New Reporting Requirements for Releases that Can Reach Drinking Water

April 29, 2019
On October 23, 2018, America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law, amending the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This new legislation requires state and tribal emergency response commissions to notify the applicable State agency (i.e., the drinking water primacy agency) of any reportable releases and provide community water systems with hazardous chemical inventory data.
EPA has published a new guide that provides information for State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), and Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs).
AWIA section 2018(a) amended EPCRA section 304 to add a new sub-section, section 304(e), Addressing Source Water used for Drinking Water. This new sub-section requires SERCs and TERCs to perform the following actions:
  • Promptly notify the drinking water primacy agency of any reportable release and provide this agency with:
    • The information collected under section 304(b)(2) from the initial release notification; and
    • The follow-up written report received under section 304(c).
The drinking water primacy agency is then required to promptly forward all the information regarding the release to any community water systems whose source water is affected by the release. The source  water for a community water system is potentially affected if the release occurs in that system’s source water area (also known as a source water protection area). Drinking water primacy agencies and community water systems can provide the boundaries for source water protection areas.
AWIA Section 2018(b) amended Section 312 to require SERCs (or TERCs) and LEPCs (or TEPCs) to provide affected community water systems with chemical inventory data (i.e. Tier II information) for facilities within their source water protection area upon request. Source water protection areas may span multiple jurisdictional boundaries at the local and state levels, potentially requiring access to Tier II data from multiple SERCs or TERCs, LEPCs or TEPCs. If the SERC, TERC, LEPC, or TEPC do not have Tier II information, these entities should request the information from facilities and make such information available to the affected community water systems.
This data is collected at the state level, so how a community water system gets access to this information for their community will vary from state to state, as well as the required security and protection controls for potentially sensitive information. Some states require more information than the Federal program.  
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Owners of Northwest’s Largest Electronics Recycling Firm Sentenced to Prison for Wire Fraud Conspiracy
The owners and Chief Executive Officers of Total Reclaim, the Northwests largest recycler of electronic waste, were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 28 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones noted that with the mens conduct could have impacted generations with mercury poisoning. Your conduct spanned seven years and only stopped because you were caught. You had multiple opportunities to say enough is enough, Judge Jones said.
Craig Lorch, 61, of Seattle, and Jeff Zirkle, 55, of Bonney Lake, Washington, earned millions of dollars through Total Reclaim by promising to recycle safely electronic products such as flat screen monitors. In marketing Total Reclaims services, Lorch and Zirkle warned that the products contained hazardous materials that can cause serious health conditions if processed in unsafe conditions such as those that exist in developing countries in Asia. Lorch and Zirkle promised customers that Total Reclaim would not export electronic waste to developing countries. But, in fact, the defendants secretly caused over 8 million pounds of mercury-containing flat screen monitors to be exported to Hong Kong, where they were demolished in an environmentally unsafe manor.
Motivated by greed, these defendants betrayed every pledge they made to be good environmental stewards, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. They protected their salaries of more than a million dollars a year, while harming the environment and risking the lives of disadvantaged Chinese workers who struggle daily just to support their families.
Total Reclaim was the biggest participant in E-Cycle Washington, a program created by the Washington legislature to provide for the safe recycling of hazardous electronic products. Under E-Cycle Washington, consumers drop off used electronics at stations such as Goodwill Industries free of charge. The program then paid Total Reclaim to recycle the electronics according to Washington Department of Ecology standards. Those standards bar recyclers from sending hazardous electronics products overseas.
According to records filed in the case, Total Reclaim promoted itself as a responsible electronics recycler. Total Reclaims website stated that our commitment to environmental responsibility is at the core of everything Total Reclaim does. Total Reclaim signed a public pledge in which it promised not to allow the export of hazardous E-waste we handle to be exported to developing countries, where workers are known to disassemble electronics, which contain dangerous materials such as mercury, without safety precautions. Total Reclaim signed agreements with customers, such as the City of Seattle, in which the customers agreed to pay Total Reclaim to recycle electronics in accordance with these standards. According to court filings, it would have cost Total Reclaim about $2.6 million to appropriately dispose of the monitors.
In 2008, contrary to its promises to the public, Total Reclaim began secretly exporting flat screen monitors to Hong Kong to avoid the cost of safely recycling the monitors in the United States. Flat screen monitors are known to contain mercury, which can cause organ damage, mental impairment, and other serious health consequences to people exposed to the material. LORCH and Zirkle caused at least 8.3 million pounds of monitors to be shipped to Hong Kong between 2008 and 2015. To prevent customers and auditors from learning of the practice, Lorch and Zirkle falsified documents, made false statements to customers, and stored the monitors at an undisclosed facility while they awaited shipping.
Defendants fraud was discovered in 2014 by a non-governmental organization known as the Basel Action Network (BAN). BAN, which studies the export of electronic waste, placed electronic trackers on flat screen monitors and deposited them for recycling. The trackers showed that the monitors were collected by Total Reclaim and then exported to Hong Kong. When BAN representatives followed the tracking devices to Hong Kong, they discovered that the monitors were being dismantled by laborers who smashed the monitors apart without any precautions to protect the workers or the environment. After BAN notified Lorch and Zirkle of its findings, Lorch and Zirkle tried to cover up their fraud by altering hundreds of shipping records.
Lorch and Zirkle have agreed to pay $945,663 in restitution.
As prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum, this case is more than a financial fraud. Lorch and Zirkles crime has all the hallmarks of a classic financial fraud. It includes lies to customers and auditors, the falsification of hundreds of documents, millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, and a cover-up after the fraud was discovered. But this offense stands apart from the typical fraud because the greatest damage is not measured in dollars and cents. Rather, it lies in the health consequences that resulted from defendants calculated choice to prioritize their own economic well-being over the health of faceless foreign workers.
The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID). The case was being by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.
NMED Air quality Inspection Sweep in Permian Basin
Recently, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) conducted nearly 100 regulatory inspections across the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico. The inspections were conducted to determine compliance with air quality regulations and permits and represented an unprecedented and collaborative effort undertaken alongside the EPA.
“Compliance with existing air quality regulations and permits is essential to the regulatory scheme,” said Environment Secretary James Kenney. “Holding the oil and natural gas industry accountable to these rules and their permits ensures the environment is protected and there is a level playing field among operators.”
The 98 inspections were conducted jointly between NMED’s Air Quality Bureau and the EPA using several forward- looking infrared (FLIR) cameras to detect emissions invisible to the naked eye. Inspectors also interviewed operators, reviewed records and observed operations at each site.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and natural gas operations are regulated, as VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone. VOCs can also irritate the lungs, exacerbate diseases such as asthma and increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses.
Levels of ozone, another byproduct of oil and gas development, continue to rise in New Mexico’s San Juan, Eddy, Doña Ana, Rio Arriba and Lea counties.
A collateral benefit of complying with the rules and permits governing VOC emissions is a reduction in methane. VOCs and methane are emitted together by oil and natural gas industry activity. Nearly one-third of methane emissions in the U.S. come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a 20-year global warming potential more than 84 times that of carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
NMED is undertaking a regulatory effort to limit methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector pursuant to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order issued in January.
NMED and EPA will work collaboratively to determine the compliance status of the inspected facilities with existing rules and permits. The physical locations of these inspections will be made available through NMED’s methane map in the next week.
EPA Wants Input on New PFAS Action Plan
On April 25, EPA released draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and/or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) for public review and comment. This is a key component of the agency’s PFAS Action Plan. According to EPA, these draft recommendations will help protect human health in communities across the country by providing clear and consistent guidance on addressing PFOA and PFOS in groundwater under federal cleanup programs. This information has been requested by other federal agencies and the states and could be used by other federal, state and tribal cleanup programs.
“Today, we are delivering on one of our most important commitments under the PFAS Action Plan,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This interim guidance will support actions to protect the health of communities impacted by groundwater that contains PFOA and PFOS above the 70 parts per trillion level, and is a potential source of drinking water. This is a critical tool for our state, tribal, and local partners to use to address these chemicals.”
EPA developed this guidance based on the agency’s current scientific understanding of PFAS toxicity, including the agency’s PFOA and PFOS health advisories. The recommendations may be revised as new information becomes available.
EPA has opened a docket for a 45-day public comment period. The draft guidance describes EPA’s interim recommendations for screening levels and preliminary remediation goals (PRGs) to inform final cleanup levels for PFOA and/or PFOS contamination of groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water. To view the draft guidance and to learn how to submit comments, go to
 U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), released the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and/or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), two specific per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals.

