EPA To Ban Chlorpyrifos

April 25, 2016

The EPA convened an independent Scientific Advisory Panel to review health-based limits for the dangerous and widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos. This decision comes after years of advocacy by farmworker, environmental health and conservation groups, urging EPA to ban chlorpyrifos because of the neurodevelopmental harm it causes to children.

“This is an important step in the right direction,” said Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice. “But it is only a step. Every month and every year, farmworkers and their families are exposed to illegal and dangerous levels of brain-damaging chlorpyrifos. EPA must protect farmworkers and their children—right away.”

“This is a long-awaited step by EPA to do what science and the law demand: outlaw chlorpyrifos to prevent further harms to children’s brains,” said Earthjustice Attorney Patti Goldman, on behalf of a coalition of groups. “It is time to stop the unconscionable brain damage to children, often rural and farmworker children. We applaud EPA for taking this step toward protecting children and farmworkers from this pesticide.”

“It is astonishing that harm to a generation of our children has been ignored and allowed,” said Erik Nicholson of United Farm Workers. “But we are encouraged that EPA is moving toward protecting the next generation, to make sure they don’t suffer the same brain damaging effects of chlorpyrifos that no child and no parent should ever have to fear. We all have a right to a fair chance at a healthy life—this announcement brings that vision a step closer to reality.”

Earthjustice and a broad coalition of partners have been fighting for years to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate (OP), a group of pesticides that cause acute pesticide poisonings when people come into contact with them. They suppress an enzyme that regulates nerve impulses through the body. When this enzyme—cholinesterase—is inhibited, people can experience a range of symptoms from nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness to seizures, paralysis, and even death in some instances. Not only do these pesticides put our nation’s farmworkers at risk of pesticide poisonings, but they also contaminate food and drinking water and expose children and other bystanders to toxic drift.

After years of persistent advocacy, EPA acknowledged the extensive scientific evidence documenting damage to children’s developing brains, including such alarming deficits as reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention disorders. EPA also found that these brain impacts occurred at far lower doses than EPA’s regulatory limit set to prevent acute pesticide poisonings. We strongly criticized EPA for continuing to use acute pesticide poisoning as its regulatory endpoint in the face of brain damage occurring at far lower doses. EPA has now developed an exposure limit based on the levels of chlorpyrifos in pregnant women associated with a 2% loss in working memory in their children.

Pregnant women are currently exposed to 1.5 to 300-plus times this limit from food, and formula-fed infants experience 200 to nearly 1,000 times this limit. EPA has submitted this analysis to its Scientific Advisory Panel for peer review, which will be conducted on April 19-21, 2016. Farmworker Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Pesticide Action Network, United Farm Workers, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste are submitting comments supporting EPA’s assessment and urging EPA to act quickly to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

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

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

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

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

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St. Louis, MO, on May 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Orlando RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Orlando, FL, on May 17–19 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Hilton Head RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC, on May 24–26 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Independent Regulatory Review Commission Approves Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Regulations

The Independent Regulatory Review Council (IRRC) has approved revisions to Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drilling regulations, continuing on the process that modernizes and strengthens the “Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites” (Chapters 78 and 78A) rulemaking. The regulations amend the environmental controls employed by both the conventional and unconventional industries to assure the protection of public health, safety, and the environment.

“I am pleased that IRRC moved these important regulatory updates closer to the finish line. The Chapter 78 and 78A regulations have been written with an unprecedented amount of public participation, including from the conventional and unconventional drilling industries,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Quigley. “This final regulatory package will improve protection of water resources, add public resources considerations, protect public health and safety, address landowner concerns, enhance transparency, and improve data management.”

Among the changes to the current regulations:

  • Improved protections of public resources: Operators must provide notice if drilling would be near school property and playgrounds, parks, forests, and other public resources.
  • Strengthened water supply restoration standards: If oil and gas development degrades a water supply, the operator must restore or replace the supply with one that meets Safe Drinking Water Act standards or is as good as pre-drilling conditions if the water supply was better than the Drinking Water Act standards.
  • Electronic filing: In order to more efficiently track well development and operations, and to provide better public access to drilling data, operators will be required to submit electronic forms rather than paper.

“These changes are the result of tens of thousands of comments from industry and Pennsylvania residents, and our experience with the industry. They represent a balanced and incremental approach,” said Quigley.

