A new study by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has reviewed the risks to workers when opening fumigated shipping containers. The study identifies significant gaps in preventive measures and makes recommendations that should be implemented to improve the safety and health of workers.
Each year, more than 600 million freight containers are shipped worldwide. These containers are frequently treated with pesticides to prevent damage to the goods. Agents used for this purpose have known toxic or irritant properties and can have long-term effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, for instance phosphine (PH3), methyl bromide (MeBr) and formaldehyde. Workers at ports who open these containers, for example during customs inspections, can be exposed to these harmful agents. The report indicates that this problem has been underestimated.
Despite the potential for exposure, standard safety and health measures and documentation to protect the workers have been introduced in only a few cases. The report aims to provide an overview of the current knowledge of the situation and to recommend how to minimize these risks to workers’ safety and health.
The report — produced in response to a need identified by the European Commission’s Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee — describes a number of problems including:
- Fumigated containers are almost never labelled as fumigated.
- Insufficient safety procedures when opening and unloading fumigated containers.
- Appropriate risk assessments not carried out.
- Lack of a clear, standardized screening protocol to check for residual fumigants.
- Under-reporting of incidents of adverse health effects.
- A number of changes to current practice could vastly improve the safety and health of the workers in question. The report includes a number of preventive actions, strategies and recommendations.
- Do not open containers until a risk assessment concludes that it is safe to do so. This could be based on shipping documents or approved measurements of the container atmosphere, if necessary after ventilating it.
- Introduce adequate monitoring equipment and standardized screening procedures for fumigated containers. The tools used for screening should detect MeBr and PH3 (and other fumigants if possible) with sufficient sensitivity to accurately detect a level of at least 10% of the occupational exposure limit.
- Enforce legislation regarding the labelling of fumigated containers. A uniform approach across European ports is needed to avoid competition at the expense of safety and health.
- Identify containers that might pose a health risk to workers – clear, standard labelling is needed (including the use of symbols where there may be a language barrier).
- Create and implement standard procedures for off-gassing (replacing the air) and ventilating fumigated containers.
- Distribute information packs offering guidance on personal protective equipment and risk assessment; these should be easily understandable to all workers who may be exposed to fumigated containers.
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St Louis, MO on May 8-10 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Hilton Head Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC on May 22-24 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Baton Rouge Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA on June 5-7 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air
The American Lung Association's 2018 State of the Air report found ozone pollution worsened significantly due to warmer temperatures, while particle pollution generally continued to improve in 2014-2016. The 19th annual national air quality report card found that 133.9 million Americans—more than four in 10 (41.4%)—lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2014-2016, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
"Near record-setting heat from our changing climate has resulted in dangerous levels of ozone in many cities across the country, making ozone an urgent health threat for millions of Americans," said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. "Far too many Americans are living with unhealthy air, placing their health and lives at risk. The 'State of the Air' report should serve as a wake-up call for residents and representatives alike. Everyone deserves to breathe healthy air, and we must do more to protect the air we breathe by upholding and enforcing the Clean Air Act."
Each year, State of the Air reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal. But the trends reported in this year's report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, reflect the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate.
Inhaling ozone pollution is like getting a sunburn on the lung. It can trigger coughing and asthma attacks and may even shorten life. Warmer temperatures make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.
Compared to the previous year, the 2018 report finds that far more people suffered from unhealthy ozone pollution, with approximately 128.9 million people living in 185 counties that earned an F grade for ozone. Of the 10 most polluted cities, seven cities did worse, including Los Angeles and the New York City metro area.
Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
- Bakersfield, California
- Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California
- Fresno-Madera, California
- Sacramento-Roseville, California
- San Diego-Carlsbad, California
- Modesto-Merced, California
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
- Redding-Red Bluff, California
- New York-Newark, New York–New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania
Unhealthy particles in the air emanate from wildfires, wood-burning devices, coal-fired power plants and diesel engines. Technically known as PM2.5, these microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, cause lung cancer and shorten life.
The 2018 report covers 2014-2016 data, the most recent data available, and includes the significant wildfires and resulting smoke that swept across the nation in 2016, but not those occurring in 2017. The report grades both daily spikes, called "short-term" particle pollution, and the annual average or "year-round" level that represents the concentration of particles day-in and day-out in each location.
