January 10, 2022
January marks the beginning of National Radon Action Month, a time of year when EPA encourages everyone to test their home for radon. Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that, when left untreated, can build up inside a home. Over time, exposure to radon can cause lung cancer.
“Radon remains a persistent threat to the public, but the good news is that this serious risk can be reduced using simple, proven techniques,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Reagan. “The only way to know if you are exposed to high radon is to test your home. EPA encourages everyone to take this simple step to protect their families.”
Millions of homes in the United States have elevated levels of radon. Inhaling radon damages lung cells and kills approximately 21,000 people annually, making radon the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Affordable do-it-yourself radon test kits are available online and at most home improvement and hardware stores. You can also hire a qualified radon professional to test your home. Tens of millions of homes have already been tested, and millions of homes with high radon levels have been fixed. If your home isn’t one of these, start 2022 off right by testing your home for radon.
more information on testing and contact information for radon resources in your state.
EPA Adds 1-Bromopropane to Hazardous Air Pollutant List
EPA recently published notice
in the Federal Register they would be adding 1-bromopropane, also known as 1-BP, to their list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) designation. Under a provision of the Clean Air Act, Congress granted EPA the ability to add other pollutants to that list. However, in the 30 years since, the agency has not taken the opportunity to do so.
The chemical 1-BP is a volatile liquid solvent released into the air when used and has many common commercial applications, including commercial degreasing products, adhesive, and sealant products such as spray adhesives, and is used in the dry-cleaning process. It is known to cause serious and acute chronic health human impacts. Scientific evidence
has shown 1-BP can cause neurological harm, be carcinogenic and a reproductive toxicant, and lead to chronic health problems. The chemical is heavily used in industrial areas and around one million pounds are emitted into the air every year
“The listing of 1-BP is a historic first: the first new HAP in over thirty years, ensuring that communities across the country will be protected from the widespread use of this toxic chemical,” said Earthjustice attorney Tosh Sagar. “But EPA can't let this first be the last. There are a number of obvious toxic air pollutants that need to be regulated — such as PFAS — and EPA should move swiftly to protect the public from the full range of air toxics.”
Earthjustice sued the Trump Administration
in 2020 on behalf of California Communities Against Toxics, GASP, and the Sierra Club to compel the agency to heed scientific evidence and add 1-BP to the HAPs list. Prior to that, Earthjustice submitted comments to the EPA
on behalf of Sierra Club, California Communities Against Toxics, GASP, and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation in support of the agency adding 1-BP to the HAPs list.
OSHA Reminds Specific Employers to Submit 2021 Injury and Illness Data
OSHA reminds employers that the agency began collecting calendar year 2021 Form 300A data on Jan. 2, 2022. Employers must submit the form electronically by March 2, 2022.
Electronic submissions are required by establishments with 250 or more employees currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees classified in specific industries
with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.
South Carolina Paper Mill Endangered Community, Will Pay $1,100,000 Penalty
The EPA recently lodged a proposed consent decree
in U.S. District Court in which New Indy Catawba, LLC, (New Indy) has agreed to robust injunctive relief designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide (H2S
) concentrations above levels that endanger people’s health from the company’s Catawba, South Carolina paper mill. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000. The proposed settlement follows an emergency order issued by EPA on May 13, 2021, to the New Indy Catawba mill to prevent imminent and substantial endangerment to surrounding communities.
“EPA took swift action earlier this year by issuing an emergency order to New Indy to monitor and reduce hydrogen sulfide air pollution from their Catawba facility,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s proposed settlement ensures that surrounding communities will be protected from unlawful pollution from this facility through mandatory long-term improvements designed to ensure cleaner air, which all Americans deserve.”
"Communities near and far from this facility have been experiencing difficult circumstances that have altered their daily lives. This proposed consent decree addresses levels of hydrogen sulfide that have impacted residents along the North Carolina and South Carolina border, and Catawba Indian Nation," said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. "This action demonstrates EPA’s continued commitment to take decisive steps to ensure the health and safety of nearby communities.”
Since April 2021, EPA has been aggressively working to identify enforceable measures to minimize facility concentrations that continue to impact communities in North and South Carolina as well as the Catawba Indian Nation. EPA’s Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 303
Emergency Order to New Indy required it to install three H2S monitors at its fence line and prohibited New Indy from emitting H2S above health-based levels from its operations. Working with state and Tribal partners, EPA is committed to ensuring that the facility operates in a manner that does not jeopardize people’s health and the environment.
Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for individuals with asthma. Respiratory distress or arrest has been observed in people exposed to very high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide.