The regulatory package will now be reviewed by the Legislature. After that, the regulations will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office before being published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

New Online System Launched to Help Californians Report Environmental Problems

The California Environmental Protection Agency launched an online tool that makes it easier for the public to report environmental problems anywhere in the state from their smartphones, tablets, and computers.

“Community involvement is critical to our mission to protect public health and the environment,” said Secretary for Environmental Protection Matthew Rodriquez. “This new reporting system empowers the public to take action when they suspect a problem, and provides them with greater responsiveness, transparency and accountability.”

The new website takes the user through the process of reporting an environmental problem, whether it’s related to air or water pollution, hazardous or solid waste, or pesticides. The system can identify the user’s location using GPS and allows them to upload photo, video, and other documentation of the suspected hazard. The website is available in English and Spanish.

When a report is submitted, it is routed to the appropriate state or local agencies. CalEPA, along with its boards and departments, works with more than 400 state and local agencies to enforce environmental laws and regulations. If users provide an email address, they will receive an update when their complaint is referred and again when the complaint is closed. Users can also file anonymous reports.

The new website serves as an early warning system, alerting enforcement agencies of potential environmental violations, and providing witness accounts and documentation for investigations. This helps CalEPA and our partners at the local level address and resolve issues earlier, before they become bigger problems.

CalEPA will continue to update the new system and is working closely with IVAN Online, a network of local environmental reporting systems that serves more than half a dozen low-income communities across the state, to coordinate the functions of the two systems.

Luis Olmedo, director of Comite Civico Del Valle and founder of the IVAN Network, said: "I applaud CalEPA for following through on its commitment to modernize its reporting system. The crowdsourcing technology is easy to use, and it will be compatible with existing reporting networks like IVAN, which makes it a powerful tool for environmental justice communities to use."

The new CalEPA system supports state and local environmental enforcement efforts by providing a statewide tool that can ensure environmental reports reach the proper authority, regardless of the location or the type of pollution. It also assists communities and agencies that may not have the resources to build their own online systems.

View the new CalEPA environmental reporting system.

EPA Publishes 21st Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The EPA released its 21st annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (GHG Inventory), recently, which presents a national-level overview of annual GHG emissions since 1990. The inventory shows a nine percent drop in emissions since 2005, and a one percent increase in GHG emissions in 2014 from 2013 levels.

Total U.S. GHG emissions were 6,108 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2014. By sector, power plants were the largest source of emissions, accounting for 30% of total U.S. GHG pollution. The transportation sector was the second largest source, at 26%. Industry and manufacturing was the third largest source, at 21%. As noted in the draft inventory released in February 2016, a one percent increase in total national GHG emissions between 2013 and 2014 was driven by increased fuel use—in the residential and commercial sectors, largely due to increased demand for heat that winter, and in the transportation sector.

GHGs are the primary driver of climate change. We are already seeing impacts of climate change in the United States, including warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. These impacts threaten Americans’ health by affecting food safety as well as water and air quality.

Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking important steps to cut GHG emissions from a wide range of sectors, including cutting pollution from U.S. power plants; reducing GHGs and increasing fuel efficiency for cars and heavy-duty trucks; reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry through regulatory and voluntary efforts, including the newly launched Methane Challenge program, and regulatory development for both existing and new sources; prohibiting the use of certain HFCs for specific end uses in favor of safer, more climate-friendly alternatives; and increasing energy efficiency through the Energy Star program.

National GHG emissions are going down over the long term, but minor variability year-to-year is to be expected. Over the last decade, there has been tremendous momentum in the energy sector toward low-carbon solutions. Today, the U.S. is generating three times as much wind power, and 30 times as much solar power, as when President Obama took office. The cost of renewable energy is getting cheaper, and growth in the U.S. energy efficiency sector is creating thousands of new jobs and opportunities.

EPA develops the GHG Inventory annually, revising its estimates with new, improved data when available. This year’s inventory incorporates significant new emissions data, from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program and other sources. Data on oil and gas show that methane emissions from the sector are higher than previously estimated. The oil and gas sector is the largest emitting-sector for methane and accounts for a third of total U.S. methane emissions.

