EPA recently finalized standards for applicators who apply restricted-use pesticides that are not available for purchase by the general public, and require special handling.
“We are committed to keeping our communities safe, protecting our environment and protecting workers and their families,” said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “By improving training and certification, those who apply these restricted use pesticides will have better knowledge and ability to use these pesticides safely.”
The recent action will reduce the likelihood of harm from the misapplication because the pesticides may only be applied by a certified applicator or someone working under their direct supervision. EPA’s stricter standards would require all people who are certified to apply restricted use pesticides to be at least 18 years of age. These certifications must be renewed every five years.
EPA is requiring specialized licensing for certain methods such as fumigation and aerial application that can pose greater risks if not conducted properly. For further protection, those working under the supervision of certified applicators will now receive training to use pesticides safely and to protect their families from take-home pesticide exposure.
EPA expects the benefits of this rule to include fewer acute pesticide incidents to people, reduced chronic exposure and reduced incidents of ecological harm from pesticide use.
States and Tribes may issue licenses to pesticide applicators with an EPA-approved program who can demonstrate the ability to use these products safely. The final action also updates requirements for state programs and for applicators obtaining licenses. Many states already have in place some of the stronger requirements of the recent action.
The final rule includes flexibility for states to continue portions of their existing programs that are equivalent to the revised rule. EPA will work with states to review and approve updated certification plans.
Cleveland RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cleveland, OH, on January 3–5 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Raleigh Area RCRA, DOT, IATA, and SARA Training
Environmental Tip of the Week readers can save $100 by attending both Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cary, NC, on January 9–11. And, if you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on January 12. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 13. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Anaheim RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Anaheim, CA, on January 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
New Rule to Reduce Discharge of Dental Metals into Wastewater Treatment Plants
EPA has finalized a regulation to reduce discharges of mercury and other metals from dental offices into municipal wastewater treatment plants. Dental offices, which discharge mercury and other metals present in amalgam used for fillings, are the main source of mercury discharges to wastewater treatment plants. These metals are subsequently released to the environment. EPA expects the final rule will reduce the discharge of metals to wastewater treatment plants by at least 10.2 tons per year, about half of which is mercury.
Removing mercury when it is in a concentrated and easily managed form in dental amalgam is a common sense step to prevent mercury from being released into the environment where it can become a hazard to people and wildlife. This rule will strengthen human health protection by requiring the use of technology and best management practices in dentists’ offices across the country recommended by the American Dental Association and that approximately 40% of dental offices already employ. In future cases, the mercury collected can be recycled.
Proposed Recreational Water Quality Criteria for Cyanotoxins
EPA has issued
Energy Commission Adopts Energy Standards for Computers and Monitors
After a multi-year process, the California Energy Commission has adopted energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors with support from industry, environmentalists, consumer groups, and utilities. These are the first mandatory standards in the nation that could save consumers an estimated $373 million annually.
"It's common sense that electronic equipment ought to consume a minimal amount of energy when it is not being used," said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, who is the Energy Commission's lead on energy efficiency. "Improved efficiency unlocks millions in utility bill savings for consumers and lightens the load on our electricity system. California's standards for computers and monitors are estimated to save enough energy to power about 350,000 average California homes for one year. The state, environmentalists, industry and consumer advocates were able to come together to find common ground and create a win-win policy."
In California, computers and computer monitors use an estimated 5,610 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, which is up to 3% of residential electricity use and 7% of commercial use. The standards for computers focus on achieving significant efficiency improvements when computers are on, but not being used, wasting energy and money. The estimated energy savings from the computer and monitor standards is equivalent to the electricity use of all homes in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties in 2015, equivalent to nearly 350,000 homes.
The computer standards set a baseline energy use target and rely on a calculation to place a computer into categories, based on the additional technology added to the unit. The targets center on the performance in idle, sleep, and off modes and do not set a limit for active mode. This will encourage more efficient power management of computers when they are not being used.
The Energy Commission estimates the standards for desktop computers will add about $10 to the cost of a computer when they first take effect but save consumers more than $40 in electricity bills over five years. These standards become more stringent over time to drive improvements in desktops over multiple design cycles. For desktop computers, the first-tier standards would take effect January 1, 2019, while the second-tier would take effect July 1, 2021.
The majority of notebook computers are already energy efficient and the standards will require improvements to the worst performers. For small-scale servers and workstations, the standards require a more efficient power supply and energy efficient Ethernet.
