Respiratory Protection Week: September 7 – 10

August 23, 2021
The NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) announced its annual Respiratory Protection Week. The observance will take place September 7–10, 2021.
During the observance, NIOSH will host two webinars related to respiratory protection via Zoom. On September 7 from 1–2 p.m. EST, NIOSH will present on the future of respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE). The webinar will also provide insight into the new role of PPE in non-traditional settings and closing PPE gaps for underserved populations. On September 9, NIOSH, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will come together in a webinar to help users better understand the role of each agency. Employers and respirator users can tune into the webinar from 3–4 p.m. EST to learn about the roles and responsibilities of each agency in relation to respiratory protection.
“This extraordinary time emphasizes the importance of respiratory protection and PPE,” said NPPTL Director Maryann D’Alessandro, Ph.D. “We are excited to spread awareness on this topic, spotlight our valuable resources, and provide insight into our vision regarding the future of PPE.”
First launched in 2012 as N95 Day and then expanded to Respiratory Protection Week in 2019, this observance provides NIOSH an opportunity to share research findings and release educational tools to help promote proper respiratory protection practices. This year, NIOSH developed new products to help address frequently asked questions. A specific focus will be placed on educating participants on the role NIOSH and other federal agencies play in protecting workers who rely on respiratory protection.
Visit the Respiratory Protection Week webpage to:
  • Sign up for webinars.
  • Learn how to participate.
  • View new educational products as they come available.
New ENERGY STAR for Data Centers
EPA has expanded efforts to drive energy efficiency improvements among U.S. data centers through its ENERGY STAR program. The Agency has launched an updated specification for ENERGY STAR certification of data storage products, unveiled a brand-new website experience designed to serve as the go-to place for data center energy efficiency resources, and will be updating its 1-100 ENERGY STAR score for data centers.
“The data center computing sector is growing rapidly. Reducing the sector’s annual 70 billion-plus kWh use is essential to fighting the climate crisis,” said Joseph Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The ENERGY STAR updates will lead the industry towards greater innovation and deep carbon savings.”
Ten years ago, data center energy use was predicted to grow exponentially as digital computing expanded. However, gains in energy efficiency—both at the network hardware and storage level, as well as at the building level—have mostly offset this growth. Between 2010 and 2018, data center computing grew by 500 percent, while data center energy use only grew by six percent. ENERGY STAR played a significant role in this progress, but much more is required as digital computing data needs continue to grow rapidly.
EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has been a critical player in the drive to improve the energy efficiency of data centers. Data center equipment that earns the ENERGY STAR label is independently certified to meet strict efficiency specifications set by the EPA. For example, labeled computer servers are on average 30% more efficient than non-certified products. In addition to servers, eligible products include uninterruptible power supplies, data center storage, and large network equipment like switches and routers.
Earlier this year, EPA released an updated ENERGY STAR specification for data center storage products, adding active-mode requirements and requiring more efficient power supplies. The program also added new how-to content and case studies to its website.
ENERGY STAR also provides data center owners and operators with a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score that rates the energy efficiency of their entire facility compared to similar facilities nationwide, as well as ENERGY STAR certification to those that out-perform their peers.
More than 190 data centers representing nearly 30 million square feet of floor space have earned EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification. The ENERGY STAR score for data centers was first launched in 2010 and is based on 2008 survey data. Since then, the number of data centers has grown substantially, and much work has been done to improve their energy efficiency.
This fall, to ensure that the ENERGY STAR score continues to give data center owners and operators an up-to-date picture of their performance, EPA will partner with The Green Grid, a leading data center industry association, to conduct a survey of data centers’ energy and water use. EPA intends to use the survey results to update its 1-100 ENERGY STAR score for data centers.
Data centers are one of the most energy-intensive building types, consuming 10 to 50 times more energy per square foot than a typical office building. In 2014, data centers in the U.S. consumed an estimated 70 billion kWh, representing about 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Based on estimates in 2016, U.S. data centers were projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020.
A list of ENERGY STAR certified data centers can be found here:
NDEE Permitting Tools and Resources Webinar
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will present a Permitting Tools and Resources Webinar on Tuesday, Aug. 31, at 11 am CDT. This seminar is intended for anyone who wants to learn more about permitting or the resources and tools offered to assist with permit compliance, record-keeping and information retrieval.
Information in this webinar may be especially beneficial for environmental professionals, consultants, community development corporations and others involved in economic or new business development. The seminar is free and open to anyone interested in attending. This webinar is part of the agency’s continued efforts to engage, inform and “Make Compliance Easy” for the regulated community.