The agency prepares the GHG Inventory annually in collaboration with other federal agencies, and submits the report to the Secretariat of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change every year on April 15. The inventory covers seven key GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. In addition to tracking U.S. GHG emissions, the inventory also calculates carbon dioxide that is removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon in forests and other vegetation.

View and sort the data in EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data Explorer.

Ohio EPA Revises Air Permit Rules

The Ohio EPA has adopted amended rules contained in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3745-31, "Permits-to-Install New Sources and Permit-to-Install and Operate Program". This rulemaking includes amendments to OAC rules 3745-31-01, 3745-31-03, 3745-31-05, 3745-31-06, 3745-31-11, 3745-31-13, 3745-31-14, and 3745-31-33. 

The purpose of this rule making was to make changes identified in conjunction with a review to satisfy the requirements of Ohio revised Code (ORC) 106.03 and 106.031(five-year review) in response to comments received during Ohio EPA's early stakeholder outreach comment period, and interested parties draft comment period. DAPC is also making minor fixes to update LSC formatting and agency consistency issues. Pursuant to Section 121.39 of the Ohio Revised Code, Ohio EPA was required to consult with interested parties affected by the rules before the division formally adopts them.

On November 13, 2014, these rules and the draft business impact analysis document went out for a 30-day review by interested parties. The rules were also released for a 30-day proposal comment period ending January 7, 2016, and a public hearing was held on January 7, 2016. The Director's order of adoption was issued on April 21, 2016

The effective date of the adoption is May 1, 2016.

The new rules are available on Ohio EPA's web page at: http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/regs/3745_31.aspx. To obtain further information, contact Paul Braun, Ohio EPA, Division of Air Pollution Control, Lazarus Government Center, PO Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049 or call Paul Braun at 614-644-3684.

Micom is Cited for Hazardous Waste Violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has cited Micom Corporation, a circuit board manufacturing company in New Brighton, for violations of hazardous waste rules. The company has agreed to make corrections and pay a $27,425 civil penalty.

Violations included failing to properly train staff on the handling and management of hazardous waste, discharging hazardous waste to a wastewater facility, failing to immediately and thoroughly clean up hazardous waste floor spills, and failing to safely store various hazardous wastes and used oil-related wastes.

The improper management and storage of hazardous wastes can increase potential risk of toxic pollutants being released into the air, land or water, posing a threat to human health and the environment.

To resolve the violations, Micom has agreed to develop and implement a hazardous waste training program that adequately trains staff in the proper handling and management of hazardous waste, to immediately recover any future hazardous waste spills, and to properly store hazardous waste.

The agreement with Micom, known as a Stipulation Agreement, is one of the tools the MPCA uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the agency takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

EPA Files Complaint Against Tesoro Refinery for Chemical Accident Prevention Violations

EPA has filed a complaint against the Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company (Tesoro) petroleum refinery in Anacortes, Washington, for alleged violations of federal chemical accident prevention and emergency planning rules. The violations were discovered during two EPA facility inspections in 2011. According to Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Seattle, refineries have a special obligation to their workforce and local community to do everything possible to maintain impeccable operational safety.

“There’s no room for error when you’re processing this volume and mix of chemicals,” said Kowalski. “Petroleum refiners and their workers must understand and carefully follow regulations designed to protect people, our communities and our environment from potentially catastrophic accidents.”

Tesoro Corporation operates six refineries in five western states and Alaska with a combined capacity of 875,000 barrels per day. Tesoro’s Anacortes refinery has a total crude-oil capacity of 120,000 barrels per day. The refinery primarily supplies gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel to markets in Washington and Oregon, and manufactures heavy fuel oils, liquefied petroleum gas, and asphalt. There are 350 employees working onsite.

Eight separate processes at Tesoro’s Anacortes facility are covered under EPA’s Risk Management Program—part of the Clean Air Act—which focuses on training, operational maintenance, and safety planning. The individual alleged violations appear in EPA’s complaint. The complaint carries a proposed $718,361 penalty.

Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act requires all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle greater than a threshold amount of a regulated substance(s) to develop a “Risk Management Program” and submit Risk Management Plans.

Tesoro’s Anacortes facility handles thousands of pounds of chemicals, such as isobutane, pentane, and hydrogen every day. The refining process combines these chemicals into a flammable mix that can cause catastrophic harm to workers, the environment, and surrounding communities if Risk Management Planning requirements aren’t closely followed.