The report finds that during 2014-2016, the year-round particle pollution levels continued to drop, maintaining a long-term trend, with a few notable exceptions, including Fairbanks, Alaska, where expanded monitoring newly identified the highest average levels in the nation. After spiking to record high levels in last year's report, days with high short-term particle levels also dropped in most locations.
Short-term Particle Pollution
In the 2018 State of the Air report, most cities experienced fewer days of spikes in particle pollution, yet 35.1 million people lived in the 53 counties with too many days when particle pollution peaked at unhealthy levels. Bakersfield, California remained the city with the greatest short-term particle pollution levels. Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wildfires—many related to climate change—contributed to the high number of days with unhealthy particulate matter.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):
- Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California
- Fresno-Madera, California
- Fairbanks, Alaska
- Modesto-Merced, California
- San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
- Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
- Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
- El Centro, California
- Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia
Year-round Particle Pollution
The data available for the 2018 report show year-round particle pollution levels have dropped across much of the nation, some to their lowest levels yet. However, missing data from areas with invalid monitoring resulted in incomplete estimates of how many people nationwide are at risk from air pollution. According to EPA records, no complete data have been available for the entire state of Illinois since the 2014 report covering 2010-2012. In addition, the entire state of Mississippi and Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County in California lacked valid data for year-round particle pollution. The 2018 report, based on available but incomplete data, found that 9.8 million people lived in 16 counties where the annual average concentration of particle pollution was too high. But according to the Lung Association, as a result of the missing data, this likely vastly underestimates the people who are breathing unhealthy levels.
The importance of monitoring became particularly clear in the new ranking of Fairbanks, Alaska. Previously the metro area lacked sufficient monitoring data to provide year-round information. Now, improved monitoring, data revealed the dangerous levels of particle pollution year-round. In fact, Fairbanks is now the city with the highest year-round particle pollution in the 2018 report, up from number 17 in the 2017 report.
"The people of Fairbanks, Alaska, and all Americans have the right to know if the air they are breathing is dangerous. Improved monitoring is a critical step toward clean-up efforts that will save lives," Wimmer said. "Greater monitoring of air quality nationwide may also identify additional health risks in other locations in the United States."
Most cities continue to reduce their year-round particle pollution levels, some to their lowest levels yet. This continues a more than decade-long trend, as a result of steps taken under the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions. Despite these advancements, the 11 most polluted cities each violate the Clean Air Act's U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards designed to protect public health.
Top 11 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):
1. Fairbanks, Alaska
2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California
3. Bakersfield, California
4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
5. Fresno-Madera, California
6. Modesto-Merced, California
7. El Centro, California
8. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia
8. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
10. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
10. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio
"More must be done to clean up the air so that everyone has healthy air to breathe," Wimmer said. "We need essential pollution monitoring information to safeguard the health of those most at risk of the effects of air pollution, including children, the elderly and those living with a lung disease."
The State of the Air also recognizes the nation's cleanest cities, and again this year, only six cities qualified for that status. To rank as one of the nation's cleanest, each city must experience no high ozone or high particle pollution days and must rank among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle pollution levels during 2014-2016. Cities new to the list include Bellingham, Washington and Casper, Wyoming.
Cleanest U.S. Cities (listed in alphabetical order)
•Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
•Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
•Wilmington, North Carolina
With this report, the Lung Association calls out Congress and the EPA for six ongoing threats to the nation's air quality, including steps to roll back or weaken enforcement of key safeguards required under the Clean Air Act. Those threats include changes to weaken the Clean Air Act itself, undercut the agency's reliance on health science to inform policy making, and roll back existing cleanup requirements for cars, trucks, oil and gas operations and power plants, including the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution and address climate change.
"The Clean Air Act has saved lives and improved lung health for nearly 50 years," Wimmer said. "Congress and the EPA are tasked with protecting Americans—including protecting the right to breathe air that doesn't make people sick or die prematurely. We call on President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and members of Congress to fully fund, implement and enforce the Clean Air Act for all pollutants—including those that drive climate change and make it harder to achieve healthy air for all."
Proposed Coal Ash Regulations Give States Responsibility
A new review of EPA’s draft plan to rollback federal coal ash regulations established in 2015 indicates that the Agency plans remove the requirement that the companies responsible immediately clean up their coal ash spills. The analysis was done by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice. EPA will hold a hearing this week on the proposed coal ash rule rollback in Arlington, VA, followed by a Congressional briefing at which experts and people living near coal plants will testify.