There are more than 25 million computer monitors installed in homes and businesses in California. The Energy Commission standard establishes an amount of power a monitor or display can consume when on, and when in sleep or off modes. The standard will encourage the use of higher efficiency LED backlights and screen technologies.
For more information please see the frequently asked questions on the proposed computer and monitor standards. For quotations from other stakeholders, please see the Energy Commission blog post.
- Low-Income Barriers Study - The Energy Commission adopted a study aimed at helping people and businesses in low-income areas invest in, adopt or take advantage of clean energy technologies. The study provides potential solutions and recommendations such as reducing the cost of solar access to low income customers and communities, making energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy tax credits a high priority for low-income affordable housing rehabilitation projects, and setting up regional one-stop shops to help building owners, tenants, and small businesses in low-income and disadvantaged communities install clean energy and water upgrades. The study will be submitted to the state Legislature.
- Fast Chargers - The Energy Commission approved $11.4 million in grants to install direct current fast chargers and Level 2 chargers along major state freeways and highways to make it easier for electric vehicle drivers to travel within California and to the Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon borders. ChargePoint, Inc., was awarded $9.3 million, while EV Connect, Inc., was awarded $2.1 million.
- Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Grants – The Energy Commission approved more than $3.5 million in research and development grants for projects in support of geothermal energy production. SRI International received more than $870,000, to demonstrate a new cost-effective process for recovering lithium, an important and valuable metal, from geothermal brines, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory received a $1.7 million grant to develop an imaging process to visualize subsurface flows of water and steam in geothermal fields, and a $1 million grant to develop advanced modeling to help ensure to safe and sustainable geothermal production.
- Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan Update – The Energy Commission approved an update to the 2015 Existing Buildings Energy Efficiency Action Plan to summarize steps taken over the last 15 months to implement the program and provide an overview of future activities within the program. Commissioners discussed awarding $10.2 million in grants in the Energy Commission-sponsored Local Government Challenge for large and small local governments to fund energy savings action plans, performance-based energy projects, and innovative pilot projects aimed to reduce energy consumption in existing buildings.
EPA Action to Prevent Poisonings from Herbicide
The EPA has published new regulations to stop poisonings caused by ingestion of the herbicide paraquat, which can also cause severe injuries or death from skin or eye exposure.
Since 2000, there have been 17 deaths—three involving children—caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. These cases have resulted from the pesticide being illegally transferred to beverage containers and later mistaken for a drink and consumed. A single sip can be fatal. To prevent these tragedies, EPA is requiring:
New closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into the proper application equipment
Special training for certified applicators who use paraquat to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers
Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat
In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, since 2000 there have been three deaths and many severe injuries caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with the herbicide. To reduce exposure to workers who mix, load, and apply paraquat, EPA is restricting the use of paraquat to certified pesticide applicators only. Uncertified individuals working under the supervision of a certified applicator will be prohibited from using paraquat.
Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. for the control of weeds in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a defoliant on crops such as cotton prior to harvest.
EPA proposed similar measures last March and took public comment. Actions on specific pesticides are one way that EPA is protecting workers from pesticide exposure. EPA’s Final Certification and Training and Worker Protection Standard rules will also protect pesticide applicators and farmworkers.
EPA Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water
EPA released its scientific report on the impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources, which provides states and others the scientific foundation to better protect drinking water resources in areas where hydraulic fracturing is occurring or being considered. The report, done at the request of Congress, provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances. As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe. The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps. These uncertainties and data gaps limited EPA’s ability to fully assess impacts to drinking water resources both locally and nationally. These final conclusions are based upon review of over 1,200 cited scientific sources; feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA’s Science Advisory Board; input from engaged stakeholders; and new research conducted as part of the study.
"The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources. EPA's assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA's Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development. "This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing."
The report is organized around activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle and their potential to impact drinking water resources. The stages include: (1) acquiring water to be used for hydraulic fracturing (Water Acquisition), (2) mixing the water with chemical additives to make hydraulic fracturing fluids (Chemical Mixing), (3) injecting hydraulic fracturing fluids into the production well to create and grow fractures in the targeted production zone (Well Injection), (4) collecting the wastewater that returns through the well after injection (Produced Water Handling), and (5) managing the wastewater through disposal or reuse methods (Wastewater Disposal and Reuse).
EPA identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality, to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.
As part of the report, EPA identified certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe, including:
- Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources
- Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources
- Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources
Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources
The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts.
Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources both locally and nationally. Generally, comprehensive information on the location of activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle is lacking, either because it is not collected, not publicly available, or prohibitively difficult to aggregate. In places where we know activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle have occurred, data that could be used to characterize hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the environment before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing were scarce. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, as well as others described in the assessment, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.
EPA's final assessment benefited from extensive stakeholder engagement with states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and the public. This broad engagement helped to ensure that the final assessment report reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and uses all data and information available to the agency. This report advances the science. The understanding of the potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources will continue to improve over time as new information becomes available.
The Hidden Environmental Cost Of Hydroelectric Dams
Hydroelectricity is a renewable energy, and the facilities that produce it give off less greenhouse gases than other power plants. But damming bodies of water can lead to the production and release of methylmercury from the soil. This toxic compound can move up the food chain and potentially harm human health. In the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers quantify the possible increases in methylmercury exposures for indigenous communities living near planned facilities.
Bacteria can convert mercury, which occurs naturally in the soil, to methylmercury when the land is flooded, such as when dams are built for hydroelectric power generation. Unlike mercury, however, methylmercury moves into the food chain. People exposed to the chemical through their diet face increased cardiovascular risks, and children with high prenatal exposure can develop attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, neurological abnormalities, and other symptoms. Because a new hydroelectric facility is scheduled to fill a reservoir on the Churchill River at Muskrat Falls in Labrador, Canada, any day now, Ryan S. D. Calder and colleagues wanted to evaluate its potential impact on nearby communities.
The researchers combined direct measurements and modeling of future environmental concentrations with data collected from local residents and from other flooded regions. Modeling projections indicate that the flooding at Muskrat Falls likely will increase methylmercury 10-fold in the dammed river and 2.6-fold in surface waters downstream. Methylmercury concentrations in locally caught fish, birds, and seals—which nearby Inuit populations use as a source of food—likely will increase up to 10-fold. In these communities, the researchers concluded, more than half the women of childbearing age and young children will be exposed to enough methylmercury to harm health. In addition, the researchers extrapolated the data to Canada’s other planned hydroelectric facilities, which are all within about 60 miles of indigenous communities. The model forecast even higher methylmercury concentrations for 11 of these other hydropower sites.
The authors acknowledged funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Canada’s Northern Contaminants Program, ArcticNet, Inc., Tides Canada’s Oak Arctic Marine Fund Program, the Nunatsiavut Government, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
City of Gary, Indiana, Fined $75,000 for Clean Water Act Violations
The EPA, the Department of Justice, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, have reached an agreement with the city of Gary and the Gary Sanitary District that will resolve long-standing violations of the Clean Water Act, including the release of raw sewage. The city will pay a civil fine of $75,000 and take corrective steps starting immediately and continuing over the next 25 years to eliminate these problems.
“I am pleased that Mayor Freeman-Wilson is addressing this long-standing problem,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan. “This is an important step toward cleaning up Northwest Indiana’s waterways.”
The agreement requires the city to take actions to manage sewer overflows over a 25-year period. The city must ensure the wastewater treatment plant sufficiently treats wastewater during all wet weather conditions. Gary will also develop a long-term control plan including steps to limit the occurrence of combined sewer overflows. As part of the agreement, the city will also remove invasive plants and restore native plants to an area along the Grand Calumet River, which has been affected by the contamination.
The agreement also addresses PCB contamination in an area known as the Ralston Street Lagoon. The lagoon was originally used during construction of the Indiana Toll Road. Later, it was used to dispose of PCB-contaminated sludge from the wastewater treatment plant, a violation of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. In 1988, the city stopped using the lagoon for sludge storage.
The city of Gary has 12 combined sewer outfalls: five discharge to the Little Calumet River and seven to the Grand Calumet River. When wastewater systems overflow, they can release untreated sewage and other pollutants into local waterways, threatening water quality and contributing to beach closures and health concerns. Untreated sewage contains bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause diseases.
S.H. Bell Ordered to Install Air Monitors at Chicago Facility and Pay $100,000 Fine
The U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA have reached an agreement with S.H. Bell Company to install air monitors at the company’s facility in Southeast Chicago. The company will also pay a $100,000 civil penalty.
Under the settlement agreement, S.H. Bell will install four air monitors at its facility at 10218 South Avenue O in Chicago to measure PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter). The air monitors must be operational by March 1, 2017, and the data reported to EPA. S.H. Bell must also take measures to control dust at its facility. Pittsburgh-based S.H. Bell handles and stores many different types of materials at its Chicago facility, such as metals, limestone and fertilizer.
