EPA announced the first ten chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under TSCA reform.
“Under the new law, we now have the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the of Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We can ensure the public that we will deliver on the promise to better protect public health and the environment.”
The first ten chemicals to be evaluated are:
- Carbon Tetrachloride
- Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster
- Methylene Chloride
- Pigment Violet 29
- Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, requires EPA to publish this list by December 19, 2016. These chemicals were drawn from EPA’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, a list of 90 chemicals selected based on their potential for high hazard and exposure as well as other considerations.
When the list is published in the Federal Register it will trigger a statutory deadline to complete risk evaluations for these chemicals within three years. This evaluation will determine whether the chemicals present an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment. If it is determined that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk, EPA must mitigate that risk within two years.
Under the newly amended law, EPA must release a scoping document within six months for each chemical. This will include the hazard(s), exposure(s), conditions of use, and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation(s) the agency plans to consider for the evaluation.
Additional chemicals will be designated for evaluation, and all of the remaining Work Plan chemicals will be reviewed for their potential hazard and exposure. For each risk evaluation that EPA completes, TSCA requires that EPA begin another. By the end of 2019, EPA must have at least 20 chemical risk valuations ongoing at any given time. A meeting on the proposal is scheduled for December 14.
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 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.
EPA Requires New Chemical to be Listed on TRI Reports
EPA is adding a hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) category to the list of toxic chemicals subject to reporting under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and Section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA). EPA is adding this chemical category to the EPCRA Section 313 list because EPA has determined that HBCD meets the EPCRA Section 313(d)(2)(B) and (C) toxicity criteria. Specifically, EPA has determined that HBCD can reasonably be anticipated to cause developmental and reproductive effects in humans and is highly toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms. In addition, based on the available bioaccumulation and persistence data, EPA has determined that HBCD should be classified as a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical and assigned a 100-pound reporting threshold.
This final rule will apply for the reporting year beginning January 1, 2017 (reports due July 1, 2018).
EPA Identifies Strategy to Improve Safety and Reliability of Nation’s Drinking Water
EPA released a plan that serves as a national call to action, urging all levels of government, utilities, community organizations, and other stakeholders to work together to increase the safety and reliability of drinking water. The plan includes six priority actions: strengthen source water protection; reduce lead risks; educate the public on drinking water safety, address unregulated contaminants; advance oversight of the Safe Drinking Water Act; and improve water infrastructure finance.
The plan reflects input from state, local, and tribal government officials; drinking water utilities; community groups; and environmental organizations. While EPA and partners have already begun to take some actions, others will require additional resources and further stakeholder engagement. EPA recognizes that partnership and collaboration across all levels of government, utilities, the private sector, and the public will be essential to the success of the plan.
Technical Analysis Supports Keeping Carbon Pollution Standards for Cars and Light Trucks in Place
Based on extensive technical analysis that shows automakers are well positioned to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for model years 2022–2025, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently proposed leaving the standards in place, so the program that was established in 2012 will stay on track to nearly double fuel economy, dramatically cut carbon pollution, maintain regulatory certainty for a global industry, and save American drivers billions of dollars at the pump.
“Given the auto industry’s importance to American jobs and communities and the industry’s need for certainty well into the future, EPA has reanalyzed these clean car standards and sought further input,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective. This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment.”
The recent proposed determination is based on years of technical work, including an exhaustive technical report released earlier this year, and the agency’s thorough review and consideration of comments received on that report. This extensive body of analysis shows that manufacturers can meet the standards at similar or even a lower cost than what was anticipated in the 2012 rulemaking, and that the standards will deliver significant fuel savings for American consumers, as well as benefits to public health and welfare from reducing the pollution that contributes to climate change. Full implementation of the standards will cut about 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in model years 2012–2025. Cars and light trucks are the largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S. transportation sector.
Although EPA’s technical analysis indicates that the standards could be strengthened for model years 2022–2025, proposing to leave the current standards in place provides greater certainty to the auto industry for product planning and engineering. This will enable long-term planning in the auto industry, while also benefiting consumers and the environment.
