August 19, 2019
EPA has designated 20 chemical substances as Low-Priority Substances
under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This proposal marks EPA’s meeting another major milestone under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century amendments to TSCA – which require EPA through a variety of transparent processes to prioritize existing chemical substances for high- or low-priority designations. A final designation of “low-priority” means that the risks associated with the chemical substances are low, and risk evaluation for that chemical substance is not warranted at this time.
“Today’s action demonstrates EPA’s diligence in meeting its obligations under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dunn. “The agency’s proposed designation of 20 Low-Priority Substances is part of a rigorous, transparent, and scientifically sound process to ensure that the chemical substances in American commerce do not pose unreasonable risks of injury to human health or the environment.”
To support a proposed priority designation, EPA considered reasonably available information for each chemical substance under its conditions of use as specified in TSCA section 6(b)(1).
For each chemical substance, EPA is making a docket available that contains the screening review and rationale for the proposed Low-Priority Substance designation. The dockets are available on www.regulations.gov
. A 90-day public comment period will start after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. During this period, the public may submit relevant information and comments on the proposed designations. EPA has also published the Approach Document for Screening Hazard Information for Low-Priority Substances Under TSCA
that describes the literature review process that will be used for each chemical’s hazard information.
EPA published a list of 40 chemical substances on March 20, 2019, that initiated the prioritization process to designate 20 chemical substances as “high-priority” for subsequent risk evaluation and 20 as “low-priority.” EPA will make the supporting information for the proposed high-priority substances available in the coming weeks and remains on track to finalize the designations for 20 high-priority chemical substances and 20 low-priority chemical substances by December 2019 – the TSCA deadline.
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Trucking Company to Pay $3 Million for Leaking Battery Waste
On June 10, 2019, a court sentenced Wiley Sanders Truck Lines Inc. (Wiley Sanders) to pay a $1.5 million fine plus make a $1.5 million community service payment to the Los Angeles County Environmental Response and Assessment Fund. The company also will complete a three- year term of probation after previously pleading guilty to violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. § 5124(a)).
This trucking company operates in 47 states. For several years, it transported recycled automotive battery cases from the EXIDE battery recycling and secondary lead smelting facility in Vernon, California, to a hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility in Bakersfield, California. The EXIDE facility annually received and recycled tens of thousands of lead acid automotive batteries shipped from all over the country. As part of the battery recycling process, the facility generated a variety of hazardous wastes including corrosive lead, cadmium, arsenic, antimony, zinc, and chromium.
On August 10, 2013, a Wiley Sanders truck transporting plastic battery chips entered a weigh station near Santa Clarita, California. Officials held the truck at the weigh station due to a faulty running light. A California Highway Patrol officer on duty there noticed that the semi-trailer was leaking liquid onto the ground. Samples taken from the liquid contained high levels of lead.
Investigation determined that Wiley Sanders illegally transported more than 40,000 pounds of lead-contaminated plastic battery chips on November 1, 2013, and March 13, 2014, and August 10, 2013. The trucks lacked lining to prevent the contents from escaping through cracks. The trucks transported wet loads, dripping lead and hazardous wastes on public roads, between Vernon and Bakersfield.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, the EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the California Department of Toxic Substances.
Oregon Drug Take-Back Bill Becomes Law August 14, 2019
Oregon joined five states with a new law that requires drug manufacturers to pay for and run a statewide drug take-back program. The law, signed by Governor Kate Brown and championed by Representative Sheri Schouten, will ensure that every community in Oregon has free, convenient access to safe drug disposal. The law takes effect in September 2019 and the program must be operational by July 1, 2021.
“Unused medications are a threat to our state’s health and environment. I’m so pleased Oregonians will now have a free, convenient, safe place to dispose of unwanted drugs,” said Representative Schouten, who sponsored the bill.
Unused medications can be dangerous, especially to children, the elderly, and pets. They can lead to drug abuse, misuse and accidental poisonings. Furthermore, they can’t simply be disposed down the drain or in the trash, because they leak into our waterways and harm wildlife. Now, Oregon residents will be able to take unused drugs back to a pharmacy for safe, environmentally responsible disposal. Prepaid mail-back envelopes will also be available.
