June 07, 2021
EPA has added three per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
(PFAS) to the list of chemicals subject to toxic chemical release reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA
) and the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA). This action implements the statutory mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020 NDAA) enacted on December 20, 2019. Because this action was taken taken to conform the regulations to a Congressional legislative mandate, EPA is unable to provide an opportunity for advanced notice and solicitation of comments from the public or the regulated community.
This final rule, which will require reporting these PFAS chemicals on TRI Form R and Form A reports
, will go into effect on July 6, 2021. For additional information, contact Daniel R. Ruedy, Data Gathering and Analysis Division, Mail Code 7410M, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001; 202-564-7974, or email@example.com
Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Silver Nanomaterials
Nanoscale silver particles are some of the most widely used nanomaterials in commerce, with numerous uses in consumer and medical products. Workers who produce or use silver nanomaterials are potentially exposed to those materials in the workplace. Previous authoritative assessments of occupational exposure to silver did not account for particle size. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) assessed potential health risk from occupational exposure to silver nanomaterials
by evaluating more than 100 studies of silver nanomaterials in animals or cells. In studies that involved human cells, silver nanomaterials were associated with toxicity (cell death and DNA damage) that varied according to the size of the particles. In animals exposed to silver nanomaterials by inhalation or other routes of exposure, silver tissue concentrations were elevated in all organs tested. Exposure to silver nanomaterials in animals was associated with decreased lung function, inflamed lung tissue, and histopathological (microscopic tissue) changes in the liver and kidney. In the relatively few studies that compared the effects of exposure to nanoscale or microscale silver, nanoscale particles had greater uptake and toxicity than did microscale particles. To date, researchers have not reported health effects in workers exposed to silver nanomaterials.
To assess the risk of adverse health effects from occupational exposure, NIOSH evaluated the data from two published subchronic (intermediate duration) inhalation studies in rats. These studies revealed lung and liver effects that included early-stage lung inflammation and liver bile duct hyperplasia. NIOSH researchers used the data from these studies to estimate the dose of silver nanoparticles that caused these effects in rats. They then calculated the corresponding dose that would be expected to cause a similar response in humans, accounting for uncertainties in those estimates. From this evaluation, NIOSH derived a recommended exposure limit (REL) for silver nanomaterials (<100 nm primary particle size) of 0.9 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) as an airborne respirable 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) concentration. In addition, NIOSH continues to recommend a REL of 10 μg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA for total silver (metal dust, fume, and soluble compounds, as Ag). NIOSH further recommends the use of workplace exposure assessments, engineering controls, safe work procedures, training and education, and established medical surveillance approaches to protect workers.
At-Home COVID-19 Tests: How Good Are They?
As the country gets vaccinated and begins to re-open, testing remains a key element of safe interactions. Rapid testing for COVID-19 has become more common and accessible, including over-the-counter (OTC) tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, put five of these at-home rapid tests through their paces to gauge efficacy and ease of use in a new cover story.
Despite decreasing infection rates, experts say that continued COVID-19 testing will be vital for ensuring safety at businesses, schools and events. At-home tests are convenient and supposedly easy to use, according to Senior Editor Megha Satyanarayana. In fact, ease of use for the average person is a requirement for FDA approval. However, some experts worry that the results of OTC tests do not necessarily get reported to public health agencies, and that those who test positive at home might be less compliant with quarantine recommendations.
At-home test kits come in two varieties: antigen and molecular. Antigen tests detect pieces of viral proteins in cells and have a reputation for being less sensitive and accurate. Molecular tests look for the virus’s genetic instructions, or RNA, which is more readily detected in a given sample. Of the five tests C&EN tried out, each had a different way of swabbing and reading results, including specialized devices and smartphone apps. They found that all five tests were relatively easy to use with instructions, and they provided accurate results compared to lab testing. In addition to questions about the accuracy of self-testing, the cost of and access to these tests is a concern. To help offset this, some communities have created programs to distribute at-home tests, which could help build trust in testing and help stop the spread.