The recent announcement builds on years of success under EPA’s vehicle emission standards. Auto manufacturers are innovating and adopting fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates. Car makers have developed more technologies to reduce GHG emissions, and these technologies are entering the fleet faster than expected. These technologies include gasoline direct injection, more sophisticated transmissions, and stop-start systems that reduce idling fuel consumption. At the end of 2015, all large automakers were in compliance with the standards. In fact, automakers on average out-performed the model year 2015 standards by seven grams per mile. These gains are happening at a time when the car industry is thriving, and domestic vehicle sales have increased for six consecutive years, while maintaining consumer choice across a full range of vehicle sizes and types.
As part of the rulemaking establishing the model year 2017–2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards, EPA committed to conduct a Midterm Evaluation of standards for model years 2022–2025. The public comment period for this action runs through December 30, 2016. After the comment period has ended and consideration of the input, the Administrator will decide whether she has enough information to make a final determination on the model year 2022-2025 standards.
Confidentiality Determinations for Hazardous Waste Export and Import Documents Draft Rule
EPA is amending existing regulations regarding the export and import of hazardous wastes from and into the United States. The proposed revisions will require exporters of hazardous waste and receiving facilities recycling or disposing hazardous waste from foreign sources to maintain a single publicly accessible Web site to which documents can be posted regarding the confirmation of receipt and confirmation of completed recovery or disposal of individual hazardous waste import and export shipments.
The proposed Internet posting requirements are planned for the interim period prior to the electronic import-export reporting compliance date when electronic submittal to EPA of confirmations of receipt and completed recovery or disposal for hazardous waste shipments will be required. EPA also proposed a confidentiality determination to exclude documents related to the export, import, and transit of hazardous waste and export of excluded CRTs from confidential business information (CBI) claims.
Comments on the proposals must be submitted by 27 January 2017. For additional information, contact Laura Coughlan, Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (5304P), EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460; 703-308-0005; email@example.com.
California Air Resources Board Posts Revised Draft of Strategy to Reduce Super Pollutants
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently posted a revised draft of California's proposed Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) Strategy. SLCPs are a category of pollutants that remain in the atmosphere for a relatively brief period, but have global warming potentials that are much higher than those of carbon dioxide (CO2).
SLCPs may account for an estimated 40% of global warming, increasing the impacts of climate change.
"Science tells us that controlling these climate super pollutants will buy time for countries to make the transition to clean energy while continuing to grow their economies," CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said. "With help from agriculture and industry partners California is reducing waste and cutting the most dangerous emissions. This strategy shows the world how to do it."
SLCPs include methane, black carbon (soot) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used as refrigerants, aerosol propellants and insulation.
The major sources of methane in California are livestock, followed by landfills and oil and gas production. Methane is 72 times more efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2, which is the most prevalent global warming gas. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for up to a century. Methane and the other SLCPs have much shorter lives, but do disproportionate damage.
New legislation (Senate Bill 1383, Lara) requires, among other things, that state agencies and affected stakeholders develop measures to reduce methane emissions from dairy and other livestock operations. The revised draft of the SLCP Strategy includes a more detailed look at how this might be accomplished through extensive collaboration with the industry and other stakeholders. The draft SLCP Strategy also takes into consideration public and stakeholder comments on other aspects of the revised strategy, as well as other legislative requirements.
CARB began publicly evaluating controls for SLCPs with the first AB 32 Scoping Plan in 2008. Since then Governor Brown signed SB 32 (Pavley), codifying a reductions target for statewide GHG emissions of 40% below 1990 emission levels by 2030. SLCP emission reductions will support achieving these targets. Also, Senate Bill 605 (Lara, 2014) requires ARB to develop a plan to reduce emissions of SLCPs, while SB 1383 requires the Board to complete and approve the plan by January 1, 2018. SB 1383 also sets targets for statewide reductions in SLCP emissions of 40% below 2013 levels by 2030 for methane and HFCs and 50% below 2013 levels by 2030 for human-caused black carbon, as well as provides specific direction for reductions from dairy and livestock operations and from landfills by diverting organic waste.
The payoff from investments to reduce SLCP emissions will be seen in the near term—over the coming 15 years—while the larger efforts to turn the tide on CO2 gain traction and ratchet down emissions over the coming decades. Research now shows that immediate action to cut super pollutants in California will reduce damage to forests and crops, lower background ozone and help clean the air in the state's most polluted regions, including the Central Valley.
The SLCP Strategy is due to come before the Board for consideration in March 2017.