With the leadership of Representative Schouten, a broad coalition including the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Association of Oregon Counties spearheaded the effort to remove unused drugs from circulation. DEQ’s Senior Legislative Analyst, Abby Boudouris, shepherded the bill through the State Legislature. “Passing the drug take-back law required a remarkable collaborative effort,” she said. “It’s thanks to the support of such a diverse coalition that the bill was able to pass.”
The coalition’s work built on the foundation laid by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a national nonprofit, which over the past 15 years has paved the way for the passage of drug take-back laws around the country. PSI led a national effort that changed the federal Controlled Substances Act and Drug Enforcement Administration regulations to allow convenient pharmacy collections. Currently, the organization coordinates state and local agencies around the country to share information and strategies, and supports drug take-back bills.
“This new law is a major victory for consumers. It is a critical strike against the prescription opioid crisis and will go a long way to protect our water quality,” said Scott Cassel, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of PSI. “It will remove a substantial financial and management burden from governments and taxpayers, placing the primary responsibility with the drug companies that put these products on the market and profit from them.”
Oregon is the sixth state to require manufacturers to fund and safely manage drug take-back, preceded by Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington, New York, and California.
Barriers to Illinois Climate Action Eliminated
Illinois Gov. Pritzker signed a bill that will undo restrictions limiting the state’s climate action. The Illinois Kyoto Protocol Act of 1998 defined the state’s response to the international treaty of the same name, which outlined greenhouse gas emissions standards for countries across the globe. Once the U.S. withdrew from the treaty, Illinois was locked into standards that did not correspond to any national benchmarks. Advocates hope that the repeal of the state’s Kyoto Protocol Act will lead to new aggressive carbon reduction policies in Illinois.
Industrial and Hazardous Waste: Rulemaking Informal Comment Period
TCEQ has asked for informal public comments on the pending rulemaking project for industrial and hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Information on the rule changes and on the informal stakeholder process can be found on the TCEQ’s Industrial and Hazardous Waste webpage.
TCEQ is conducting an informal stakeholder meeting to solicit input on a pending rulemaking project for industrial and hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The rulemaking will revise Title 30, Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 335, to adopt the following changes made by the EPA:
- Hazardous waste generator rule improvements
- Revisions to the response to the vacatur of certain provisions of the definition of solid waste rule
- Management standards for hazardous waste pharmaceuticals
- State-initiated fee increase
This is an opportunity to provide informal comments to staff prior to the formal rulemaking process. While staff will review all comments received, the TCEQ will not formally respond to any informal comments. A formal public rule hearing will be scheduled following the rule proposal by TCEQ.
Electroplater Fined for POTW Discharges
Librandi’s Plating of Middletown, Pennsylvania, has agreed to settle Clean Water Act violations involving the discharge of pollutants to a collection system for a municipal wastewater treatment facility. Librandi’s Plating will pay a $30,000 penalty and take corrective actions as part of the settlement.
According to EPA, the company violated regulations for facilities that discharge industrial waste to publicly-owned treatment plants. These facilities must comply with pretreatment limits and monitoring requirements
before discharging industrial waste to municipal treatment facilities. Excessive industrial discharges may pass through or interfere with the operation of the treatment plants, which are generally designed to handle sewage and domestic waste.
Librandi’s Plating, an industrial metal finishing facility, has Clean Water Act discharge limitations and monitoring requirements allowing the facility to discharge treated industrial wastewater to a wastewater treatment facility near the Harrisburg Airport, which further treats the wastewater and eventually discharges to a tributary of the Susquehanna River.
According to EPA, the company’s discharge exceeded applicable limits for nickel, zinc, chromium and cyanide. EPA also alleged that the company failed to notify EPA after becoming aware of the violations and did not repeat sampling as required by Clean Water Act regulations.
As part of the settlement, the company did not admit liability for the alleged violations, but has stated that it is now in compliance with applicable Clean Water Act requirements.
Intentional Discharge of Carburetor Cleaner to Creek
On June 11, 2019, a court sentenced Carlos Conde to pay a $2,000 fine and complete a one-year term of probation (to include four months’ home detention). Conde previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act. Conde worked as the plant manager or an Apollo Technologies chemical mixing plant in Smyrna, Georgia. On August 12, 2016, a leaking tank spilled thousands of gallons of carburetor cleaner containing naphthalene, a toxic and hazardous chemical. The next morning, two workers discovered the spill and called Conde. Conde arrived at the plant and instructed employees to wash the chemical into a tributary leading to Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee River. The carburetor cleaner turned the water milky white killing the wildlife in the creek. During questioning, Conde twice denied his involvement in the incident. This case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.