The Permitting Tools and Resources webinar will help you navigate information on permit requirements, understand common pitfalls and recommend recordkeeping practices that support compliance goals. The webinar will be useful both to individuals new to NDEE permitting, as well as a good refresher for those already in the industry.
$85,000 Penalty for Inadvertent Returns
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has assessed an $85,666 penalty from Sunoco Pipeline LP (Sunoco) for violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in four Pennsylvania counties: Blair, Cumberland, Juniata, and Lebanon. The violations took place between February and August 2020. The penalty was part of a Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty (CACP) signed earlier this month.
“Protecting the waters of the Commonwealth is one of the top priorities of DEP and we will continue to hold polluters of those waters accountable,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Sunoco’s activities resulted in unauthorized discharges of drilling fluids consisting of bentonite clay and water, also known as inadvertent returns, to a wetland in Blair County; Letort Spring Run and wetlands in Cumberland County; a wetland and Tuscarora Creek in Juniata County, and Snitz Creek in Lebanon County.
As part of the agreement, DEP has assessed a civil penalty of $85,666 for the violations, which Sunoco has agreed to pay to the commonwealth.  A portion of the civil penalty, $1,166, will be paid to the county conservation districts to reimburse them for their costs incurred during their investigation of the inadvertent returns. The remaining penalty, $84,500, will be paid to the state’s Clean Water Fund. In addition to the penalty paid to the commonwealth and the county conservation districts, Sunoco will also pay a penalty of $12,424 to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Additional information, including the CACP and supporting documents, can be found on DEP's Mariner East 2 webpage.
Intertex Recalls Blower Fans Due to Fire Hazard
This recall involves the model VP-33 blower fans sold under the B-Air® Brand and intended primarily for commercial use for remediation. The capacitor in the recalled VP-33 blower fans can overheat, posing a fire hazard. The recalled blowers were manufactured before January 1, 2018. The recalled air mover, 1/3 horsepower fans were sold in blue, red or green in a neon yellow-colored box. The B-Air logo is on the vent and on the product label.
If you have one of the fans, contact Intertex at 800-465-7300 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday or 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Friday, email at
Recent Environmental Bills Proposed
A bill to enact the definition of "waters of the United States" into law. (Congressional Record 29 July 2021 [Senate] Pages S5175-S5177)
A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify the definition of navigable waters  (Congressional Record: 28 July 2021 [Senate] Pages S5140-S5141)
A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to modify the definition of navigable waters. (Congressional Record: 20 July 2021 [House] Pages H3752-H3754)
A bill to require Federal agencies to address environmental justice, to require consideration of cumulative impacts in certain permitting decisions. (Congressional Record: 5 August 2021 [Senate] Pages S5930-S5932)
A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the Administrator of the EPA to set maximum contaminant levels for certain chemicals. (Congressional Record: 21 July 2021 [Senate] Pages S5017-S5018)
A bill to require the testing of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act. (Congressional Record: 26 July 2021 [House] Pages H3907-H3908)
A bill to require the Administrator of the EPA to promulgate regulations regarding disposal of materials containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or aqueous film forming foam. (Congressional Record 16 July 2021 [House] Pages H3629-H3632)
Oregon DEQ Environmental Podcast
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has launched a podcast called GreenState, creating a new information pathway for the agency and the public.
GreenState kicks off with a three-part series about air quality and wildfire smoke in Oregon. In the “Where There’s Smoke” series, GreenState looks at the past, present and future of air quality and wildfire smoke in light of recent smoky summers throughout the state. The first two episodes are available through SoundCloud and most anywhere you get your podcasts, and the third episode will be available in mid-September.
DEQ public affairs specialists Lauren Wirtis and Dylan Darling host GreenState and will use the podcast to take deep dives into issues that affect the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water. The show will include voices from DEQ, other agencies and more.
“This is one more way we are reaching the public with some excellent and useful information,” said DEQ Communications Manager Harry Esteve. “Podcasts are becoming one of the most popular ways to learn more about the world, and we are happy to contribute.”
$1.3M in Penalties for Contractor with Extensive History of Violations After Two Workers Die At Boston Dig Site
On Feb. 24, 2021, at a sewer repair worksite on High Street in downtown Boston, Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, died after a dump truck struck and pushed them into a nine-foot deep trench. For their employer, Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., its predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., their owner Laurence Moloney and successor company, Sterling Excavation LLC the incident is the latest in a long history of ignoring the safety and health of its employees.
After an OSHA investigation, the agency cited the Wayland, Massachusetts, trenching, excavation and underground construction contractor for 28 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations. View the safety and health citations.