Legislation Introduced to Keep Dangerous Chemicals Out of Food Supply
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) has introduced the Toxic Free Food Act
, legislation to overhaul the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) process for determining the safety of chemicals used in the food supply. An array of chemicals is often added to foods to improve flavor, enhance appearance, or extend shelf life. For decades, FDA has allowed food and chemical manufacturers to designate such chemicals as ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS), without FDA review or public notice. Consumer advocates have long criticized the current GRAS notification system due to issues of transparency, effectiveness, and ethics. The Toxic Free Food Act
would require FDA to close the so-called GRAS loophole and make the industry’s chemical food additives subject to FDA approval.
“American families deserve to trust that the food in our stores and supermarkets is safe,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The current notification system for ‘generally recognized as safe’ erodes the public’s trust in food safety. The food industry is designating new ingredients as GRAS to take advantage of this loophole so they can rush new chemicals to market with no oversight. Those that choose to notify FDA of their new substance get to supply their own, company-funded science and keep it away from the eyes of the public. This approval process must be mandatory, transparent, and independent in order to maintain the trust of American consumers. We need to close the GRAS loophole.”
In 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined
that FDA’s performance was inadequate and did not ensure the safety of GRAS substances. To date, the current GRAS notification system is voluntary, not available to the public, and has major issues with conflicts of interest. Consumer Reports estimates
there are about 1,000 GRAS substances where safety determinations were made by food companies without notifying FDA. The food industry has no requirement or incentive to notify FDA of a new GRAS ingredient. The evidence of safety that is submitted to FDA is conducted by industry scientists, and FDA regulators are not provided with the underlying data and research to determine safety.
The Toxic Free Food Act is supported by a broad group of consumer, health, and food safety groups including Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Healthy Babies Bright Future, Defend our Health, Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.
“None of us should have to worry about the safety of our food,”said Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber. “But, for too long, the FDA has let the food and chemical companies decide whether toxic forever chemicals like PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are safe to eat. The Toxic Free Food Act will put the FDA in charge of food safety, not the food and chemical companies.”
“This bill does an excellent job of correcting the problems and loopholes associated with the current GRAS system, which essentially allows the industry to determine the safety of substances added to food without informing the FDA,” said Director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports Brian Ronholm.
“For far too long, food manufacturers have secretly introduced new chemicals into our foods without providing the FDA or the public with any safety data,” said Executive Director and President of Center for Science in the Public Interest Peter Lurie, MD, MPH. “The Toxic Free Food Act of 2021 is an important step in providing the FDA with the information needed to keep dangerous chemicals out of our foods.”
“Environmental Defense Fund applauds Representative DeLauro for introducing the Toxic Free Food Act,” said Environmental Defense Fund Chemicals Policy Director Tom Neltner. “The bill would direct FDA to fix the most significant flaws with the agency’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Rule that allows companies to secretly decide on the safety of chemicals in our food – without the agency’s review or the public’s knowledge.”
Owens-Brockway Fined $1 Million for Particulate and Opacity Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a $1,032,354 penalty to Owens-Brockway as part of an enforcement action, citing the company
for multiple, ongoing air quality violations at its Portland facility. DEQ is requiring Owens-Brockway to develop a plan to reduce emissions immediately and to submit an application to modify its permit to include pollution controls.
Owens-Brockway’s violations include exceeding the facility’s permitted amount of particulate matter emissions as well as the permitted opacity, which is the degree to which visibility is reduced by pollution. Particulate matter can affect the heart and lungs, causing serious health problems such as decreased lung function, irregular heartbeat and chronic bronchitis. These emissions contain toxic air contaminants, including a number of metals DEQ regulates because they have the potential to cause serious adverse human health effects.
