EPA is proposing to ban certain uses of the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) due to health risks when used as a degreaser and a spot removal agent in dry cleaning.
“For the first time in a generation, we are able to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose risks to public health and the environment,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Once finalized, today's action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents. I am confident that the new authority Congress has given us is exactly what we need to finally address these important issues.”
EPA identified serious risks to workers and consumers associated with TCE uses in a 2014 assessment that concluded that the chemical can cause a range of adverse health effects, including cancer, development and neurotoxicological effects, and toxicity to the liver.
EPA is proposing to prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for use in aerosol degreasing and for use in spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities. EPA is also proposing to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors to notify retailers and others in their supply chains of the prohibitions.
EPA’s assessment also found risks associated with TCE use in vapor degreasing, and the agency is developing a separate proposed regulatory action to address those risks. Last week, EPA announced the inclusion of TCE on the list of the first ten chemicals to be evaluated for risk under TSCA. That action will allow EPA will evaluate the other remaining uses of the chemical. This action only proposes to ban certain uses of the chemical.
Comments on the proposed rule must be received 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.
Once published, the proposed rule and supporting documents will be available in the Federal Register docket at: https://www.regulations.gov/ by searching for HQ-OPPT-2016-0163.
Cleveland RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cleveland, OH, on January 3–5 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Raleigh Area RCRA, DOT, IATA, and SARA Training
Environmental Tip of the Week readers can save $100 by attending both Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cary, NC, on January 9–11. And, if you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on January 12. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 13. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Anaheim RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Anaheim, CA, on January 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Subsurface Intrusion Added to the Superfund Hazard Ranking System
The EPA recently finalized a proposal to expand the hazards that qualify sites for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).
EPA assesses sites using the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which quantifies negative impacts to air, groundwater, surface water and soil. Sites receiving HRS scores above a specific threshold can be proposed for placement on the NPL.
Subsurface intrusion is the migration of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants from contaminated groundwater or soil into an overlying building. Subsurface intrusion can result in people being exposed to harmful levels of hazardous substances, which can raise the lifetime risk of cancer or chronic disease.
This regulatory change does not affect the status of sites currently on or proposed to be added to the NPL. This modification only augments criteria for applying the HRS to sites being evaluated in the future.
EPA targets sites on the NPL for further investigation and possible remediation through the Superfund program. Only sites added to the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term cleanup leading to a permanent remedy.
Important DOT Advisory on Protecting Pipelines
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Security Administration (PHMSA) issued an Advisory Bulletin in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to remind all pipeline owners and operators of the importance of safeguarding and securing their pipeline facilities and monitoring their Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems for abnormal operations and/or indications of unauthorized access or interference with safe pipeline operations. Additionally, this Advisory Bulletin is to remind the public of the dangers associated with tampering with pipeline system facilities.
This Advisory Bulletin follows recent incidents in the United States that highlight threats to oil and gas infrastructure. On October 11, 2016, several unauthorized persons accessed and interfered with pipeline operations in four states, creating the potential for serious infrastructure damage and significant economic and environmental harm, as well as endangering public safety. While the incidents did not result in any damage or injuries, the potential impacts emphasize the need for increased awareness and vigilance.
Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products
EPA published a final rule in the December 12 Federal Register to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The purpose of TSCA Title VI is to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, which will reduce exposures to formaldehyde and result in benefits from avoided adverse health effects. This final rule includes formaldehyde emission standards applicable to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard, and finished goods containing these products, that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured (including imported) in the United States. This final rule includes provisions relating to, among other things, laminated products, products made with no-added formaldehyde resins or ultra low-emitting formaldehyde resins, testing requirements, product labeling, chain of custody documentation and other recordkeeping requirements, enforcement, import certification, and product inventory sell-through provisions, including a product stockpiling prohibition. This final rule also establishes a third-party certification program for hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard and includes procedures for the accreditation of third-party certifiers and general requirements for accreditation bodies and third-party certifiers.
This final rule will become effective on February 10, 2017.