Holiday Recycling Tips
Tis the season to be jolly, but Louisiana, like the rest of the nation, produces more waste in December than any other month. Planning ahead of time can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills, and if you reuse, you can even generate useful items. You can “Be the Solution” and have a more waste-free holiday season by following a few simple tips from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
When you prepare for the coming holidays, think green: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Wrapping gifts can be a challenge since wrapping paper is frequently not recyclable. Be creative! Wrap a gift in a gift—such as a scarf, bandana, dishtowel or cloth shopping bag. The comic pages from the Sunday paper and most colorful flyers reuse paper and are still recyclable. Last year’s Christmas and holiday cards can be used in crafts and as ornaments.
Out with the old so you have room for the new! Before the holidays is a perfect time to clean out your clutter and unused items. If you have outgrown toys and clothing, consider donating them to charitable organizations. Discarded electronics (computers, copiers, fax machines, printers, and monitors) may be donated to a local nonprofit agency or the Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council (CACRC). CACRC provides computers to schools, families and nonprofits. Visit the council’s website at http://www.cacrc.com for details.
When decorating your home, there are ways to consider the environment. An artificial tree doesn’t have to be discarded and a live tree can be replanted. If you purchase a cut tree, remember that it cannot be flocked or have tinsel or decorations on it if it is to be recycled. Cut trees are usually collected in early January and are ground up into compost or mulch. You can find information about seasonal pickups and recycling at the East Baton Rouge Parish Recycling website: http://brgov.com/recycle. Many parishes will have programs to recycle trees. LED lights last longer, save energy and money. Go to http://www.holidayleds.com/christmas-light-recycling-program.aspx for recycling instructions.
Recycling packaging materials such as cardboard and plastic foam peanuts really helps. For information on recycling plastic foam peanuts, or if you are a retailer interested in foam peanut recycling, go to http://www.loosefillpackaging.com hotline. Buy rechargeable batteries for toys, cameras and gadgets. When those batteries no longer hold a charge, call the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation at 800-8-BATTERY, or go to their website at http://www.rbrc.org for information on the nearest battery recycling drop off location.
Have a safe holiday season and remember to never burn wrapping paper or Christmas trees in the fireplace. For more recycling ideas, see: http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/recycling.
Texas Universities Address Hazardous Waste Violations in EPA Settlement
The EPA recently announced settlements with three Texas universities over hazardous waste violations at university facilities. Under the settlements, Baylor University, Texas A&M University and Texas Christian University all agreed to correct violations and pay a civil penalty. EPA discovered the violations by analyzing data the facilities are required to submit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as analysis of additional records that the universities voluntarily provided.
Under RCRA, facilities producing hazardous waste are regulated as small- or large-quantity generators. From 2011 to 2014, while Baylor claimed to be a small-quantity generator, at times it generated more hazardous waste than is allowed under this criteria. The reason this is important is that large-quantity generators have much more stringent employee training requirements, and need to prepare detailed contingency plans for first responders. Baylor also at times generated hazardous wastes without identifying them as such. In addition to paying a civil penalty of $11,330, Baylor corrected existing violations and will revise its standard operating procedures to ensure the lab will comply with RCRA. Baylor will also purchase and donate equipment to the Waco Fire Department to aid in identifying explosives, narcotics, and toxic chemicals during emergency responses.
Similar violations were found at Texas Christian University (TCU) facilities in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU improperly operated as a large-quantity generator because it produced more than a kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste, which includes certain wastes that are more toxic in smaller quantities. During these incidents, TCU did not notify the state of Texas as required of large-quantity generators. Also, between 2011 to 2015, TCU did not make adequate or accurate hazardous waste determinations of its waste streams. TCU agreed to correct violations and pay a civil penalty of $30,591.
EPA discovered violations at four Texas A&M University campuses: Commerce; Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas; Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Amarillo, Texas; and the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group in College Station, Texas. Violations included generating enough hazardous waste to qualify as a large-quantity generator but not registering as one, generating acutely hazardous waste without proper notification, and not filing required paperwork. Under four separate settlements, Texas A&M agreed to correct all violations and pay a combined penalty of $141,912.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed by Congress in 1976 gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from cradle-to-grave. RCRA sets national goals for protecting human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, conserving energy and natural resources, reducing the amount of waste generated, and ensuring wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.
Former Marysville Tannery Fined $120,000 for Dangerous Waste Violations
A former leather tannery faces $120,000 in state environmental penalties for improperly managing and illegally storing dangerous waste at its facility in Marysville. Some of the waste presented risks of fires or explosions.