“The best thing Owens-Brockway could do to come into compliance and protect the community is to install pollution controls,” stated Nina DeConcini, DEQ’s Northwest Region Administrator. “DEQ is concerned about this facility’s history of non-compliance and the impact it’s having on the community.”
An Interim Measures Plan to reduce emissions until the facility installs pollution control equipment is due to DEQ 15 days after the order becomes final and Owens-Brockway must consider the option of reducing production to comply with the pollution limits in its permit. A permit modification application is due 90 days after the order becomes final and the facility must install pollution controls within one year following permit issuance.
Owens-Brockway has the option to appeal the order within 20 calendar days of receiving the notice. The order becomes final either after the 20 days or once the appeal has been resolved via settlement or an administrative hearing.
In addition to this enforcement, Owens-Brockway is completing an air toxics risk assessment as part of DEQ’s Cleaner Air Oregon program and has identified cost-effective pollution controls as part of DEQ’s Regional Haze program. Both of these programs may require pollution controls. The company has installed pollution controls at other glass manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
Cascades Containerboard Packaging, Inc. Gets NOV for Noxious Odor
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Cascades Containerboard Packaging, Inc., in the city of Niagara Falls, after the agency determined the facility was generating a persistent noxious odor that resulted in dozens of complaints from area residents, business owners, and state and local officials. DEC first recorded the complaints in mid-May.
"After repeated and persistent odor complaints, DEC is directing Cascades Containerboard to undertake a comprehensive suite of actions to stop these odors, effective immediately," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "We are also requiring Cascades to undertake a full survey of its operations to address the source of this odor and keeping them on task with a compliance schedule to further protect the community of Niagara Falls."
Under the terms of the NOV, Cascades must immediately:
- Cease storing secondary sludge outdoors;
- Reduce facility production to a level that ensures adequate odor control;
- Ensure secondary sludge is removed from the facility daily;
- Increase odor control applications to its secondary sludge; and
- Add a portable on-site misting system for sludge treatment to mitigate odors.
In addition, DEC is directing Cascades to adhere to a strict compliance schedule, which includes: submitting an explanation for the odors; clarifying its sludge removal plan on weekends and holidays; establishing and managing a 24-hour odor complaint hotline and email system for public use; and submitting bi-weekly progress reports to DEC. The NOV also requires the facility to conduct a survey to identify all potential sources of odors and submit a report detailing its plans to correct the problem.
The NOV filed by DEC advised Cascades that its actions violated Environmental Conservation Law 6 NYCRR Part 211.1, and a condition of its Air State Facility Permit, which explicitly states: No person shall cause or allow emissions of air contaminants to the outdoor atmosphere of such quantity, characteristic or duration which are injurious to human, plant or animal life or to property, or which unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property. Notwithstanding the existence of specific air quality standards or emission limits, this prohibition applies, but is not limited to, any particulate, fume, gas, mist, odor, smoke, vapor, pollen, toxic or deleterious emission, either alone or in combination with others.
The NOV follows actions taken by DEC against Cascades in May 2021. DEC staff immediately responded to initial public complaints and, following investigation, issued a warning letter to Cascades Containerboard on May 21. Cascades responded to the Warning Letter by acknowledging the source of the odors and providing a plan for corrective action. Cascades agreed to employ corrective actions to mitigate the odors, including enhanced on-site treatment of its secondary sludge from the on-site wastewater treatment plant, increasing the frequency of off-site transport of sludge and the installation of a misting system to reduce the emanating putrid odors. Despite these actions, DEC continued to receive verified odor complaints.
Standards Board Readopts Revised Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards
Last year, the California Occupational Safety and Health Board adopted health and safety standards to protect workers from COVID-19. The standards did not consider vaccinations and required testing, quarantining, masking and more to protect workers from COVID-19.
New changes adopted by the Board phase out physical distancing and make other adjustments to better align with the state’s June 15 goal to retire the Blueprint. Without these changes, the original standards, would be in place until at least October 2. These restrictions are no longer required given today’s record low case rates and the fact that we’ve administered 37 million vaccines.