Environmental, health and safety experts had previously highlighted other detrimental aspects of the EPA proposal, which was first unveiled last month. But the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice only recently found in the fine print the problem about the risk to children and the lack of immediate cleanup requirements for polluters.
“EPA knows that the health risks from coal ash pollution hit children the hardest, yet EPA’s new proposal allows states and polluters to ignore risks to children and leave them in harm’s way,” said Abel Russ, attorney with Environmental Integrity Project.
Coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal at power plants, is loaded with toxic pollutants like arsenic, lead, and even radioactivity, and EPA in 2015 released the first federal regulations designed to help control the escape of these pollutants from coal ash dumps. There are about 1400 coal ash sites and you can find the sites closest to you on this map.
In the proposed revision of the coal regulations, the agency shifts the responsibility of setting groundwater protection standards for many toxic coal ash pollutants, such as lead, boron, cobalt, lithium, and molybdenum, into the states’ hands for the first time. To make this change, the EPA cut and pasted language from existing regulations for municipal solid waste landfills (household trash dumps), but omitted a critical reference to the consideration of the health of “sensitive subgroups,” which includes children.
The new draft rule could also jeopardize hundreds of communities living near dangerous coal ash dams. Across the nation nearly 700 earthen impoundments hold back tens of millions of tons of toxic coal ash sludge. The largest toxic waste spill in the U.S. occurred at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in 2008, when an earthen dam broke in Harriman, Tennessee and released over a billion gallons of toxic sludge into a riverfront community. The EPA’s recent proposal ignores these risks and removes the requirement for industry to immediately respond to a disaster and control the toxic flood.
“High hazard coal ash dams will kill people if they break,” said Jack Spadaro, former administrator of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy and dam safety expert. “Removing the duty to immediately respond to a disaster places communities near coal ash dams in great jeopardy.”
Current regulations read:
“For systemic toxicants, the [groundwater standard] represents a concentration to which the human population (including sensitive subgroups) could be exposed on a daily basis that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime.” 40 CFR 258.55(i)(4).
The revised draft coal ash regulations are as follows:
“For systemic toxicants, the [groundwater standard] represents a concentration to which the human population could be exposed on a daily basis that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime.” 83 Fed. Reg. 11613.
“Sensitive subgroups,” which includes children, has been removed. The 2015 coal ash rule also requires polluters to respond immediately to toxic spills and take all necessary measures to control the source of the coal ash release. This requirement is essential to limiting the impacts of a spill and preventing further toxic releases. The current rule requires:
“In the event of a release from a CCR unit, the owner or operator must immediately take all necessary measures to control the source(s) so as to reduce or eliminate, to the maximum extent feasible, further releases of contaminants into the environment. The owner or operator of the [coal ash disposal] unit must comply with all applicable requirements in §§ 257.96, 257.97, and 257.98. 40 CFR 257.90(d).”
The revision proposes to strike the first sentence of the regulation, effectively removing the duty of polluters to immediately control the spill. This potential change will increase the damage to communities in the event of a disaster and put vulnerable populations in harm’s way because communities downstream of dangerous coal ash dumps are disproportionately low income.
$80.3 Million Recycling Fraud Conspiracy Results in Arrests
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery is announcing Grand Jury indictments and subsequent arrests of five people charged with operating a multi-year recycling fraud scheme from the Recycling Services Alliance (RSA) Corporation in Sacramento County. The owner of RSA and four employees are accused of fraudulently processing out-of-state empty beverage containers for California Redemption Value refunds and conspiring to manufacture fraudulent weight tickets to justify state payments and reimbursement claims.
“CalRecycle took decisive action to suspend RSA from the Beverage Container Recycling Program in 2016 as our internal audit and the California Department of Justice’s criminal investigation progressed,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “Recycling fraud is a serious crime and CalRecycle will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to disrupt these schemes and protect public funds.”
On May 15, 2015, the California Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team launched an investigation into RSA after receiving information the Sacramento facility was illegally receiving out-of-state material from various recycling centers and conspiring to defraud the Beverage Container Recycling Fund. As CDOJ pursued its criminal inquiry, CalRecycle staff worked alongside the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards and the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s Weights and Measures Division to investigate the CRV reimbursement claims submitted by RSA and the weight tickets used to support those claims.