The Washington Department of Ecology issued the fine to Quil Ceda Tanning Co., Inc., 3922 88th St. NE, after inspections on October 22 and 23, 2015, found a large variety and volume of hazardous wastes abandoned at the site following the death of the owner of a tenant business. Inspectors also found hazardous waste being illegally stored at the site by a neighboring business.
Under Washington’s dangerous waste laws, landlords are responsible for the activities of their tenants and cannot look the other way when it comes to safely managing dangerous waste. Businesses are also required to have a permit to store hazardous waste for others.
A 2012 inspection found similar violations involving abandoned wastes at the tanning company, and Ecology had ordered the company to manage and properly dispose of the materials.
“These abandoned chemicals were an imminent threat to people visiting this site and to the nearby creek,” said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “After similar violations in 2012, this company should have understood its responsibility to safely manage these wastes. Their actions created a significant risk and are unfair to companies who follow the rules.”
Ecology cited the tanning company for failing to properly manage and dispose of waste chemicals, some of which were left behind after the death of the owner of NW Chemical Recycling in July 2015. Ecology’s inspectors identified 14 different chemical wastes, including flammable liquids, acids, peroxide and bromine. Some liquid and solid wastes were left unprotected and open to the elements.
After the 2015 inspection, Ecology ordered the company to properly manage the wastes and clean them up. The company eventually identified and removed 2,750 lb of hazardous chemicals.
Another section of the former tanning facility contained about 1,500 gallons of hazardous wastes stored by a neighboring business, Metal Finishing, Inc. Storing wastes generated by another party requires a permit to operate a commercial transport, storage and disposal facility, which the tannery did not have.
An attorney for Quil Ceda Tanning Co., Inc., said that the company denies the allegations and any liability for the violations, and that the company plans to appeal the penalty.
U.S. EPA Requires Plastic Manufacturer to Protect Santa Clara River from Pollution
The EPA has reached an agreement with Canyon Plastics, Inc., to resolve federal Clean Water Act violations. The company has corrected the deficiencies found at its facility in Valencia, California, and obtained a stormwater permit. In addition to paying a $19,000 penalty, Canyon Plastics has committed to install new recycling equipment at a cost of $292,000.
Canyon Plastics, located at 28455 Livingston Avenue, uses large quantities of small plastic pellets, known as “nurdles,” as raw material to manufacture plastic products. During a September 2015 inspection, EPA found the facility did not have a permit to discharge industrial stormwater and had not implemented practices to reduce the discharge of pollutants to local waterways. The inspectors found leaked or spilled nurdles throughout the facility’s waste management area and loading docks, and a lack of containment systems such as mesh screens within storm drain inlets. These deficiencies likely resulted in nurdles polluting Halsey Canyon Creek, a tributary to the Santa Clara River.
“The Santa Clara River is home to the endangered Southern California steelhead trout, and plastic pollution further degrades their habitat,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Canyon Plastics must install the necessary controls and operate in a way that prevents polluted runoff from reaching the river.”
Nurdles are plastic beads about 1/5 of an inch in diameter. They are widely used in manufacturing and contribute to the growing problem of plastic debris in the nation’s inland and coastal waters. Once nurdles wash into storm drains and out to open water, they can be eaten by fish, birds and other wildlife. Ingested plastic can displace food in the animals’ stomach, and may lead to starvation. In the marine environment, plastic debris has been found to absorb persistent, toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans and have been shown to travel up the food chain.
As part of the settlement, Canyon Plastics will spend $292,000 to purchase and install new equipment that will recycle plastic scraps generated at its facility and use them as raw material for some of its product lines. The new reuse system will reduce the purchase of new plastic by an estimated 270 tons per year.
Under the Clean Water Act, plastic manufacturers are required to obtain authorization under the State’s industrial stormwater permit to discharge stormwater to surface waters. The permit requires the installation of controls and use of best management practices to prevent or minimize the discharges of pollutants in runoff from their operations. Such discharges may contain pollutants such as plastic resin pellets, flakes, or powders.
“The Regional Board is pleased to work with U.S. EPA to eliminate discharges of trash and plastics given their significant impacts on fish and wildlife”, said Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board Chair Irma Munoz. “The Santa Clara River is a precious natural resource for our region, and compliance with the industrial stormwater permit in all of our watersheds is crucial to protecting aquatic life from harmful plastic nurdles.”