The revised emergency standards are expected to go into effect no later than June 15 if approved by the Office of Administrative Law in the next 10 calendar days. Some provisions go into effect starting on July 31, 2021.
The revised standards
are the first update to Cal/OSHA’s temporary COVID-19 prevention requirements adopted in November 2020. The Board may further refine the regulations in the coming weeks to take into account changes in circumstances, especially as related to the availability of vaccines and low case rates across the state.
The standards apply to most workers in California not covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard
. Notable revisions include:
- Face Coverings:
- Indoors, fully vaccinated workers without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to wear face coverings in a room where everyone else is fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms. However, where there is a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in a room, all workers will continue to be required to wear a face covering.
- Outdoors, fully vaccinated workers without symptoms do not need to wear face coverings. However, outdoor workers who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear a face covering when they are less than six feet away from another person.
- Physical Distancing: When the revised standards take effect, employers can eliminate physical distancing and partitions/barriers for employees working indoors and at outdoor mega events if they provide respirators, such as N95s, to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use. After July 31, physical distancing and barriers are no longer required (except during outbreaks), but employers must provide all unvaccinated employees with N95s for voluntary use.
- Prevention Program: Employers are still required to maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Program but there are some key changes to requirements:
- Exclusion from the Workplace: Fully vaccinated workers who do not have COVID-19 symptoms no longer need to be excluded from the workplace after a close contact.
- Special Protections for Housing and Transportation: Special COVID-19 prevention measures that apply to employer-provided housing and transportation no longer apply if all occupants are fully vaccinated.
The Standards Board will file the readoption rulemaking package with the Office of Administrative Law, which has 10 calendar days to review and approve the temporary workplace safety standards enforced by Cal/OSHA. Once approved and published, the full text of the revised emergency standards will appear in the Title 8 sections 3205
(COVID-19 Prevention), 3205.1
(Multiple COVID-19 Infections and COVID-19 Outbreaks), 3205.2
(Major COVID-19 Outbreaks) 3205.3
(COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Housing) and 3205.4
(COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Transportation) of the California Code of Regulations
. Pursuant to the state’s emergency rulemaking process
, this is the first of two opportunities to readopt the temporary standards after the initial effective period
The Standards Board also convened a representative subcommittee to work with Cal/OSHA on a proposal for further updates to the standard, as part of the emergency rulemaking process. It is anticipated this newest proposal, once developed, will be heard at an upcoming Board meeting. The subcommittee will provide regular updates at the Standards Board monthly meetings.
Buildings – in the Loop
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a novel envelope system that diverts heat or coolness away from a building and stores it for future use.
Traditional building envelopes, such as roofs and walls, use insulation to reduce heat flow. ORNL’s thermally anisotropic building envelope, or TABE, adds thin conductive layers between the insulation. The conductive layers connect to a thermal loop that redirects the heat or coolness to an energy storage system.
Stored energy is then used to heat or cool the indoor space. Sensors and controls determine when to transfer energy between the envelope and the loop to maximize energy savings or peak load reductions.
“Our simulations predicted more than 50% energy savings in a residential building,” ORNL’s Som Shrestha said. “Results from a one-year field demonstration also showed promising results for TABE when used in walls and roofs.”
New ‘Swiss Army Knife’ Cleans Up Water Pollution
Phosphate pollution in rivers, lakes and other waterways has reached dangerous levels, causing algae blooms that starve fish and aquatic plants of oxygen. Meanwhile, farmers worldwide are coming to terms with a dwindling reserve of phosphate fertilizers that feed half the world’s food supply.