On May 11, 2016, while CDOJ Recycling Fraud Team agents continued the criminal investigation, CalRecycle’s legal staff initiated the informal hearing process to suspend RSA’s participation in the CRV program. On May 13, 2016, CalRecycle issued a Notice of Suspension to RSA.
As a result of the investigation, which included search warrants and employee interviews, CDOJ agents and CalRecycle staff uncovered an organized effort to generate inaccurate, altered, or falsified weight tickets to increase CRV reimbursement claims from the fund. CalRecycle concluded that RSA’s CRV claims submitted from January 2012 to December 2015, which totaled $80,331,217.19, were based on fraudulent weight tickets.
EPA to Update Wet Weather Regulations for Wastewater Treatment Plants
The EPA announced it will be reaching out to states, local communities, and stakeholders as the Agency begins a new rulemaking process to provide certainty surrounding the use of “blending” by wastewater treatment plants.
“EPA is taking action on a new rule that will give municipalities much-needed clarity on blending at wastewater treatment plants,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We look forward to engaging with partners at the state and local levels as we work to design a rule that offers a common-sense approach to protecting public health and safely managing our nation’s wastewater.”
Through this effort, EPA seeks to provide regulatory clarity and certainty with respect to the use of blending so that facilities can optimize wastewater treatment during wet weather, which will protect both water quality and public health in the communities they serve.
EPA will be conducting robust stakeholder outreach during the coming months to gather critical input prior to issuing a proposed rulemaking.
Rain and snowmelt can take Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) offline when excess water enters the wastewater collection system and exceeds the POTW’s capacity to treat all incoming wastewater. POTWs often manage excess wet weather flow by routing some of the incoming water around the secondary (biological) treatment units and then “blending” it back in with secondary treatment effluent for disinfection prior to discharge. Blending allows an operator to avoid a possible shutdown or damage to the water treatment plant.
Proposed Changes to Texas Air Permit Regulations
In accordance with the provisions of Texas HB 4181, the proposed amendments would revise air permitting procedures for New Source Review (NSR) permit renewal notices, to provide the option of using an electronic method to send these notices to permit holders. The rulemaking would also revise procedures for sending Federal Operating Permit (FOP) proposed final action notices to allow for an electronic method of providing these notices. The proposal also includes a number of other proposed revisions to Chapters 116 and 122, which are unrelated to HB 4181 and are discussed below.
To implement HB 4181 and the corresponding amendments to THSC, 382.055 and 382.0562, the rulemaking would amend Chapter 116, Subchapter D, 116.310 to provide for electronic NSR permit renewal notices; and amend Chapter 122, Subchapter D, 122.345 to provide for electronic FOP proposed final action notices.
Other amendments, not required by federal regulations or state statutes, were recommended to bring clarity to specific requirements for the permitting programs and correct inaccuracies in the rules which have been identified over the years.
Permitting and Program Amendments: The proposal would amend existing language in 116.164, to clarify that projects will not be subject to prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) review for an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions alone; but that an increase in GHG emissions may be subject to PSD review if a different, non-GHG pollutant has an increase which triggers PSD review.
This proposal would also amend Chapter 116, Subchapter F, to update rule language concerning standard permit registration requirements to address changes at existing facilities and the addition of new facilities. Specifically, 116.611(a) would be amended to require standard permit registrations to be submitted electronically, if an electronic method is available. This change would reflect the current submittal process of certain standard permit registrations received by the TCEQ through ePermits, and would allow for the commission to implement electronic registration for additional standard permit types. Additionally, rule language in 116.615 would be revised to clarify the procedures to add a new facility or update an existing standard permit registration when changes are made at an existing authorized facility.
This rulemaking also proposes amendments to 122.241 and 122.505 to allow for the use of an electronic method to transmit renewal notices to permit holders for Site Operating Permits and General Operating Permits, respectively.