Ohio EPA Wants Your Comments on New Universal Wastes
Ohio EPA is proposing to add three new waste streams to the existing Universal Waste rules and would like your input on the rule revisions. The purpose of designating a hazardous waste as a universal waste is to promote the proper handling, recycling, or disposal of the hazardous waste by streamlining the regulations that apply to the waste.
The wastes proposed to be included via the revisions are hazardous:
- Non-empty aerosol containers
- Paint and paint-related wastes
Links to more information regarding the proposed rule changes are provided below:
EPA’s National Lakes Assessment Finds Nutrient Pollution is Widespread in Lakes
The EPA has released the results of a national assessment showing that nutrient pollution is widespread in the nation’s lakes, with 4 in 10 lakes suffering from too much nitrogen and phosphorus.
Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms, lower oxygen levels, degraded habitat for fish and other life, and lower water quality for recreation. The National Lakes Assessment also found an algal toxin—microcystin—in 39% of lakes but below levels of concern. Low concentrations of the herbicide atrazine were found in 30% of lakes.
“America’s lakes and reservoirs provide many environmental and public health benefits; we use lakes for drinking water, energy, food and recreation, and our fish, birds, and wildlife depend on lakes for habitat,” said Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA. “The National Lakes Assessment provides us with valuable information to help protect and restore our lakes across the country.”
The assessment is part of a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys designed to provide information about the condition of water resources in the U.S. The surveys are conducted in partnership with states and tribes to provide national-scale assessments of the nation’s waters.
An earlier National Lakes Assessment was conducted in 2007, but this latest study is expanded to include smaller lakes and increase the number of lakes assessed. Lake managers can use the new interactive dashboard to evaluate site-specific information and to explore population-level results. Conducted on a five-year basis, future lake surveys will help water resource managers assess broad-scale differences in the data and perform trends analysis.
Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread and costly environmental and public health challenges. EPA is working on many fronts to reduce the severity, extent, and impacts of nutrient pollution in our nation’s lakes and other waters. These efforts involve overseeing regulatory programs, conducting outreach and engaging partners, providing technical and programmatic support to states, financing nutrient reduction activities, and conducting research and development. In September, EPA called upon states and stakeholders to intensify their efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in collaboration with EPA.
EPA Highlights Importance of Updated Standards to Protect the Health of Puerto Rican Farmworkers
EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck and Carmen Guerrero P?rez, the Director of the EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, met with farmworkers, health specialists, rural extension officers, members of the agricultural sector, and professors and students from the University of Puerto Rico in Utuado at a meeting on Tuesday, November 29, to discuss stronger protections for farmworkers and pesticide handlers required by the recently updated Worker Protection Standard. EPA released new federal regulations in September 2015, which will go into effect in January 2017.
“There are approximately 30,000 farmworkers in Puerto Rico, and every farmworker deserves a safe and healthy work environment,” said Carmen Guerrero P?rez, the Director of the EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division. “EPA is committed to making sure farmworkers, farmworkers families, and pesticide applicators are not exposed to toxic pesticides.”
EPA's Worker Protection Standard rule provides stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and pesticide handlers working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. The updated EPA regulation strengthens requirements for training, notification, pesticide safety and hazard communication, as well as the use of personal protective equipment and the availability of supplies for routine washing and emergency decontamination. This new standard will protect the health of Puerto Rican farmworkers and the rest of the nation’s two million farmworkers, reminding everyone that we can have a vibrant agricultural economy and healthy farmworkers. The revisions announced in September 2015 were the first changes made to the rule in 24 years.
Agriculture is an almost $550 million industry in Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth has over 13,000 farms on almost 570,000 acres. In addition to being profitable, these farms also need to make sure that the health of farmworkers is consistently protected. The Worker Protection Standard provisions will help ensure that farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure. Every farm will need to comply with the new standard. In Puerto Rico, this standard will be enforced by the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture, with technical support from the EPA.
For workers and handlers of pesticide products on farms, in forests and nurseries and greenhouses, EPA will require:
- The minimum age for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers has been established at 18 years of age—previously there was no minimum age.