Given the severity and nature of the recent hazards, and Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and its predecessor company's history of violations, OSHA used its egregious citation policy, which allows the agency to propose a separate penalty for each instance of a violation. OSHA has proposed a total of $1,350,884 in penalties.
Chief among the violations was the company's refusal to train Romero, Gutierrez and other workers to recognize and avoid work-related hazards. OSHA also found Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. failed to conduct worksite inspections to identify and correct hazards, including the risks of being struck by construction vehicles and other traffic, crushed or engulfed in an unguarded trench, and being overcome by oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres in the trench and an adjacent manhole.
"Two hardworking people lost their lives because Atlantic Coast Utilities put its own profits over workers' safety and health," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "The failure of employers to follow federal safety and health regulations designed to keep workers out of harm's way is absolutely unacceptable. This is yet another reminder of why the department's mission to protect workers' rights and ensure safe working conditions is so important."
Prior to the February incident, OSHA inspected Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and Shannon Construction Corp. six times and cited them for a total of 14 violations, including willful, repeat and serious violations, with fines of $81,242, of which $73,542 was unpaid and has been referred to debt collection. Moloney and his companies ignored the OSHA citations and repeated demands for abatement of the hazards.
"While two families still mourn the loss of their loved ones, this employer has ignored safety violations, failed to pay fines and shown a total disregard for the safety of its employees. OSHA will use every enforcement and legal tool available to hold scofflaw companies such as this and their owners accountable," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health James Frederick.
"When you fail to train your employees properly, you deny them the most valuable tool they can have, knowledge. Knowledge to do their work correctly and safely, knowledge to understand the hazards that accompany their job and knowledge of how to identify and eliminate those hazards before they injure, sicken or kill workers," said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jeffrey Erskine in Boston.
In a separate enforcement activity, OSHA opened an inspection of successor company Sterling Excavation LLC on Aug. 13, in response to a complaint of excavation hazards at a worksite at 18 Crestway Road in East Boston. That inspection is ongoing.
Home Manufacturing Company Cited for Continuing to Expose Workers to Falls
OSHA has again cited a Pueblo home manufacturing company for exposing employees to defective scaffolding and ladders and failing to train workers on scaffolding safety.
Two follow-up inspections by OSHA in February 2021 at Key Structures LLC led the agency to cite the company for 13 willful, repeat and serious violations. OSHA initiated the inspections after the company failed to abate numerous violations found in September 2020 and January 2021 investigations that involved workers falling from a scaffold and a ladder.
OSHA's most recent inspection identified one willful violation for using damaged scaffolding, one repeat for failing to train workers on scaffolding safety; and seven serious violations, including unsafe use of ladders and scaffolding, failure to use personal fall protection and unsafe storage of compressed gas cylinders. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $222,055.
"Key Structures' willful and continued negligence shows an intentional disregard for worker safety," said OSHA Area Director Chad Vivian in Greenwood Village, Colorado. "Falls are a leading cause of worker deaths which is why employers must train workers on scaffolding safety and comply with fall prevention standards. Our job to hold them accountable when they don't."
Formed in 2018, Key Structures LLC is a subsidiary of The Challenger Group, a privately held real estate and construction company headquartered in Colorado Springs.
Leaky Pipes Are Medicating the Chesapeake Bay
In Baltimore, Maryland, leaky sewage infrastructure delivers tens of thousands of human doses of pharmaceuticals to the Chesapeake Bay every year. So reports a new study in Environmental Science & Technology that monitored an urban stream network over a yearlong period. Drug concentrations detected were persistent, variable, and occurred at ecologically relevant levels.
Pharmaceutical pollution to freshwaters is a global problem that is poorly quantified. Mixtures of drugs in lakes, rivers, and streams can disrupt animal biology and behavior, algal growth, and other ecological processes – with harmful cascading effects.
Lead author Megan Fork, a postdoctoral research associate at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, says, “Pharmaceuticals enter freshwaters through multiple pathways, including effluent from wastewater treatment and septic systems, as well as agricultural runoff. An important, but often overlooked contributor is aging and faulty wastewater infrastructure, which is common in many older cities.”
For a year, weekly water samples were collected from six sites in Baltimore’s Gwynns Falls watershed. Fork explains, “Because Gwynns Falls streams don’t receive wastewater effluent, we were able to estimate annual loads of pharmaceutical pollution attributed to leaky pipes alone.” Sites represented a gradient of development, ranging from suburban to highly urban. The team also sampled a forested reference site to the northwest of the Gwynns Falls watershed.
Samples were screened for 92 pharmaceutical compounds. Across the seven study sites, 37 unique compounds were detected. The most common was the antibiotic trimethoprim. The highest concentration of pharmaceuticals was detected where the Gwynns Falls meets Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Here, the painkiller acetaminophen was most prevalent. Drug concentrations were higher at more densely populated sites.
