From cell phones and laptops to electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries are the power source that fuels everyday life. But in recent years, they have also drawn attention for catching fire. In an effort to develop a safer battery, scientists report in the ACS journal, Nano Letters, that the addition of nanowires can not only enhance the battery’s fire-resistant capabilities, but also its other properties.
In lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), lithium ions move back and forth between electrodes through an electrolyte. Traditional LIBs have a liquid electrolyte made of salts and organic solvents, but it evaporates easily and can be a fire hazard. So, researchers have turned their attention to solid-state electrolytes as potential alternatives. Several options have been proposed for solid-state electrolytes, but most are not stable or cannot meet large-scale demands. Polymer electrolytes have shown potential because they are stable, inexpensive and flexible; but they have poor conductivity and mechanical properties. So, scientists have been adding an array of compounds to enhance the electrolyte. Xinyong Tao and colleagues previously made magnesium borate (Mg2B2O5) nanowires, which had good mechanical properties and conductivity. They wanted to see whether these properties would also be imparted to batteries when these nanowires were added to a solid-state polymer electrolyte.
The team mixed the solid-state electrolyte with 5, 10, 15 and 20 weight percent of the Mg2B2O5 nanowires. They observed that the nanowires increased the conductivity of the electrolytes and allowed them to sustain more stress compared to the electrolyte without nanowires. The increase in conductivity was due to an increase in the number of ions moving through the electrolyte at a faster rate. The group also tested the flammability of the electrolyte and found that it barely burned. When the nanowire-enhanced electrolyte was paired with a cathode and anode like it would be in a battery, the set-up had a better rate performance and higher cyclic capacity than batteries without added nanowires.
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St Louis, MO on May 8-10 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Hilton Head Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Hilton Head, SC on May 22-24 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Baton Rouge Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Baton Rouge, LA on June 5-7 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
EPA Declares Burning Biomass Carbon Neutral
During a meeting with Georgia forestry leaders, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a new decision on the carbon neutrality of forest biomass. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Managed forests improve air and water quality, while creating valuable jobs and thousands of products that improve our daily lives. This is environmental stewardship in action.”
In the meeting with members of the forestry community, Administrator Pruitt announced that the Agency issued a statement of policy making clear, that future regulatory actions on biomass from managed forests will be treated as carbon neutral when used for energy production at stationary sources. The Agency will also be assessing options for incorporating non-forest biomass as carbon neutral into future actions.
The EPA claimed the use of biomass from managed forests can bolster domestic energy production, provide jobs to rural communities, and promote environmental stewardship by improving soil and water quality, reducing wildfire risk, and helping to ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This policy will provide certainty to rural communities and the forest industry while supporting economic growth.
“Policy uncertainty means uncertain investment in the future of our forests. When policy limits markets, it puts economic pressure on forest owners. That not only threatens jobs, but it also puts our forests at risk, jeopardizing our water, our air and our wildlife,” said CEO of National Alliance of Forest Owners Dave Tenny. “Recognizing that forest biomass in the U.S. provides a carbon neutral source of renewable energy will encourage landowners to replant trees to keep our forests healthy and intact and provide good paying jobs well into the future.”
Last month an article in Scientific American indicated that scientists disagree with neutrality claims, expressing concern about the emissions produced by burning biomass. Many experts suggest that declaring wood burning a carbon-neutral form of energy is not only inaccurate, but a potential step backward for global climate change mitigation efforts.
Additional Information on EPA’s Policy on Carbon Neutrality:
- U.S forests have been historically, and are currently, a net sink of carbon; in 2015, the forest sector offset approximately 11.2% of gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use of biomass for bioenergy can support the management of U.S. forests and can lead to increased carbon sequestration from U.S. forests over time.
- Draft EPA analysis suggests that use of various biomass feedstocks for energy at stationary sources can result in negligible net contribution to atmospheric concentrations of CO2 depending on factors related to feedstock characteristics, production and consumption, and alternative uses.
