August 17, 2001

PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess announced that DEP seized a tractor-trailer that hauled asbestos and then allegedly picked up wheat to be processed for human consumption.

The driver then allegedly attempted to deliver the wheat to a mill in Martins Creek, PA, which processes it for food for people.

Inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania State Police and DEP discovered the backhauling Aug. 13 during routine inspections of trucks south of State College, Centre County, on Route 322. The driver, Thomas Leiter of Lewistown, PA, had hauled asbestos from Portland, Connecticut, to L.A.S. Recycling in Youngstown, Ohio. He then allegedly picked up the wheat at McCullough Grain in Sharpsville, Ohio. Leiter was driving for Marbec Trucking Inc. in Spring Run, PA.

When stopped, Leiter told inspectors he was en route to ConAgra in Martins Creek and that the wheat was to be used for animal feed. Inspectors did not know at the time that the mill processes wheat only for human consumption.

Upon learning that, DEP investigators worked cooperatively with ConAgra and waited for Leiter to arrive at the mill on Aug. 14. The mill's operator rejected Leiter's load after investigators notified the operator that the wheat was contaminated.

Leiter was issued a summary citation by the Pennsylvania State Police. He faces a fine of up to $10,000. The incident remains under investigation.

DEP made arrangements to dispose of the contaminated wheat at Grand Central Landfill in Pen Argyl, PA.


A Rhode Island scientist has found that wood chips can remove the toxic substances washed off the road by heavy rains, preventing them from getting into water courses.

According to Thomas Boving, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at the University of Rhode Island, storm water detention ponds in Providence, Rhode Island, designed to filter out pollutants from roads before storm water reaches the local Narragansett Bay, are made ineffective by large volumes of water.

"Most of the contaminants in roadway run-off are attracted to suspended organic material and sediments, which then settle to the bottom of the ponds," said Boving. "But if the flow rate is too fast, like during a heavy storm, there may not be enough time for the solids to settle before flowing out and into the bay."

Knowing that contaminants cling to organic material, Boving, whose hobby is woodworking, decided to investigate the effectiveness of wood chips on filtering out pollutants.

During laboratory experiments using water containing the carcinogen pyrene, produced by smokestacks, automobile tailpipes, chimneys and outdoor barbecues, Boving found that shredded wood from aspen trees removed 97% of the pollutant. Over time, he found that the wood chips become less effective, and so may need to be replaced every 30 to 60 days for optimum performance, although they could remain effective for up to a year. Boving points out that although regularly changing the wood chips might technically be the most efficient option due to the low cost of the material, this could lower the public acceptability of the technique.

"I was very encouraged by what I found with this first test," said Boving. "It fulfils all of the requirements for a successful technology - it's non-toxic, cheap, available, and public acceptance of these filters is likely very good since no one is concerned about putting wood in water."

Boving has calculated that up to 100 pounds of shredded wood would be needed each month for three storm water detention ponds, roughly 400 cubic meters in size. The wood chips will be submerged in the ponds, enclosed in netting. He believes that the spent wood chips are likely to be incinerated.

Following tests using a range of organic contaminants on pine - the cheapest wood available - and other types of wood, Boving intends to carry out field tests next year.


The FAA has proposed a civil penalty of $78,500 against Novel Tees Wholesale, Salt Lake City, Utah, for hazardous materials violations on a shipment offered for transportation by air on or about November 6, 2000.

The shipment, consisting of a single, non-specification fiberboard box, was flown on a regularly scheduled UPS cargo flight from the Salt Lake City International Airport to the Louisville International-Standiford Field (Louisville, Kentucky). >From Louisville, the shipment was flown to the UPS sort facility at the Alpena County Regional Airport, Alpena, Michigan.

UPS personnel in Alpena noticed the package had broken open. Further inspection revealed it contained 12-5 oz. plastic bottles of Ronsonol lighter fuel; 12-3 oz. metal aerosol cans of Stylist color hair spray; 12 Dragon Fire Micro Torches, and 9 novelty lighters. Each item is classified as hazardous materials under the Federal Aviation Regulations, and should be labeled FLAMMABLE LIQUID (Ronsonol), or FLAMMABLE GAS (the hair spray, micro torches and novelty lighters).

Novel Tees Wholesale did not properly class, describe, package, mark, label these items for transport by air. It offered hazmat for transportation without properly describing the material on shipping papers. Emergency response information was not provided, and the company failed to ensure each of its hazmat employees was trained in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations. Special packaging and permission, required for the transport of cigarette lighters, or items containing ignition elements and containing fuel, was not obtained.

Novel Tees Wholesale will have 30 days from the receipt of the Civil Penalty Letter to respond to these allegations.


A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation would require physical copies of a shipping manifest accompany hazardous waste shipments, even if an electronic manifest had already been sent. The Research and Special Programs Administration, a division of DOT, issued the proposal in an effort to keep hazmat emergency response teams safe, as well as to make its rules consistent with EPA's.