The proposed settlement requires New Indy to operate their steam stripper unit to control hazardous air emissions, monitor and treat sulfur-containing fuel condensate sent to the wastewater treatment system, and improve the functioning of the wastewater treatment system. New Indy must install and maintain a carbon filtration system on their post-aeration tank to minimize air emissions, and install and maintain a functioning secondary containment system around the by-product black liquor storage area to prevent uncontrolled black liquor releases from reaching the wastewater treatment system. New Indy must also continue to operate and maintain the H2S fence line monitors and comply with the health-based levels at the fence line. The company must apply for and receive federally enforceable permits incorporating these terms and is not eligible to terminate the consent decree until it has completed all injunctive relief and operated for at least three years without any fence line exceedances.
The lodging of this proposed consent decree represents the next step of EPA’s process to address air concentrations at this facility. The proposed consent decree will be subject to a 30-day comment period. The 30-day comment period will begin on the date a notice of the lodging of the proposed consent decree is published in the Federal Register.
Chemical Company Cited After Two Workers Die, One Sickened Following Exposure to Respiratory Hazards
Exposure to dangerous toxins at an Alabama chemical manufacturing plant – Daikin America, Inc. – lead to the deaths of two workers and sickened another worker after the employer failed to provide appropriate protective equipment and implement safe work practices during maintenance activities on chemical processing equipment.
An OSHA investigation found that on July 2, 2021, Daikin America exposed three chemical operators to toxic fluorocarbon and other hazardous chemicals that resulted in the workers suffering respiratory failure.
One worker spent nearly a week in a local hospital for respiratory failure treatment before he returned home. The other two employees were treated for respiratory failure at local hospitals but later died one on Aug. 10, 2021, and the other on Sept. 28, 2021.
The exposure occurred while the workers were conducting maintenance activities requiring a processing line break, a nitrogen purge, and atmospheric venting of equipment, resulting in the release of toxic fluorocarbons and other hazardous chemicals. The investigation revealed that Daikin America failed to institute critical safe work practices required under OSHA's Process Safety Management standard and ensure workers used appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment. The employer also failed to perform air monitoring to assess chemical exposures, provide written procedures that clearly identify the required level of respiratory protection, and communicate to workers the hazards associated with the chemicals.
OSHA cited Daikin America for nine serious and one willful violation. The company faces $232,103 in proposed penalties.
"Two families will enter 2022 without their loved ones and one family will have the long-lasting memory of a frightening and serious illness," said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama. "This tragic event should serve as a lesson for all employers to ensure effective safety protocols are established before initiating maintenance activities involving chemical processing equipment and systems."
New Jersey Aluminum Foundry to Pay $1M Settlement for Long-Standing Safety Violations
Aluminum Shapes LLC will affirm a $1 million penalty and accept 10 willful, 15 repeat and 55 serious violations and one other-than-serious citation in a settlement agreement
to resolve two long-running OSHA cases related to a fatality and a series of employee injuries at the company’s Delair plant.
The company also agreed to implement enhanced abatement measures, including developing a comprehensive safety and health plan, retaining a full-time safety professional with demonstrated experience in lockout/tagout and confined space compliance, and implementing additional employee training.
“While this settlement can never reverse the senseless loss of life and serious injuries that occurred, it goes a long way in ensuring employer accountability and providing key worker protections to prevent future incidents,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York. “The agreement further demonstrates the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to pursue every available opportunity to enforce workplace safety laws.”
Lawsuit Filed Against EPA for Tuning Out Industry’s Chemical Safety Alarms
Contrary to longstanding practice, the EPA no longer publicly posts substantial risk advisories sent to it by chemical manufacturers, according to a lawsuit recently filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act
, industry is required to notify EPA within 30 days when it obtains information which reasonably supports the conclusion that a chemical substance presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. In early 2019, EPA stopped posting these industry reports in its public-facing database or on an easily searchable internal database, making it difficult for its own scientists to use the data for conducting risk assessments of these same chemicals.
From 2017 through 2018, there were more than 1,000 of these substantial risk reports that had been submitted by industry and published by EPA. Yet, since 2019, only one has been posted to the public database. EPA scientists inform PEER that another approximately 1,240 reports have been received but sequestered.
“The fact that industry’s own danger warnings are not being shared is just appalling,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, pointing out that this information had also formerly been shared with other federal agencies ranging from CDC to OSHA. “The inability of EPA’s current management to carry out this very basic public health function suggests a disturbingly deep cluelessness about their mission.”
EPA had been sharing these industry reports both internally and externally for decades. The main EPA guidance document on distributing these reports was issued 30 years ago in 1991. However, EPA has not responded to a PEER Freedom of Information Act request seeking records on who made the decision to stop posting them, or why this occurred, as well as for the missing industry reports themselves.
