January 28, 2019
Violation Tracker is national search engine on what the site developers describe as corporate misconduct. The search engine covers environmental, health & safety, banking, consumer protection, false claims, wage & hour, unfair labor practice, employment discrimination, price-fixing, bribery and other cases initiated by more than 40 federal regulatory agencies and all divisions of the Justice Department since 2000; in all, 358,000 civil and criminal cases with total penalties of more than $450 billion.
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Manufactures Pay $1.4 Million Fine for Violating California Air Quality Rules for Cleaning Products
Three companies paid $1,436,252 to the California Air Resources Board for failing to comply with the state’s consumer products clean air regulations
. The companies are Kraft Heinz Foods Co. of Chicago, Ill., Mothers Polishes, Waxes, Cleaners Inc. of Huntington Beach, and CRC Industries Inc. of Horsham Township, Pa. All three were selling cleaning products in California that violated State air quality regulations.
“Many common household products, such as cleaners and metal polishes, contain compounds that contribute to unhealthy smog. It’s important that retailers only stock and sell products that adhere to CARB regulations limiting the amount of these compounds,” CARB Enforcement Division Chief Todd Sax said.
The violations were all discovered during routine inspections by CARB. Enforcement staff regularly purchase samples of cleaning and other consumer products from retail shelves and test them in the CARB lab to determine if the products comply with air quality regulations.
Neither Kraft Heinz Foods, nor Mothers Polishes, has a history of past violations and CRC is considered a “good actor,” going above and beyond with corrective actions.
A toxic compound was found in the CRC products case, while the Kraft Heinz Foods and Mothers Polishes tests showed concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) exceeding the allowed limit for the product. VOCs combine with nitrogen oxide in sunlight to form smog.
Kraft Heinz Foods manufactured and distributed a general purpose cleaner sold as 'All Natural Cleaning Vinegar' that was not compliant with the volatile organic compound limit for that product, resulting in 75.2 tons of excess VOC emissions. The company paid $700,000 in penalties: $350,000 to the Air Pollution Control Fund for projects and research to improve air quality, and $350,000 to the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District to fund a Marine Vessel Speed Reduction Incentive Program. That program provides incentives to shipping companies to reduce ship speeds through the Channel Island region in order to reduce NOx and other air pollutants.
Three products sold or supplied by Mothers — Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish, Mothers Billet Metal Polish and Mothers California Gold Metal Polish — caused 10.35 tons of excess VOC emissions. Mothers paid $111,242 in total: $56,252 to the state’s Air Pollution Control Fund and $55,000 to fund interns who host hands-on science activities for community members visiting the California Science Center Foundation. Those activities raise public awareness about risks associated with high carbon emissions generated by human activities.
CRC Industries sold, supplied and offered for sale in California two electrical parts cleaning products – CRC Lecta-Clean and CRC Lecta-Motive — which contained perchloroethylene, a toxic air contaminant prohibited for this category of product in California. Air toxics are pollutants that cause or may cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as birth defects. CRC paid $625,000 in penalties: $325,528 to the state’s Air Pollution Control Fund and $299,472 to El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center in Eastern Coachella Valley to fund outreach on respiratory health to local communities that targets low-income families and families with children. CRC modified the Lectra-Clean product to conform to the state’s regulation and agreed not to sell Lectra-Motive in California.
TDY Industries Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined TDY Industries LLC, doing business as ATI Wah Chang, $6,300 for hazardous waste violations
at its Albany facility following an investigation into an August 2018 fire.
About a cubic yard of metal fines containing zirconium and magnesium ignited after it reacted with water in August 2018. The resulting fire spread to a nearby field burning several acres around the facility.
DEQ cited the company for failing to do a complete and accurate hazardous waste determination on the waste. DEQ had previously fined the company for violations involving similar types of waste. When calculating the fine, DEQ took into account efforts the company took to address the violation and prevent it from recurring. The company has until Feb. 4 to appeal the penalty.
PFAS Drinking Water Guidelines in the U.S. Vary Widely from State to State
In response to the growing problem of drinking water contaminated with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a new analysis
shows that many states are establishing their own guideline levels for two types of PFAS—PFOA and PFOS—that differ from federal guidelines. The new study appears in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology
, which is published by Springer Nature. According to Alissa Cordner of Whitman College in the US, the study’s lead author, the findings highlight the need for enforceable federal standards and more health protective limits on these contaminants in drinking water to safeguard the health of millions of people whose water supplies have been contaminated.
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) are widely-used chemicals found in a range of products such as non-stick coatings, stain repellents, and firefighting foam. They have been in use since the 1950s. When it became clear the substances were linked to a variety of diseases, manufacturing of products containing PFOA and PFOS ceased in the US.