"A uniform manifest that is prepared and transmitted electronically, from the generator to the transporter, the disposal facility and the monitoring governmental agencies, can provide all the information necessary to track a shipment of hazardous waste," according to the Federal Register proposal, online at "However, an electronic manifest cannot serve the purpose of a shipping paper to alert emergency responders as to the nature and hazards of materials in a transport vehicle or freight container, in the event of an incident during transportation of those materials, when electronic translators or readers may not be available. Accordingly, EPA has proposed that a paper copy of the manifest or other shipping paper must accompany the shipment."

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, EPA requires hazardous waste shipments be tracked from their point of origin (generator) to their destination (disposal). Recently, EPA proposed new rules that would allow these shipping manifests to be transmitted electronically. "In order to parallel EPA's proposal for an electronic manifest, RSPA proposes to modify 49 CFR 172.205 to provide that, when an electronic manifest is used, the hazardous waste must be accompanied by a physical shipping paper that can be either (1) a print-out (paper copy) of the electronic manifest or (2) a separate shipping paper that meets all of the shipping paper requirements in 49 CFR, subpart C of part 172. In addition, to prevent confusion by enforcement officials, if an electronic manifest is being used in the transportation of a hazardous waste, the shipping paper or copy of the electronic manifest must indicate on the document that an electronic manifest is being used."

Comments about the proposed RSPA rule will be accepted until Oct. 4. To submit a comment, go to the Docket Management System Web site at Click on "Help and Information" for instructions on how to file comments electronically.


Clean Air Act

  • September 15: Reformulated gasoline standards detailed under 40 CFR 80.78(a)(1)(v) expire until the following summer.
  • September 21: Existing pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities subject to the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for pharmaceuticals must comply with 40 CFR 63, subpart GGG.

Clean Water Act

  • September 21: Existing sources subject to effluent guidelines and standards for the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry under 40 CFR 439 must meet pretreatment standards.


EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced that EPA will propose a comprehensive strategy to significantly reduce air pollution and protect public health that will be released in September. EPA will incorporate its review of the New Source Review (NSR) program into this comprehensive strategy, and as a result, will not release its NSR report this week.

"Our top priority is protecting public health and the environment, and we are in the final stages of developing a comprehensive strategy that will allow us to take the next step forward into a new generation of air pollution controls for the 21st century," Whitman said. "This fall, we will put forward an ambitious proposal that will reduce air pollution from power plants significantly more than the existing system. Subsequently, we will release the NSR report called for by the National Energy Policy."

EPA and the White House are working to finalize the details of a legislative proposal that will set strict limits on utility emissions of the three major air pollutants that affect public health - nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and mercury - through the use of an innovative and effective market-based approach. In addition, the air pollution reduction strategy will address concerns about the NSR program's effect on energy efficiency and capacity.

EPA says its proposal will maintain stringent health-based standards and establish firm, mandatory caps on levels of pollution, while providing industry with the flexibility to find the most cost-effective means of meeting those standards. They claim this approach would also significantly reduce the administrative burden on state and federal environmental agencies, allowing them to devote limited resources to other programs.

As part of the strategy, the Administration's legislative proposals concerning power plants will benefit from the Clean Air Act's acid rain "cap and trade" program, which is widely recognized as the most successful air pollution control program in the world. With a 100 percent industry rate of compliance and extraordinarily low administrative costs, this program has eliminated more air pollution, more cost-effectively, in the last decade than all other programs combined.

This basic approach to reducing air pollution while simultaneously reducing regulatory burdens was strongly endorsed by the nation's governors at last week's meeting of the bipartisan National Governor's Association in Rhode Island. At that meeting, the governors unanimously adopted a National Energy Policy that called upon Congress to establish a flexible, market-based program, such as emissions-trading credits, to combat air pollution.

The NGA Policy also called for reform of the New Source Review program "to achieve improvements that enhance the environment and increase energy production capacity...."

In accordance with the president's energy plan, EPA and other federal agencies have been reviewing the NSR program since May to determine its impact on investment in new electricity generation and refinery capacity, energy efficiency and environmental protection. That review will be finalized and released this fall as an element of a comprehensive strategy to reduce air pollution.

The NSR program requires utilities and other industries to install pollution controls when a new facility is built, or when an existing facility makes changes that significantly increase emissions.

EPA initiated its review of the NSR program in response to a recommendation from the president's National Energy Policy Development Group, which also recommended that the Department of Justice (DOJ) conduct an independent review of existing NSR enforcement actions to ensure that they are consistent with the Clean Air Act. Administrator Whitman and Attorney General John Ashcroft have previously announced that they will continue to pursue these enforcement actions vigorously during the DOJ review.

During EPA's review of the NSR program, the Agency met with more than 100 groups, held four public meetings and received more than 130,000 written comments from the public. Those comments are being evaluated as part of the process of improving the NSR program and developing the president's legislative proposal. EPA also will use the extensive public comments to determine whether additional improvements to the NSR program are needed.