OSHA to Target Workplaces with Highest Injury and Illness Rates

December 21, 2020
The U.S. Department of Labor announced that OSHA is updating its inspection program that directs agency enforcement resources to establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.
The Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Directive is OSHA’s primary targeting program for non-construction establishments with 20 or more employees. The agency selects establishments based on injury and illness data employers submitted on Form 300A for calendar years 2017-2019.
The new directive replaces Site-Specific Targeting 2016, and includes the following significant changes:
  • The creation of a new targeting category for establishments indicating consistent injury and illness rate increases over the three-year data collection period, and
  • Allows records only inspections to occur when a compliance safety and health officer determines incorrect data led to an establishment’s inclusion in the program. This change ensures OSHA will conduct a full inspection only when the employer has an actual elevated injury and illness experience.
In addition to the SST program, OSHA implements both national and local emphasis programs to target high-risk hazards and industries. Learn more about these emphasis programs.
Get Your RCRA and DOT Training Online
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
How to Get Out of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program
As you can imagine, its best to avoid getting into OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) by maintaining compliance. But if OSHA has placed your facility, or company in the program, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
To be released from the program, you must have abated all SVEP–related hazards affirmed as violations, paid all final penalties, abided by and completed all settlement provisions, and not received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.
Except in cases where national corporate-wide settlements are involved, approval of the your removal will be at the discretion of OSHA’s Regional Administrator or designee and will be based on an additional follow-up inspection and Integrated Management Information System/OSHA Information System (IMIS/OIS) data.
The Regional Administrator or his/her designee will then notify OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) via the SVEP log that your site has been removed/lined-out. In the event that an you fail to abate all hazards, pay all penalties, or comply with settlement terms during this a three year period, the Regional Administrator will notify DEP with a brief summary of the situation and your site will remain on the SVEP log for an additional three years and will then be reevaluated.
For cases involving national corporate-wide settlement agreements, DEP will make the determination, upon the termination of the agreement, regarding the your removal from the program. Pursuant to CPL 02-00-152, Guidelines for Administering Corporate-Wide Settlement Agreements (June 22, 2011), the National Corporate-Wide Settlement Coordinator will ensure that the follow-up requirements of the SVEP have been completed and the terms of the agreement have been implemented.
Utah DEQ Top 10 Hazardous Waste Violations
The Utah DEQ listed the top 10 hazardous waste violations identified by state enforcement personnel:
Contingency Plan
  • Contingency Plans integrated from other regulations are missing RCRA specific pieces
  • Arrangements have not been made and/or documented with local authorities or emergency services
  • Large Quantity Generators don’t have a Quick Reference Guide
  • Employees were not thoroughly familiar with waste handling/emergency procedures
  • Containers are not labelled with an indication of the hazard of the contents
Waste Determinations
  • All waste streams are not characterized to determine if the stream is hazardous
  • Incorrect or inaccurate waste characterizations
Universal Waste
  • Containers of Universal Waste are not labelled with “Universal Waste” and the type of waste
  • Containers of Universal Waste are not labelled with the date that Universal Waste was first accumulated
  • All containers of Universal Waste are not closed
Federal Industrial Safety Agency Withering Away
The federal agency charged with investigating and preventing industrial explosions, fires, and other chemical accidents is fully funded but producing less than ever, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). For the first time, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) now omits “protecting workers” from the agency’s mission statement.
The CSB has a $12 million annual budget but, according to its official performance report, during the past fiscal year it has:
  • “Completed and issued a report on one investigation”
  • “Issued 0 safety recommendations”
Fiscal year 2020 appears to be the first in the agency’s 23-year history when no new safety recommendations were issued, compared to a prior average of about 38 per year since the agency was established. Issuing safety recommendations to federal regulatory agencies is one of the three enumerated statutory duties of the CSB under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
“To say that the CSB is underperforming would be an understatement,” stated PEER General Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that Congress has three times ignored President Trump’s proposal to zero out the CSB, and fully funded its annual budget. “As president, Trump has not succeeded in eliminating the CSB but he has succeeded in neutering it.”
The one completed investigation this past FY stands in contrast to a backlog of 18 unfinished investigations, including some dating back three years. The CSB’s output has been degraded in large part due to a sharp decline in investigators. Today, CSB has only 11 investigators, down from 20 just five years earlier, despite a budget which is $1 million bigger today.
Trump appointed Katherine Lemos, the only remaining member on the five-member CSB governing board, to serve as its Chair despite her lack of any chemical industry experience. She, in turn, recently hired a former Northrop Grumman Corp. lobbyist, Bruce Walker, to serve as her “senior adviser” despite his lack of any apparent background in chemical safety. The agency describes his duties as “interfacing with stakeholders” to achieve the nebulous goal of “improving the flexibility of interagency interactions around multi-jurisdictional incidents.”
In contrast to its meager investigatory output, Lemos did request an internal investigation to ensure CSB compliance with Trump’s order to end staff training on diversity and inclusiveness.
Every year, the U.S. suffers more than 1,000 serious industrial chemical accidents but very few are investigated. As a consequence, the industrial accident risk in the U.S. is among the highest in the developed world. Recently, PEER sued CSB to force it to implement a long-neglected duty to report on emissions released into communities by chemical accidents. While the suit was successful, the regulation CSB ultimately approved was so anemic as to be largely useless.