“EPA is taking action to protect the air in Southeast Chicago, where people are overburdened by pollution,” EPA Acting Regional Administrator Bob Kaplan said. “Monitoring the air quality is an essential first step towards keeping people healthy.”
Very small particles such as PM10 pose a serious potential threat to human health because the particles can become embedded in people’s lungs and may even enter the bloodstream. Exposure to PM pollution has been linked to decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board Levies $2.8 Million Fine for Illegal Discharges
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board Wednesday imposed an Administrative Civil Liability in the amount of $2,828,000 against John D. Sweeney and Point Buckler Club, LLC, for discharging fill material into Suisun Marsh and failing to obtain a water quality certification for the discharge. The unpermitted work resulted in the diking and loss of about 30 acres of tidal marsh, including impacts to habitat for endangered species, to support the operation of a kiteboarding club.
The activities are violations of the Regional Water Board’s San Francisco Bay Water Quality Basin Plan and the federal Clean Water Act.
Point Buckler Island is a 39-acre property in the Suisun Marsh that was once operated as a managed wetland for duck hunting. Due to lack of maintenance, the island reverted to tidal marsh. The island had not been a managed wetland or used as a duck club for more than 20 years when Sweeney purchased it in 2011.
Starting in 2012, Sweeney began unauthorized activities. In 2014, he constructed a new 4,710-foot-long levee around the Island. Subsequent to being notified of the need to obtain permits and halt the unpermitted work, he continued to fill the interior tidal marsh with structures including helicopter pads and kiteboarding facilities. Sweeney transferred title of the island to Point Buckler Club, LLC, in 2014.
The unauthorized activities directly filled three acres of tidal marsh, drained or cut off tidal circulation to an additional 27 acres, destroyed or degraded marsh habitat, impacted water quality, and damaged or killed wetland vegetation. Until tidal wetlands are restored, there is ongoing harm to sensitive species in the Bay-Delta ecosystem that includes destroyed or degraded critical habitat for salmonids and longfin smelt, decreased nutrient cycling important to Delta smelt, and the loss of habitat and feeding opportunities for several listed bird species.
A Cleanup and Abatement Order was issued by the Regional Water Board in August 2016, with the goal of restoring the tidal marsh and requiring Sweeney and the Club to provide necessary compensation, such as additional restored wetlands, for the unpermitted impacts.
The $2,828,000 civil liability amount is based on the volume of the discharge and the number of days of violation. The Regional Water Board considered a variety of factors in arriving at the penalty, including the nature, circumstances, extent and gravity of the violations, the history of the violator, and ability to pay.
EPA Works with Two Rhode Island Communities to Improve Water Quality
Two recent administrative consent orders between EPA and the Towns of Johnston, Rhode Island, and North Providence, Rhode Island, will result in cleaner water and improved environmental conditions, resulting from the requirement that the towns identify and eliminate the causes of sewage overflows from their collection systems.
In Johnston, based on reports received from the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management (RIDEM), EPA had reason to believe that overflows were occurring from point sources in Johnston's sewage collection system and entering waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act. In May, 2016, EPA issued an information request to the Town requiring that it submit information regarding past overflows, pump station failures, and to report overflows to EPA and the RIDEM in an ongoing manner in the future.
As EPA believed that Johnston needed to take additional actions regarding its sewer collection system to prevent future CWA violations, EPA has entered into an "Administrative Order on Consent" with the Town requiring that it develop plan to address the underlying causes of sewage overflows, including a pump station condition assessment and conduct necessary repairs and take other actions to address deficiencies in its collection system. Its progress implementing these improvements is to be reported to the EPA and RIDEM in annual reports.
In North Providence, EPA had previously issued an Administrative Order to the Town requiring that it develop and implement a corrective action to address basement backups. In addition, EPA had required that the town respond to several information requests requiring additional information regarding sewage overflows. To ensure that the Town is taking sufficient action, EPA recently entered into an Administrative Order on Consent with the Town that consolidates the requirements of the previous order and the information requests and also requires that the Town evaluate the results of the actions that it has taken to date to address sewage overflows. As with Johnston, North Providence’s progress implementing the new order is to be reported to the EPA and RIDEM in annual reports.
