July 06, 2001

Attorneys general from 26 states and territories announced a new effort to encourage the auto industry to replace a car part that has been identified as a significant source of air and groundwater pollution.

The attorneys general are calling on the Ford Motor Company to replace hood and trunk light switches that contain mercury, a highly toxic substance that causes severe health effects, including brain, kidney and fetal damage. In a letter to Ford, the 26 attorneys general urged the company to replace the switches as part of FordÆs ongoing general recall of vehicles with defective tires.

"Ford has an opportunity to be an environmental leader," New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said. "As part of its current recall of millions of vehicles, the company could quickly and easily replace hood and trunk light switches that pose a significant environment hazard."

Spitzer noted that Ford and other manufacturers have already taken steps to reduce their use of light switches containing mercury in new vehicles. Implementing a replacement policy for existing vehicles would be a significant step forward, he said.

For years, auto manufacturers have used mercury in hood and trunk light switches. The highly viscous substance flows when tilted to complete a circuit for lighting the interior of the trunk or hood. When the vehicles reach the end of their useful lives, they are sent to junk yards and automotive recyclers, where the mercury may escape and contaminate soil and groundwater during car crushing operations. The scrap then is melted in steel furnaces where the remaining mercury vaporizes into the air. These furnaces, which receive the bulk of the mercury they consume from junked vehicles, are the fourth largest source of airborne mercury emissions nationwide, after power plants, industrial boilers and incinerators.

Six years ago, Ford recognized the dangers of mercury and pledged to stop using mercury switches. Most international auto manufacturers, including Toyota and BMW, no longer sell cars with mercury switches, but they, like Ford, have not implemented a plan to address mercury in cars already on the road. In fact, Ford, like General Motors and Chrysler, previously had pledged to address the problem of mercury switches in existing cars.

"Given the well-documented hazards of mercury, the availability of low cost alternatives, and the ease of replacement, I urge Ford not to let this opportunity pass by," Spitzer said.

One alternative to the mercury hood and trunk light switch is a ball bearing switch that costs approximately 38 cents.

Attorneys General from the following states and territories have called on Ford to take this action: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virgin Islands, and West Virginia.


The NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA), along with the Division of Waste Management (DWM), issued a fact sheet to clarify the duties and responsibilities of both the generators and handlers of electronic discards, especially those containing CRTs. The fact sheet also includes regulatory requirements and provides suggestions for alternatives to disposal.

The management of obsolete and discarded CRTs from computer monitors and televisions is a mounting concern as electronic devices begin to enter the solid waste stream in growing numbers due to technological change and consumer interest in new products. Electronics, especially CRTs, are complex products that contain a range of metals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which can be harmful to the environment if leaching occurs following landfill disposal.

The fact sheet gives regulatory requirements for CRT disposal. DWM officials agree with the U.S. EPA's position that CRTs removed from television and computer monitor housings are classified as a hazardous waste due to the presence of lead. To avoid potential future liability, the division encourages commercial generators of electronics discards to seek alternative recycling options instead of landfill disposal for these products

NC generates approximately 50,000 tons of electronic scraps per year from residential and commercial sources. The fact sheet identifies manufacturers who take back the product at the end of its useful life, and identifies methods for their proper management and/or disposal.

The fact sheet can be found on the Web at: For more information on CRT and electronic discards management, view DPPEA's core sector page on electronics at


Environmental Resource Center is pleased to announce the opening of our branch office in Vermont. While we've been working in the area since our 1981, this is the first time we've had an office there. Staff in Vermont are available to provide environmental, safety, and DOT consulting, permit assistance, audits, and customized on-site training.

If you have any environmental or safety requirements in the New England area (or anywhere in the U.S.) and would like our expert assistance, call Amy Knight at our headquarters at 1-800-537-2372, ext. 234 or e-mail


Toxic Substances Control Act
July 15
Annual PCB report due


In this age of information technology, the transportation industry is increasingly moving to paperless communications. Computers are even appearing in the cabs of trucks. Because of this, we are often asked if documentation required by the DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) may be in electronic format.

DOT addressed this issue in a recent letter of clarification. Here is an excerpt from that letter (Ref.# 00-0344):

"Unless specifically prohibited in the HMR, electronic methods of submitting reports, paperwork, and recordkeeping is authorized. For example, the HMR requires that a hard copy of the shipping paper/manifest be carried on the transport vehicle when transporting hazardous material; however, electronic retention of a shipping paper/manifest is authorized. Other forms of paperwork, reports, certifications, etc., required by the HMR are permitted to be submitted and maintained electronically."