- Annual mandatory training for farmworkers so they can be informed on how to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposures. Previously, trainings happened once every five years in Puerto Rico.
- Each farmworker must now be provided with at least one gallon of water at the beginning of each work period and handlers must get three gallons of water for decontamination. No quantities of water were specifically spelled out previously.
- Farmworkers will now be trained on safety before they go out into the field to work. Previously, farms had up to five days to offer the training.
- Improved communication and displaying of information related to the application of pesticides at farms.
- Employers must now provide respirator testing and training and medical evaluations that conform to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for any pesticide handler required to wear any respirator as specified by the pesticide labeling. Recordkeeping of completion of respirator testing, handler training and medical evaluations is now also required.
- Each farm must now provide a system capable of delivering 0.4 gallons of water for eye washing per minute for 15 minutes, or six gallons of water able to flow for 15 minutes if pesticide handlers use products requiring eye protection or use a pressurized closed system.
Additionally, EPA is making improvements to the training programs. By better protecting agricultural workers, EPA anticipates fewer pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members. Fewer incidents mean a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages and medical bills.
View the video to learn more about EPA’s revised worker protection standards:
Apple Agrees to Pay $450,000 to Settle Hazardous Waste Violations
A settlement agreement between the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Apple, Inc., was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by the California Attorney General’s Office on behalf of DTSC.
Apple has agreed to pay $450,000 to DTSC and to increase facility inspections to settle allegations of hazardous waste violations at facilities in Silicon Valley. The settlement stems from violations that DTSC found during a June 13, 2013 inspection of an Apple electronic waste shredding facility in Sunnyvale and a subsequent review of records. DTSC discovered that Apple had opened, operated, and then closed an electronic waste shredding facility from 2011 to 2012 in Cupertino without DTSC’s knowledge and without complying with universal waste regulations, including the mismanagement of metal dust from shredder operations.
Apple processed about 1.1 million lb of electronic waste at the Cupertino facility before closing it in January 2013, and shifting operations to a facility in Sunnyvale. In Sunnyvale, Apple dismantled, shredded, and disposed of more than 800,000 lb of electronic waste before notifying DTSC of the plant’s existence and complying with all universal waste regulations.
Universal waste, such as electronic devices, batteries and other discarded consumer products containing hazardous substances, are subject to California universal waste regulations. Since they are considered a type of hazardous waste, universal waste handlers who accept universal waste must notify DTSC and handle the waste according to management standards required by law.
The shredding process produces a fine dust that is collected by a baghouse and filter system. The dust is classified as a hazardous waste due to the concentration of metals. The shredded devices are shipped offsite for recycling and sold as scrap metal. Apple, however, shipped hazardous dust and floor sweep from Sunnyvale to a recycling facility in Roseville that was not authorized to handle Apple’s hazardous waste.
After the inspection, records review and dust sampling, DTSC alleged the following violations:
- Transportation of hazardous waste without a proper manifest
- Failing to report and track exports of hazardous waste
- Failing to label or otherwise mark used oil containers as “hazardous waste”
- Failing to provide notice of closure for the facility in Cupertino
- Failing to submit a written closure plan and cost estimate for closing the facility in Cupertino and for eventual closure of the one in Sunnyvale
- Failing to demonstrate financial assurance to fund the eventual closure of the two facilities
“Compliance with the hazardous waste law is fundamental in protecting the health of workers and communities as well as the environment,” said Keith Kihara, Chief of DTSC’s enforcement division. “We are encouraged by the settlement and that Apple is working with us to take the necessary steps to comply with California’s hazardous waste law.”
As part of the settlement, Apple has agreed to maintain a closure plan and financial insurance for the facility, conduct weekly inspections of areas where hazardous waste is generated and stored, and will ensure that electronic waste, including shredded electronic waste, is properly labeled and not put into containers with dust derived from its shredding operations.
EPA to Publish Criteria for Bath and Shower Diverters to Meet WaterSense Requirements
EPA released a Notice of Intent that describes the efficiency and performance criteria needed for bath and shower diverters to earn the WaterSense label, as well as the technical issues that need to be better defined and resolved before a draft specification is developed.