- Use of biomass feedstocks from managed forests for energy at stationary sources can provide multiple environmental benefits, such as pest management, improved water and soil quality, and wildfire risk reduction.
- Use of these biomass feedstocks for energy at stationary sources can provide numerous economic benefits to rural communities, including new jobs and income from forest biomass industry, and support of existing tourism and recreation industries in forested areas.
- EPA’s previous technical work on a framework for assessing the net atmospheric contribution of biogenic CO2 emissions from biomass feedstocks used by stationary sources for energy production includes an ongoing peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board. However, this process has not yet resulted in a workable, applied approach.
- Many forest and forest products industry stakeholders view the lack of a clear EPA policy on the treatment of biogenic CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of forest biomass for energy at stationary sources as a hindrance to the use of biomass from managed forests for bioenergy purposes, as well as to realizing its environmental and economic benefits.
Hazardous Material Accident Investigation Team Pilot Program
In a continuing effort to improve safety, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) has produced a brochure to promote its hazardous materials Accident Investigation Team (AIT) pilot program to hazardous material and emergency first responder stakeholders. Fundamentally different from traditional PHMSA Hazardous Materials Regulations enforcement efforts, the one-year AIT pilot program was launched in October 2017 to develop a comprehensive investigative process for significant hazmat accidents and incidents. This process includes identifying contributing and root causes with the purpose of learning from past mistakes to enable forecasting and mitigation of future hazardous material accidents.
Two Revisions to Texas Clean Air Plan
The EPA has approved the state of Texas’s clean-air plan relating to prescribed burning. EPA’s approval covers revisions submitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on issues including the use of basic smoke management practices and requirements for certified prescribed burn managers.
“Prescribed burns are an important tool for safely managing certain ecologic areas,” said Regional Administrator Anne Idsal. “The state of Texas has incorporated these events into the clean-air plan in a clear, responsible manner.”
TCEQ’s submitted revisions are consistent with basic smoke management practices published by the US Forest Service, and specify burns must be done under the authority of a certified and insured burn manager. The revisions also clarify the distinction between prescribed burns and burns involved in land-clearing or disposing of wastes. The revisions include requirements that protect public health and property and reduce or eliminate an impact from prescribed burning on clean-air standards.
Also approved by the EPA were the state of Texas’ revisions to the state’s clean-air plan regarding public participation for granting permits. The revisions remove obsolete requirements and consolidate other public notice requirements for concrete batch plant permits.
“Public participation is an important component of the air permitting process,” said Regional Administrator Anne Idsal. “Eliminating duplication and consolidating requirements reduce confusion for the public and the regulated facilities.”
The state removed compliance history provisions from its clean-air plan, which EPA approved because there is no federal requirement to include them in a permitting program nor do the current approved permitting programs use the provisions. Texas also removed public notice provisions that have been replaced by other approved requirements, which will help reduce confusion for the regulated community and the public.
The revisions also consolidate public notice requirements for concrete batch plant standard permits. The plan had called for two comment periods: a 15-day notice of the permit application, followed by a 30-day notice of the draft permit. The new approved provisions establish one 30-day comment period beginning after the draft permit is issued, which satisfies all federal requirements.
States maintain clean-air plans called state implementation plans (SIPs) which incorporate requirements of the Clean Air Act. SIPs specifically deal with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which regulate pollutants such as ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. SIPs include air pollution regulations, control strategies, and other measures to ensure the state meets these standards. SIPs and any changes made to them must be approved by EPA.
Click here for more about EPA’s work in Texas.
Funding Available to Reduce Emissions from Diesel Engines
The EPA announced the availability of grant funding to modernize the nation’s diesel fleet by retrofitting or replacing vehicles with cleaner, more efficient diesel engines. EPA anticipates awarding approximately $40 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERA) grant funding to eligible applicants, subject to the availability of funds.
“These grants will incentivize improvements to aging diesel fleets and improve air quality throughout the country,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA will continue to target funds to areas facing significant air quality issues.”