“At a time when the CSB is needed more than ever, this federal watchdog is taking a nap,” added Dinerstein, who has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking Lemos’ travel expenses to maintain her San Diego residence, where there are no CSB assets. “We will be asking President Biden to put the CSB back to work protecting workers’ lives and the communities hosting these industrial plants.”
New Mexico Now Requires Employers to Disclose COVID-19 Cases
The Environmental Improvement Board (Board), the rulemaking body of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), voted to pass an amendment to state workplace safety law requiring employers to report COVID-19 cases among employees to NMED within four hours of being notified of the positive case during a public hearing.
The amendment codifies the reporting requirement, which has been in place since an emergency amendment was adopted by the Secretary of the Environment Department in August and readopted in early December. The amendment passed by the Board will replace the emergency rule once the Board delivers the final rule to the state records administrator.
The 4-hour reporting requirement greatly decreased the response time of the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau’s Rapid Response team, allowing them to quickly act to ensure workplace safety by providing immediate guidance and support to employers.
“While the arrival of the vaccine is great news, we are not out of the woods yet,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This amendment allows us to continue our critical work to ensure New Mexico workplaces are as safe as possible.”
Violations of the reporting requirement may result in a NMED enforcement action, including civil penalties and legal action.
Michael Regan Nominated as New EPA Administrator
The following statement was made by President-Elect Joe Biden regarding his nomination of Michael Regan as his nominee for EPA Administrator.
“For Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I nominate Michael Regan.
A proud son of North Carolina, he turned a passion for exploring the woods and waters of the Inner Coastal Plain into a deep expertise in environmental science.
He got his start at the EPA serving in both Democratic and Republican Administrations, working on everything from reducing air pollution to improving energy efficiency.
He currently serves as Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality,
where he’s brought people together across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to help build a new clean energy economy, creating quality jobs, and confronting climate change.
He led the charge to clean up the Cape Fear River, contaminated for years by dangerous toxic chemicals.
And he created North Carolina’s first board of its kind to address environmental justice and equity.
It helps lift up frontline and fenceline communities who had carried the burdens of industrial progress for too long, without sharing in the benefits.
Michael would be the second African American official and first African American man to serve in this position.
He shares my belief in forging consensus and finding common purpose.
He is the leader who will reassert the EPA’s place as the world’s premier environmental protection agency that safeguards our planet, protects our lives, and strengthens our economy for all Americans.”
Minnesota Drives Forward with Clean Car Standards to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced it is moving forward with its proposed clean car standards similar to those in 14 other states, including Colorado and Maine. If approved by an administrative law judge, Minnesota’s clean car standards would apply to new vehicles and are anticipated to take effect beginning with model year 2025 (January 2024).
Minnesota’s proposed clean car rule would adopt two new emission standards used in many parts of the country.
The LEV standard regulates the amount of greenhouse gases and other harmful air pollution that new vehicles can emit. The LEV standard only applies to new light- and medium-duty vehicles like cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks. The LEV standard does not apply to off-road or farming equipment, heavy-duty vehicles, or used vehicles, and it does not require emissions testing. It also does not prevent the use of biofuels and other cleaner fuels.
Most importantly, all new vehicles sold in Minnesota since 2012 currently meet the LEV standard. Between 2012 and 2020, the United States only had one, unified standard – meaning the federal standard was aligned with the LEV standard. In March 2020, the federal government rolled back existing emissions standards, which could mean weaker environmental protections for our state if we don’t act.
The ZEV standard requires auto manufacturers to deliver more battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid models for sale in Minnesota, increasing each year. The exact number of vehicles is linked to the automaker’s overall sales within the state. The ZEV standard calls for incremental progress over time, not sudden, overnight change.
Minnesota has been on the tail end of receiving electric vehicles, and there are more makes and models available in ZEV states than Minnesotans can easily acquire here. A July 2020 survey found that Twin Cities auto dealers had only 171 new hybrids and electric vehicles on their lots out of more than 19,300 total vehicles for sale. In Greater Minnesota, consumers had even fewer options with no new hybrid and electric vehicles available in Duluth, Marshall, and Bemidji, and just 11 for sale in Rochester. Adopting the ZEV standard would ensure that Minnesota is at the forefront of receiving this new innovation.
“Minnesotans expect action to address our current climate crisis. That’s why the MPCA is using every available tool to address greenhouse gas emissions, including clean car standards that reduce emissions and increase electric vehicle options,” said Laura Bishop, MPCA commissioner. “Clean car standards, along with the electric school bus pilot project and supporting homegrown energy like biofuels, are part of a multipronged approach to reduce greenhouse emissions in our transportation sector.”
The MPCA’s Notice of the Intent to Adopt Rule will be published in the State Register on Monday, December 21. The Office of Administrative Hearings has scheduled a two-day hearing held by the presiding administrative law judge, Judge Palmer-Denig, on February 22-23, 2021, starting at 3 p.m. each day. In January, the MPCA also will hold four online information sessions on the following dates and times:
  • Tuesday, January 19, 2021, at 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, January 20, 2021, at 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021, at 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2021, at 6 p.m.