Bath and shower diverters are used to divert the flow of water either toward the bathtub spout or toward the showerhead. However, some diverters do not successfully stop all of the water flowing from the tub spout. Bath and shower diverters can also develop leaks over time that waste significant amounts of water and energy. In fact, old, leaky diverters can waste an average of 1,500 gallons and as much as 4,200 gallons of water per year.
City of Industry to Pay $5 Million for Unpermitted Dredging in the San Gabriel River at Follows Camp
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) and the City of Industry have reached a settlement agreement for $5 million related to allegations of unpermitted dredge and fill operations in the San Gabriel River at Follows Camp, a former campsite and RV park purchased by the city five years ago.
The settlement agreement resolves allegations in the initial Administrative Civil Liability Complaint that the city violated sections of the Clean Water Act and Water Code by grading in the Eastern Fork of the San Gabriel River and discharging dredge and fill material without a permit. This work went on for a period of five days from May 7, 2012, to May 11, 2012. The unpermitted grading of 2.38 acres of river bed resulted in the discharge of roughly 880,607 gallons of river cobbles and sediment into the San Gabriel River. The complaint was originally issued to the city on Oct. 27, 2015, for $5,758,791.
“Unpermitted grading in critical habitats, such as the ones found in the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, can be disastrous to the fish and wildlife in the area and is unacceptable,” said Regional Water Board Chair Irma Muñoz. “Because of the nature of these violations, it was important for the Board to approve an appropriate enforcement action that addressed the serious nature of these allegations so that they will not happen again in the future.”
Department of Fish and Wildlife and Regional Water Board staff allegedly observed evidence of grading on the banks and bed of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River near the Railroad Car Bridge and nearby Arizona crossing in Follows Camp.
This section of the San Gabriel River is located within the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, as designated by President Barack Obama in October 2014. The San Gabriel River is designated as a critical habitat for the federally-threatened Santa Ana sucker fish. Spawning typically occurs from mid-March to early June in shallow, coarse-bedded areas of streams and rivers, also known as riffles. The City of Industry’s alleged unauthorized activities took place during the typical spawning period for the Santa Ana sucker.
Grading the riverbed flattens the riffles and removes a combination of gravel and rubble boulders used by the fish as part of its spawning habitat. Sediment discharges can cloud the receiving water, clog fish gills, smother aquatic habitat and spawning areas, and impede navigation.
Under the settlement agreement for $5 million, the city will pay $2,500,000 to the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account. The remaining $2,500,000 will be suspended if the city completes a stormwater quality improvement Enhanced Compliance Action. The proposed project will collect runoff through a storm drain system and deliver it to a stormwater treatment facility for reuse as reclaimed water.
For more information on the settlement and the proposed stormwater project, see the agreement on the Regional Water Board’s enforcement webpage.
Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company Fined for Spilling Vinegar into White River
After spilling 10,000 gallons of vinegar into the White River last March, Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company, Inc., of Sumner has paid $2,000 and completed an environmental project to settle its penalty from the Department of Ecology.
For their environmental improvement project, the company increased lighting efficiency at their Sumner facility by two-thirds, reducing its annual electricity consumption by 10,525 kilowatt-hours per year.
Ecology issued the original penalty for $10,000 in May 2016. The company agreed to settle the penalty in August by paying $2,000 and making at least $8,000 in energy efficiency improvements to its Sumner facility. The improvements were completed in October.
Fleischmann’s also took immediate steps after the incident occurred to prevent future spills by removing a faulty valve and replacing bypass lines.
The low pH acidity of vinegar can harm aquatic insects, amphibians and fish in the White River.
This was the second time in recent years the company has been penalized for spilling vinegar into the river. The previous spill happened in 2014 and the company paid the $23,000 fine.
Could a Seawater Battery Help End Our Dependence on Lithium?