Miscellaneous Items: The proposal would update additional sections within Chapter 116 and Chapter 122 to correct minor administrative issues and clarify requirements. This would include proposed changes as follows:
- 116.114(c)(3)(A) to correct a reference from Subchapter C to Subchapter E;
- 116.160 and 116.198 to update cross references to rule sections which are being deleted or renumbered as part of this proposed rulemaking;
- 116.196 to clarify renewal requirements for Plant-wide Applicability Limit (PAL) Permits and make these consistent with general permit renewal requirements in Chapter 116, Subchapter D, Permit Renewals, such as, the requirement for the agency to send a renewal notification letter to the permit holder, and to be consistent with federal rules regarding renewal of PAL permits;
- 122.143 to revise a reference to annual compliance certifications;
- 122.146 to clarify that a permit holder needs to submit a compliance certification within 30 days of a permit being voided or after a change of ownership;
- 122.165(a) to include: requests to void an issued permit, requests to withdraw a permit application, off-permit notices, and operational flexibility notices, within the list of documents that require a signed certification of accuracy and completeness;
- 122.204(a) to reduce vagueness in rule language which relates to temporary sources;
- 122.210 to allow, during the permit revision, multiple permits at a site to be combined into one permit or a single permit to be separated into multiple permits;
- 122.320 to revise grammatical errors, inaccurate references, and other minor administrative issues;
- 122.320(b) to instruct the applicant that a Statement of Basis must be made available for review during public notice; and
- 122.503(c)(1)(A) and §122.504(a)(2)(A) to add a reference to 30 TAC Chapter 106 alongside the current reference to Chapter 116
Two Wisconsin Transport Companies Fined $152,250 for California Truck and Bus Violations
CARB has fined Marten Logistics and Roadrunner Transportation Systems for failure to verify that trucks hired or dispatched for service were compliant with the state’s tough Truck and Bus Regulation, and for not keeping adequate records as the law requires.
“Any company that hires or dispatches trucks for operation in California must verify the compliance of those vehicles with California law,” said CARB Enforcement Chief Todd Sax. “Failure to do so is a violation of law, and businesses that fail to comply should expect that they will get caught and pay the price. We do everything in our power to protect Californians from high-polluting vehicles and their many negative health impacts, including enforcement of our strict laws.”
Diesel trucks are one of California’s biggest sources of air pollution. Because they are so durable, they can operate for decades and emit significant amounts of diesel pollution. The Truck and Bus Regulation requires all older heavy duty diesel trucks operating in California to be either retrofitted with soot filters or replaced with a 2010 or later model year engine in order to greatly reduce harmful emissions.
The Truck and Bus Regulation also requires that a broker or motor carrier verify that a diesel truck is compliant with regulation requirements before they can hire or dispatch that vehicle. This additional check is an important way to help ensure that compliant trucks are operating in California.
Marten Logistics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marten Transport based in Wisconsin, was fined $100,000 for not verifying that each truck hired or dispatched was compliant with California. Of that amount, $75,000 has been directed to the state’s Air Pollution Control Fund to support for air quality research, and $25,000 to the Prescott Joseph Center for Community Enhancement to fund Northern County Breathmobile, a mobile unit that expands health care services to children with asthma in disadvantaged communities in Northern California.
Roadrunner Transportations Systems, also based in Wisconsin, also failed to verify compliance for each vehicle hired or dispatched and maintain records as required by the Truck and Bus Regulation. The company agreed to pay $52,250 in penalties, including $27,250 to the Air Pollution Control Fund and $25,000 to California Safe Schools to fully fund their Ground Truthing project. This project allows community members to locate and map facilities that could be potentially hazardous, and relay the info to CARB and the South Coast Air Quality Monitoring District for follow-up action.
Both Marten and Roadrunner have agreed to comply with all applicable terms of the Truck and Bus Regulation, and not operate or direct the operations of any vehicle subject to the regulation without verifying that each hired or dispatched vehicle is in compliance. The companies have also agreed to maintain accurate and timely records as required.
Diesel exhaust contains a variety of harmful gases and more than 40 other known cancer-causing compounds. In 1998, California identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death and other health problems.
$2.2 Million Settlement Reached in 2015 Hyperion Treatment Plant Sewage Spill
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has reached a $2.262 million settlement with the City of Los Angeles following two September 2015 incidents in which partially treated municipal wastewater containing plastic waste and other debris was discharged into Santa Monica Bay leading to beach closures and widespread public concern. The alleged violations involved the unpermitted discharge of floating plastic debris, such as feminine hygiene products, lancets and other waste items, that were discharged from the underground storm drain system at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant.