In 2007, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act into law, setting statutory goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% from 2005 levels by 2015, by 30% by 2025, and by 80% by 2050. Minnesota missed the 2015 target and is not on track to meet future goals, either. Between 2005 and 2018, overall greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota decreased by just 8%.
To get back on track, Minnesota must take swift action in all sectors, including transportation. Right now the transportation sector is the single largest source of climate-changing pollution in Minnesota. According to public input gathered during the 2019 Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota project, Minnesotans want and expect action from state leaders for cleaner, lower-carbon transportation options, including adopting clean car standards. Once implemented, Minnesota’s clean car standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8.4 million tons in the first 10 years, and the clean air and climate benefits will continue to grow over time.
The MPCA works with partners across the private, public, and non-profit sectors to advance electric vehicles in Minnesota, including funding needed for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In recent years, MPCA has used funding from the national Volkswagen settlement to build more than 1,100 miles of electric vehicle charging corridors in Greater Minnesota, and will continue expanding this statewide network by another 2,500 miles starting next year.
More information about the proposed rule, public hearing, and how to participate in the process will be available on the MPCA's website: mn.gov/cleancars.
New Rules to Cut the Use of Climate Change “Super Pollutants” in Washington
Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change at rates hundreds or thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. In 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that phased out many major uses of HFCs, including in refrigeration, heating and cooling, foams, and aerosol products.
Now, the Washington Department of Ecology has adopted new rules to implement that law, which by 2030 will cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
“We call these chemicals ‘climate change super pollutants’ because even a small amount of these substances can have a massive impact on our environment,” Inslee said. “There are safer, cleaner substitutes for these chemicals available, and it just makes sense to switch to those as soon as possible.”
HFCs have about the same climate impact as trains and ships combined. Today, HFCs account for the equivalent of about 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year in Washington. By way of comparison, that’s more than all the emissions from ships and trains in our state combined. What’s worse, the emissions from HFCs have been climbing in recent years, and were expected to grow by a third by 2035 without action.
“HFCs are some of the most potent greenhouse gases ever made,” said Laura Watson, Ecology’s director. “If we’re going to address climate change, switching to safer, cleaner alternatives to these chemicals is absolutely necessary, and we’re on track to do that.”
The 2019 law sets aggressive timelines for the phase out, with the first product restrictions kicking in Jan. 1, 2020. Ecology adopted emergency rules beginning in July 2019 to guide this initial part of the process while it worked on permanent regulations to complete the work. Now, the agency has completed that rulemaking, ensuring that Washington continues to cut HFC emissions in the years ahead.
Equipment using environmentally safer HFC alternatives is already available and should not cost more. In most cases, switching to HFC-free equipment will not take any special effort on the part of consumers, retailers or business owners, since the Washington law focuses on companies that manufacture or import HFC-containing products.
Home Depot to Pay $20,750,000 Penalty for Nationwide Failure to Follow Rules for Conducting Renovations Involving Lead Paint
EPA and the Department of Justice announced a proposed nationwide settlement with Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. resolving alleged violations of the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule at home renovations performed by Home Depot’s contractors across the country. The States of Utah, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, which have EPA-authorized RRP programs, are joining the United States in this action.
The settlement, in a consent decree lodged with the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, requires Home Depot to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure that the firms and contractors it hires to perform work are certified and trained to use lead-safe work practices to avoid spreading lead dust and paint chips during home renovation activities. Home Depot will also pay a $20.75 million penalty, the highest civil penalty obtained to date for a settlement under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Of the $20.75 million penalty, $750,000 will be paid to Utah, $732,000 to Massachusetts, and $50,000 to Rhode Island.
“Today’s settlement will significantly reduce children’s exposure to lead paint hazards,” said Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Home Depot will implement system-wide changes to ensure that contractors who perform work in homes constructed before 1978 are EPA-certified and follow lead-safe practices. EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health.”
“These were serious violations. The stiff penalty Home Depot will pay reflects the importance of using certified firms and contractors in older home renovations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Contractors hired for most work in homes built prior to 1978, when lead based paint was in widespread use, must be certified. These contractors have the training to recognize and prevent the hazards that can be created when lead paint is disturbed.”
EPA discovered the alleged violations when investigating five customer complaints about Home Depot renovations (in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin), which showed Home Depot subcontracted work to firms that in some cases did not use lead-safe work practices, perform required post-renovation cleaning, provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or maintain records of compliance with the law.
EPA then conducted a comprehensive review of Home Depot’s records of renovations performed throughout the United States and identified hundreds of instances in which Home Depot sent uncertified firms to perform renovations that required certified and trained firms. In addition, EPA identified instances in which Home Depot failed to establish, retain, or provide compliance documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, and had used lead-safe work practices in projects performed in homes.
For the most serious violations addressed by the settlement, Home Depot offered its customers inspections using certified professionals and, if dust lead hazards were found, it performed specialized cleaning and verification.
