January 07, 2019
The Washington Department of Ecology plans to update Chapter 173-182 WAC, Oil Spill Contingency Plan
rule. The rule requires large commercial vessels, oil handling facilities and pipelines to have detailed contingency plans and contracts for appropriate equipment and trained personnel to respond to spills that may occur. This rulemaking will:
- Establish requirements for review and approval of Spill Management Teams including entities providing wildlife rehabilitation and recovery services.
- Enhance requirements for readiness for spills of oils that, depending on their chemical properties, environmental factors (weathering), and method of discharge, may submerge or sink.
- Update drill requirements to reflect legislative direction.
- Update planning standards to align vessel and facility requirements and ensure best achievable protection is maintained in contingency plans.
- Enhance planning standards for oiled wildlife response.
- Make other edits to address inconsistent or unclear direction in the rule, or other administrative edits.
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Model Toxics Control Act Revisions Proposed in Washington
The Washington Department of Ecology plans to amend the administrative and procedural requirements for site cleanups under Chapter 173-340 WAC, Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) Cleanup
regulation (the Cleanup Rule). In this rulemaking we will not
change the technical standards for site cleanups in Parts 7 and 9 of the rule, but will:
- Update the title of this chapter.
- Modify the initial investigation, site hazard assessment and ranking, and public notice process in Parts 1 and 3 of the rule.
- Update other administrative and procedural requirements of the cleanup program in Parts 1–6 and Part 8 of the rule.
- Make changes in Parts 1–6 and Part 8 to streamline rule requirements, as well as minor corrections to improve rule clarity and consistency with other laws and rules.
- Make changes in Parts 7 and 9 to clarify language and make corrections without changing the effect of the rule.
- Incorporate changes to the cleanup program specified in Chapter 70.105D RCW, Hazardous Waste Cleanup – Model Toxics Control Act, and Chapter 64.70 RCW, Uniform Environmental Covenants Act.
Environmental Nominations Confirmed by Senate
On January 3, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), praised the Senate’s confirmation of:
“The Senate has taken action to confirm important nominations,” said Barrasso. “Mary Neumayr, Alexandra Dunn, and William McIntosh are well qualified and uniquely experienced for the role they have been nominated. They will serve in key positions that help protect our environment and grow our economy.
“As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I have made confirming the president’s nominees a top priority. Now that these leaders are confirmed, they can get to work for the American people.”
Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol Will Further Reduce HFCs
The world has taken an important step on the road to drastically reduce the production and consumption of powerful greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and limit global warming, with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer coming into force on 1st January 2019.
If fully supported by governments, the private sector and citizens, the Kigali Amendment will avoid up to 0.4°C of global warming this century while continuing to protect the ozone layer. The amendment will substantively contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
HFCs are organic compounds frequently used as refrigerants in air conditioners and other devices as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol. While HFCs themselves do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases with global warming potentials that can be many times higher than carbon dioxide.
The parties to the amendment have put in place practical arrangements for its implementation, including agreements on technologies for the destruction of HFCs and new data reporting requirements and tools. The amendment comes with provisions for capacity-building for developing countries, institutional strengthening and the development of national strategies to reduce HFCs and replace them with alternatives. Phasing down HFCs under the Kigali Amendment may also open a window to redesign cooling equipment that is more energy efficient, further increasing the climate gains.
Implementation of new targets set out in the amendment will be done in three phases, with a group of developed countries starting HFCs phase-down from 2019. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024 and with a few countries freezing consumption in 2028.
Ratified by 65 countries so far, the Kigali Amendment builds on the historic legacy of the Montreal Protocol agreed in 1987. The Protocol and its previous amendments, which require the phasing out of the production and consumption of substances that cause ozone depletion, have been universally ratified by 197 parties.
The broad support for and implementation of the Montreal Protocol has led to the phase-out of more than 99 per cent of nearly 100 ozone-depleting chemicals and significantly contributed to climate change mitigation.
Evidence presented in the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion
shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060.
Draft Procedures to Protect Environmentally Sensitive Waterways from Dredge and Fill Activities now Available
The draft procedures contain important enhancements designed to protect and enhance ecologically sensitive areas where water exists and bring consistency to regulatory efforts by the State Water Board and nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Water Boards collectively), while providing a common framework for monitoring and reporting water quality of remaining wetlands in California. As drafted, these Procedures clarify what is considered a wetland – and what is not.