With the ubiquity of lithium-ion batteries in smartphones and other rechargeable devices, it’s hard to imagine replacing them. But the rising price of lithium has spurred a search for alternatives. One up-and-coming battery technology uses abundant, readily available seawater. Now, making this option viable is one step closer with a new report on a sodium-air, seawater battery. The study, "A Metal-Organic Framework Derived Porous Cobalt Manganese Oxide Bifunctional Electrocatalyst for Hybrid Na-Air/Seawater Batteries," appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Sodium-air—or sodium-oxygen—batteries are considered one of the most promising, and cost-effective alternatives to today’s lithium-ion standby. But some challenges remain before they can become a commercial reality. Soo Min Hwang, Youngsik Kim and colleagues have been tackling these challenges, using seawater as the catholyte—an electrolyte and cathode combined. In batteries, the electrolyte is the component that allows an electrical charge to flow between the cathode and anode. A constant flow of seawater into and out of the battery provides the sodium ions and water responsible for producing a charge. The reactions have been sluggish, however, so the researchers wanted to find a way to speed them up.
For their new battery, the team prepared a catalyst using porous cobalt manganese oxide nanoparticles. The pores create a large surface area for encouraging the electrochemical reactions needed to produce a charge. A hard carbon electrode served as the anode. The resulting battery performed efficiently over 100 cycles with an average discharge voltage of about 2.7 volts. This doesn’t yet measure up to a lithium-ion cell, which can reach 3.6 to 4.0 volts, but the advance is getting close to bridging the gap, the researchers say.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (Republic of Korea).
The U.S. Is Making Historic Clean Energy Gains
America’s transition to a clean energy economy is irrevocably underway and delivering deep pollution reductions, with coal use at record lows but renewable energy higher than ever, according to the Fourth Annual Energy Report released recently by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One sign of how far things have advanced: more than one-fifth of the U.S. population lives in a state with a goal of at least 50% renewable energy.
The new NRDC report notes: “The United States is changing fundamentally across the energy sector, accelerating away from fossil fuels into a clean energy future. The trend, obvious for more than a decade, is a combined product of state and federal policy harmonized with potent economic forces. Coal-fired generation dropped to historic lows this year, producing only one-third of our electricity, while renewable energy generation reached record highs, with more than one-eighth of America’s electricity generated from solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources.”
Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC Energy Program and report co-author, said: “The nationwide momentum for pollution-free energy is undeniable and irresistible because clean energy now costs less than dirty energy. However, strong local, state, and federal policies are necessary for the United States to remain competitive globally and ensure clean energy technology and employment surge to the highest possible levels here at home.”
Kala Viswanthan, co-author, added: “The past year in energy saw a number of victories for the environment, highlighted by a global climate agreement and a carbon pollution reduction plan for the United States. A clean energy revolution is underway, decarbonizing the electric grid through carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency gains, and renewable energy additions.”
The NRDC report, Accelerating into a Clean Energy Future, notes that the “United States helped achieve a successful agreement at the historic global climate negotiations in Paris at the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21). The accord included greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for 195 nations after 2020, with the goal of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change … For the United States, that means economy-wide cuts up to 28 percent below 2005 GHG emissions levels by 2025. As energy policy expert Michael Grunwald wrote shortly after the 2016 presidential election, ‘even if [the United States were] to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, the U.S. is on track to fulfill its pledges under that deal.’”
As the NRDC report shows, smarter energy use in our homes, buildings, and appliances reduces the need for dirty fuels and allows utilities to avoid building polluting power plants, lowering customer bills and emissions levels. The United States has also worked to reduce pollution from the transportation sector by improving vehicle efficiency through standards, advancing cleaner fuels, promoting electric vehicle use, and improving land use practices.
According to the report, oil consumption in 2015 was 12% below its 2005 peak. Primarily as a result of historically low coal use, energy efficiency gains, and soaring generation from solar and wind, 2015 marked a milestone in modern U.S. history: carbon dioxide emissions from electric generation dropped below those of the entire transportation sector for half of the year.
To continue the nation’s clean energy progress, the NRDC report urges the following:
- In both international and domestic policy, the federal government should remain an active partner in a clean energy transition driven increasingly by the recognition that clean energy is cheaper than dirty energy.