However, both contaminants are very persistent in the environment and the human body. They are also extremely mobile in the environment and so have contaminated drinking water supplies serving millions of Americans. Although the chemicals are no longer produced in the US, they are still used in many products manufactured outside the country. Companies have been replacing PFOS and PFOS with other PFAS substances, however studies show these replacement chemicals share many of the same chemical properties.
In this study, the research team identified state agencies that have guidelines regarding the levels of PFOA and PFOS chemicals that are allowed in drinking water without causing adverse health effects, and the remedial action to be taken if these contaminants are found in water sources. These guidelines were compared with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EAP) health advisories for the same chemicals.
As part of the assessment, Cordner and her colleagues at Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University gathered information released in June 2018 by the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council. The researchers also sourced documents from state websites and contacted state environmental and health agencies.
Their analysis shows that seven states so far have adopted or proposed their own water guideline levels for PFOA and/or PFOS, and three states have set levels of the contaminants that are lower than those set by EPA. In some cases, states developed the guideline levels after specific incidents of contamination. The state water guideline levels also vary dramatically. While EPA has released a health advisory level of 70 nanograms per liter for PFOA and PFOS combined, state guideline levels for the two chemicals range from 13 nanograms per liter (in New Jersey) to 1,000 nanograms per liter (in North Carolina). Some states are also developing guildeline levels for other PFAS.
The researchers identified multiple scientific factors that influenced the guideline levels, including the choice of toxicological endpoints and assumptions about drinking water consumption. Social, economic and political pressures all influenced the establishment of guidelines by states, for instance in response to community concerns or discovery of contamination incidents.
“Assessments by multiple states and academic scientists suggest that EPA’s health advisory for drinking water is not sufficiently protective,” explains Cordner. Previous studies in children exposed to PFOS have shown effects on immune function at lower exposures than EPA’s drinking water advisory levels. The most sensitive toxicological endpoints—altered mammary gland development and suppressed immune function—were not the basis for EPA’s health advisories but were used by a small number of states.
“There are currently no federal drinking-water standards for PFOA and PFOS, despite widespread drinking water contamination, ubiquitous population-level exposure, and toxicological and epidemiological evidence linking it to various diseases. Because of this, public water entities are not required by law to routinely test whether contaminant levels in water exceed EPA’s health advisory and state agencies are not empowered to enforce cleanup,” she explains.
The researchers stress that lack of federal standards may create or exacerbate public health disparities because not all states have the resources to develop their own guideline levels or ensure cleanup of contaminated supplies.
Warning for World’s Groundwater Reserves
Future generations could be faced with an environmental ‘time bomb’ if climate change is to have a significant effect on the world’s essential groundwater reserves.
This is according to a researcher from Cardiff University and a team of international collaborators who have for the first time provided a global insight in to what will happen should our groundwater systems start to see changes in their replenishment.
In a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, the research team have shown that in more than half of the world’s groundwater systems, it could take over 100 years for groundwater systems to completely respond to current environmental change.
Groundwater, found underground in the cracks and pore spaces in soil, sand and rock, is the largest source of usable freshwater in the world, and is relied on by more than two billion people as a source of drinking and irrigation water.
Groundwater resources are replenished predominantly through rainfall in a process known as recharge. At the same time, water exits or discharges from groundwater resources into lakes, streams and oceans to maintain an overall balance.
If there is a change in recharge, for example due to a reduction in rainfall as a result of climate change, the levels of water in the ground will begin to change until a new balance is achieved.
However, questions still remain about how groundwater will be specifically impacted by future climate change, and where and when any changes will take place.
Lead author of the research, Dr Mark Cuthbert, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Water Research Institute, said: “Our research shows that groundwater systems take a lot longer to respond to climate change than surface water, with only half of the world’s groundwater flows responding fully within ‘human’ timescales of 100 years.
“This means that in many parts of the world, changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy. This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the baseflow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.
MPCA Enforcement Cases in Fourth Quarter of 2018
In its ongoing efforts to promote environmental compliance, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concluded 31 enforcement cases in 25 counties throughout Minnesota during the fourth quarter of 2018. Penalties from all 31 cases totaled just over $158,000. In all of 2018, the MPCA completed 194 cases, totaling $1,062,440.
Environmental enforcement investigations often take several months, and in highly complex cases more than a year. Although, in rare instances, they can involve courts, they are most often negotiated settlements where the goal is compliance with environmental rules. Fines issued are targeted to match the environmental harm, economic advantage gained or environmental corrective actions.
In addition to these 31 recently-completed cases, the MPCA also has 32 ongoing enforcement investigations, 19 of which were opened as new cases during the fourth quarter of 2018. Not all investigations lead to fines or other official action.
Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process. Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support, and information on the steps and tools necessary to achieve compliance for any company, individual, or local government that requests it.
The following is a brief summary of all 31 cases completed during the fourth quarter of 2018:
- R&M Septic Service, North Branch, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $15,260
- Agri-Energy LLC, Luverne, for air quality violations, $15,145
- Swift Pork Company, Worthington, for air quality violations, $13,254
- Crystal Valley Cooperative, Jackson, for air quality violations, $13,025
- Great River Energy, Elk River, for air quality violations, $12,560
- Northside Storage-Willmar LLC, Willmar, for construction stormwater violations, $9,310
- 3M Company, Maplewood, for air quality violations, $7,020
- CHS Fairmont, Fairmont, for air quality violations, $6,720
- Paul Park Refining Co., St. Paul Park, for air quality violations, $6,500
- Cargill Inc., Fairmont, for air quality violations, $5,950
- Ever Cat Fuels LLC, Isanti, for hazardous and solid waste violations, $5,382
- American Crystal Sugar, Moorhead, for air quality violations, $5,100
- American Peat Technology LLC, Aitkin, for air quality violations, $5,004
- Lake of the Woods County Public Works, Williams, for solid waste violations, $5,000
- Alan and Paula Greggerson, Moore’s Septic Pumping LLC, Detroit Lakes, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $4,600
- Richard Heidecker, dba Heidecker Brothers, Willmar, for construction stormwater violations, $4,130
- A1 Septic Service and Excavating LLC, Patricia Stock, Mahnomen, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $4,000
- Dan’s Diesel Inc., Willmar, for construction stormwater violations, $3,780
- Beachway Motel and Cabins, Duluth, for solid waste and asbestos violations, $2,500
- Waterfront Plaza Condominium Assoc., Duluth, for wastewater violations, $2,235
- City of Dumont, Dumont, for solid waste violations, $1,750
- Fridgen Excavating and Tiling LLC, Farwell, for solid waste violations, $1,750
- Mark Boesl, Brandon, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,600
- Hoheisel’s Septic Service, Pierz, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,250
- Mattie Miller, Harmony, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,000
- Michelle and Matthew Brown, Lake Crystal, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,000
- David Clausen, Pemberton, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,000
- Rochester Township, Rochester, for municipal separate storm sewer system violations, $840
- Liberty Diversified Industries, Becker, for air quality violations, $700
- Ritrama Inc., Minneapolis, for air quality violations, $700
- Langdon Farms LLC, Cannon Falls, for solid waste violations, $350
A complete summary of environmental enforcement actions and news releases appear on the MPCA’s enforcement summary webpage
. For questions on specific enforcement cases, please contact Stephen Mikkelson, Information Officer at 218-316-3887, or toll free at 800-657-3864.
Central Coast Water Board Reaches Settlement with Guggia Farms Over Reporting Violations
California's Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has approved a settlement for $55,164 with Guggia Farms, Inc. of Santa Barbara County for failure to submit data and information used to monitor water quality impacts to surface and groundwater sources.
The violations include failure to submit individual surface water discharge monitoring data; late submittals of the annual compliance form, total nitrogen applied reports, an irrigation and nutrient management plan effectiveness report, a water quality buffer plan and technical report documentation required under Water Code section 13267.
The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) adopted the Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands (Ag Order) in 2012, which was updated in 2017. The Ag Order requires landowners and operators with farms growing commercial irrigated crops to obtain regulatory coverage by enrolling the farm in the Ag Order.
During the enrollment procedure, staff assigns the farm a tier, with Tier 1 ranches having the fewest reporting requirements and Tier 3 having the most reporting requirements. Landowners and operators with Tier 2 and Tier 3 farms are required to complete, and keep up to date, an annual compliance form. Landowners and operators with Tier 2 and Tier 3 farms growing high-risk crops (those that have a high risk of discharging nitrogen to groundwater) are required to submit an annual total nitrogen applied report.
A subset of landowners and operators with Tier 3 farms are required to develop and implement a water quality buffer plan and an irrigation and nutrient management plan (INMP); growers required to develop an INMP must submit an effectiveness report of their INMP. Guggia Farms is ranked as a Tier 3 ranch because they reported chlorpyrifos applications to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, and irrigation and stormwater discharge in the annual compliance form submitted to the Regional Water Board. The data requirements are used to ensure that farms are achieving water quality objectives in their management practices.
Landowners and operators growing commercial irrigated crops must enroll farms by submitting an electronic Notice of Intent. For more information about the Ag Order requirements, contact Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program staff at AgNOI@waterboards.ca.gov, or call 805-549-3148.
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