Because of past land development, the state has lost nearly 90% of state wetlands, with as much as 95% of historic coastal wetlands now gone. These draft Procedures provide much needed protection for California’s remaining wetlands. The draft Procedures are based in large part on the scientific documentation and conclusions supporting the existing US Army Corp of Engineers’ definition of a wetland. In arid portions of the state, the State Water Board’s proposed definition would protect non-vegetated wetlands (mudflats, playas, etc.) that otherwise would not be covered under federal jurisdiction. The State Water Board’s proposed definition clarifies that vegetated and unvegetated wetlands be regulated in the same manner.
Waters of the state, are by definition, broader than water of the U.S. These draft procedures do not change that. These draft procedures will ensure that the water of the state will continue to be protected if the federal waters of the U.S. protections are limited.
In addition, the draft Procedures provide transparency and consistency in the regulation of dredged or fill material across the state.
As drafted, the Procedures will:
- Improve consistency across the State Water Board and the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards in how discharges of dredged or fill material are monitored and protected.
- Streamline requirements to cover all waters of the state so both state and federal environmental concerns are addressed at once.
- Make environmental protections stronger,
- Ensure no overall net loss in quantity, quality, and sustainability of waters of the state,
The Procedures have two components that support each other. First, the Procedures propose a wetland definition, delineation procedures, and a jurisdictional framework applicable to all Water Board programs. Second, the Procedures clarify requirements for submittal and review of applications to discharge dredged or fill material to any water of the state.
Portions of the Procedures have been revised in response to public comments received on the draft that was released in July 2017.
Two stakeholder workshops are planned in 2019, a public staff workshop on Jan. 9 in San Diego, and a public Board workshop on Jan. 22 in Sacramento, to discuss the latest draft and answer questions. The State Water Board tentatively plans to consider adoption of the Procedures on Feb. 5 in Sacramento. Details for the meetings are available here
. A fact sheet
is also available.
Lower Arsenic Levels Proposed for NH Drinking Water
On December 31, 2018, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) submitted a report
to the Legislature recommending a more protective limit for the amount of arsenic in drinking water provided by public water systems regulated by the department. NHDES proposes a new limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb). NHDES has been enforcing a limit of 10 ppb, established by the EPA since 2006. Before 2006 the limit was 50 ppb.
Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in various rock formations, including some that are quite common in New Hampshire. More than one third of the community water systems in the state have a measurable amount of arsenic in their water. Consuming water with arsenic over a long period of time increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Arsenic in drinking water has also been linked to increased risk of adverse birth outcomes and reduced IQ in children.
By law, lowering the drinking water standard known as a maximum contaminant level (MCL) will also lower the ambient groundwater quality standard (AGQS), which is used to require remedial action and the provision of alternative drinking water at a contaminated site and also sets limits under which treated and untreated wastewater may be discharged to groundwater.
In 2018 the Legislature directed NHDES to review the regulatory limits for arsenic in drinking water and groundwater and to document their findings in a report by January 1, 2019. NHDES intends to work in consultation with the Legislature to lower the drinking water and groundwater standards for arsenic in 2019. In making its proposal, NHDES considered the prevalence of arsenic in New Hampshire water supplies, the adverse health impacts that could be avoided by lowering the limit, the cost of water treatment to remove arsenic, and other factors all of which are explained in the report.
For more information, please contact Paul Susca, NHDES, at (603) 271-7061.
New PFAS Drinking Water Standards Proposed in NH
On December 31, 2018, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) initiated rulemaking to establish Maximum Contaminate Levels (MCLs) and Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQS) for four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) to ensure greater protection of public health related to the consumption of drinking water. Specifically, NHDES filed a request for a fiscal impact statement for the new MCLs with the New Hampshire Legislative Budget Assistant, meeting the January 1 deadline established in New Hampshire Chapter Laws 345 and 368 of 2018 (i.e. SB 309).
These MCLs are drinking water quality standards that non-transient public water systems (water systems serving the same 25 people at least 60 days a year) must comply with. An AGQS is the standard used to require remedial action and the provision of alternative drinking water at a contaminated site. It also dictates the conditions under which treated and untreated wastewater may be discharged to groundwater. Current law requires AGQSs be the same value as any MCL established by NHDES and also that they be as stringent as health advisories set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2016, NHDES adopted EPA's health advisory for PFOA and PFOS as an AGQS (70 parts per trillion (ppt) combined).
