carefully handled to prevent emission of asbestos fibers. These materials must remain adequately wetted, until securely bagged or otherwise treated to minimize asbestos emissions prior to disposal.
EPA’s Order is designed to reduce the risk of asbestos emissions from this Site. EPA and AMS will continue to evaluate measures to further reduce this risk, and to protect the public from potential exposure to asbestos fibers from demolition or renovation activities at this Site.
AMS has been fully cooperative in EPA’s efforts to identify asbestos NESHAP issues at the Arsenal Business Center. Since September 2010, Philadelphia AMS has conducted repeated inspections and issued Notices of Violation to the owner and operator of the Site for violations of asbestos NESHAP regulations. Similarly, EPA has conducted independent inspections on three separate occasions and taken samples from various buildings on the Site. Sampling results from the EPA and AMS inspections indicated the presence of asbestos containing material at or above regulated levels in debris that was allegedly not removed in accordance with local and federal regulations.
Cesyl Mills Fined Almost $13,000 for Air Pollution Control Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $12,937.50 penalty to Cesyl Mills, Inc., for violating MassDEP’s Air Pollution Control regulations. Cesyl Mills operates a synthetic and wool pile fabric manufacturing facility in Millbury, Massachusetts.
During a May 2010 response to complaints of visual emissions and odors emanating from the company’s facility, MassDEP personnel confirmed the conditions, and determined those to be in violation of the company’s MassDEP-issued Air Quality Plan Approval.
In the recently finalized consent order, Cesyl Mills agreed to comply with its plan approval, and to pay the $12,937.50 penalty.
“MassDEP will continue to monitor recent actions taken to ensure that the company attains compliance,” said Lee Dillard Adams, deputy director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.
NTB Fined $3,500 Penalty for Hazardous Waste Management Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $3,500 penalty to NTW, LLC, a Delaware company doing business in Massachusetts as National Tire and Battery (NTB), for Hazardous Waste Management violations which occurred at the company’s NTB store in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
The violations were discovered through MassDEP’s electronic manifest review of waste oil shipments made by the company, and a 2008 inspection of the company’s 287 Grafton Street facility by Environmental Strike Force personnel in response to a complaint. Several violations persisted during MassDEP follow-up inspections in 2009 and 2010.
MassDEP personnel determined that the company was generating waste oil in excess of its registered status. The company also had not properly labeled a waste oil tank and containers, or adhered to waste oil management standards associated with the waste oil accumulation area, or kept copies of all hazardous waste manifests documenting waste oil shipments. They also failed to post emergency coordinator information at the facility.
Under the terms of the recently completed consent order, the company will comply with all applicable regulations, and pay the $3,500 penalty.
“Companies that have chain stores in Massachusetts’ communities must keep track of how their stores are doing with regard to environmental compliance, and adhere to those environmental regulations,” said Lee Dillard Adams, deputy director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “In this case, the company cooperated fully and has now come back into compliance.”
Harvard University Recognizes Refrigerants, Naturally! With Prestigious Award
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced Refrigerants, Naturally! as the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Roy Family Environmental Award. The award will be presented to the recipients at a Harvard Kennedy School event on May 4, 2011.
The partnership was selected from a group of highly qualified projects from around the world. Reviewers praised Refrigerants, Naturally!’s impact on an important and often overlooked problem—persistent fluorinated gases (so called F-gases such as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs) in the atmosphere—and held it up as a pragmatic and effective example of corporations and environmental organizations working together to reduce severe threats to the global environment.
Refrigerants, Naturally! brings together four high-profile private companies—The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Unilever, and PepsiCo—which are committed to combat climate change and ozone layer depletion by eliminating F-gases and substituting them with natural refrigerants (e.g. ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons). Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) have been supporters of this partnership from the beginning, by providing advice, information and linkages to their own activities.
F-gases are highly potent greenhouse gases that are used in most refrigeration and cooling technologies. Recent scientific studies indicate their increasing piece of the global warming pie – up to 9% – 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Refrigerants, Naturally! aims to skip over their deployment in developing countries as the next billion people get their refrigeration and cooling. This will prove to be a major wedge in preventing further global warming.
“Refrigerants, Naturally! demonstrates that meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are possible if business and NGOs are creative and are prepared to work together”, said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in announcing the 2011 award winner.
Since 2004, Refrigerants, Naturally! has focused its efforts on overcoming barriers to the use of natural refrigerants including worldwide availability, maintenance, technical challenges and regulation. The companies have come a long way. They actively promote a shift in point-of-sale cooling technology toward safe, reliable, energy-efficient and cost-effective natural refrigerants with low or zero global warming potential and zero ozone depleting potential.
The initiative also provides a platform and a critical mass in communicating with the refrigeration technology supply chain, with other large companies using similar refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, governments and civil society.
Refrigerants, Naturally! is taking action to combat global warming and climate change by replacing F-gases in refrigeration equipment with climate-friendly natural refrigerants and is successfully promoting the technology amongst other companies around the world.
“Refrigerants, Naturally! has played an important role in raising the profile of this important issue and demonstrating what can be achieved through shared vision and commitment”, said Thomas Lingard, Global External Affairs Director Unilever and Chair of Refrigerants, Naturally!