- States should strengthen renewable portfolio standards that require a specific amount of energy generation from emissions-free sources like wind and solar, and adopt strong energy efficiency policies for U.S. homes, buildings, and appliances and equipment.
- Utilities and their regulators should curb power plant emissions and prioritize renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- The transportation sector should incentivize electric vehicles and strengthen fuel economy standards to continue reducing U.S. reliance on oil.
- Clean energy companies and businesses should also lead the way, creating jobs for the sustainable energy economy.
Moore Oil Resolves Underground Storage Tank Violations
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced that Moore Oil, Inc., has agreed to resolve violations of the Montana Underground Storage Tank Act that occurred at Moore Oil, Inc. Keylock in Libby.
Moore failed to obtain a removal permit from DEQ before removal of underground storage tank lines. Moore also failed to conduct a site assessment after the removal and failed to have a licensed remover on site during the removal process. Shasta Steinweden of DEQ’s Enforcement Division explained that without the proper procedures during the removal of underground storage tank equipment, DEQ cannot ensure the safety of the removal and confirm if any product spill has occurred.
Moore has agreed to obtain a permit for the removal of underground storage tank lines and have the project overseen by a licensed remover. Moore also agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $335 to resolve the violations.
For questions concerning the Underground Storage Tank Program and laws, please contact DEQ’s Waste and Underground Storage Tank Bureau at (406) 444-5300 or visit DEQ’s website.
Rice Energy Subsidiaries Assessed Over $3.5 Million in Penalties for Well Pad and Pipeline Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) assessed civil penalties to Rice Energy subsidiaries for multiple violations of environmental laws at 10 well sites and 6 pipeline locations, with a total fine of over $3.5 million.
DEP and Rice Energy signed seven separate enforcement documents addressing the violations that occurred at sites in Washington and Greene Counties. The violations span several years and include failing to obtain required permits, failing to maintain erosion and sedimentation controls, releasing wastewater to the ground and waters of the Commonwealth, and failing to have a pre-operational inspection of a well site by DEP prior to drilling, among others.
“Minimizing the impacts that drilling activity has on Pennsylvania waterways is a key part of responsible development,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “While many of these violations have been corrected and remediated, they should have not happened in the first place. DEP will continue to hold responsible companies that act without permits and violate the rules and regulations of the Commonwealth.”
The fines include:
- $1,633,550 for leaks from an unpermitted wastewater impoundment and insufficient erosion and sediment controls, failure to stabilize the well site, and other violations at two well sites in Jackson and Center Townships, Greene County
- $1,314,275 for failure to obtain a permit before earthmoving activities, failure to obtain a pre-operational inspection prior to drilling, and multiple erosion and sediment control violations in Washington and Greene counties
- $437,100 for erosion and sediment control violations and a well casing violation at sites in Washington and Greene counties
- $97,852 for failing to obtain a permit for a culvert, illegally discharging into a waterway, and erosion and sediment control violations at sites in Washington and Greene counties
- $14,850 for slope failure and sediment discharge outside of the permitted limit of disturbance at sites in Greene County
- $11,750 for violations associated with the company’s failure to maintain erosion and sedimentation controls in Washington County
- $35,075 for well site stabilization, casing, and road construction violations in Greene County
Subsidiaries that are part of the enforcement actions are Rice Drilling B, LLC, Rice Poseidon Midstream, LLC, and Rice Midstream Holdings, LLC. Sites formerly owned by Alpha Shale Resources, LP, now owned and operated by Rice, are also included.
Rice Energy has paid all civil penalties imposed by DEP and has either corrected or is under an enforceable schedule to correct the violations at its sites.
NRG Dickerson Plant Found to be Source of Potomac River Sheen
The Unified Command, led by the EPA, has identified the NRG Dickerson Power Plant in Maryland as the source of the sheen that showed up on the Potomac River more than a week ago. U.S. Coast Guard laboratory analysis on December 5 of sheen samples taken from the River identified the product as lubricating oil matching samples taken at the Dickerson plant and at Whites Ferry. NRG officials have been notified and agreed to join the Unified Command as the responsible party. All Unified Command parties are working to remedy the problem and ensure protection of public health. The discharge, which has largely dissipated, was less than 150 gallons.