Diesel-powered engines move approximately 90% of the nation’s freight tonnage, and currently nearly all highway freight trucks, locomotives, and commercial marine vessels are powered by diesel engines.
EPA is soliciting proposals nationwide for projects that significantly reduce diesel emissions and exposure, especially from fleets operating at goods movements facilities in areas designated as having poor air quality. Priority for funding will be given to projects that engage and benefit local communities and applicants that demonstrate their ability to promote and continue efforts to reduce emissions after the project has ended.
Eligible applicants include regional, state, local or tribal agencies, or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality. Nonprofit organizations may apply if they provide pollution reduction or educational services to diesel fleet owners or have, as their principal purpose, the promotion of transportation or air quality. All those eligible may apply until Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
Under this competition, EPA anticipates awarding between 20 and 80 assistance agreements. Applicants must request funding from the EPA regional office that covers their geographic project location. The maximum amount of federal funding that may be requested by an applicant varies by Region.
Region 1 (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) will accept proposals requesting up to $1,000,000 in grant funds.
Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,000,000 in grant funds.
Region 3 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,500,000 in grant funds.
Region 4 (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,000,000 in grant funds.
Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin) will accept proposals requesting up to $3,000,000 in grant funds.
Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,500,000 in grant funds.
Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska) will accept proposals requesting up to $1,500,000 in grant funds.
Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,400,000 in grant funds.
Region 9 (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands) will accept proposals requesting up to $2,500,000 in grant funds.
Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) will accept proposals requesting up to $900,000 in grant funds.
EPA anticipates releasing a separate Request for Proposals for Tribal applicants during 2018.
Since the first year of the DERA program in 2008, EPA has awarded funds to more than 730 projects across the US. Many of these grants funded cleaner diesel engines that operate in economically disadvantaged communities whose residents suffer from higher-than-average instances of asthma, heart and lung disease.
For more information on the National Clean Diesel campaign, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.
CARB to Collect $785,000 from Low Carbon Fuel Standard Violators
Three energy companies have agreed to fines totaling $785,000 following investigations by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). All three companies violated provisions of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which is critical part of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts.
“The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is critical to California’s effort to fight the worst impacts of climate change, achieve its mandated GHG reductions, and to provide consumers with more clean fuel choices” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “It is not a new regulation and there is no good reason for compliance failures.”
- SK Energy Americas agreed to a $395,000 penalty for failure to meet the carbon intensity target for 2014.
- Alon USA and subsidiary, Paramount Petroleum have agreed to pay a $300,000 civil judgment for failure to accurately report fuel transactions.
- Kern Oil & Refining agreed to a penalty of $90,000 and forfeiture of 15,838 LCFS credits for misreporting the type of low carbon fuel it sold (These credits are currently worth nearly two million dollars.)
CARB first approved the LCFS in 2010 with compliance starting in 2011. The LCFS requires that companies producing fuel for use in California lower the carbon in their production process 10% by 2020.
The regulation requires that fuel suppliers meet, on an annual basis, a clean fuel target for the vehicle fuels they sell in California. If an individual fuel they supply is below that annual target its carbon emissions are lower and it generates marketable credits for the producer; fuels above that number generate deficits. If producers are unable to supply enough low-carbon fuels in a year to meet the annual target, they must acquire credits from other fuel suppliers in the marketplace to make up the deficit. SK Energy Americas agreed to pay the $395,000 penalty because it failed to cover its deficit in 2014.
All producers are required to accurately report the types of fuel produced for sale in California and transactions for sale of that fuel. CARB took Alon and Paramount to court for their failure to accurately report its sales. Kern Oil was fined for inaccurate reporting of fuel type, and in addition to the fine CARB invalidated the credits associated with the misreported batches of fuel.
The LCFS is a tool critical to achieving California’s 2020 GHG emission reduction goal of a return to 1990 levels. It will also be important in reaching the legislatively mandated 2030 reduction goal of 40% below 1990 levels and 2050 target of reductions 40% below 2030 levels.