Under the settlement, Home Depot will implement a company-wide program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work for its customers comply with the RRP Rule during renovations of homes built before 1978. To do this, Home Depot is implementing an electronic compliance system to verify that the contractors it hires are properly certified. Home Depot will also require its contractors to use a detailed checklist to document compliance and provide the completed checklist to the customer. The checklist will lead the contactors through the steps required for RRP Rule compliance. Home Depot will also conduct thousands of on-site inspections of work performed by its contractors to ensure they comply with lead-safe work practices. Home Depot must also investigate and respond to customer complaints. In instances where the contractor did not comply with Lead Safe Work practices Home Depot will perform an inspection for dust lead hazards and, if they are found, provide a specialized cleaning. EPA will monitor Home Depot’s responses to customer complaints.
In addition to the requirements related to its renovations, Home Depot will provide important information about following lead-safe work practices to its professional and do-it-yourself customers in its stores, on its website, on YouTube, and in workshops. The RRP Rule does not apply to do-it-yourself projects in your own home. However, the EPA recommends using the Rule’s lead-safe work practices in your own home projects, so this important information will help families learn how to safely perform home improvement projects to protect themselves, and their children.
Residential lead-based paint use was banned in 1978 but still remains in many older homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. A blood lead test is the only way to determine if a child has a high lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead dust should contact their child's health care provider.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
California Worker Safety Concerns Intensify During the Holiday Season Due to Increased Demand for Products and Services
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened demand for products and services during the winter holiday season, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and its Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) encourage employees and employers to learn more about worker safety and rights, and employer responsibilities.
Each year, workers in warehouses, retail establishments, food processing plants and more are hired during the holiday season due to increased demands for products and services. These workers may not know or understand their rights, and their employers may not be aware of their responsibilities, placing workers, employers and the public-at-large at greater risk for COVID-19 exposure.
“Our goal is to reach workers who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure and need information about their rights in the workplace, including paid sick leave benefits and how to report unsafe conditions,” said DIR Director Katie Hagen. “We also want employers to understand their responsibilities to comply with state labor laws and ensure a safe and healthful workplace.”
LWDA and DIR are addressing these concerns with a public education campaign in English and Spanish that focuses on high-risk industries for the holiday season, including manufacturing, warehouse and fulfillment centers, retail and food services, agricultural, food processing and meat packing, with detailed information on resources and benefits available on www.dir.ca.gov/COVID.
The campaign is particularly focused on low-wage workers of color who face a higher risk of exposure to the virus. According to a recent UC Berkeley Labor Center analysis, low-wage workers are less likely to be able to work remotely, and women - in particular Black and Latina women - are more likely to have very close proximity to others on the job, which puts them at higher risk. This underscores the importance of highlighting workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities in key industries and regions across California.
Following the winter holiday season, LWDA and DIR will continue to provide information on the rights of all workers to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
California Sues Former Owners and Operators of Exide’s Vernon Site
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) filed litigation against prior owners and operators of the former Exide Technologies smelter in Vernon. The lawsuit seeks to hold these polluters accountable for reimbursement of costs the State has shouldered to investigate and clean up the site and surrounding area from contamination. It also asks the court to require defendants to investigate and clean up the remaining contamination. Several companies that sent or transported large amounts of hazardous materials to the facility for disposal or treatment are also included as defendants in the Federal lawsuit.
The filing is the latest step in the top legal priority for DTSC, the State’s department charged with protecting California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances. DTSC’s move demonstrates the State’s long-held determination to make sure polluters pay for the contamination they leave behind.
“These parties share the responsibility for the contamination plaguing the thousands of people and families who live and work in the shadow of this site,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “With this lawsuit, we are seeking justice on behalf of not only the surrounding affected community, but other communities across the state suffering the impacts of intergenerational environmental injustice.”
DTSC names NL Industries Inc., Gould Electronics Inc., and JX Nippon Mining and Metals Corporation as companies responsible for the contamination, along with Exide. These companies or their corporate predecessors owned or operated the Vernon facility for decades before Exide assumed ownership.
DTSC is also suing Kinsbursky Brothers Supply Inc., Trojan Battery LLC, Ramcar Batteries Inc., Clarios LLC, Quemetco Inc., International Metals Ekco Ltd., and Blount Inc., or their corporate predecessors, which arranged for and/or transported the majority of the hazardous substances that were disposed of or treated at the Vernon facility in the last approximately 30 years of the facility’s operation.
DTSC recently appealed the October 2020 bankruptcy court’s ruling that allowed Exide to walk away from its responsibility to safely close the facility and clean up the toxic contamination. DTSC maintains its claim that Exide is responsible in its appeal of the bankruptcy court’s ruling. The lawsuit names additional companies that share the responsibility of this contamination.
DTSC’s Exide page contains more information on the cleanup.
Company Pleads Guilty to Dumping Waste Water into Lake Ontario
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced that the Algoma Central Corporation, headquartered in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. to a negligent violation of the Clean Water Act and will face a significant fine.
“The Great Lakes represent one of the most valuable resources in our region,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “This Office and our law enforcement officers will not hesitate to act to protect our natural resources and our environment from those who harm them.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango and Trial Attorney Patrick Duggan of the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, who are handling the case, the case, stated that the Algoma Central Corporation operated a fleet of dry and liquid bulk carriers operating on the Great Lakes. One of the vessels in the defendant’s fleet was the M/V Algoma Strongfield (Strongfield). Built in China, the Strongfield was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Redwise Maritime Services, B.V. (Redwise), a vessel transport company based in the Netherlands.