The recent action is subject to a 30-day public comment period that ends on January 3, 2017. To provide public comments, or for more information, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/ca/canyon-plastics-inc-proposed-settlement.
King County and Seattle to Pay Fines for Sewer Overflow Violations
King County and Seattle will pay separate penalties to the state Department of Ecology and the EPA for violating certain combined sewer overflow (CSO) provisions of their water quality permits with the state.
The county and city have legal agreements, called consent decrees, with the state and federal governments that require them to control their combined sewer overflows and protect water quality. The consent decrees require payments for CSO violations.
King County will pay $63,500 for 23 violations, and Seattle will pay $33,500 for 10 violations that occurred in 2015. The incidents cited were reported to Ecology and EPA by King County and Seattle.
In 2015, King County exceeded pollutant limits 18 times in water discharged from three of its four CSO treatment plants. The county also violated annual limits on solids removal at two of the plants and reported noncompliant discharges from three other CSO outfalls.
Seattle last year had two unpermitted overflows from CSO outfalls during dry weather periods and seven other preventable overflows at different locations. The city also had a late notification about a 10th overflow.
The discharges entered Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, Lake Union and Longfellow Creek.
Combined sewers—common in older parts of many cities—carry both sewage and stormwater. They were built with overflow outfalls that release untreated sewage and stormwater to Seattle’s lakes, waterways and Puget Sound when storms cause high flows in the sewers.
The EPA and Ecology made the agreements with King County and Seattle in 2013 to settle a federal suit against the two local governments, which own and operate different parts of the sewer system in Seattle. The suit sought to enforce federal Clean Water Act requirements on overflows from combined sewers in the city.
Nationwide, EPA has signed 62 CSO consent decrees with local governments.
Under the consent decrees and state/federal water quality permits, King County and Seattle have committed to projects that will reduce the likelihood of CSOs in all but unusually large storms.
“King County is taking water quality compliance very seriously. We will spend $1.43 billion over the next 14 years to ensure all our CSOs are in compliance by 2030,” said Christie True, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director.
“Reducing combined sewer overflows to protect water quality is a priority for the City of Seattle,” said Mami Hara, Seattle Public Utilities general manager and chief executive officer. “We are committed to working with our state and federal regulators to sustain and improve the quality of life and the environment here.”
The county and city each may invoke dispute resolution procedures in their consent decrees if they believe Ecology and EPA have assessed the penalties incorrectly.
Ecology will deposit its half of the penalties into the state’s Coastal Protection Fund which issues grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects.
EPA and Union Pacific Railroad Reach Settlement on Clean Water Act Violations
EPA Region 7 has reached a proposed administrative settlement with Union Pacific Railroad Company to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its Herington Railyard in Herington, Kansas. As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $24,000 and complete a Supplemental Environmental Project valued at $338,100.
In January 2012, two railroad tank cars at the Herington facility collided, leading to the release of 11,000 gallons of sulfuric acid. About 1,500 gallons were contained in a ditch, but the remainder flowed through an adjoining ditch and discharged into Lime Creek. The discharge impacted an estimated two miles of Lime Creek and resulted in a fish kill.
In addition to the civil penalty, Union Pacific will be required to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) to install earthen berms, flow barriers, and manually-operated drop gates that will seek to minimize runoff and releases from reaching Lime Creek. A SEP is intended to be a project that produces environmental or public health and safety benefits, earning partial credit by EPA to offset the cost of the penalty. This project is estimated to cost $338,100.
Union Pacific also paid $155,300 to the state of Kansas in restitution for damage to the state’s natural resources in August 2013.
The proposed settlement with Union Pacific is subject to a 40-day public comment period before it becomes final. The comment period began November 15, 2016, and ends December 15, 2016. Information on how to submit comments is available online at the first link provided below.
Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Ordered to Bring Wastewater Treatment Facilities into Compliance
The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has agreed to bring six wastewater treatment facilities into compliance with the federal and Navajo laws in separate agreements with the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA.
The utility will invest $6 million to improve its facilities in Navajo Townsite, Ganado, Tuba City, Kayenta, Chinle and Pinon. Violations of the treatment systems’ permits were reported by the utility and discovered during EPA and Navajo EPA inspections in 2014 and 2015. The orders require each facility to return to full compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Clean Water Act by early 2017.