Inspired by Chicago’s many nearby bodies of water, a Northwestern University-led team has developed a way to repeatedly remove and reuse phosphate
from polluted waters. The researchers liken the development to a “Swiss Army knife” for pollution remediation as they tailor their membrane to absorb and later release other pollutants. The research was published the week of May 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Phosphorus underpins both the world’s food system and all life on earth. Every living organism on the planet requires it: phosphorous is in cell membranes, the scaffolding of DNA and in our skeleton. Though other key elements like oxygen and nitrogen can be found in the atmosphere, phosphorous has no analog. The small fraction of usable phosphorous comes from the Earth’s crust, which takes thousands or even millions of years to weather away. And our mines are running out
A 2021 article in The Atlantic by Julia Rosen cited Isaac Asimov’s 1939 essay, in which the American writer and chemist dubbed phosphorous “life’s bottleneck.” Given the shortage of this non-renewable natural resource, it is sadly ironic that many of our lakes are suffering from a process known as eutrophication, which occurs when too many nutrients enter a natural water source. As phosphate and other minerals build up, aquatic vegetation and algae become too dense, depleting oxygen from water and ultimately killing aquatic life.
“We used to reuse phosphate a lot more,” said Stephanie Ribet, the paper’s first author. “Now we just pull it out of the ground, use it once and flush it away into water sources after use. So, it's a pollution problem, a sustainability problem and a circular economy problem.”
Ecologists and engineers traditionally have developed tactics to address the mounting environmental and public health concerns around phosphate by eliminating phosphate from water sources. Only recently has the emphasis shifted away from removing to recovering phosphate.
“One can always do certain things in a laboratory setting,” said Vinayak Dravid
, the study’s corresponding author. “But there’s a Venn Diagram when it comes to scaling up, where you need to be able to scale the technology, you want it to be effective and you want it to be affordable. There was nothing in that intersection of the three before, but our sponge seems to be a platform that meets all these criteria.”
The team’s Phosphate Elimination and Recovery Lightweight (PEARL) membrane is a porous, flexible substrate (such as a coated sponge, cloth or fibers) that selectively sequesters up to 99% of phosphate ions from polluted water. Coated with nanostructures that bind to phosphate, the PEARL membrane can be tuned by controlling the pH to either absorb or release nutrients to allow for phosphate recovery and reuse of the membrane for many cycles.
Current methods to remove phosphate are based on complex, lengthy, multi-step methods. Most of them do not also recover the phosphate during removal and ultimately generate a great deal of physical waste. The PEARL membrane provides a simple one-step process to remove phosphate that also efficiently recovers it. It’s also reusable and generates no physical waste.
Using samples from Chicago’s Water Reclamation District, the researchers tested their theory with the added complexity of real water samples.
“We often call this a ‘nanoscale solution to a gigaton problem,’” Dravid said. “In many ways the nanoscale interactions that we study have implications for macrolevel remediation.”
The team has demonstrated that the sponge-based approach is effective on scales, ranging from milligrams to kilograms, suggesting promise in scaling even further.
This research builds on a former development from the same team – Vikas Nandwana, a member of the Dravid group and co-author on the present study was the first author – called the OHM (oleophilic hydrophobic multifunctional) sponge that used the same sponge platform to selectively remove and recover oil resulting from oil contamination in water. By modifying the nanomaterial coating in the membrane, the team plans to next use their “plug-and-play”-like framework to go after heavy metals. Ribet also said multiple pollutants could be addressed at once by applying multiple materials with tailored affinities.
“This water remediation challenge hits so close to home,” Ribet said. “The western basin of Lake Erie is one of the main areas you think of when it comes to eutrophication, and I was inspired by learning more about the water remediation challenges in our Great Lakes neighborhood.”
Benjamin Shindel, Roberto dos Reis and Vikas Nandwana — all from Northwestern — coauthored the paper.
Employers Reminded to Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Illness
Cal/OSHA reminded employers to be prepared to protect outdoor workers from heat illness as excessive heat is expected in Northern California and the Central Valley
beginning tomorrow through Tuesday, June 1. Heat illness is more likely to occur when workers are not accustomed to working at full capacity in the hot weather, so preparation is an important part of staying safe.