CARB is amending the LCFS starting in 2021 to require fuel producers to reduce emissions an additional 20% by 2030. The amendments will also bring more alternative fuels, such as jet fuels, into the program, and add a third-party verification program. Another amendment will create a variety of credits and partial credits for electric vehicle electrification to promote development of electric vehicle infrastructure called for in Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-48-18
MarkWest to Pay Over $3 Million for Air Emission Violations
The Department of Justice, the EPA, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced a settlement with MarkWest Liberty Midstream Resources, LLC and Ohio Gathering Company, LLC (MarkWest), which is expected to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by more than 700 tons per year from company facilities in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The settlement addresses alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act for failure to obtain permits and keep records associated with maintenance activities that resulted in VOC emissions. As part of the settlement, MarkWest will also perform three supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) and pay a $610,000 civil penalty.
Under the terms of the settlement, MarkWest is expected to spend approximately $2.6 million to install and operate technologies that minimize VOC emissions at its facilities throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations. MarkWest will also implement two SEPs involving the installation and operation of ambient air monitoring stations located upwind and downwind of MarkWest compressor stations in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania; one SEP requiring the dissemination and demonstration of a proprietary MarkWest technology for reducing VOC emissions; and one community environmental project for emissions monitoring equipment under an agreement between MarkWest and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The total value of the SEPs under this settlement is more than $2.4 million.
“This Clean Air Act settlement will reduce harmful emissions from facilities located across western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s action also demonstrates our commitment to working with federal, state and local partners to ensure the health and safety of the American people.”
MarkWest operates facilities in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania designed to gather and transport natural gas and natural gas condensates through pipelines. As part of regular maintenance activities, MarkWest uses devices called “pigs,” which are sent through the gathering pipeline to remove debris and push through accumulated liquids, in an operation known as “pigging.” Pigging a pipeline involves inserting and removing pigs from the pipeline, which requires the operator to depressurize and vent pipeline gas from equipment designed to launch and receive pigs. MarkWest is alleged to have failed to apply for, and comply with, the required permits and/or recordkeeping requirements under the Clean Air Act and the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act for venting activities that released VOC emissions.
VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidney, and the central nervous system. VOCs also contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and anyone with lung diseases such as asthma. Ground level ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.
$389,300 in Fines for Sewage Violations in East Bay
EPA and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board announced that the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and five East Bay communities will be assessed $389,300 in penalties for violating the terms of a 2014 settlement designed to prevent untreated sewage from entering San Francisco Bay.
“East Bay communities made commitments to upgrade aging sewer infrastructure to protect the waters of San Francisco Bay and surrounding communities,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “We’re taking this action to ensure diligent attention to renewal of wastewater infrastructure.”
“Protecting San Francisco Bay is a top priority of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board,” said Executive Officer Bruce Wolfe. “That includes ensuring compliance with agreements reached with East Bay MUD and the East Bay communities to prevent sewage spills that contaminate the bay. We will continue to monitor compliance with the 2014 settlement, which will benefit the entire region.”
Under the 2014 Clean Water Act settlement, EBMUD and seven East Bay communities paid a $1.5 million civil penalty for past sewage discharges and agreed to assess and upgrade their 1,500-mile-long sewer system infrastructure over a 21-year period. Since that time, 720 miles of sewer have been inspected and about $80 million has been spent to rehabilitate nearly 100 miles of sewer pipe.
The parties are being assessed the following penalties for violations of the settlement that occurred between September 22, 2014, and June 30, 2017:
- City of Oakland - $226,500 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters and failure to repair acute defects within one year.
- EBMUD - $134,000 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters and failure to meet effluent limitations for chlorine and coliform.
- Stege Sanitary District (serving El Cerrito, Kensington, and a portion of Richmond) - $26,800 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters.
- City of Alameda - $1,200 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters.