“The EPA has worked with the Navajo Nation EPA for nearly 40 years to protect public health and the environment,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “With these agreements, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is committing to the protection of the Little Colorado and San Juan Rivers.”
“Navajo Nation EPA writes NPDES permits on behalf of EPA and has technical staff who possess federal Clean Water Act credentials to conduct compliance inspections on permitted facilities located on the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Donald Benn, Navajo Nation EPA’s Executive Director. “Being locally situated, Navajo Nation EPA technical staff are on the forefront of detecting and addressing noncompliance. There is continuous coordination between EPA and Navajo Nation EPA.”
In total, the six plants collect and treat sewage from 27,315 residents throughout the Navajo Nation. The NTUA violated its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by discharging pollutants above the allowed limits at the six facilities, by failing to submit complete and timely reports and by inadequately operating and maintaining existing treatment systems. Discharges from the six plants lead to the Little Colorado and San Juan Rivers.
Both agreements bring the NTUA into compliance with NPDES permits at its six affected facilities. The Navajo Nation EPA agreement requires the NTUA to develop operation and maintenance manuals to prevent future violations, and to implement compliance plans to address the causes of the violations. The Navajo Nation EPA anticipates the NTUA will transfer the knowledge gained from meeting the terms of the agreements to all of its other water and wastewater facilities.
The current actions follow last year’s Navajo Nation EPA settlement with NTUA for the Window Rock treatment facility. The $25,000 fine imposed on the NTUA was the first time a tribally-owned entity was penalized for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. NTUA completed required upgrades to the Window Rock facility in 2015.
EPA Hosts Caribbean Recycling Summit
The EPA is hosting a summit on December 1 and 2 at Polytechnic University in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to address ways to reduce waste and boost recycling and composting in the Caribbean. More than 300 students and teachers, business leaders and government officials, and community leaders have come together to develop an action plan and a common vision for implementing zero waste efforts in the Caribbean. The Summit is sponsored by the Puerto Rico Recycling Partnership and the U.S. Virgin Islands Recycling Partnership, with the support of the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management Authority, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. Judith Enck, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 2, opened the event with remarks on solid waste management issues and ways to address them through reduction of food waste, composting, boosting glass, metal, and plastics recycling, and public education.
Puerto Rico Governor Garcia Padilla signed into law a ban on retail stores providing plastic bags to customers beginning December 30, 2016. Six months following this date, stores not complying with this ban will face fines. The U.S. Virgin Island’s Governor Kenneth Mapp signed into law a ban on retail stores providing plastic bags to customers beginning January 1, 2017. Stores not complying with the law will face fines beginning April 1, 2017.
"The most effective way to handle solid waste is to produce less of it,” said Carmen Guerrero P?rez, the Director of the EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division. “The new plastic bag bans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will make a noticeable impact on the amount of waste in landfills, streets, and waterways. We want to use this Summit to build upon the momentum and interest that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have created to find ways to expand source reduction, recycling, and composting throughout the Caribbean. It makes economic and environmental sense”
"Eliminating the need for landfills is being environmentally responsible and recycling puts the Virgin Islands on that path," said Dawn L. Henry, Commissioner, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
“Sustainability is among the most important issues of our time,” said Harith Wickrema, President of the Island Green Living Association (IGLA) and Chairman of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. “In addition to the call to ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ we must encourage the public, government and businesses to rethink waste/resource management through education and engagement. USVI Governor Mapp has introduced far reaching recycling bills including a plastic bag ban, source separation and bottle deposit legislation with the goal of becoming one of the greenest Caribbean territories and hopefully an example for others to follow.”
“The use of reusable plastic bags in our daily lives is an economically viable practice, which will greatly benefit the environment and public health,” said Weldin F. Ortiz Franco, President of the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board. “The Environmental Quality Board has also been working on new regulations for source-separated organic wastes composting facilities. The draft regulations will create a new regulatory permitting tier system for composting facilities based on the type and quantity of wastes being handled at the facility. We are confident the new composting facility regulations will have an immediate effect in the expansion of the composting industry in Puerto Rico, especially for food waste,” continued President Ortiz Franco. The draft regulations will be formally adopted this month.