"In Rhode Island and across New England, EPA is committed to working with our state partners and local communities to improve water quality and ensure that our communities can enjoy a healthy environment," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "A clean and healthy environment is the basis for vibrant communities and a strong economy, and it's worth our collective efforts to protect that."
EPA has taken a number of similar actions throughout New England to address sewage overflows. When these overflows occur, raw sewage can enter surface waters or be discharged to streets or private property, where it poses a public health risk. Sewage overflows to "waters of the United States" are not allowed under the Clean Water Act, and can be caused by a combination of factors, including failures of the system of pipes, pumps and other equipment that municipalities use to collect and transport sewage to wastewater treatment plants, grease and other blockages, such as from disposable wipes and tree roots, or from excess flows entering the collection system. Implementation of effective preventive maintenance programs has been shown to eliminate or significantly reduce the frequency and volume of these discharges.
$50 Million Proposed Settlement for Natural Resources Harmed by Virginia Dupont Facility
The Departments of Justice and the Interior joined with the Commonwealth of Virginia recently to announce a proposed settlement with DuPont valued at approximately $50 million to resolve claims stemming from the release of mercury from the former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) facility in Waynesboro, Virginia. Over 100 miles of river and associated floodplain have been contaminated by mercury in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed.
In addition to a cash payment of just over $42 million, DuPont will fund the design and implementation of significant renovations at the Front Royal Fish Hatchery, estimated to cost up to $10 million. The settlement terms are outlined in a proposed consent decree filed in federal court in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
DuPont will provide the funds to government natural resource trustees, who will oversee the implementation of projects compensating the public for the natural resource injuries and associated losses in ecological and recreational services, such as fishing access.
The trustees, through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commonwealth of Virginia, invite feedback on actions to restore the river and wildlife habitat and improve public lands and recreational resources. A draft restoration plan and environmental assessment (RP/EA) was also released recently for a 45-day public comment period. The plan results from stakeholder meetings beginning in 2008 to determine how best to compensate the public for the injured natural resources and their uses.
“This remarkable settlement will help restore the precious natural resources of the South Fork Shenandoah watershed, bringing lasting benefits for future generations of Virginians to enjoy,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This joint action with the Department of the Interior and the Commonwealth of Virginia is yet another testament to the value and effectiveness of cooperative federalism in action and I am grateful to all of our partners for the efforts that brought us to this resolution.”
“Today’s settlement, the largest of its kind in Virginia history, is the culmination of a coordinated effort by countless partners at both the state and federal level,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Thanks to their hard work, Virginians and the environment will benefit from unprecedented investments in land conservation and habitat restoration. I applaud and appreciate the meticulous monitoring by our state agencies, the thorough analysis of the scientific advisory committee, and DuPont’s willingness to come to the table and make this happen.”
Since 2005, DuPont and the trustees have worked cooperatively to assess and identify potential restoration projects to benefit natural resources affected by mercury releases from the DuPont facility. Over 100 miles of river and thousands of acres of floodplain and riparian habitat were impacted from the mercury. Some of the assessed and impacted natural resources include fish, migratory songbirds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Recreational fishing opportunities were also impacted from the mercury.
“Years of input from community leaders, and partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia, have led us to propose over $50 million worth of restoration that will be at no cost to taxpayers,” said Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Fish, wildlife, land and waters, as well as the city of Waynesboro and other communities affected by decades of mercury release, will benefit from natural resource projects improving water and stream quality, protecting and restoring wildlife habitat and increasing river access for recreation.”
“Clean air, water and land are environmental priorities and economic assets that make Virginia a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Attorney General Mark Herring of the Commonwealth of Virginia. “We have an obligation to protect these assets for future generations and this record-setting settlement shows that we take our responsibilities seriously. This settlement will allow us to protect and enhance lands throughout the Shenandoah Valley and improve the quality of water for wildlife, anglers, paddlers and others who use these waterways for recreation. I really appreciate the hard work that my team, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Secretary Molly Ward, DEQ and our federal partners put into making this historic settlement a reality.”
Mercury released into the South River from the DuPont facility in the 1930s and 1940s continues to persist in the environment. Monitoring data collected over the last 20 years indicates that mercury levels remain stable, with no clear decreases over time. Federal law seeks to make the environment and public whole for injuries to natural resources and ecological and recreational services resulting from a release of hazardous substances to the environment.