To establish MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and PFNA, which by law then become AGQSs, NHDES had to also address the extent to which the contaminant is found in New Hampshire, the ability to detect the contaminant in public water systems, the ability to remove the contaminant from drinking water, and the costs and benefits to affected parties that will result from establishing the standard, and then develop a MCL for each compound that is protective of the most sensitive population at all life stages. The development of these standards was greatly enhanced by affected parties responding to NHDES' request for studies and information to be considered in deriving the MCLs (www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/max-contaminant-levels.htm
Using the most recent and best science available, NHDES proposed the following drinking water standards that are protective of the most sensitive populations over a lifetime:
Proposed MCL and AGQS
PFOA & PFOS (combined)
NHDES has released a summary report
on the development of the drinking water standards (MCLs) including an explanation of the health risk assessment for each compound and information on cost, benefit, occurrence, and ability to detect and treat these chemicals.
The majority of the work NHDES has performed to date has been focused on deriving the individual standards for PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS that protect the most sensitive population through their lives. During the rulemaking process, NHDES expects to continue researching health studies on these chemicals as well as risk management approaches that are scientifically valid that could address any compounding effects between chemicals. Further exploration on quantifying benefit to affected parties will also occur. This continued effort will be done in tandem with considering public comments received on the initial rule proposal. NHDES recognizes and thanks the many stakeholder groups who have participated to date, and hopes they continue to be engaged throughout the public comment process.
Public hearings on the proposed MCLs will occur in southern NH, at Pease Tradeport, and at the NHDES offices in Concord in early March, which will provide the public more than a month to review the proposal and companion report. Depending on the comments received, it is anticipated that the final proposals will be filed by summer. The effective date of the new rules has yet to be determined.
New House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman’s Top Priority
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) announced the first three hearings the Committee will hold later this month after it has officially organized for the 116th Congress. The Chairman announced that the first hearing will be on “Assessing the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.” According to a Committee release, “there is no more pressing issue for our economy, our communities and our planet than climate change, and this is the first of many hearings the Committee will hold on this growing crisis.”
Landfill Leachate Dumped into Waterway
US Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced that Michael Greene, age 44, of Columbia, South Carolina, was charged in a one-count Indictment by a federal Grand Jury in Columbia with a knowing violation of the Clean Water Act.
According to the Indictment, Greene worked for an environmental company offering hazardous waste disposal services. Greene’s job was to transport the liquid runoff from solid waste at an Eastover, SC landfill to the Florence Wastewater Management Facility. Instead, he illegally dumped the liquid runoff, or leachate, into the Leesburg Branch Creek on multiple occasions in mid-2017.
Greene faces a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison, with a potential fine up to $250,000.
The EPA, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Winston David Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case.
The United States Attorney stated that all charges in the Indictment are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Vancouver Fined $60,000 for Spilling Sewage Into Columbia River
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined
the city of Vancouver $60,000 for spilling nearly 600,000 gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the Columbia River in 2017.
“Unacceptable training, maintenance and operations led to preventable discharges of raw sewage,” said Heather Bartlett, who manages Ecology’s Water Quality Program. “That put bacteria and other pathogens that can cause diseases into the river, along with solids and trash that treatment normally removes. The river’s powerful flow may dilute the discharge, but it also spreads the pollution further.”
Vancouver’s West Side Wastewater Treatment Plant had two raw sewage spills. The city notified local health departments after each spill. The health departments posted temporary warnings for people to avoid contact with the river. In the second incident, Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife department officials considered closing the second day of a two-day sturgeon season, but opted instead to advise anglers to thoroughly wash fish taken from the river.
A momentary power outage on Sept. 30, 2017, led to a release of 395,000 gallons of raw sewage and 109,000 gallons of sewage that had been treated, but not disinfected. For two-and-a-half hours operators did not realize that utility power was available. During that time only one of three back-up generators came on line, which was not enough to fully power the treatment system.
In addition to the discharge, the city’s violations included not having an operator with senior-level certification on duty and failure to properly maintain the plant’s backup system to ensure readiness of equipment and crews.
The plant released another 80,000 gallons of raw sewage on Oct. 17, 2017. Controls set improperly during a routine equipment calibration disabled large pumps that bring wastewater into the treatment plant. An overflow system diverted this flow into the Columbia River for 15 minutes until operators corrected the problem.
The city’s violations included the discharge of untreated sewage and failure to properly follow required procedures for the calibration.
The city is taking corrective actions, including improved staff training, to prevent recurrences of these problems.