Only 1% of the one billion plastic bags circulating in Puerto Rico are recycled. Plastic bags are made with petroleum and, therefore, contribute to climate change. Also, plastic bags do not break down easily in the environment, adding to the amount of litter on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ beaches and communities.
Plastic bags contribute to the growing amount of trash polluting waterways in the Caribbean and throughout the world. 80% of trash in the world’s oceans comes from land, and 80% of that trash is plastic. Plastic pollution harms birds, fish and other wildlife in lakes, rivers and oceans. For example, turtles sometimes mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. It is estimated that over eight million metric tons of plastic pollution enter the world's oceans annually. By 2025, this amount is expected to more than double.
For more information on the plastic bag ban in Puerto Rico, or to report businesses using plastic bags in Puerto Rico after June 30, 2017, Puerto Rico’s Department of Consumers Affairs can be reached at the following hotline: (787) 722-7555.
For more information on the plastic bag ban in the U.S.V.I, or to report businesses using plastic bags in the U.S.V.I. after April 1, 2017, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority has set up the following hotline: 340-713-1962.
Slawson Exploration Company Inc. to Make System Upgrades and Undertake Projects to Reduce Air Pollution in North Dakota
The Department of Justice and the EPA recently announced a settlement with Slawson Exploration Company Inc. resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production activities in North Dakota, including on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The settlement resolves claims that Slawson failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at its approximately 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota, resulting in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
As part of this settlement, Slawson’s total expenditures on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections are estimated to be $4.1 million. These improvements will significantly reduce VOC emissions and include the use of advanced technology such as infrared cameras and electronic pressure monitors to better detect and respond to air emissions. In addition, Slawson will spend at least an estimated $2 million to fund environmental mitigation projects and pay a $2.1 million civil penalty.
“Safe, responsible, and lawful development of domestic energy resources and technology is of great importance to a sustainable future for all Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This Clean Air Act agreement will bring better air quality and lasting health benefits to communities in North Dakota, including the people of the Three Affiliated Tribes.”
“This settlement puts Next Generation Compliance technologies to work to reduce air pollution across communities in North Dakota, including on tribal lands,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at EPA. “EPA is committed to making sure that domestic energy development grows in a responsible way that protects public health and complies with the law.”
EPA estimates Slawson’s system upgrades, many of which are already in place, will reduce the emission of at least 11,700 tons of VOCs, 400 tons of hazardous air pollutants, primarily benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes and 2,600 tons of methane annually. Improved operation and maintenance will result in additional emissions reductions, as will the replacement of all pit flares used to control emissions from storage tanks.
Many of Slawson’s North Dakota wells are located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; governed by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Nearly all of the electronic pressure monitors will be installed at operations on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; Slawson will replace all pit flares on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation with control devices capable of achieving greater efficiency. These measures, in addition to the other injunctive relief and mitigation projects Slawson will carry out on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, will result in a substantial reduction in harmful emissions.
Slawson’s oil and natural gas production operations in North Dakota use storage tanks to store produced oil and water prior to transport. Multiple storage tanks are typically present at a well pad and are frequently controlled by the same vapor control system. The recent settlement resolves alleged violations at all of Slawson’s well pads in North Dakota with wells in production.
This settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to reduce public health and environmental impacts from energy extraction activities.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
Princess Cruise Lines to Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty for Deliberate Vessel Pollution
Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (Princess) has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up. Princess will pay a $40 million penalty—the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution—and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship. The plea agreement was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida.
Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company. Carnival is headquartered in Miami. As part of the plea agreement with Princess, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) will be under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years. The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court appointed monitor.
The charges to which Princess will plead guilty concern the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which visited various U.S. ports in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Virginia. The U.S. investigation was initiated after information was provided to the U.S. Coast Guard by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicating that a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called “magic pipe” had been used on August 23, 2013, to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England. The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England. The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie. The MCA shared evidence with the U.S. Coast Guard, including before and after photos of the bypass used to make the discharge and showing its disappearance. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the Caribbean Princess upon its arrival in New York City, New York, on Sept. 14, 2013, during which certain crew members continued to lie in accordance with orders they had received from Princess employees.
According to papers filed in court, the Caribbean Princess had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations. The discharge on August 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time as the discharge, engineers simultaneously ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment in order to create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.