Sunscreens Release Metals and Nutrients into Seawater
Beachgoers are becoming increasingly aware of the potentially harmful effects UV filters from sunscreens can have on coral and other marine organisms when the protective lotions wash off their bodies into the ocean. Now, researchers have studied how sunscreens release different compounds — trace metals and inorganic nutrients — into Mediterranean seawater, with unknown effects on marine ecology. They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology
Millions of people are hitting the beach slathered in sunscreen this summer. Some might choose “coral-safe” sunscreens that lack oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two substances most widely linked to coral reef damage. However, scientists don’t yet know what effects other trace compounds in sunscreens might have on marine ecosystems. As a first step, researcher Araceli Rodríguez-Romero and colleagues wanted to determine how quickly sunscreen releases trace metals and nutrients into seawater, and how sunscreen from beachgoers’ bodies could impact the overall levels of the compounds in coastal waters.
The researchers added a commercial, titanium-dioxide-containing sunscreen to samples of Mediterranean seawater and observed how droplets of the lotions released various metals and nutrients into the water. Some compounds entered the seawater more quickly after UV treatment, which simulated sun exposure. Aluminum, silica and phosphorous had the highest release rates under both light and dark conditions. The team used these data to develop a model that predicts the release of compounds from sunscreen under different conditions. Then, they used the model to estimate that, on a typical summer day at the beach, beachgoers could increase the concentration of aluminum in coastal waters by 4% and of titanium by almost 20%. More research is needed to determine how these metals and nutrients, which are normally present at very low amounts in seawater, could be affecting marine ecosystems, the researchers say.
Zero Emission Vehicle Standard Adopted in Colorado
Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado on August 16 in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest air practical in every part of the state.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
“We are charged up and ready to roll," said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department's executive director. "The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.”
John Putnam, environmental programs director at the department, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up into the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent. We have to rise to the challenge.”
The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range.
The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks.
“The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle, said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the department. "It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead. Time is of the essence.”
The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard.
“The commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state," said Trisha Oeth, the department's director of environmental boards and commissions. "They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices.”
Man Sentenced for Illegally Removing Asbestos
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Tyler C. Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New England, announced that Aleks Rakaj, of Trumbull, CT was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to one year of probation and a $9,500 fine for illegally removing asbestos at a New Haven property.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Aleks Rakaj and his two cousins purchased a commercial property located at 206-220 Wallace Street in New Haven. Prior to purchasing the property, the realtor informed Rakaj and his cousins that the property contained asbestos. Shortly after the purchase was completed, Rakaj and his cousins failed to abide by laws and regulations concerning asbestos removal, resulting in exposure of those who were at the site to the negative health effects of asbestos.
On November 20, 2015, inspectors from the City of New Haven Health Department, conducting an unannounced inspection, discovered the illegal asbestos removal project at 206-220 Wallace Street. The inspection revealed multiple instances of illegal removal of asbestos-containing “air cell” pipe wrap and asbestos-containing “mag block” tank and boiler insulation. The workers failed to abide by legally required safety measures, failed to perform necessary wetting and failed to dispose of the asbestos-containing waste material at appropriate disposal sites. Inspectors also observed and photographed 100-150 standard garbage bags filled with unlabeled, unwetted asbestos-containing material.
On May 22, 2019, Rakaj pleaded guilty to one count of illegal asbestos removal in violation of the Clean Air Act. Rakaj’s cousins, Rezart Rakaj, of Ansonia, and Kliton Rakaj, of Monroe, previously pleaded guilty to the same offense. On April 1, 2019, they were each sentenced to one year of probation, a fine of $9,500, and 50 hours of community service.
“The illegal removal of asbestos insulation and the associated removal of scrap pipe and boilers from old buildings continues to be a problem throughout the Northeast,” said EPA-CID Special Agent in Charge Amon. “Inhalation of asbestos fibers can result in lung cancer and it therefore poses significant health risks to all exposed. EPA will continue to hold accountable those who commit such offenses.”
E-Waste Mined for Rare Earth Elements
Rare earth elements are the “secret sauce” of numerous advanced materials for energy, transportation, defense and communications applications. Their largest use for clean energy is in permanent magnets, which retain magnetic properties even in the absence of an inducing field or current.