- City of Albany - $400 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters.
- City of Berkeley - $400 - Failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from reaching waters.
- When wastewater infrastructure is not properly maintained, untreated sewage can escape and be discharged to the bay. Older sewer systems in particular can be overwhelmed during rainstorms, releasing untreated sewage. In addition to polluting waterways, untreated sewage can spread disease-causing organisms, metals and nutrients that threaten public health. Sewage can also deplete oxygen in the bay, threatening fish, seals and other wildlife.
Learn more about efforts to protect San Francisco Bay.
Medical Waste Facility Fined for Wastewater Violations
Over a 10-month stretch in 2017, a Washington medical waste facility repeatedly discharged polluted wastewater from its medical waste processing plant in Morton. The wastewater disrupted the city’s treatment plant and threatened aquatic life in the Tilton River.
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined the company $72,000 for not properly treating its wastewater, and for not notifying the city or Ecology within 24 hours of its violations.
The facility receives medical waste from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It is required (by an Ecology permit) to limit conventional pollutants like pH, oil and grease, solids, and any material that consumes oxygen in the water.
One of the polluted discharges overwhelmed Morton’s treatment plant and caused the plant to violate its own water quality permit. Another discharge included excessive mercury, which can cause death or disease to living organisms. And, in nine cases, the company exceeded the limits set to protect oxygen in water; fish and other aquatic animals need the dissolved oxygen to live.
In addition to the penalty, Ecology has ordered the company to hire outside experts to assess the company’s treatment system within 30 days, and propose corrective action to Ecology within 60 days. The company must complete all corrective action within 90 days.
DEQ Provides Information on PFAS Response
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently updated air and waste management professionals on the state-wide effort to identify per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in Michigan and actions the DEQ is taking to prevent unacceptable exposures to Michigan residents. This DEQ-led effort is part of Governor Snyder’s Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) initiative to enhance coordination in a statewide response to PFAS.
The PFAS response update was part of the larger Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) Spring Conference in Grand Rapids. The West Michigan chapter of the A&WMA hosted the event which was also attended by regional officials from the EPA.
Prior to the DEQ briefing on PFAS, DEQ Director Heidi Grether outlined the state’s environmental priorities in 2018 which include a $110 million effort to rebuild Michigan’s water infrastructure, as well as a $74 million proposal to bolster critical environmental protection and clean-up programs.
“Our primary focus remains protecting the people of Michigan from contamination in their water,” Grether said. “As part of this effort we’re working collaboratively with EPA to develop a systematic approach to addressing PFAS and other emerging contaminants.”
The DEQ is leading the state’s $23 million effort to locate PFAS contamination, identify sources, and oversee remediation activities aimed at protecting the state’s water resources and mitigating risks to the public.
PFAS compounds, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), are a group of emerging and potentially harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging, and cleaning products. These compounds are also used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers, and clothing manufacturers. In January 2018, the DEQ took swift action to set a new legally-enforceable standard of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA combined. Michigan is one of only a handful of states to establish enforceable limits for any PFAS compounds.
“It’s apparent that PFAS is a growing concern and states like Michigan have led on this issue,” said EPA Region 5 Chief of Staff Kurt Thiede. “The EPA is cooperating with the states knowing we can be better together.”
The MPART – the first multi-agency action team of its kind in the nation was established within the Governor’s office last November under the direction of Carol Isaacs. MPART is comprised of state agencies that have been investigating sites for potential contamination and taking actions to protect public health. Members include key leaders of the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality; Health and Human Services; Military and Veterans Affairs; Natural Resources; Agriculture and Rural Development; and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. MPART is also coordinating with the EPA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Guard Bureau, United States Department of Defense, and the appropriate local health departments and other government agencies.
In Michigan, PFAS contamination has been found in a number of areas throughout the state including northern Kent County where Wolverine Worldwide operated a tannery; and several military facilities, like the former Wurtsmith Air Force base, within the state.