To estimate the amount of pharmaceutical compounds that leaky pipes delivered to the watershed each year (the annual ‘load’), the team paired data on drug concentrations detected at the Gwynns Falls outlet with river discharge rates recorded by a USGS monitoring station at the site. Annual loads were calculated for nine pharmaceutical classes.
The results: leaky pipes in the Gwynns Falls watershed deliver the equivalent of tens of thousands of doses of pharmaceutical compounds to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor; this includes 30,000 adult doses of antidepressants, 1,700 doses of antibiotics, and about 30,000 tablets of acetaminophen. Concentrations were environmentally relevant – at levels that could affect organisms’ behavior, biology, and other ecological processes – and highly variable, meaning aquatic organisms are exposed to a constantly changing mixture of compounds.
Fork explains, “Establishing the loads of contaminants such as pharmaceuticals is important since low concentrations may mislead regulators and managers into thinking that they are insignificant. In Baltimore we are already seeing that stream-dwelling bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics, suggesting that low chronic exposures can result in significant effects on stream life.”
Next, the team calculated the annual watershed ‘mass balance’ for eight pharmaceutical classes. The goal: to reveal the pathways by which pharmaceutical compounds being consumed in the Gwynns Falls watershed enter the environment, and how these pathways differ among compounds.
Mass balance calculations took into account data on: per capita wastewater volume, the quantity of pharmaceuticals consumed (estimated using national data on prescriptions, scaled to the population of the Gywnns Falls watershed), concentrations of drugs in sewage, the proportion of pharmaceutical compounds metabolized in the body versus the proportion excreted, the amount of pharmaceutical pollution removed by wastewater treatment, the amount that leaks, and the amount that enters the environment via treated wastewater plant effluent.
Although the Gwynns Falls watershed does not receive wastewater treatment plant effluent, sewage produced in the Gwynns Falls watershed gets piped away for treatment in a nearby watershed. After treatment, this effluent is discharged into the Chesapeake Bay. This diverted sewage was included in the mass balance calculations.
Emma Rosi, senior co-author and aquatic ecologist at Cary Institute, explains, “Our findings show that plants and animals exposed to sewage from leaky pipes are receiving a different mix of compounds than those exposed to wastewater treatment plant effluent. In the Gwynns Falls watershed, wastewater effluent is the main delivery pathway for antibiotics, while painkillers are more likely to enter the environment via leaking infrastructure. This sort of information is critical to assessing organisms’ exposure to different compounds and associated effects.”
Reducing pharmaceutical inputs to freshwaters requires municipal investment in repairing old and damaged wastewater infrastructure, and upgrading wastewater treatment facilities to more effectively remove these contaminants. Quantifying annual loads of pharmaceuticals entering freshwaters, and identifying pathways of entry to the environment, can guide regulation and provide metrics to assess future pollution mitigation efforts.
Rosi notes, “We estimate that nearly 1% of raw sewage originating in the Gwynns Falls watershed flows into the environment via leaking infrastructure. If we extrapolate our calculations to the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, we estimate that approximately 11.7 billion liters of raw sewage may enter the Bay via leaks every year – carrying a range of pharmaceutical compounds that can affect aquatic organisms and disrupt ecosystem processes.”
With Fork concluding, “Our findings underscore the ubiquity of drugs in freshwaters, and the need to examine and account for all pollution pathways, not just obvious ones like wastewater treatment plant effluent.”
This research is a contribution to the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a Long Term Ecological Research site funded by the US National Science Foundation. For over 20 years, the Gwynns Falls study sites have been monitored for water pollution; this data adds to a growing body of research looking at emerging environmental contaminants.
Updated Safety Standards for Construction Demolition in WA
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has updated the requirements in chapter 296-155 WAC, Safety standards for construction work, Part S, Demolition, to improve the safety of employees working in the demolition industry, as well as improve public safety.
The adopted language requires employers to develop and implement a written demolition plan tailored to the operation and to the types of hazards involved, which must be kept on the jobsite. This rulemaking aligns with the fall protection standards in chapter 296-880 WAC, Unified safety standards for fall protection.
L&I determined that rule changes were needed to ensure demolition plans were developed based upon the engineering survey and the demolition plan must incorporate conditions of the framing, floors, and walls, and potential of unplanned collapse and any portion of the structure(s). Hazards such as unplanned collapses and flying or dropping debris, can injure both workers and the public. These hazards can be mitigated with an engineering survey and a demolition plan.
For technical questions about this rulemaking, contact: Erich Smith, Safety and Health Specialist,
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at
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