Now, U.S. Department of Energy researchers have invented a process to extract rare earth elements from the scrapped magnets of used hard drives
and other sources. They have patented
and scaled up the process in lab demonstrationsand are working with ORNL’s licensee Momentum Technologies of Dallas
to scale the process further to produce commercial batches of rare earth oxides.
“We have developed an energy-efficient, cost-effective, environmentally friendly process to recover high-value critical materials,” said co-inventor Ramesh Bhave of DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who leads the membrane technologies team in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. “It’s an improvement over traditional processes, which require facilities with a large footprint, high capital and operating costs and a large amount of waste generated.”
Permanent magnets help computer hard drives read and write data, drive motors that move hybrid and electric cars, couple wind turbines with generators to make electricity, and assist smartphones to translate electrical signals into sound.
Through the patented process, magnets are dissolved in nitric acid, and the solution is continuously fed through a module supporting polymer membranes. The membranes contain porous hollow fibers with an extractant that serves as a chemical “traffic cop” of sorts; it creates a selective barrier and lets only rare earth elements pass through. The rare-earth-rich solution collected on the other side is further processed to yield rare earth oxides at purities exceeding 99.5%.
That’s remarkable considering that typically, 70% of a permanent magnet is iron, which is not a rare earth element. “We are essentially able to eliminate iron completely and recover only rare earths,” Bhave said. Extracting desirable elements without co-extracting undesirable ones means less waste is created that will need downstream treatment and disposal.
Supporters of the work include DOE’s Critical Materials Institute
, or CMI, for separations research and DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, or OTT, for process scale-up. ORNL is a founding team member of CMI, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by DOE’s Ames Laboratory and managed by the Advanced Manufacturing Office. Bhave’s “mining” of an acidic solution with selective membranes joins other promising CMI technologies for recovering rare earths, including a simple process that crushes and treats magnets
and an acid-free alternative
Industry depends on critical materials, and the scientific community is developing processes to recycle them. However, no commercialized process recycles pure rare earth elements from electronic-waste magnets. That’s a huge missed opportunity considering 2.2 billion personal computers, tablets and mobile phones are expected to ship worldwide in 2019, according to Gartner
. “All of these devices have rare earth magnets in them,” Bhave noted.
Bhave’s project, which began in 2013, is a team effort. John Klaehn and Eric Peterson of DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory collaborated in an early phase of the research focused on chemistry, and Ananth Iyer, a professor at Purdue University, later assessed the technical and economic feasibility of scale-up. At ORNL, former postdoctoral fellows Daejin Kim and Vishwanath Deshmane studied separations process development and scale-up, respectively. Bhave’s current ORNL team, comprising Dale Adcock, Pranathi Gangavarapu, Syed Islam, Larry Powell and Priyesh Wagh, focuses on scaling up the process and working with industry partners who will commercialize the technology.
To ensure rare earths could be recovered across a wide spectrum of feedstocks, researchers subjected magnets of varying composition—from sources including hard drives, magnetic resonance imaging machines, cell phones and hybrid cars—to the process.
Most rare earth elements are lanthanides, elements with atomic numbers between 57 and 71 in the periodic table. “ORNL’s tremendous expertise in lanthanide chemistry gave us a huge jump start,” Bhave said. “We started looking at lanthanide chemistries and ways by which lanthanides are selectively extracted.”
Over two years, the researchers tailored membrane chemistry to optimize recovery of rare earths. Now, their process recovers more than 97% of the rare earth elements. To date Bhave’s recycling project has resulted in a patent and two publications (here
) documenting recovery of three rare earth elements—neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium—as a mixture of oxides.
The second phase of separations began in July 2018 with an effort to separate dysprosium from neodymium and praseodymium. A mixture of the three oxides sells for $50 a kilogram. If dysprosium could be separated from the mixture, its oxide could be sold for five times as much.
The program’s second phase will also explore if ORNL’s underlying process for separating rare earths can be developed for separating other in-demand elements from lithium ion batteries. “The expected high growth of electric vehicles is going to require a tremendous amount of lithium and cobalt,” Bhave said.
Industrial efforts needed to deploy the ORNL process into the marketplace, funded over two years by DOE’s OTT Technology Commercialization Fund, began in February 2019. The goal is to recover hundreds of kilograms of rare earth oxides each month and validate, verify and certify that manufacturers could use the recycled materials to make magnets equivalent to those made with virgin materials.
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