The trustees evaluated a range of restoration alternatives and have ultimately proposed a preferred restoration alternative that includes projects that best meet the requirement that restoration efforts specifically focus on the injured resources. Proposed projects include:
- Land protection, property acquisition, improvements to recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat restoration
- Improvements to water quality and fish habitat through activities such as streamside plantings and erosion control, as well as stormwater pond improvements
- Mussel propagation and restoration to improve water quality, stabilize sediment and enhance stream bottom structure
- Front Royal Fish Hatchery renovations to improve production of warm-water fish such as smallmouth bass
- Recreational fishing access creation or improvement
- Migratory songbird habitat restoration and protection
The draft RP/EA outlines these proposed projects, as well as other restoration alternatives and an evaluation of injuries to the natural resources.
The trustees will host a public meeting to summarize key components of the draft restoration plan and answer questions. The public meeting will be held on January 10, 2017, at the Waynesboro Public Library lower level meeting room from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM. The library is located at 600 S. Wayne Avenue, Waynesboro, Virginia, 22980. Following the comment period, the trustees will review and consider comments and prepare the final RP/EA. Ultimately, the trustees will work with project partners such as local, state, and federal agencies; nonprofit organizations; and landowners to implement the projects.
The settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, is subject to a 45-day public comment period to begin following notification in the Federal Register. The settlement is subject to final approval by the court.
EPA Settled with Third Renovator that Violated Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule
EPA Region 7 conducted a random inspection for lead-based paint renovation work practices at the Kansas City Power & Light (KCPL) building in Kansas City, Missouri, in June 2015, as well as a records inspection for the project in July 2015, which revealed violations of the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule. As a part of a settlement, Construction & Abatement Services, Inc., of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $18,578.
The agency announced September 12, 2016, that it concluded two other administrative consent agreements and final orders related to construction work at the KCPL building. Jim Plunkett, Inc., of Kansas City, Missouri, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4,690, and B&R Insulation of Lenexa, Kan., agreed to pay a civil penalty of $7,900, both related to violations of the RRP Rule.
Construction & Abatement Services performed the interior demolition in the KCPL building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The structure, built in 1931, is a commercial building currently being converted to house more than 200 residential apartments.
The 2015 inspections revealed that Construction & Abatement Services failed to:
- Post signs that clearly define the work area
- Have a certified renovator perform a visual inspection to determine whether dust, debris or residue was present after the renovation
- Clean the work area until no dust, debris or residue remains
- Seal all paint chips and debris in a heavy-duty bag
- Retain records documenting lead-safe work practices
- Retain records documenting compliance with job training
The RRP Rule requires that contractors who work on pre-1978 dwellings and child-occupied facilities are trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices. This ensures that common renovation and repair activities like sanding, cutting, and replacing windows minimize the creation and dispersion of dangerous lead dust. EPA finalized the RRP Rule in 2008 and the rule took effect on April 22, 2010.
This enforcement action addresses RRP Rule violations that could result in harm to human health. Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. Today at least 4 million households have children that are being exposed to high levels of lead. There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control recommends public health actions be initiated.
Powerstar Home Energy Failed to Follow Rules for Lead-Based Paint
EPA announced a settlement with Powerstar Home Energy Solutions for failing to comply with federal lead-based paint rules at several residential properties in Southern California. The company will pay a civil penalty of $11,429.
Powerstar has also agreed to spend about $34,000 to purchase equipment to test blood lead levels in children. Blood lead analyzers will be donated to ten community health clinics in San Bernardino and Orange counties. The analyzers measure lead in blood samples and give results in as little as three minutes, allowing immediate follow-up by health care providers. The clinics will receive enough kits to test 480 children.
“Children are highly susceptible to lead-based paint and symptoms are not easily recognized,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This settlement will give hundreds of families the opportunity to have their children tested, giving parents the information they need to protect their loved ones.”
Powerstar Home Energy Solutions, a trade name of Smithlum & Friend, Inc., is headquartered in Anaheim and offers residential coatings and window replacements. In 2014, EPA found the company violated EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting rule by renovating five homes built before 1978 in the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Chino and Redlands without following practices required to reduce lead exposure. The company failed to:
Become certified by EPA to perform residential work
- Distribute the “Renovate Right” brochure to educate occupants about lead-safe work practices
- Keep complete records documenting whether the work followed lead-safe practices
Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips. When companies fail to follow lead-safe practices, the resulting lead dust and chips can contaminate home surfaces. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities must be trained and certified, provide educational materials to residents, and follow safe work practices. The U.S. banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978 but EPA estimates that more than 37 million older homes in the U.S. still have lead-based paint.