Environmental Justice Mobile App
The EPA launched its mobile version of EJSCREEN, the Agency’s nationally acclaimed environmental justice screening and mapping tool. This new version makes accessing EJSCREEN easier than ever for those working on the ground in communities.
The enhanced mobile version of EJSCREEN provides most of the same key functions and features as the full online version, but offers them in a more compact and accessible layout. This includes the ability to select locations, access reports, and to map environmental, demographic and EJ indicators.
“The EJSCREEN mobile app puts a powerful tool in the hands of people working on the ground in communities,” said Matthew Tejada, Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. “By making information more accessible, we can give people across the United States an easy way to find those communities that need our help and support the most.”
First created in 2012 for internal use, EJSCREEN was built as an online computer tool for EPA staff to analyze environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice while developing programs and policies that impact overburdened communities. EJSCREEN continues to be a tremendously popular tool, consistently ranking as one of EPA’s most used tools available through the Agency website. The tool also is regularly used by other federal, Tribal, state and local government partners as well as by nonprofit and community groups, business and industry, and academia.
EJSCREEN was built for use on standard desktop and laptop computers, however, user surveys showed these devices are not always accessible to many stakeholders working in communities. Since releasing EJSCREEN to the public in 2015, users reported it could be more user-friendly with mobile devices. EPA website analytical data showed that more than 50% of users accessed EJSCREEN from a mobile device. As a result, EPA developed the mobile version to be responsive to user needs.
This new mobile version of EJSCREEN will make the tool more accessible to partners, communities, and anyone interested in environmental justice. EPA will continue to use stakeholder feedback to guide improvements to EJSCREEN.
EPA Approves Montana Five-year Water Pollution Management Plan
The EPA recently approved Montana’s five-year plan to protect the state’s water quality from the effects of a wide variety of diffuse pollutants, collectively known as nonpoint source pollution.
The Department of Environmental Quality updated its plan that addresses the types of water pollution associated with a broad range of land use activities, including urban stormwater runoff, agricultural and forestry practices and road building and maintenance. The plan outlines objectives, strategies, and actions for the next five years. Implementation of the plan relies of statewide partnerships and local efforts by all Montanans. The plan focuses on voluntary implementation of best Management Practices such as managing livestock grazing to protect riparian areas along streams or reducing runoff and erosion from unpaved roads.
“This remains a key piece of improving water quality in Montana,” said DEQ Director Tom Livers. “As Montanans we all can play a role in significantly decreasing nonpoint source pollution and protecting our healthy environment.”
Nonpoint source pollution can include:
- Excess fertilizers, manure, herbicides and insecticides from agriculture lands and residential areas
- Oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff
- Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands and eroding streambanks
- Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainages from abandoned mines
- Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems
- Atmospheric deposition
- Hydromodification (channelization and dams) and habitat alteration which can cause increased water temperatures, impact natural flow cycles and degrade natural wildlife habitat
Nonpoint source pollution is typically transported by direct surface runoff or subsurface movement into groundwater, wetlands, creeks, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Nonpoint source pollution is different than point sources, which convey pollutants to surface water by pipes, ditches or outfalls and are controlled by discharge permits issued by DEQ.
Following early successes in controlling point source pollution, the federal Clean Water Act was amended to require states to develop plans to control nonpoint sources. Cost-share grants to states were formulated to address a variety of control activities, contingent upon EPA approval of each state’s nonpoint source management plan.
Funding for Greener Farm Equipment
Funds will soon be available to expedite purchase and use of cleaner agricultural equipment to help farmers reduce their exposure to harmful diesel exhaust, improve local air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the California Air Resources Board has announced.
The “Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions” (FARMER) Program provides $135 million for farmers to acquire cleaner heavy duty trucks, harvesting equipment, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations. The funds, available this summer, will be administered through California’s regional air districts.