California’s heat illness prevention standard
requires employers to closely observe outdoor workers when assigned to work in a high heat area for the first time. Water, rest, shade and training on the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an emergency are other key prevention measures.
Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention requirements apply to all outdoor workers, which includes those that spend a significant amount of time working outdoors in agriculture, construction, landscaping, maintenance, transportation and delivery drivers in non-air conditioned vehicles and more.
Employers with outdoor workers must take the following steps to prevent heat illness:
- Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
- Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
- Rest – Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
- Shade – Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time.
Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention special emphasis program includes enforcement of the heat regulation as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page
and the 99calor.org
informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool
is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.
Recycling – Batteries Unbound
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a solvent that results in a more environmentally friendly process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries, supports a stable domestic supply chain for new batteries and keeps old ones out of landfills.
Spent batteries are typically broken down using smelting, an expensive, energy-intensive process that releases toxic gas. The ORNL-developed alternative
is a wet chemical process using triethyl phosphate to dissolve the binder material that adheres cathodes to metal foil current collectors in Li-ion batteries. The result is efficient recovery of cobalt-based cathodes, graphite and other valuable materials like copper foils that can be repurposed in new batteries.
“With this solvent, we’re able to create a process that reduces toxic exposure for workers and recovers valuable, undamaged, active NMC [nickel-manganese-cobalt] cathodes, clean metal foils and other materials that can be easily reused in new batteries,” said ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak.
Justice Department, EPA, and the State of Indiana Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Lone Star Industries
Lone Star Industries Inc, a subsidiary of Italian company Buzzi Unicem, has agreed to upgrade and optimize pollution control equipment and procedures at its cement manufacturing facility in Greencastle, Indiana, to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations brought by the EPA and the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
The complaint filed simultaneously with the settlement
alleges numerous, longstanding Clean Air Act violations at the Greencastle plant that date from 2010 to the present. Many of the violations involved opacity in emissions that exceeded state and federal limits. Opacity measures the amount of light blocked by emissions of particulate matter (PM). Particulate matter, especially fine particulates, contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets, which can migrate deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. The complaint also alleges violations of CAA requirements that limit emissions of other hazardous air pollutants from the burning of hazardous wastes which Lone Star uses to heat its cement kilns.
“This settlement is a reminder that industrial facilities must comply with laws and prevent illegal emissions of harmful pollutants from plant operations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) “The settlement requires Lone Star to improve its processes and pollution controls to protect air quality and the public health in surrounding communities.”
“The health of the citizens of the State of Indiana is a top priority of my office” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Childress. “Successful efforts such as this to protect and preserve the environment for current and future generations, demonstrates our ongoing dedication to that goal.”
“EPA is committed to improving air quality in Indiana in order to protect people’s health and the environment,” said Acting EPA Region 5 Administrator Cheryl Newton. “Reducing particulate matter especially benefits vulnerable populations such as children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases.”
Under the settlement, Lone Star will also pay $729,000 in civil penalties spilt equally between the United States and the State of Indiana, and undertake additional measures not required by law to mitigate past violations of CAA opacity limits.
EPA estimates that the measures in the consent decree will reduce emissions of particular matter from the Lone Star plant by 2.44 tons per year, carbon monoxide emissions by 46.39 tons per year, and other hazardous air pollutants by 1.69 tons. Lone Star will spend approximately $1.4 million at the Greencastle facility to bring it into compliance and to mitigate for past harm.
The settlement was lodge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Lack of Hazardous Energy Control Safeguards, Unexpected Steam Release Led to Two Workers’ Deaths at Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Haven Campus
Two workers at a Bridgeport veterans’ healthcare facility suffered fatal injuries caused by hot steam after a metal fixture on a main steam line blew off. The workers had just finished making repairs to the steam pipe within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System West Haven campus in November 2020.