A review of the incidents found that a large storm event, a failed valve, and flooding of the pumping plant’s basement combined with old plastic waste caught in the Hyperion storm drain system caused the unauthorized discharge through the plant’s one-mile outfall to Santa Monica Bay. The incidents occurred while the plant’s regular five-mile outfall was closed for an upgrade to the plant’s pumping system.
“A number of factors contributed to these unfortunate incidents that put thousands of residents at risk for exposure to the offending waste and resulted in the closure of two beaches,” said Deborah Smith, Executive Officer for the Los Angeles Regional Water Board. “Since that time, and due to ongoing discussions, the City has taken corrective actions and implemented new inspection and cleaning protocols to make sure these kinds of incidents won’t happen again.”
At the request of the Los Angeles Regional Water Board, the city convened an advisory panel to investigate the incident and provide recommendations to prevent a recurrence. Following discussion with city officials, the board’s enforcement staff feel confident that the measures will prevent and eliminate floating plastic debris and other trash from entering into the City’s stormwater and sewage collection system in the future.
The Sept.15 event resulted in the discharge of approximately 30 million gallons of secondary treated wastewater combined with stormwater and solid debris from city sewage. A longer incident began on Sept. 21, causing beaches to close for four days and resulting in community apprehension about entering or using Santa Monica Bay waters for more than a month after the beach closure was lifted.
The $2.262 million settlement includes $1.131 million that will be deposited in the State Water Board Cleanup and Abatement Account. The remaining amount will fund two specific supplementary environmental projects (SEP) intended to reduce and prevent pollution from entering inland streams that connect to Santa Monica Bay and increase public awareness of the risks of water-borne pollution.
The Environmental Cleanup and Awareness SEP, led by Heal the Bay and 11 partner grassroots community-based organizations and environmental groups, will include inland river and coastal cleanups, outreach and water literacy education. The Stormwater Quality Improvement and Infiltration SEP will be implemented in locations that drain to Santa Monica Bay to treat and improve the quality of stormwater discharges.
New York Mobile Home Park Fined $858,000 for Sewage Releases
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office has won a $858,000 judgment against a Fulton County mobile home park and its owner over their failure for years to adequately treat the park’s sewage. Albany Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor assessed the penalty after finding that C and J Enterprises LLC (CJE) and its owner, James P. Burr, repeatedly violated New York environmental laws and a consent order governing the proper treatment of sewage from the Deerfield Estates mobile home park. As a result, sewage pooled on the surface of the ground in areas in close proximity to homes, and accessible to children and pets.
“Our state’s environmental laws are designed to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of every New Yorker is protected,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By allowing deplorable conditions to persist for years, the owners of Deerfield Estates mobile home park repeatedly ignored their responsibility to the law and to their residents. This penalty should serve as a warning: no one is above the law, and if you endanger the health and safety of New Yorkers, we will hold you accountable.”
A 2003 investigation by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found a number of violations of State environmental laws at the Deerfield Estates park, including a sewage collection and treatment system that was in a state of disrepair, causing raw sewage to overflow from an underground storage tank. This overflow saturated the ground around the tank, leading to raw sewage flowing towards a park trailer, and into an area where children played and where no fence or barrier existed to prevent children and pets from coming in contact with the sewage. In response, DEC and CJE entered into two consent orders in 2003 that required the company to pay a $7,500 penalty and take action to bring the park’s sewage treatment system into compliance with the law.
Follow-up inspections by DEC and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) between 2003 and 20o8 continued to find instances of inadequately treated sewage above the ground in the park area. This led to CJE and DEC entering into a third consent order in 2008 that required the company to pay a $25,000 penalty, and take specific steps, meet specific limits, and adhere to a specific schedule in bringing the sewage treatment system into legal compliance. The order also included stipulated penalties CJE agreed to pay if the company failed to strictly and timely comply with the order.
Nonetheless, subsequent inspections of the park conducted by DEC and DOH between 2008 and 2010 found the sewage treatment system at Deerfield Estates continued to discharge inadequately treated sewage onto the ground’s surface. As a result, in 2010, the Attorney General’s Office brought suit against CJE, Burr, and a now-deceased additional owner of the company, for violating state health and environmental laws and the 2008 consent order. The suit sought statutory penalties, as well as stipulated penalties set forth in the consent order, for these violations.