Though harmful at any age, lead exposure is most dangerous to children because their bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. The effects of lead exposure can include behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, and diminished IQ.
Often lead poisoning occurs with no obvious symptoms, so it may go unrecognized. Parents or caregivers who think their child has been in contact with lead should notify their child's health care provider who can help decide whether a blood test is needed or recommend treatment.
EPA enforces the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and its Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule and the lead-based paint Disclosure Rule. The Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule protects residents and children from exposure to lead-based paint hazards from activities that can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead-based paint are disturbed. The Disclosure Rule requires those who sell or rent housing built before 1978 to provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet, include lead notification language in sales and rental forms, disclose any known lead-based paint hazards and provide reports to buyers or renters, allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers and maintain records certifying compliance with applicable federal requirements for three years.
Sinclair Casper Refining to Pay $655,000 for Cleanup at Former Refinery
Sinclair Casper Refining Company has paid $655,000 to reimburse the EPA for response costs incurred at the Empire State Oil Company Refinery Site in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The company entered into a settlement agreement with EPA for the recovery of past costs associated with the cleanup of the site, including the removal of asbestos, in September. EPA received payment last week.
The Thermopolis refinery site operated as an oil refinery from 1920 until 1969. Beginning in 1974, the refinery was razed and equipment was sold and removed from the site by various entities, including Sinclair’s predecessor, Little America Refining Company. During demolition activities, a significant amount of asbestos-contaminated pipe insulation was stripped from equipment and disposed at the site.
EPA assessed the property in 2011 and identified significant asbestos contamination on the ground surface. In November 2013, EPA removed approximately 4,000 cubic yards of asbestos-containing materials and soils from the site. Excavated areas were backfilled with clean native soil from a property near the site and were re-seeded the following spring.
The agreement with Sinclair Casper Refining was entered into under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Recovery Act, also known as Superfund. Funds recovered as part of this settlement agreement will be deposited into the Superfund account used to address cleanup needs at contaminated sites across the United States.
EPA Smart City Air Challenge Awardees
The EPA has selected the City of Baltimore and the Lafayette, Louisiana, Consolidated Government as awardees of the Smart City Air Challenge. The challenge encourages communities to install hundreds of air quality sensors and share the data with the public. The agency also has recognized four projects for honorable mention: New York, New York; Mesa County, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I firmly believe that data can make a positive difference in human health and environmental protection,” said Ann Dunkin, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “We are looking forward to working with these Smart City Air Challenge awardees and honorable mention communities to share knowledge about collecting, storing and managing large amounts of data.”
The projects were evaluated on four criteria: data management, data use, sensor procurement and deployment and project sustainability. The two awardees will receive $40,000 each to deploy air sensors, share data with the public and develop data management best practices. After a year of implementing the projects, both communities will be eligible to receive up to an additional $10,000 based on their accomplishments and collaboration.
The following two projects were selected as awardee recipients:
An Air Quality Sensor Network for Greater Baltimore: This Baltimore, Maryland, project incorporates plans to engage several partners and neighborhoods to deploy a network of sensors in a phased approach, leveraging a scalable cloud platform for data management. They plan to assemble commercially available components to build their sensor system and distribute the data on a City of Baltimore website.
Lafayette Engagement and Research Network (LEaRN): This Lafayette, Louisiana, project proposes a partnership between collegiate, local government and non-governmental organizations to deploy a network of sensors. The project has a strong data management plan that will use a scalable cloud platform. They plan to use commercially available sensors for the project and share the data with the public in a variety of ways.
EPA recognized these four projects for honorable mention because of their innovation and potential:
- Healthy Mesa County & Mesa County Health Department: Smart City Air Challenge Solution: Mesa, Colorado
- Air Quality Crowdsourcing Data in Minneapolis/St. Paul: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
- New York City Air Casting Project: EPA Smart City Air Challenge Solution: New York, New York
- Citizen science with Ground-Level Ozone Wearables Sensors (GLOWS) for real-time pollution maps across the Research Triangle: Research Triangle, North Carolina
EPA will be available as a resource to the awardees and honorable mention projects to share knowledge about how they collect, store and manage large amounts of data. EPA encourages these communities and others to share their findings so other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and lessons.
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Trivia Question of the Week
A group of 98 countries has banned how many pesticide active ingredients as dangerous to human health?