An OSHA inspection determined that VACT failed to protect employees from struck-by and burn hazards and the agency identified numerous deficiencies in the facility’s lockout/tagout program
. One of the workers was an employee of VACT and the other was an employee of Mulvaney Mechanical Inc., a Danbury-based contractor.
“These fatalities could have been prevented if the employer had complied with safety standards that are designed to prevent the uncontrolled release of steam,” said OSHA Area Director Steven Biasi in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Tragically, these well-known protective measures were not in place and two workers needlessly lost their lives.”
OSHA also found the VACT program failed to:
- Properly shutdown to avoid additional or increased hazard(s) to employees.
- Relieve or render safe all potentially hazardous residual energy such as condensate water.
- Maintain adequate procedures for isolating each steam main branch supplying campus buildings.
- Conduct a periodic inspection of all lockout-tagout procedures to correct any deviations or inadequacies.
- Provide adequate training to supervisory employees.
- Retrain employees when there was a change in their job assignments, or a change in machines, equipment or processes that presented a new hazard.
- Notify affected employees of the application and removal of lockout or tagout devices.
- Inform Mulvaney Mechanical of VACT’s lockout/tagout procedures.
- Ensure each authorized employee affix a personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout device before working on the machine or equipment.
OSHA issued nine notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to VACT for one willful, three repeat and five serious violations
. Under Executive Order 12196
, federal agencies must comply with the same safety and health standards as private sector employers covered under the OSH Act. The federal agency equivalent to a private sector citation is the Notice of Unsafe and Unhealthful Working Conditions.
The VACT has 15 business days from receipt of the notices to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or appeal the notices by submitting a summary of the agency’s position on the unresolved issues to OSHA’s regional administrator. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with OSHA standards. If the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were a private sector employer, the total penalty amount would be $621,218.
OSHA cited Mulvaney Mechanical Inc. for four serious violations
with $38,228 in proposed penalties for failing to:
- Develop, document and use lockout/tagout procedures for the control of potentially hazardous energy.
- Adequately train employees on the methods necessary to isolate and control energy.
- Inform VACT of Mulvaney Mechanical’s lockout/tagout procedures.
- Ensure that each authorized employee affixed a personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout device.
Mulvaney Mechanical Inc. also has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Phillips 66 Referred to Attorney General by IEPA for Enforcement
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has referred an enforcement action to the Illinois Attorney General's office against Phillips 66 Company, located at 900 South Central Avenue in Roxana (Madison County). The referral cites violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board Regulations related to the release of sulfuric acid to the atmosphere.
Between May 28 and May 30, 2021, four railroad tank cars were loaded with spent sulfuric acid originating at the Phillips 66 facility. On June 2, 2021, the tank cars were loaded onto a train on Norfolk Southern Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway rail lines. At approximately 3:00 p.m., a pressure relief disk on one of the tank cars ruptured and sulfuric acid began venting to the atmosphere. At that time, the train was sitting on the railroad tracks located north of Rand Avenue and east of State Route 3 near Hartford and Wood River. A Kansas City Southern Railway employee was injured during the rupture and was taken to the hospital for treatment and released. During the evening of June 2, two other railcars also began venting sulfuric acid. A fourth rail car began venting the morning of June 3.
On June 3, 2021, at approximately 4:30 a.m., the Wood River fire department issued a shelter in place order for the area in Wood River and Roxana. Fire departments from Wood River, East Alton, Godfrey, Roxana, Rosewood Heights, Alton and Edwardsville responded to the incident, as well as Madison County HAZMAT Team and the Madison County Emergency Management Agency. Representatives from Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA were also on site. The fire departments have deployed water curtains to control the plume of sulfuric acid; however, active venting continues.
In the referral, the Illinois EPA cited violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations by Phillips 66 Company for causing or allowing the release of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere. The referral asks the Attorney General to pursue legal action and require Phillips 66 to immediately stop the release and conduct a root cause analysis of the cause of the rupture. In addition, the company should submit documentation to the Illinois EPA including the cause analysis report, all air monitoring data, calculations of the amount of sulfuric acid and SO2 released, and a work plan to address the removal and disposal of any remaining material in the railcars.