Judge O’Connor’s order finds CJE and Burr personally liable for repeated violations of the Environmental Conservation Law and the 2008 consent order, ordered a $858,000 judgment to be paid by CJE and Burr, and sets a court date to consider additional statutory penalties.
First WIFIA Water Infrastructure Loan Awarded to Washington State
The EPA issued its first-ever loan from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to King County, Washington, to help finance its Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station.
“Today’s loan marks a major milestone in advancing President Trump’s vision for improving our country’s water infrastructure,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA’s WIFIA program is proof positive that we can achieve environmental protections and economic growth at the same time.”
During heavy winter rains, the combined sewer pipes in the Duwamish Valley fill with stormwater and overflow, sending millions of gallons of polluted runoff and sewage into the Duwamish River, which drains into Puget Sound. When the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station is completed in 2022, it can collect and treat up to 70 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater per day that would have spilled into the river during bad weather.
“Restoring and protecting the Duwamish River and Puget Sound are among EPA’s top priorities here in the Pacific Northwest,” said EPA Regional Administrator, Chris Hladick. “We’re proud that financing from EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loan program will support King County’s new wet weather treatment station, helping us reduce ongoing sources of pollution and safeguard our investments in cleaning up the Duwamish River and restoring Puget Sound.”
The project is estimated to cost $275 million and EPA’s WIFIA loan will help finance nearly half that—up to $134.5 million. Because the WIFIA program offers loans with low, fixed interest rates, EPA’s loan is expected to save King County up to $32 million. The project is expected to create an estimated 1,400 jobs and will provide education, job training, and apprenticeship opportunities during its design, construction, and operation through King County’s Priority Hire program and partnership with South Seattle College’s Georgetown Campus.
Using funding provided in 2017, WIFIA’s 2017 loans will finance approximately $2 billion in infrastructure costs, including the loan to King County. On April 4, 2018, EPA announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. This year’s WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) highlights the importance of protecting public health including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation’s aging infrastructure. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA financing in 2018 must submit a letter of interest (LOI) by July 6, 2018.
New Online Portal for Climate Smart Communities Certification in NY
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the launch of a new certification portal, that streamlines the application process for local governments seeking to become Certified Climate Smart Communities. The Climate Smart Communities Certification program recognizes the leadership local governments have taken to reduce emissions and protect their communities from a changing climate. Local governments are key partners in achieving Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's aggressive goals to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Across the state, New York communities are experiencing the effects of climate change, from rising seas and increased flooding to greater agricultural losses from extreme weather. Thanks to programs like Climate Smart Communities, New York is out in front, building climate resiliency county by county, town by town, and village by village. At Governor Cuomo's direction, DEC is committed to helping local governments, business owners, and residents cut energy use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build healthier, more sustainable communities. The Climate Smart Communities certification portal will enable a new level of engagement with local leaders aiming to reduce emissions and protect their communities from climate change."
The certification portal is the latest step in an interagency initiative to provide state support for local climate action. The Climate Smart Communities program is jointly sponsored by six State agencies: DEC; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Department of Public Service; Department of State; Department of Transportation; and Department of Health. These state agencies provide resources through the portal to help local governments use their land-use powers and leadership position to lower emissions and help their communities adapt to a changing climate. Creation of the portal was possible through funding from NYSERDA.
Visitors to the portal can determine how their communities are participating in the Climate Smart Communities program via an interactive map that shows the two levels of participation: registered and certified. To be designated a Registered Climate Smart Community, a local government makes a commitment to act by passing a formal resolution that includes the 10-point Climate Smart Communities (CSC) pledge. There are currently 221 registered communities, representing nearly seven million New Yorkers.
To date, 18 local governments have completed the rigorous review process to be designated as Certified Climate Smart Communities. New York State introduced the CSC certification program in 2014 to recognize the leadership of communities that go beyond the CSC pledge to implement and document a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level. These communities represent New York's foremost leaders in local climate action. Visitors to the portal can access a searchable database containing the documents that certified communities used to earn points. By making this documentation publicly available, the portal provides details on model projects and inspires others to take action in their communities.