During the Strongfield’s delivery voyage, while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water. On May 5, 2017, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the Strongfield’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean. The wash water tank was intended to hold deck and cargo hold wash water and is not listed on the Strongfield’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate. Between May 5, 2017, and the Strongfield’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank to avoid overboard discharges of untreated bilge water.
On May 19, 2017, as the Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of Chief Engineer. On May 30, 2017, the Strongfield arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada, at which time the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew. Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.
On June 6, 2017, the Stongfield was transiting Lake Ontario. While in the waters of the United States within the Western District of New York, the 3rd Officer on board the Strongfield requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the Captain approved the discharge. Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the 3rd Officer and the Captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario. The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the 3rd Officer and Captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately. Following the discharge on June 6, 2017, Algoma contacted Canadian and United States authorities to report the discharge.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, under the direction of Resident Agent-in-Charge Cindy C. Buckley, Buffalo, NY, and Resident Agent-in-Charge Edward L. Songer, Detroit, MI.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 14, 2021, before Judge Schroeder.
Ice Company to Plead Guilty to Longstanding Clean Act Violations
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Providence, an East Providence ice company is set to plead guilty to violating the Clean Air Act by repeatedly failing to implement a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to be executed in the event of an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous substance.
According to court documents, J.P. Lillis Enterprises, Inc., D/B/A Cape Cod Ice, a cold storage warehouse and ice manufacturing facility that stores up over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its facility located on the banks of the Seekonk River, in an industrial area near a residential area, and in the vicinity of an elementary school, was assessed a civil penalty by the EPA as far back as 2012 for failing to develop and submit an RMP, and since has been repeatedly found to contain equipment in need of repair to avoid a potential release of anhydrous ammonia.
Subsequent inspections by EPA, OSHA, and the East Providence Fire Department found the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high- pressure ammonia receiver, the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes, and inadequate inspection, testing, and maintenance of the ammonia piping and receiver.
United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division Boston Area Office, announced that Cape Cod Ice has agreed to pay a $90,000 fine; serve a term of three years federal supervised release; and will, within 90 days of sentencing, engage a qualified independent ammonia refrigeration consultant to conduct an audit that evaluates Cape Cod Ice’s compliance with the Clean Air Act and address deficiencies identified by the EPA, OSHA, and East Providence Fire Department and includes a required maintenance inspection program.
According to a Plea Agreement filed in this matter, Cape Cod Ice will submit to the United States Attorney’s Office and to United States Probation within 30 days of the completion of the audit an action plan to address the findings of the audit and a timeline of completion of actions to be taken by the company.
According to court documents, in 2015, Cape Cod Ice repaired the corroded receiver and certified to OSHA that it had corrected the cited violations. Cape Cod Ice provided OSHA a preventative maintenance program contract with an outside consultant as evidence of its corrective actions; that contract was never signed or implemented.
Cape Cod Ice also sent to OSHA a process hazard analysis performed by an outside consultant which contained recommendations to prevent a catastrophic ammonia release; all recommendations were not implemented.
Outside consultants also performed an audit of the RMP Program and a mechanical integrity inspection which contained recommendations; all recommendations were not implemented.
In January of 2017, EPA sent a letter to Cape Code Ice, urging Cape Cod Ice to ensure compliance with the RMP requirements. In April of 2017, EPA inspected the facility and again observed numerous violations of the RMP and PSM regulations, including the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high-pressure ammonia receiver, and the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes. In June of 2017, EPA also issued an Administrative Compliance Order to Cape Cod Ice.
In May of 2017, the East Providence Fire Department inspected the facility and issued a Notice of Violation finding, among other things, that ammonia piping was rusted and showed signs of excessive corrosion, with areas that had moldy insulation or no insulation; and that the ammonia receiver was corroded. The Fire Department ordered the facility to come into compliance. Cape Cod Ice has submitted reports to the East Providence Fire Department and to EPA indicating that it has taken steps to bring the facility into compliance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly, with the assistance of Dianne Chabot, EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel.
The matter was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Learn How to Ship Vaccines and Other Materials in Dry Ice
When shipped by air, dry ice is classified as a dangerous good and personnel involved with its shipment must comply with stringent requirements for packaging, marking, labeling, and shipping documentation. Anyone involved in the shipment of dangerous goods must be trained on how to prepare and ship these materials by air in accordance with DOT and IATA requirements.
Attend this live interactive session and get your questions answered while you learn how to:
  • Classify and prepare shipments cooled with dry ice
  • Comply with both FAA and IATA regulations
  • Prepare shipments of dangerous goods packed with dry ice
  • Prepare shipping papers
  • Properly select, fill, and seal packages
  • Mark and label packages
  • Load, unload
  • Comply with requirements for ancillary equipment, such as trackers and temperature recorders
  • Implement essential safety and security procedures
Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast training is the best way to get certified. Learn from the experts at any of these upcoming sessions:
  • January 14 – 1:00-3:00 Eastern
  • February 22 – 1:00-3:00 Eastern
Also available is Environmental Resource Center’s online Dry Ice training that you can take anytime at your convenience.