On Nov. 27, NRG notified and began working with EPA and other Unified Command agencies to identify the source. By December 2, the sheen had diminished considerably, with nominal sheen sighted in two locations—south of Whites Ferry and near NRG’s Dickerson power plant. On December 4, shoreline assessments completed by foot and then by boat from Whites Ferry up to the Dickerson Plant revealed degraded sheen in these same areas. There is no evidence of new sheen. Rather, it appears that degraded sheen from the original discharge which is lodged in small discreet spots south of the plant, releases due to changing weather and shoreline conditions.
Inspections at all locations where boom is in place to protect drinking water intakes confirmed that the boom continues to divert the degraded sheen away from intake locations. Inspection and maintenance of boom will continue, as will sampling at water intakes by the water utilities. EPA continues to support requests for analyses performed by the agency’s mobile lab on-site at the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant.
Based on information provided to EPA during daily conference calls with the water utilities, none of the intakes actively used by water utilities have revealed spill-related constituents. Treated water is also being sampled by water utilities to determine if spill-related constituents are present.
The Unified Command consists of EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Department of Environment, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health, Washington D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment, and NRG.
Top Ship Engineers Receive Prison Sentences for Pollution Crimes and Obstruction
Cassius Samson, 52, and Rustico Ignacio, 66, both of the Philippines, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard for the Eastern District of North Carolina to serve jail time for obstructing a U.S. Coast Guard inspection that took place in July 2015 aboard the cargo ship Ocean Hope at the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Samson was sentenced to a term of 12 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release and Ignacio to a term of nine months followed by a year of supervised release.
Ignacio was the chief engineer and Samson the second engineer of the Ocean Hope. In September 2016, both were convicted of conspiracy, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, by a federal jury in Greenville, North Carolina. The evidence showed that Ignacio and Samson attempted to cover up the dumping of tons of oil sludge and machinery space bilge water into the ocean before the ship arrived in the United States. In addition, defendant Samson committed perjury at trial.
“These crewmembers egregiously violated U.S. and international pollution laws, obstructed justice and spoiled the marine waters upon which our planet and its marine life depend,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case shows that polluting the ocean with oily waste and sludge will land you in jail, and that we will aggressively prosecute these serious crimes.”
“Our office was pleased to partner with the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in this significant case,” said U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “We will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws designed to prevent the pollution of the world’s oceans.”
Several lower-level engineering crewmembers testified at trial that Samson regularly ordered, with Ignacio’s knowledge and approval, the pumping of oily wastes into the ocean over a period of months. On at least two occasions, Samson ordered the connection of a bypass hose, or “magic pipe,” to pump tons of thick sludge directly overboard. Coast Guard inspectors and laboratory testing confirmed the presence of heavy oils in overboard discharge piping.
When the vessel arrived at the Port of Wilmington, the engineers ordered subordinates to lie to Coast Guard inspectors and to cover up evidence. Chief Engineer Ignacio presented inspectors with a doctored oil record book, in which false accountings of the ship’s production and disposal of oily wastes were recorded.
“The Coast Guard applauds the efforts of the Department of Justice and all parties involved in investigating this case,” said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Meredith Austin, commander, 5th Coast Guard District in Portsmouth, Virginia. “As an agency charged with the stewardship of the environment, we remain dedicated to detecting and preventing threats to the well-being of our nation's waters and marine resources.”
Also convicted at trial were Oceanic Illsabe Limited, the owner of the Ocean Hope, and Oceanfleet Shipping Limited, its managing operator. Both shipping companies are based out of Greece. Sentencing of the corporate defendants is scheduled for early January 2017.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and U.S. Coast Guard District Five. Civil Chief Norman Acker and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson for the Eastern District of North Carolina provided additional expertise and assistance with the pretrial phase of the case. The attorneys prosecuting the case were Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth Nelson and Trial Attorney Brendan Selby, of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Banu Rangarajan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
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Trivia Question of the Week
What percentage of the lead from spent lead-acid batteries is recycled?