In addition, the portal streamlines the application process for becoming a Certified Climate Smart Community. Local governments may create several user logins for members of their local teams and use the portal to store and organize documentation and estimate expected points. It enables state agencies to add new resources and to inform local governments about the latest funding opportunities and best practices for building resilient, low-emission communities.
Over the past two years, DEC's Climate Smart Communities grants program has awarded approximately $20 million for 37 climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation projects. DEC has awarded another $1 million to support 26 Climate Smart Community certification projects.
On May 10, DEC will host an informational webinar about the Climate Smart Communities certification portal and recent updates to the program. For information about the webinar, visit DEC's calendar.
DNREC, DTI Electronics Recycling Partnership Saved Delaware More Than $110,000 in 2017 Energy Costs
A partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information (DTI) with the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) in the national State Electronics Challenge has saved the state more than $110,000 in energy costs for 2017. Participation in the State Electronics Challenge was open to all state agencies with IT services managed by DTI, including DNREC.
The annual electronics challenge encourages state, tribal, regional, and local governments to responsibly manage their offices more energy-efficiently by purchasing greener office equipment; by reducing the impacts of these products during use; and by managing obsolete electronics at the end-of-lifecycle in an environmentally safe way.
“Through DNREC’s partnership in the State Electronics Challenge Program we are supporting the state’s efforts at managing the lifecycle stewardship of electronic equipment,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The program provides tools to track progress, measure results, and see environmental benefits. DNREC’s efforts also included sending most of our electronic equipment for reuse in Delaware schools, with the remainder going to a certified recycler.”
“It is a priority of Governor Carney’s administration to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Delaware government, and our participation in the States Electronics Challenge has been a great way for us to save the State money in energy costs,” said Delaware Chief Information Officer James Collins. “DTI supports DNREC’s, and all of our IT centralized agencies’ efforts to leverage our purchasing power and manage the IT environment in a way that aligns with our sustainability goals.”
The collective action of Delaware’s state agencies participating in the State Electronics Challenge Delaware yielded the following environmental benefits during 2017:
- Savings of over 1 million kWh of energy, equivalent to powering 83 homes/year;
- Reducing 163,800 metric tons of carbon equivalents, equivalent to removing 34,630 cars from the road/year;
- Reduced toxic materials, including lead and mercury, by 5 pounds; and
- Prevention and diversion of 24,840 pounds of municipal solid waste, equivalent to waste generated by seven households/year.
DNREC and DTI chose electronics that meet the state’s IT and sustainability goals for purchasing and performance, using criteria based on Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool-registered products as a required or preferred standard in bids, contracts, and/or leases for IT equipment in calendar year 2017.
Many state agencies practice responsible reuse of electronic devices and partner with the Delaware Center for Educational Technology’s Partners in Technology Program (Par-Tech) http://www.dcet.k12.de.us/default.shtml to distribute the devices to schools where they are refurbished and serve a second life. This program provides a cost-effective alternative to new equipment purchases for those schools that need additional computer systems.
Responsible reuse also reduces mining of raw materials and the carbon footprint of manufacturing. All electronic equipment that is not refurbished for schools is sent to a certified e-Stewards electronics recycler to ensure recycling best practices for toxic materials and high standards of environmental, health, and safety protections.
For more information, including the full report on the states’ actions and benefits in the State Electronics Challenge, please email Don Long of DNREC’s recycling program within the Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances, or call 302-739-9403.
Registration Now Open for EPA Safer Choice Partner & Stakeholder Summit
EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced its third Safer Choice Partner & Stakeholder Summit. The Summit provides an opportunity for partners, purchasers, retailers, NGOs, trade associations, chemical manufacturers, and other interested stakeholders to collaborate on exploring topical questions and developing solutions that can advance Safer Choice. This year’s discussion will focus on the value of the Safer Chemical Ingredients List as a starting point in identifying Low Priority Substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act, as well as priorities for the Safer Choice program. The Summit will be held on May 14, 2018, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Webinar: Opportunities from the New Federal BUILD Act Brownfields Law
The BUILD Act (Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development) is the first major legislative change to Brownfields since passage of the original statute in 2002. At a May 9 webinar, you’ll hear from experts regarding increased eligibility for funding, additional liability protections, and changes to grant programs. The webinar will feature officials from the EPA, a local community, national brownfield experts, and the coordinator of the National Brownfields Coalition. This free webinar is made possible with funding provided by EPA.
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