WVA Manufacturing Fined Over $189K for Particulate Emissions
WVA Manufacturing LLC will pay a $182,350 penalty to settle alleged Clean Air Act violations at its primary-metals manufacturing facility in Alloy, West Virginia. The alleged violations are related to fugitive particulate matter emissions from several of the facility’s furnaces and other production activities. Scientific studies have shown these types of excess emissions can contribute to decreased lung function and increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.
The area surrounding the facility is considered to be in an area of potential environmental justice
concern, and corrective actions in this settlement will help reduce negative health impacts in this area.
$60,000 Fine for Discharging Fill Material into Waterway Without Permit
EPA has reached a settlement with Thomas Robrahn and Skillman Construction LLC of Coffey County, Kansas, to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) that occurred within the Neosho River. Under the settlement, the parties will pay a $60,000 civil penalty.
According to EPA, Robrahn and Skillman Construction placed approximately 400 cubic yards of broken concrete into the river adjacent to Robrahn’s property in an attempt to stabilize the riverbank. The work impacted about 240 feet of the river and was completed without first obtaining a required CWA permit. This section of the river has known populations of Neosho Madtom, a federally listed threatened fish species.
As part of their settlement with EPA, the parties also agreed to remove the concrete and restore the impacted site to come into compliance with the CWA. Under the CWA, parties are prohibited from discharging fill material into water bodies unless they first obtain a permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers. If parties place fill material into water bodies without a permit, the Corps may elect to refer an enforcement case to EPA.
This penalty settlement is subject to a 30-day public notice and comment period. To review the settlement or make a comment about it, go to EPA’s website
Alliant Techsystems Operations Cited for Hazardous Waste, Air and Water Violations at Navy Facility
Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC will pay a $350,000 penalty to settle several alleged environmental violations at the U.S. Navy-owned Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Keyser, West Virginia.
The company operates the laboratory under a lease with the Navy. There, Alliant Techsystems manufactures military products that include solid fuel rocket motors, explosive warheads, solid fuels and propellants.
The cited violations were related to hazardous waste storage and treatment operations, the facility’s Clean Air Act permit, water discharge requirements under the facility’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and the facility’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plan.
The company allegedly violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal law governing the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The goal of RCRA is to protect public health and the environment, and avoid long and extensive cleanups, by requiring the safe, environmentally sound storage and disposal of hazardous waste.
RCRA violations included:
- Failure to make proper waste determinations.
- Failure to conduct weekly container storage area inspections.
- Amending a facility contingency plan.
- Transferring hazardous waste from a container in poor condition.
- Failure to maintain records of waste analyses.
The company also allegedly failed to construct, maintain, and operate the facility’s open burning grounds to minimize the release of hazardous waste.
Alleged Clean Air Act Title V Permit violations included:
- Failure to conduct emission observations.
- Failure to comply with air conditioning and refrigeration unit leak calculation and repair requirements.
- Failure to conduct sulfur dioxide emission calculations and sulfur dioxide weight emission testing for a coal-fired boiler.
- Failure to submit a timely report to the state after burning coal with an excess sulfur content.
Alleged NPDES violations included failure to conduct properly monitor perchlorate levels. Alleged Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plan violations included failure to amend the plan to reflect changes in operations.
Along with the $350,000 penalty, Alliant Techsystems must ensure it is in full compliance with state and federal environmental requirements. Part of this includes:
- Submitting proposed RCRA permit modifications to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).
- Obtaining WVDEP approval on proposed changes to the facility’s waste analysis plan.
- Making construction modifications to the open burn pads to prevent hazardous waste contaminated stormwater runoff from migrating to adjacent soil, surface water, ground water and/or the subsurface environment.
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