For a complete list of other dangerous goods transportation courses, see this link.
New $1,500 Incentive to Purchase Electric Vehicle in California
California electric utilities are teaming up with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to offer the California Clean Fuel Reward (CCFR), a point-of-sale price reduction of up to $1,500 for the purchase or lease of any eligible new Battery Electric or Plug-in Hybrid vehicle from a participating automotive retailer. Starting on Nov. 17, consumers will be able to purchase an eligible vehicle from an enrolled retailer and receive an instant reduction in the purchase price.
“The goal of the program is to accelerate the number of electric vehicles on California’s roads and highways,” said CARB Vice-Chair Sandy Berg. “The instant point-of-sale price reduction of up to $1,500, along with other programs like Clean Cars 4 All, will help make these ultra-clean cars more affordable, especially for low-income families or those living in disadvantaged communities.”
The California Clean Fuel Reward will help support Governor Newsom’s Executive Order phasing out gasoline-powered cars and requiring 100 percent sales of zero-emission cars in 2035. This will drastically reduce demand for fossil fuels, cut vehicle emissions, protect public health, and propel California toward carbon neutrality in the mid-century.
For consumers, taking advantage of the reward is easy. When making an EV purchase at an enrolled retailer in California, the retailer will simply include the reward in the transaction at the point of sale. There is no need for the customer to do any paperwork after the sale to receive the reward. The CCFR is one of the most straightforward and inclusive rewards in the market, as it is available to everyone in California.
The lists of enrolled retailers and eligible vehicles will be continually updated as the new retailers and EV models are added.
Southern California Edison is administering the program on behalf of, and in collaboration with, all participating utilities. The CCFR is available to all California residents, regardless of utility provider and participation.
“SCE is honored to lead the CCFR program in collaboration with other electric utilities,” said Katie Sloan, SCE director of Electrification and Customer Service Governance. “This is a key initiative in the vision of a clean energy future. Through this program, we can bring electric utility expertise to the sales process and educate both customers and retailers on how to charge EVs, where to charge and how much it costs; making EVs a natural choice in the car buying process.”
The California Clean Fuel Reward can also be combined with existing post-sale federal, state and local incentives, such as the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, Clean Cars 4 All, and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, to make EVs even more affordable.
The CCFR is funded by electric utilities participating in CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program. From its beginning in 2011, the LCFS has helped cleaner fuels displace more than 16 billion gallons of liquid petroleum fuels. The program allows producers of clean fuels, such as electric utilities, to generate credits they can sell to producers with more carbon-intense products. Sales of those credits fund programs such as the California Clean Fuel Reward program.
BI-QEM Fined for Not Resolving Prior Hazardous Waste Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has issued a Demand for Payment of a $5,000 Suspended Penalty to BI-QEM Inc. of Northampton due to violations of a consent order previously issued in January of 2019.
By entering into the previous consent order, BI-QEM Inc. had agreed to correct noncompliance with its MassDEP-issued Plan Approval and the MassDEP hazardous waste regulations and to do so within certain timelines. However, BI-QEM Inc. failed to correct the violations and has gone beyond the timelines agreed to in the consent order. BI-QEM Inc. must pay the suspended penalty of $5,000 to the Commonwealth.
“It is unfortunate that BI-QEM did not fulfill its obligations under our agreed upon terms,” said Michael Gorski, Director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. “We are in discussions with the company and are hopeful they will come back into compliance soon.”
$1.3 Million Penalty for EPCRA and CAA Violations
EPA has settled a significant case against Crowley Fuels of Alaska for violations of federal environmental laws at the company’s bulk gasoline storage facilities in Juneau, Ketchikan, Douglas, and Palmer. The company has agreed to pay a penalty of $1,337,365.
EPA found that Crowley failed to install vapor emissions controls on the gasoline storage tanks and loading rack at its Juneau terminal in violation of the Clean Air Act. As a result of operating the Juneau terminal without the required controls, EPA estimates that 110,000 pounds of excess gasoline vapors escaped to the environment. Gasoline vapors are a known source of benzene, a known carcinogen, and toluene, which is a central nervous system depressant.
Specifically, the company violated the New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for bulk gasoline terminals at its Juneau terminal by not having air pollution controls to capture vapors released from gasoline storage tanks and a loading rack used to fill tanker trucks.
EPA also found that Crowley violated the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act when it failed to report information about certain chemicals and chemical compounds at its Juneau and Ketchikan terminal facilities annually from 2013 to 2018. Crowley Fuels processed liquid petroleum which contained benzene, cyclohexane, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, toluene, xylene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, n-Hexane, and lead compounds in quantities that exceeded their threshold reporting amounts.
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, facilities that use certain toxic chemicals above specified thresholds must file annual reports of their chemical releases and transfers with EPA and their appropriate state agency. The information collected by EPA from industrial and federal facilities using these chemicals serves as the basis of the Toxics Release Inventory, a national database that can be reviewed by communities, government and industry. Because Crowley’s TRI forms were not submitted in a timely manner, the information for these chemicals was not available to the public.