In 2010, Refrigerants, Naturally!’ has achieved one of its primary goals. The group’s leadership catalyzed the entire retailing and consumer goods sector to commit to change its cooling technologies starting in 2015. The Consumer Goods Forum, a CEO-led organization of 400 global consumer goods manufacturers and retailers with US$3 trillion of revenue, pledged to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants as of 2015 and replace them with natural refrigerants.
“Refrigerants, Naturally! strives to eliminate an entire class of dangerous greenhouses gases from a large industrial sector. As the group has now catalyzed a commitment to eliminate HFCs from the Consumer Goods Forum’s 400 companies, we have a real shot at the kind of fundamental transformation we need. For this reason, Greenpeace is honored to be working with these corporations on this issue”, said Amy Larkin, Director Greenpeace Solutions.
“Public-Private Partnerships such as Refrigerants, Naturally! are vital tools for implementing Agenda 21. UNEP is proud to continue helping inspire and guide this partnership of responsible private sector companies, which is contributing in a tangible way to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of environmental sustainability”, said Rajendra Shende, head of UNEP`s Ozone Action branch.
California Man Convicted of Conspiracy and Violating the Clean Air Act by Improperly Handling Asbestos
A Santa Clarita, California, resident was convicted of five environmental charges related to the improper renovation of a San Fernando Valley, California, apartment complex—work that caused asbestos to be released into the complex and the surrounding community.
Following a two-week trial in U.S. District Court, Charles Yi, 45, was found guilty of five felony offenses, including conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act.
The jury also convicted Yi of failing to notify the EPA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District about a renovation containing asbestos, failing to provide a properly trained person during a renovation containing asbestos, failing to properly remove asbestos and failing to properly dispose of asbestos wastes.
Mr. Yi faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 6, 2011, by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson. He was the owner of the now-defunct Millennium Pacific Icon Group, which owned the Forest Glen apartment complex, a 204-unit complex in Winnetka, California, that was being converted into condominiums in 2006. Knowing that asbestos was present in the ceilings of apartments in the Forest Glen complex, Yi and his co-conspirators hired a group of workers who were not trained or certified to conduct asbestos abatements. The workers scraped the ceilings of the apartments without knowing about the asbestos and without wearing any protective gear. The illegal scraping resulted in the repeated release of asbestos-containing material throughout the apartment complex and the surrounding area because Santa Ana winds were blowing during the time of the illegal work. After the illegal asbestos abatement was shut down by an inspector from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the asbestos was cleaned up at a cost of approximately $1.2 million.
“Mr. Yi knowingly violated federal laws that set standards for proper disposal of asbestos and placed the workers that he hired at an unacceptable risk of exposure,” said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “As this conviction shows, we will aggressively prosecute those who deliberately ignore the nation’s Clean Air Act.”
The Clean Air Act requires those who own or supervise the renovation of buildings that contain asbestos to adhere to certain established work practice standards. These standards were created to ensure the safe removal and disposal of the asbestos and the protection of workers.
“Exposure to asbestos can be fatal,” said Nick Torres, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “The defendant knew his operation produced waste material that contained asbestos and, despite being told by inspectors to stop removing it, the illegal asbestos removal continued. Today’s conviction by a jury shows that the American people will not tolerate those who put illegal financial gain ahead of their obligation to obey the law.”
Previously in this case, two co-conspirators pleaded guilty. John Bostick, 40, of Santa Clarita, California who was the vice president of Millennium Pacific Icon Group, pleaded guilty on February 23, 2011, to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act. Bostick, who faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Anderson on May 2, 2011.
On June 14, 2010, Joseph Yoon, 33, of Studio City, California who was the project manager on the Forest Glen conversion, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. Yoon, who is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Anderson on April 25, 2011, faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
The jury that convicted Yi on the five counts also acquitted Yi of one count of failing to inspect for asbestos prior to conducting an asbestos renovation.
City of Toppenish Fined Over $134,000 for Wastewater Discharges
The City of Toppenish will pay $134,500 for excess pollution discharges from its municipal sewage treatment facility in violation of its Clean Water Act permit, according to an agreement with the EPA The violations spanned more than two years from 2008-2010.
The facility treats domestic wastewater from residential and commercial sources. The violations took place on Yakama tribal land, but the facility is not tribally-owned. The facility discharges wastewater into the Toppenish Drain, which flows to the Yakima River.
The facility exceeded levels of ammonia, zinc, and copper allowed in its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit more than 1,800 times between 2008-2010. Ammonia constituted the majority of the violations. The facility worked to comply with its permit when it identified the unauthorized discharges, replaced faulty equipment and has since been in compliance.
“Pollutant discharge limits safeguard our waterways against environmental harm,” said Kimberly Ogle, NPDES Unit Manager at EPA’s Seattle office. “Facilities have a responsibility to stick to approved levels. The City of Toppenish worked hard to come into compliance, and since they reported these violations, their discharge record has improved.”
Ammonia occurs naturally and is also produced by human activity. Exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and serious burns on the skin and in the mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes. Ammonia and heavy metals like zinc and copper, even in small amounts, can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish.
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Trivia Question of the Week
French and British companies have found a way to recycle old refrigerators into:
b. New refrigerators
c. Wine bottles