So, unless the HMR say otherwise, you can go electronic. Just make sure you can access those electronic files when you need them. You can see this letter in its entirety and view and print other DOT letters of clarification at: under the "Rules & Regulations" section.


As of July 1st, the 2001-2002 ICAO Technical Instructions are in effect. Therefore, so to are those portions of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) highlighted in gray and marked with a calendar symbol. On that same theme, portions of the IATA DGR marked with an hourglass symbol are now expired and should no longer be used.

The arrival of July 1st was not the only prerequisite for using the new regulations. The US DOT also had to accept the use of the 2001-2002 ICAO Technical Instructions. Though 49 CFR 171.11 accepts the use of ICAO, 49 CFR171.7 tells to which edition of the ICAO regulations that 171.11 is referring. It wasn't until June 21, 2001, that DOT added the 2001-2002 ICAO Technical Instructions to 171.7. Without such a move, the new requirements of the ICAO hazmat regulations (and new IATA hazmat regs based on ICAO regs) could not have been used in the US.

The biggest changes have to do with radioactive materials (see the article in next week's tip for more details) and labeling (subsidiary hazard labels now keep the class number). Here are a few of the other changes to the ICAO/IATA regs as of July 1st:

  • The segregation chart (Table 7-1 in ICAO, Table 9.3.A in IATA) has become less restrictive.

  • There is a new "sample" proper shipping name rule that allows the use of a generic shipping name without adding the technical/chemical name in parentheses (previously only possible under USG-14). This rule does not apply to hazard classes 1, 6.2, or 7.

  • The word "inhibited" is changed to "stabilized" in proper shipping names.

  • UN 3363 replaces ID 8001 for "Dangerous Goods in Apparatus/Machinery."

  • "Printing ink related material" (class 3, UN1210) is a new entry in the Dangerous Goods List (DGL).

  • There's a new division 1.4 entry (UN0503) in the DGL for pyrotechnic airbags and seatbelt pretensioners that can't be reassigned to class 9.

  • The PG entry is dropped for several PG III "Batteryà" proper shipping names (they either require PG II packaging or no UN packaging).

  • Special Provision (SP) A8 explains when lithium ion batteries are excepted from the regulations.

  • SP A81 extends its quantity exceptions for infectious substances to all bodily fluids.

  • SP A114 details the exceptions for shock absorbers that contain compressed gas.

  • SP A124 explains that "Air, compressed" does not include mixtures with more than 23.5% oxygen. The oxidizer label does not apply.

  • SP A125 lists the criteria for determining the different "Matches" proper shipping names.


EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced that 36 chemical manufacturers have committed to providing information critical to evaluating the potential health risks to children from 20 commonly used commercial chemicals. Health and safety data on the 20 chemicals are being developed under the Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program, which was announced by EPA in December 2000.

"I am very pleased with the successful launch of this program," commented Whitman. "A partnership between government, industry and advocates can achieve major results when we work together to find solutions to environmental issues." Whitman continued, "This effort will make a solid contribution so that both public health agencies and individual families can better understand the potential risks that our children face from chemicals found in their environment. I commend the companies who are making this ground-breaking effort possible."

Research has shown that the chemicals selected for this program have been found in human tissues, and may be present in drinking water or indoor air. While some of these chemicals are used to manufacture common household products such as plastics, fibers, lubricants, detergents and drugs, there has not previously been adequate evaluation to determine whether or not there are any associated health risks for children.

The voluntary program was developed over a two-year period, drawing on extensive stakeholder input to establish workable guidelines on chemical testing, as an alternative to promulgation of regulations by EPA to require hazard testing on these chemicals. Participating companies have committed to preparing hazard, exposure and risk assessments, and then will engage in a public, science-based process to evaluate whether the data developed adequately characterize potential risks to children. On a case-by-case basis, additional studies may be undertaken for the chemicals if more detailed data are needed to fully understand potential risks for children.

The first assessments are expected to be submitted to EPA in summer 2002. Additional information on the Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program, the participating companies and the individual chemicals is available at


Throughout the summer, expect to find improved safety handling information when using wood pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenicals (CCA), a wood preservative that contains arsenic. EPA has completed its review of a plan developed by the American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI) to strengthen information available to consumers for CCA-treated wood, which is widely used for many outdoor applications including decks, fences, posts, picnic tables, docks and playground equipment. The expanded consumer information program begins immediately, and by early fall will include labeling on all pieces of CCA-treated lumber, in-store displays and additional information available to the public.