Caribbean Princess used multiple methods over the course of time to pollute the seas. Prior to the installation of the bypass pipe used to make the discharge off the coast of England, a different unauthorized valve was used. When the Department of Justice investigative team conducted a consensual boarding of the ship in Houston, Texas, on March 8, 2014, they found the valve that crew members had described. When it was removed by Princess at the department’s request, it was found to contain black oil.
In addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships—Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. This was done routinely on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required. All of the bypassing took place through the graywater system which was discharged when the ship was more than four nautical miles from land. As a result, discharges within U.S. waters were likely.
“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management. This is a company that knew better and should have done better. Hopefully the outcome of this case has the potential not just to chart a new course for this company, but for other companies as well.”
“The conduct being addressed today is particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations, including in the Southern District of Florida,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm. Today’s case should send a powerful message to other companies that the U.S. government will continue to enforce a zero tolerance policy for deliberate ocean dumping that endangers the countless animals, marine life and humans who rely on clean water to survive.”
“The safety, security and environmental stewardship of our ports, waterways and oceans is an important Coast Guard mission set and the complexity of the challenges we face today requires a global unity of effort among law enforcement partners,” said Rear Admiral Scott Buschman Commander, Coast Guard District Seven. “I sincerely thank the U.S. Attorney and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency for your leadership, your collaboration and the hard work put forth to reach a plea agreement with significant penalties that serve as a clear warning to all polluters.”
“This shows just how well the U.K. and U.S. can work together on these kind of cases,” said Jeremy Smart, head of enforcement at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom. “It also sends a clear message to the industry that this kind of pollution practice will not be tolerated anywhere in the world. It also shows that we will always take any information we are given by those who report such practices to us very seriously and will act upon it.”
In addition to the criminal information, a plea agreement and joint factual statement were filed in court in Miami. Photographs of some of the evidence provided by the whistleblower and obtained by the government were also filed in federal court. In the factual statement, Princess also admitted to the following:
- Illegal discharges took place on the Caribbean Princess dating back to 2005, one year after the vessel started operations, as part of a conspiracy to violate the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and to obstruct justice.
- Different bypass methods were used over the course of time, including a “magic pipe” used to transfer oily waste overboard.
- After learning that an engineer had blown the whistle, senior ship engineers dismantled the bypass pipe and instructed crewmembers to lie.
- Prior to the MCA boarding, the chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered crew members to lie. Following the MCA’s inquiry, the chief engineer held a sham meeting in the engine control room to pretend to look into the allegations while holding up a sign stating: “LA is listening.” The engineers present understood that anything said might be heard by those at the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California, because the engine control room contained a recording device intended to monitor conversations in the event of an incident.
- When using the magic pipe, engineers processed sea water through the oily water separator in order to create a digital record to account for the missing waste.
- Shore-side management failed to provide and exercise sufficient supervision and management controls to prevent or detect criminal violations by Caribbean Princess crewmembers.
- A perceived motive for the crimes was financial—the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense.
- Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess indicated that the chief engineer responsible for the discharge on August 26, 2013, was known as “broccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet. Some expressed the same opinion of the shore-side superintendent.
- Graywater tanks overflowed into the bilges on a routine basis and were pumped back into the graywater system and then improperly discharged overboard when they were required to be treated as oil contaminated bilge waste. The overflows took place when internal floats in the graywater collection tanks got stuck due to large amounts of fat, grease and food particles from the galley that drained into the graywater system. Graywater tanks overflowed at least once a month and, at times, as frequently as once per week. Princess had no written procedures or training for how internal gray water spills were supposed to be cleaned up and the problem remained uncorrected for many years.
- Princess discovered “stub pipes” along the entire length of the ship for the apparent purpose of pumping graywater overflows into the bilges back into the graywater system and subsequently overboard.
According to papers filed in court, Princess has undertaken remedial measures in response to the government’s investigation, including upgrading the oily water separators and oil content monitors on every ship in its fleet and instituting many new policies.
If approved by the court, $10 million of the $40 million criminal penalty will be devoted to community service projects to benefit the maritime environment; $3 million of the community service payments will go to environmental projects in South Florida; $1 million will be earmarked for projects to benefit the marine environment in United Kingdom waters.
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Trivia Question of the Week
Which chemicals have been found at elevated levels in drinking water around fracking sites?
a. Heavy metals
b. Toluene and xylenes
c. Methanol and ethanol
d. All of the above