Specific items required by the Risk Management Program include: development of an emergency response or action plan, hazard evaluation of a “worst case” and “more probable case” chemical release, operator training, review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances, and operating procedures and equipment maintenance.

Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency to Pay $298,958 in Penalties for Sewage Spill

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) has reached a settlement agreement with the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency over the spillage of 220,000 gallons of raw sewage into Monterey Bay. As part of the agreement, the control agency will pay a penalty of $298,958.

On May 18, 2015, an unauthorized discharge of untreated domestic wastewater occurred at the control agency’s Fountain Avenue Pump Station located at the intersection of 15th Street and Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove. The spill took place during a station repair project and continued for approximately six-and-a-half hours. The discharge caused approximately 220,000 gallons of untreated domestic wastewater to enter Monterey Bay—part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—and the Pacific Ocean.

“The Water Board and local entities like the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency work hard to prevent these types of spills. However, when a spill like this occurs, the Water Board must investigate and consider penalties pursuant to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Enforcement Policy,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Wolff, chairman of the Regional Water Board. “We take these violations and the threat to human health and the environment seriously, and we will not hesitate to take significant enforcement action when necessary in the future.”

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is responsible for protecting and restoring water quality in the 300-mile-long coastal region from southern San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to the northern part of Ventura County. To learn more about the Regional Water Board, see its website.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Sued for Sewage Spills over Ten Million Gallons

A wastewater treatment plant operator has been sued after allegedly failing to properly maintain and operate the Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts’s wastewater treatment plant and collection system, resulting in the discharge of over ten million gallons of raw sewage late last year and earlier this year, Attorney General Maura Healey announced recently.

The complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court against Veolia Water North America-Northeast, LLC, (Veolia) and related companies, also alleges that the operator previously discharged untreated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor resulting in the closure of shellfish beds.

“It is critically important that wastewater treatment facilities, like the one operated by Veolia in Plymouth, are adequately maintained and properly operated,” said AG Healey. “This is a case involving repeated, serious violations of state laws that threatened public health and our invaluable water resources.”

Veolia, a global provider of wastewater treatment services, operates Plymouth’s treatment plant and collection system, pursuant to a contract with the town.

The complaint alleges Veolia failed to operate and maintain the wastewater treatment system properly, resulting in discharges during December 2015 and January 2016 of over ten million gallons of raw, untreated sewage to wooded lands and other locations around Plymouth, including a tract of land owned by the state.

In addition to the raw sewage spills, the complaint alleges that Veolia has at various times since October 2012, discharged improperly treated or untreated wastewater to Plymouth Harbor from the treatment facility. These alleged unlawful discharges resulted in the forced temporary closure of commercial and noncommercial shellfish beds in Plymouth Harbor, including parts of Kingston Bay and Duxbury Bay, due to high fecal coliform levels and the risks posed to human health by eating shellfish from sewage-contaminated waters. Those closures were temporary, and all of those beds have been authorized to be reopened. The complaint also alleges that the facility was inadequately staffed.

“Proper staffing, operation and maintenance of this wastewater system is critical to support the hard work and years of investment that Plymouth and surrounding communities have made to improve the water quality and the public’s use and enjoyment of the Plymouth Harbor and Kingston and Duxbury Bay areas,” said Beth Card, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s deputy commissioner for policy and planning.

The Town of Plymouth is authorized to discharge treated wastewater pursuant to the terms of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit issued by MassDEP and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint also names the Town, the owner of the wastewater treatment plant, as a defendant.

Washington Farm Fined $20,000 for Polluting Creek

A berry farm in Whatcom County faces a $20,000 fine for allowing water contaminated with manure to discharge into local waterways that flow to British Columbia.

Sarbanand Farms, LLC, which operates a farm at 4625 Rock Road in Sumas, applied manure solids as a mulch on fields of newly planted blueberry shrubs that were not yet producing berries. Applying manure in late fall without appropriate best management practices has a high risk of causing polluted runoff.

Last week, the Washington Department of Ecology issued a penalty notice for two separate discharges that occurred on November 17 and December 9, 2015. Samples taken of the runoff contained high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria, which ultimately flowed into Saar Creek, a tributary of the Sumas River. The samples showed fecal coliform amounts up to 175 times greater than the acceptable level. Water polluted with manure can contain pathogens that can make people sick.