“Emissions from agricultural equipment are a significant source of air pollution, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. Reducing that pollution is necessary to protect public health and meet air quality standards,” CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey said. “Although tough new engine standards are in effect now and will eventually lower emissions, most agricultural equipment lasts for decades. We cannot wait for the older dirtier equipment to phase out naturally, so we are taking action to improve air quality sooner by helping farmers to buy cleaner farm equipment now. This will help improve air quality throughout the state, but particularly in the San Joaquin Valley which suffers from unacceptably high levels of fine particle pollution. ”
FARMER funding allocations come from proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program ($85 million), the Air Quality Improvement Fund ($15 million) and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund ($35 million). The California Legislature directed funds from these three sources to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector through grants, rebates and other financial incentives.
Because the San Joaquin Valley has the vast majority of California’s agricultural operations and experiences the greatest negative health impacts from agricultural emissions, 80% of the funding — $108 million — will be distributed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to farmers in the region.
Legislators placed special emphasis on purchasing vehicles and equipment that use advanced technologies such as clean diesel or electricity in order to accelerate improvements in air quality.
Oil Clean-Up Effected by Sunlight
Oil spills, whether minor leaks or major environmental disasters, are bound to happen. Chemical dispersants are one of the tools that can help mitigate the impact of such spills, but they become less effective as oil weathers in the environment. Now, one group reports in Environmental Science & Technology Letters that sunlight has a much greater impact than previously thought on the effectiveness of these dispersants.
According to the EPA, 10-25 million gallons of oil spill each year in the US. In large marine oil spills, chemical dispersants are often used. Dispersants break up floating oil into small droplets, which can be eaten by microbes or fall onto the soil at the bottom of the body of water, decreasing the risk of oil accumulation on shorelines. As spilled oil floats on the water’s surface, it undergoes weathering processes, such as evaporation and emulsification, in which the oil forms a temporarily stable mixture with water, making chemical dispersants less effective. These are the major processes currently taken into account in field manuals and oil spill response guides for responders. According to these resources, photochemical oxidation, or chemical changes to the oil in response to sunlight, is a minor factor. However, in recent research, Collin P. Ward and colleagues determined that photochemical oxidation is a dominant weathering process. Now, these researchers wanted to examine how sunlight impacts the effectiveness of dispersants.
In the laboratory, the researchers analyzed samples of oil from the Macondo well, which was the location of the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. They confirmed that simulated sunlight has a larger impact on the oil’s properties than evaporation. In addition, dispersant effectiveness or performance decreased four-fold more when oil was exposed to sunlight than it did when the oil underwent evaporation in the absence of sunlight. To examine effects in the field, the team combined their estimates of how fast sunlight oxidizes oil with speeds of oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico and the locations of 412 aerial applications of dispersants on the Deepwater Horizon spill. Based on these data, the researchers say that many of the applications targeted oil that had undergone photochemical oxidation that lowered the dispersant effectiveness below 45%, which is below the threshold set by EPA for dispersants to be used in a spill. The team recommends that the effects of sunlight be considered in future field manuals and oil spill response guides for responders.
Crazy Aaron’s Putty World Represents Successful Revitalization of Brownfield Site
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell and local officials recently visited Crazy Aaron’s Putty World in Norristown, PA to celebrate the remediation, redevelopment, and revitalization of an area brownfield.
Crazy Aaron’s Putty World entered DEP’s Land Recycling Program in 2017 and worked quickly to conduct soil sampling and remove historic underground storage tanks before moving its headquarters and operations to the site.
“The Pennsylvania Brownfields is a program that works for communities and businesses.” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It works at getting sites remediated and brought back into productive use, it drives economic development, and it works to further revitalize places like Norristown and we are happy to welcome Crazy Aaron’s Putty World to the family of businesses that are making productive use of former brownfields.”
Crazy Aaron’s Putty World creates non-toxic thinking putty, employs many individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, and is bringing new jobs to Norristown.
DEP and Crazy Aaron’s will continue to work together to further ensure any remaining contamination is properly managed to prevent exposure.
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