On September 16, 2020 EPA issued an administrative compliance order on consent that requires the company to either install air pollution control equipment on the storage tanks and the truck loading rack at the Juneau terminal by July 2021 or convert the terminal to diesel-only service. Also, the company has submitted and certified outstanding Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports.
“Communities where facilities like this exist should expect the company is obeying all laws meant to protect them from dangerous chemicals,” said Chris Hladick, EPA’s Regional Administrator in Seattle. “We’re pleased the company came to the table immediately upon being informed of the violations and committed to correcting them.”
Copper-Processing Company Pleads Guilty to Felony Violations of the Clean Water Act
A copper-processing company headquartered in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts under the Clean Water Act, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced.
United States District Court Judge William S. Stickman, IV, accepted the guilty plea of Libertas Copper, LLC d/b/a Hussey Copper (Hussey) to one count each of submitting a false discharge monitoring report, discharging a quantity of oil that may be harmful to the environment, and failing to make immediate, required notification of such discharge of oil. Judge Stickman also proceeded directly to sentencing and ordered Hussey to pay a $550,000 fine and serve a three-year term of probation.
During the hearing, Hussey was represented by its Chief Executive Officer, who made admissions on behalf of the company. The Court was advised that Hussey operated a manufacturing facility on the Ohio River that produced flat-rolled copper products for the electrical distribution, industrial, and residential construction markets. Hussey also managed wastewater generated as a result of its copper processing via a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The WWTP discharged wastewater via designated internal and external outfalls, including outfalls on the Ohio River. Hussey further admitted that at all relevant times, it operated pursuant to the terms of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), as authorized by the federal Clean Water Act.
As part of its guilty plea, Hussey admitted that its NPDES permit set specific discharge limits for copper and oil, among other parameters. Hussey’s NPDES permit also required the company to submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) on a monthly basis to PADEP, documenting the quantity and quality of the discharges authorized by its NPDES permit during the preceding month. Each DMR was required to be signed and certified as to its accuracy by a responsible corporate officer on behalf of Hussey. Hussey further acknowledged that between at least June 2012 and continuing through at least May 2017, the company knowingly submitted numerous falsified DMRs to PADEP, indicating that various discharges from its outfalls were within applicable permit limits, when in truth and in fact Hussey’s own internal sampling data showed that such discharges had exceeded the relevant limits. Hussey also admitted reporting false values in monthly DMR submissions to PADEP as to at least 140 parameters subject to discharge limits, including a substantial number of copper discharges. The false parameter values reported to PADEP concealed permit exceedances on at least 21 monthly DMRs.
Separate from the alleged DMR falsifications, Hussey also admitted engaging in a years-long pattern of discharging oil in a quantity sufficient to generate oil sheens on the Ohio River, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Between at least January 2012 and continuing until at least 2018, Hussey admitted that it documented in internal logs hundreds of observed oil sheens at two of the company’s outfalls on the Ohio River. Notwithstanding these documented observations, Hussey admitted that it did not report any of the observed oil sheens to EPA or PADEP, as required by the Clean Water Act. Further, after PADEP issued a notice of violation to Hussey in June 2015, following a citizen complaint of an oil sheen at the company’s outfall, the company admitted that a responsible corporate officer responded to the state agency that Hussey would report any future oil sheens. The next year, in July 2016, a responsible corporate officer communicated to PADEP that there had been no observed oil sheens at Hussey’s outfalls for the prior thirteen months, when, in fact, as Hussey admitted, the company’s internal logs reflected dozens of sheen observations during that time. Moreover, as part of its guilty plea, Hussey admitted that it did not make an affirmative, required report to regulatory authorities of the presence of oil sheens at its outfalls until June 2018—and even then its reporting was incomplete. To that end, Hussey’s oil-sheen reporting in June 2018 referenced sheens observed on three specific days, despite the fact that Hussey’s own internal logs documented observed sheens on fifteen additional days during the relevant month, including multiple sheens during the same week.
As a condition off Hussey’s probation, the company is also required to enter into a civil Consent Decree within 180 days of judgment in this case in connection with a pending parallel civil investigation, pursuant to which Hussey will implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program at its Leetsdale facility. Upon entry of such Consent Decree, Hussey’s probation in the criminal matter will terminate.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government, with assistance from Martin Harrell, Associate Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel of the EPA. The EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation of Hussey.
$125,000 Penalty for UST Violations
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a consent assessment of civil penalty (CACP) with CrossAmerica Partners, LP (CrossAmerica) to address storage tank violations that occurred at 18 storage tank facilities between January 2019 and October 2020. CrossAmerica operates 26 storage tank facilities, primarily fuel stations, in the Greater Philadelphia area. At the time the CACP was offered, all outstanding violations had been corrected; the company has agreed to pay a $125,000 civil penalty.
Certified tank inspectors conducted Facility Operations Inspections (FOIs) at each of the 18 facilities during 2019 and observed a number of violations at each location.
Across the 18 facilities and underground storage tank systems, some of the violations noted in the CACP include:
  • 13 facilities had liquid inside of the underground storage tank containment areas
  • 14 facilities were operating without a trained Class C operator present during business hours
  • 16 facilities did not provide adequate release detection records
  • Four facilities did not have emergency procedures posted
  • Three facilities did not have current tank registration or permit certification available onsite
DEP’s mission is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution through the enforcement of applicable statues and regulations. While most of the violations outlined in the CACP are administrative in nature, it is imperative that facilities are run by trained operators and maintain current, accurate and available records. Fortunately, no spills or other environmental impacts resulted from these instances of non-compliance.