The company received a $4,000 penalty for a similar discharge from the same field in fall 2013.

“Manure can be a valuable fertilizer, soil amendment or mulch when properly managed—but timing is everything,” said Doug Allen, manager of Ecology’s office in Bellingham. “Applying manure in the fall, at the start of our rainy season, is always risky.”

Cliff Woolley, representing Sarbanand Farms, commented, “Unfortunately, runoff was caused by heavy rains that flooded our fields. We are working with the Department of Ecology to develop a plan to avoid future problems.”

Ecology is part of a community-wide effort to reduce fecal coliform bacteria in Whatcom County waterways.

“Fecal coliform pollution is not just an agriculture issue, it’s a community issue,” said Allen. “Cities, pet owners, berry growers, dairies, residents in Whatcom County, and in Canada—we all need to work together to achieve clean, safe water. Everybody has a role.”

The company has 30 days to pay the penalty or may file an appeal with the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

LHP LLC Fined $8,840 for Lead Violations

EPA Region 7 has reached a settlement in a civil enforcement action against LHP, LLC, for alleged violations of the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule in connection with renovation work done at one of its rental houses in Lincoln, Nebraska. As part of the settlement, the company will pay an $8,840 civil penalty to the United States.

LHP, LLC, owns and rents numerous housing units in Lincoln. The RRP Rule is intended to reduce lead exposure from toxic lead dust and debris that can be generated during renovations and repairs of houses built prior to 1978. Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children.

During a November 2012 RRP work practices inspection, EPA found that the company was conducting a renovation and violated several RRP work practices at one of its rental houses at 800 A Street in Lincoln. The inspection found the company failed to post warning signs, failed to close all doors and windows within 20 feet of the renovation, failed to ensure doors used in the work area were covered with plastic or other impermeable material, failed to cover the ground with plastic or other impermeable material to collect dust and debris, and failed to contain waste from the renovation to prevent the release of dust and debris before the waste was removed from the work area. The inspection noted paint chips and debris littering the site, extending onto the public sidewalk and beyond.

In 2009, EPA issued a notice of noncompliance to LHP, LLC, for failure to disclose to its renters a required lead warning statement, failure to disclose the presence of lead-based paint hazards, and failure to disclose available records or reports pertaining to lead-based paint hazards. In 2008, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice of violation to LHP, LLC, for engaging in a lead abatement project without a valid certificate after being notified of elevated blood levels of lead for a child residing at one of the company's properties.

Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. The most common way that children become exposed to lead is by breathing or swallowing dust or chips of lead-based paint, which is often found in and around housing or child-care facilities built prior to 1978, when lead-based residential paints were banned in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 4 million households in the U.S. have children living in them at risk of exposure to toxic lead. More than half a million U.S. children ages 5 and younger have blood lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter, the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.

Lead poisoning can adversely affect nearly every system of the body, but particularly the central nervous system, especially for unborn and young children whose bodies are just beginning to develop and grow. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. However, lead poisoning is easily diagnosed with simple testing, and in most cases, it can be treated.

MPCA Recognizes Wastewater Plant Operators for Excellence

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently recognized 288 Minnesota wastewater treatment facilities for maintaining a perfect record of permit compliance during 2015.

MPCA Assistant Commissioner Rebecca Flood had high praise for the award recipients. “Wastewater operators are at the front lines of keeping our water clean. We ask a lot of them, and time and again, they’ve met our expectations. These men and women do good work, and it shows.”

To be eligible for this recognition, facilities were required to submit all monitoring reports to the MPCA correctly and on time, demonstrate consistent compliance through monitoring or surveys and employ staff certified by the MPCA in wastewater operations.

The awards were presented at the 79th annual Wastewater Operations Conference in Brooklyn Park. The annual conference brings together wastewater operators from Minnesota for training and professional education. In Minnesota, there are about 1,500 municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities. Community, institution, or treatment plant size was not a factor in awarding the certificates.

A complete list of winners is available on the agency's Waterwater page. Pictures of awardees who picked up their awards in person are available on the MPCA's Flickr page.

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Trivia Question of the Week

Which of the following takes the longest time to break down?

a) Plastic six-pack holder

b) Hard plastic container

c) Disposable diaper

d) Newspaper