“After languishing in interagency review for months, the draft guidance finally released by EPA fails to adequately protect public health from this emerging crisis,” Senator Carper said.“Administrator Wheeler himself said that safe drinking water is the greatest environmental challenge facing our world, yet, again, we see that EPA is not addressing this issue in the manner in which it demands, nor with the urgency in which Americans deserve.”
This guidance does not include an “emergency” removal level of PFAS that will trigger the provision of bottled water or other urgent measures to protect the public, meaning that people drinking water contaminated at levels well in excess of 70 ppt may not be entitled to safe drinking water during the months or years cleanup could take to complete. It also means that there is no assurance that EPA will step in in cases where no responsible party exists to address ‘emergency’ levels of contamination.
This guidance also fails to provide the clarity that DOD has agreed to take action to clean up sites that are contaminated at levels between 70-380 ppt, a commitment DOD had previously objected to making. 
And, while the second paragraph of the guidance says that it applies to “groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water,” the second page states that, “In situations where groundwater is being used for drinking water, EPA expects that responsible parties will address levels of PFOA and/or PFOS over 70 ppt.”  This indicates that it is possible that polluters will not be required to clean up groundwater that States have designated as a future source of drinking water that is not yet being used as such.
Party City to Pay $878,750 in Hazardous Waste Settlement
On April 23, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock ordered Party City Corporation, a Delaware Corporation, to pay $878,750.00 as part of a settlement of a civil-environmental prosecution.  Over $75,000.00 of this amount will help support various environmental training projects, including the prosecution of environmental violations.  This resolution was a direct result of the work of local regulatory agencies, 36 other California District and City Attorneys, and Party City.
According to the District Attorneys’ complaint, Party City Corporation mishandled various hazardous wastes and materials throughout the state over a five-year period.  These hazardous wastes and materials included batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents, and other flammable, reactive, toxic, and corrosive materials. The settlement resolves the allegations made in the District and City Attorneys’ complaint.
“Today’s settlement resolves this matter with Party City. To Party City’s credit, they were cooperative throughout our investigation and prosecution while we worked toward a fair resolution to their previous deficiencies,” said District Attorney Reisig.  “The terms of this settlement require this company to improve the training of their staff and the management of their hazardous waste.”
At the start of the investigation, Yolo County regulators found the company’s documentation of employee hazardous-waste training was incomplete and regulated wastes were commonly disposed of improperly.  A statewide check confirmed these deficiencies were systemic. 
The judgment was designed to prevent Party City stores from committing similar hazardous-waste violations in the future. The judgment requires Party City to properly label, package, and store hazardous waste to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers, and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.  The judgment also requires the company to properly document their hazardous waste and dispose of their hazardous waste at authorized disposal facilities. 
Under the settlement, the Party City must pay $637,500 in civil penalties, $135,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation, and $106,250 to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California.  Party City Corporation must also hire an employee to strengthen the companies’ hazardous-waste programs.
Report Orphaned Containers from Nebraska Floods Flood to 1-877-253-2603
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify, report and remove containers of potentially hazardous materials that were displaced by the March 2019 floods.