“We are glad CrossAmerica has been cooperative and agreed to bring all 18 facilities into compliance,” said Southeast Regional Director Pat Patterson. “While DEP might not be the first thing that comes to mind when getting gas at a fuel station, there are several important regulations in place that keep the tanks, employees, and customers safe. Whether we’re inspecting the integrity of a storage tank or making sure emergency procedures are posted, DEP is committed to holding each regulated facility to the highest levels of compliance.”
The $125,000 civil penalty payment will go into the Commonwealth’s Storage Tank Fund which is covers the operating costs of the storage tank programs, including activities necessary for the elimination of releases from storage tanks and other activities necessary to meet the requirements of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act.
Scientists Use Fruit Peel to Turn Old Batteries into New
Scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a novel method of using fruit peel waste to extract and reuse precious metals from spent lithium-ion batteries in order to create new batteries.
The team demonstrated their concept using orange peel, which recovered precious metals from battery waste efficiently. They then made functional batteries from these recovered metals, creating minimal waste in the process.
The scientists say that their waste-to-resource approach tackles both food waste and electronics waste, supporting the development of a circular economy with zero waste, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible. An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste and 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated globally each year.
Spent batteries are conventionally treated with extreme heat (over 500°C) to smelt valuable metals, which emits hazardous toxic gases. Alternative approaches that use strong acid solutions or weaker acid solutions with hydrogen peroxide to extract the metals are being explored, but they still produce secondary pollutants that pose health and safety risks, or rely on hydrogen peroxide which is hazardous and unstable.
Professor Madhavi Srinivasan, co-director of the NTU Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (NTU SCARCE) lab, said: “Current industrial recycling processes of e-waste are energy-intensive and emit harmful pollutants and liquid waste, pointing to an urgent need for eco-friendly methods as the amount of e-waste grows. Our team has demonstrated that it is possible to do so with biodegradable substances.
“These findings build on our existing body of work at SCARCE under NTU’s Energy Research Institute (ERI@N). The SCARCE lab was was set up to develop greener ways of recycling e-waste. It is also part of the NTU Smart Campus initiative, which aims to develop technologically advanced solutions for a sustainable future.”
Assistant Professor Dalton Tay of the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering and School of Biological Sciences said: “In Singapore, a resource-scarce country, this process of urban mining to extract valuable metals from all kinds of discarded electronics becomes very important. With this method, we not only tackle the problem of resource depletion by keeping these precious metals in use as much as possible, but also the problem of e-waste and food waste accumulation – both a growing global crisis.”
The findings were published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology. With industrial approaches to recycling battery waste generating harmful pollutants, hydrometallurgy – using water as a solvent for extraction – is increasingly being explored as a possible alternative. This process involves first shredding and crushing used batteries to form a crushed material called black mass. Researchers then extract valuable metals from black mass by dissolving it in a mix of strong acids or weak acids plus other chemicals like hydrogen peroxide under heat, before letting the metals precipitate.
While relatively more eco-friendly than conventional methods, the use of such strong chemicals on an industrial scale could generate a substantial amount of secondary pollutants, posing significant safety and health risks, said Asst Prof Tay.
The NTU team found that the combination of orange peel that has been oven-dried and ground into powder, and citric acid, a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits, can achieve the same goal.
In lab experiments, the team found that their approach successfully extracted around 90 per cent of cobalt, lithium, nickel, and manganese from spent lithium-ion batteries – a comparable efficacy to the approach using hydrogen peroxide.
Asst Prof Tay explained: “The key lies in the cellulose found in orange peel, which is converted into sugars under heat during the extraction process. These sugars enhance the recovery of metals from battery waste. Naturally occurring antioxidants found in orange peel, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, could have contributed to this enhancement as well.”
Importantly, solid residues generated from this process were found to be non-toxic, suggesting that this method is environmentally sound, he added.
From the recovered materials, they then assembled new lithium-ion batteries, which showed a similar charge capacity to commercial ones. Further research is underway to optimize the charge-discharge cycling performance of these new batteries made from recovered materials.
This suggests that this new technology is “practically feasible for recycling spent lithium-ion batteries in the industrial sense”, said the researchers.
The team is now looking to further improve the performance of their batteries generated from treated battery waste. They are also optimizing the conditions to scale up production and exploring the possibility of removing the use of acids in the process.
Prof Madhavi, who is also from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering and ERI@N, said: “This waste-to-resource approach could also potentially be extended to other types of cellulose-rich fruit and vegetable waste, as well as lithium-ion battery types such as lithium iron phosphate and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide. This would help to make great strides towards the new circular economy of e-waste, and power our lives in a greener and more sustainable manner.”
The research, which comes under NTU SCARCE, is supported by the National Research Foundation, the Ministry of National Development, and the National Environment Agency under the Closing the Waste Loop R&D Initiative as part of the Urban Solutions & Sustainability−Integration Fund.
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