"Now consumers will understand that this treated wood contains arsenic," said Stephen Johnson, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. "I am pleased that the public discussions about CCA-treated wood resulted in a commitment by the industry to include end-tag labeling, in-store bin stickers and signs, and a new toll-free hotline and web site," added Johnson.

CCA, a chemical containing arsenic, is used to pressure-treat wood to protect it against decay and insect damage. EPA learned that the previous consumer awareness program was not adequately informing the public, and in May the Agency asked the wood preservative industry and the public to propose ways to expeditiously enhance the existing consumer awareness program to ensure adequate information reaches consumers.

EPA will hold a public meeting of the Scientific Advisory Panel during the week of Oct. 22 to invite scientific peer review on the Agency's hazard assessment and methodologies for calculating children's potential exposure in playgrounds where equipment is made from CCA-treated wood. The children's assessment is one aspect of the Agency's comprehensive reassessment of CCA, which is currently underway and will be released for public review in 2002. EPA will also carefully evaluate the success of the voluntary consumer information program as part of the overall reassessment of CCA. While details of the upcoming meeting are not finalized, it is expected to be held in the Washington DC area. Further information on the meeting will be posted shortly at:


EPA and the Justice Department announced that Amtrak, the nation's largest passenger rail operator, has signed an agreement to carry out environmental audits at its facilities nationwide and undertake other environmental improvements, including projects to restore wetlands and reduce PCBs in locomotive transformers. The agreement settles claims that Amtrak violated numerous requirements of the Clean Water Act, including its storm water provisions, at nine Amtrak sites in New England.

The company also will pay a $500,000 civil penalty and spend $900,000 on environmental projects in New England under the settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.

"This Amtrak settlement is a good example of industry and government working together to achieve a high level of environmental compliance," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "I commend Amtrak for its cooperation in this settlement and for the aggressive steps it has taken to correct the environmental deficiencies in its operations."

The agreement with Amtrak is the federal government's second nationwide settlement addressing storm water violations. On June 7, the United States announced a settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to resolve claims that the retailer violated storm water requirements at 17 locations across the country.

The Amtrak agreement requires the company to undertake comprehensive environmental compliance audits at 51 of its facilities and to voluntarily disclose and correct environmental problems that are discovered. The audits will comprehensively evaluate the compliance status at Amtrak facilities and facilitate prompt identification and correction of violations.

The settlement stems from environmental violations discovered by the EPA in the late 1990s at Amtrak facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The agency cited Amtrak for violating the Clean Water Act's storm water provisions and for other infractions.

Storm water discharges from rail maintenance facilities can carry oil, grease, and metals into storm drains, ultimately compromising the health and quality of streams and waterways. The EPA has identified storm water runoff as a leading cause of impaired water quality in the United States.

"Amtrak will undertake a broad management plan to comply with all federal environmental laws and minimize pollution that could be released into our water, air or soil," said John Cruden, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment Division of the Justice Department.

Amtrak also has begun to implement a company-wide environmental management system, at a cost anticipated to exceed $11 million. The program includes the development of an environmental audit program, a company-wide environmental information system, enhanced environmental compliance training, and increased environmental compliance staffing. Amtrak already has created 27 new environmental positions - a three-fold increase from staffing levels at the time the EPA first discovered the Clean Water Act violations.

The violations include a failure to have required storm water permits, pollution prevention plans and necessary spill prevention plans, and a failure to sample its effluent according to discharge permit requirements. The EPA also found violations of discharge permit effluent limits and determined that Amtrak failed to obtain a discharge permit from the Narragansett Bay Commission in Rhode Island.

The settlement requires Amtrak to implement an environmental project to improve tidal flows at seven culvert locations along Amtrak's Shore Line rail route, between Branford and Stonington, Conn. The work, which will include excavating creek channels, removing obstructions, and repairing and upgrading culverts, is expected to benefit coastal wetlands by improving tidal flushing. Many of those wetlands have been compromised over the years by a lack of tidal flushing. The project, which will cost about $400,000, will begin within 60 days and will be completed by October 2002.

Amtrak also will spend about $500,000 to retrofill 13 locomotive transformers in order to dramatically lower their concentrations of PCBs. The work will be directed at reducing PCBs in the environment and, in particular, minimizing the potential environmental impact from a rail mishap or spill. When the work is complete, concentrations of PCBs in Amtrak's transformers will be up to 20 times lower than the 1,000 parts per million allowed under federal law.