Those who find these containers, also called orphaned containers, can report them to their county emergency manager or call the NDEQ hotline at 1-877-253-2603. Once the containers are reported, the EPA will make a record of it and arrange for a contractor to remove them. Nebraskans are asked to provide information on any displaced containers on their property or in their communities by May 3.

Orphaned containers include propane tanks, drums and totes that may hold hazardous substances. Nebraskans are asked to only report containers larger than 20-pound propane tanks. If possible, include pictures when reporting these objects.

For more information, and access to a form for reporting orphaned containers, go to
TDEC & Google Protect Water Quality From Unwanted Pharmaceuticals
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced a partnership with Google Maps to help Tennessee citizens identify nearby locations to safely dispose of their unwanted pharmaceuticals.
TDEC has worked with various stakeholders to make available 334 permanent collection bins for expired, unused or unwanted household medications across all 95 counties in Tennessee. Using Google Maps, Tennesseans can now type “drug drop off near me” or “medication disposal near me” to see those locations on Google Maps.
“TDEC is at its best when it is partnering with other public and private organizations to find solutions to enhance services for Tennesseans,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “We appreciate this new partnership with Google and our shared commitment to keeping drugs out of our waterways and out of the wrong hands.”
Flushing medications or draining drugs down a sink allows chemicals to enter streams or groundwater where they can affect drinking water and stream ecosystems. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to adequately remove chemicals found in drugs.
"Google is honored to partner with states including Tennessee to make it easier for Americans to safely dispose of unwanted medications, including those that are fueling the tragic opioid epidemic," said Google User Safety Initiative Senior Counsel Michael Trinh. "With just a single search on Google, Americans can quickly find convenient disposal locations open year-round, and do their part to reduce the harmful health and environmental impacts of excess medications."
Medications accepted in the bins include liquid prescriptions, ointments, pills, over-the-counter medications and pet medications. For a map of bin locations statewide, visit
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