“We take our obligation to protect the environment very seriously,” said Brian Carlson, director of Vancouver Public Works. “The discharges were unacceptable. In addition to working with Ecology on this investigation, we have conducted our own extensive evaluation that has resulted in operational improvements and increased layers of environmental safeguards, including a $2.2 million additional emergency pumping system at our Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant.”
Ecology water quality penalty payments go to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund. The Fund issues grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects. The penalty may be appealed within 30 days to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board
Coalition of Attorneys General Demand EPA Withdraw Proposal to Delay Implementation of Landfill Methane Regulations
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Froshfiled a comment letter demanding that the EPA withdraw its proposed rule delaying—by four years—implementation of a critical regulation that would reduce emissions from landfills.
Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions—a pollutant with a global warming potential that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The regulation, once implemented, would prevent emissions equal to 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which translates to 1.5 million passenger vehicles driven for one year or 850,000 homes’ electricity use for one year. In addition to harmful methane, landfills emit volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Not only do these pollutants contribute to climate change, they can cause cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, especially among children and older adults.
“Federal law requires that an agency implement a rule even if it is considering changing that rule,” said Attorney General Frosh. “The EPA justifies its inaction by saying that methane emissions don’t ‘have any impact on human health or the environment.’ This claim conflicts with a wide body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the pressing need to reduce these emissions immediately.”
In the letter, the Attorneys General argue the EPA’s proposal:
- Violates the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to swiftly and aggressively reduce
emissions of harmful air pollutants endangering public health and the environment;
- Fails to justify adding four years to the timeline to implement the rule and for the inconsistencies
of the proposal with its prior factual findings; and
- Provides no analysis of the purported benefits and costs of the rule.
In May 2018, a lawsuit was filed against the EPA for its failure to implement and enforce the regulation, known formally as the 2016 Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. The regulation went into effect on October 28, 2016, but the EPA has not complied with its mandatory duties to implement it.
In a recent ruling rejecting EPA’s effort to dismiss the case, the court found Congress’s intent to hold EPA accountable for complying with the regulatory implementation deadlines “readily discernible.” But instead of complying with those deadlines, and with no legal basis for doing so, EPA has used one unlawful tactic after another to delay implementation and enforcement of the regulation while working to revise the regulation, a process that EPA says will be completed by spring 2019.
In addition to Maryland, the comments were signed by the Attorneys General of California, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and by the California Air Resources Board.
Plant Hedges to Combat Near-Road Pollution Exposure
Urban planners should plant hedges, or a combination of trees with hedges - rather than just relying on roadside trees - if they are to most effectively reduce pollution exposure from cars in near-road environments, finds a new study from the University of Surrey.
In a paper published in Atmospheric Environment, researchers from the Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) looked at how three types of road-side green infrastructure - trees, hedges, and a combination of trees with hedges and shrubs - affected the concentration levels of air pollution. The study used six roadside locations in Guildford, UK, as test sites where the green infrastructure was between one to two metres away from the road.
The researchers found that roadsides that only had hedges were the most effective at reducing pollution exposure, cutting black carbon by up to 63 percent. Ultrafine and sub-micron particles followed this reduction trend, with fine particles (less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) showing the least reduction among all the measured pollutants. The maximum reduction in concentrations was observed when the winds were parallel to the road due to a sweeping effect, followed by winds across the road. The elemental composition of particles indicated an appreciable reduction in harmful heavy metals originating from traffic behind the vegetation.
The hedges only - and a combination of hedges and trees - emerged as the most effective green infrastructure in improving air quality behind them under different wind directions.
Roadsides with only trees showed no positive influence on pollution reduction at breathing height (usually between 1.5 and 1.7m), as the tree canopy was too high to provide a barrier/filtering effect for road-level tailpipe emissions.
According to the United Nations, more than half of the global population live in urban areas - this number increases to almost two thirds in the European Union where, according to the European Environmental Agency, air pollution levels in many cities are above permissible levels, making air pollution a primary environmental health risk.
Professor Prashant Kumar, the senior author of the study and the founding Director of the GCARE at the University of Surrey, said:
"Many millions of people across the world live in urban areas where the pollution levels are also the highest. The best way to tackle pollution is to control it at the source. However, reducing exposure to traffic emissions in near-road environments has a big part to play in improving health and well-being for city-dwellers.
"The iSCAPE project provided us with an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of passive control measures such as green infrastructure that is placed between the source and receptors."
"This study, which extends our previous work, provides new evidence to show the important role strategically placed roadside hedges can play in reducing pollution exposure for pedestrians, cyclists and people who live close to roads. Urban planners should consider planting denser hedges, and a combination of trees with hedges, in open-road environments. Many local authorities have, with the best of intentions, put a great emphasis on urban greening in recent years. However, the dominant focus has been on roadside trees, while there are many miles of fences in urban areas that could be readily complemented with hedges, with appreciable air pollution exposure dividend. Urban vegetation is important given the broad role it can play in urban ecosystems - and this could be about much more than just trees on wide urban roads", adds Professor Kumar.
$21,000 for Fine for Failure to Report Fuel Spill
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) fined Land Air Express of New England $21,000 for its failure to properly notify MassDEP within two hours of a diesel spill of greater than 10 gallons at its Easton facility at 600 Turnpike Street.
The spill occurred due to an over-fill during fueling activities involving one of the company’s trucks on February 19, 2018, which was not reported. MassDEP received an anonymous complaint about the spill two days later on February 21, 2018. The Easton Fire Department investigated the complaint and informed MassDEP on that day about their conclusive evidence of a recent spill greater than 10 gallons.
“Any fueling station has to be diligent and cognizant of situations that trigger a clear need to notify MassDEP following releases of oil or hazardous materials,” said Millie Garcia-Serrano, director of MassDEP’s Southeastern Regional Office in Lakeville. “Immediate response actions were initiated by the company, but unilateral actions without proper prior notification can result in a violation that MassDEP takes seriously.”
MassDEP also inspected the site following the complaint on February 22, 2018 and confirmed a fresh diesel spill impacting 450 square feet staining a concrete pad, containment channel in that pad as well as an adjacent asphalt pavement area. A barrel and separate drum were found at the facility with oil-soaked absorbents and debris.
Land Air Express subsequently has retained the services of an environmental company and Licensed Site Professional to oversee cleanup and closing out of response actions, which were completed by April 27, 2018. The company will pay $10,000 of the penalty and $11,000 will be suspended provided the company has no further violations over the next year.
Virginia Waste Management Board Approves Regulations to Streamline Voluntary Remediation Program
At its meeting in Richmond, the Virginia Waste Management Board (Board) approved moving forward with regulatory actions that include revisions and clarifications to the commonwealth's Voluntary Remediation Regulations (9 VAC-160).
The Voluntary Remediation Regulations provide a framework for contaminated sites (also known as "Brownfields") to be cleaned up and returned to productive reuse, which otherwise may go unaddressed. These Regulations are implemented at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) through the Voluntary Remediation Program, which reviews characterizations and proposed site activities to address remediation efforts.
DEQ staff identified changes to the regulation that would clarify requirements by adding definitions, details concerning the applicability of fees for sites that conduct phased remediation, and issuance of multiple site certificates. These recommended revisions were presented to the Board for adoption. The Board approved these revisions through a "fast-track" adoption process, which is used when regulation revisions are not expected to be controversial.
"This regulatory amendment will help streamline the process to address contaminated sites through our Voluntary Remediation Program," said DEQ Land Protection and Revitalization Division Director Justin Williams. "The Voluntary Remediation Program helps not only address contamination, but also supports economic development and brownfield revitalization efforts throughout Virginia."
Settlement Reached with Antcrra in Environmental Enforcement Action
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced that the Ventura County District Attorney’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit reached a $500,000 civil settlement with Santa Paula-based Anterra Energy Services, Inc., Anterra Transportation, Inc., and Anterra Corporation (Anterra Companies). The Anterra Companies are headquartered in Santa Paula, California, and operate an oilfield waste management disposal facility off East Wooley Road, Oxnard, California.
The settlement resolves allegations that the Anterra Companies violated state laws regarding their transportation, handling, and disposal of oilfield waste. The complaint alleges that although the Anterra Companies were allowed by the California Department of Conservation, Department of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to receive and dispose of non-hazardous “Class II” material produced from other oil or gas wells, they were not allowed to receive Class II material that was hazardous.
Under the terms of the judgment, the Anterra Companies must comply with a permanent injunction that requires effective screening for unauthorized materials, including requiring a laboratory analysis of a sample of the source of waste material to be received, confirming that it is non-hazardous under California law. The Anterra Companies must also share these lab reports with the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
Under the terms of the judgment, the Anterra Companies are required to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and $350,000 for fees and costs, including $309,565 to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, $30,000 to the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, and $10,435 to the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
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