An EPA spokesperson told a news reporter that the person who had been responsible for posting these reports had retired in December 2018; and the agency lacked funding to replace this single employee. However, at the same time, the agency finances an online tool enabling chemical companies to track their products through the approval process – internally called the “pizza tracker.”
“It is incredible that EPA has funds to post real-time data about the regulatory status of new chemicals for industry’s convenience but does not have funds to alert workers and consumers about substantial health and environmental hazards of these same chemicals,” added Bennett, noting that EPA has declined to reveal how much it spends on the pizza tracker. “Today, EPA still acts as if its only ‘customer’ is the chemical industry with public health merely an afterthought.”
At the same time, EPA is preventing its scientists from reassessing chemicals when new dangers come to light – a problem worsened by hiding these industry reports from its own risk assessors.
Tacoma Facility Paid $650,000 for Hot Asphalt Spill
EPA recently announced that Gardner-Gibson, Inc., has paid a $650,000 penalty to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act related to the release of 60,000 gallons of hot, liquid asphalt from its Gardner-Fields, Inc., facility in Tacoma, WA.
On February 8, 2015, employees at the asphalt shingles and coating materials facility were transferring hot asphalt from rail cars to a storage tank when a connector separated from the tank. Hot asphalt escaped the facility’s secondary containment through an open valve and flowed into the Lincoln Avenue Ditch, which flows into the Blair Waterway in Commencement Bay.
The asphalt spill stopped about 800 feet from Blair Waterway. Four ducks were contaminated with the asphalt and were captured, cleaned, and released.
EPA cited the company for the release of petroleum products and for significant violations of the Clean Water Act’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures requirements discovered during follow-up inspections at the facility.
SPCC requirements are intended to prevent discharges of oil from non-transportation-related onshore facilities and to facilitate responses if discharges occur. The requirements apply to all facilities where a potential spill could reach waters of the United States and that maintain above-ground oil storage capacity of greater than 1,320 gallons of oil or total below-ground storage capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons of oil. When EPA inspected the facility, total storage capacity was 4,234,275 gallons.
Some of the most significant SPCC violations the agency found were
- Failure to maintain appropriate secondary containment in the event of a spill
- Failure to determine and carry out appropriate inspections of various aboveground storage tanks
- Failure to identify appropriate qualifications for personnel performing tank integrity testing
- Failure to prepare and submit a Facility Response Plan to EPA after the spill
“This facility failed to comply with spill prevention and containment requirements and ended up with a mess—and a stiff penalty,” said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “But they and the environment dodged a bullet here—with the capacity to store over 4 million gallons of petroleum products it could have been much worse.
“Compliance with the spill response requirements of the Clean Water Act is critical to the environment, and to the facilities required to obey them.”
The $650,000 penalty was deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund
, a fund used by federal agencies to respond to discharges of oil and hazardous substances.
Wastewater Treatment Facility Fined $40K for Groundwater Discharge Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $40,000 penalty to Beaver Brook Wastewater Treatment Facility, LLC, of Mansfield, owner of a wastewater treatment facility associated with multi-use commercial properties at The Point in Littleton, for violating groundwater discharge regulations.
In a consent agreement, MassDEP stated that the company failed to report that since 2016, it routinely bypassed flows to the onsite wastewater treatment facility by pumping and hauling more than 2.5 million gallons of waste to an offsite permitted wastewater treatment facility. The company also failed to disclose to MassDEP operational issues with the treatment plant’s ability to effectively treat the wastewater generated by the commercial users at The Point to meet permit limits.
Under the consent order, the company must manage flows to the wastewater treatment facility, upgrade the plant, improve management of external grease traps, establish and maintain a financial assurance mechanism to ensure funding for upgrading the facility, and pay the penalty.
“Honest and complete reporting of flows and treatment operational issues to MassDEP is essential to maintain the integrity of the self-reporting aspects of the program and ensure the protection of water resources,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, Director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “It is important to fulfill the requirements of the permit conditions and compliance with the regulations for the benefit of public welfare and the environment.”
Massachusetts Company Fined Nearly $100,000 for Asbestos Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed NE Capital, LLC, of Natick a $98,004 penalty for violations of asbestos regulations that occurred during work it conducted at a multi-family residential property it owns in Northbridge.
In August 2019, MassDEP identified the violations while conducting an inspection of the site in response to a complaint. MassDEP determined that the company failed to conduct an asbestos survey to identify potential asbestos-containing materials before beginning work and failed to file a notification of the asbestos removal work with MassDEP. State regulations require notification to MassDEP 10 working days before beginning any asbestos removal work so that the Department is aware of the removal work and has the opportunity to conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the regulations. Additionally, NE Capital did not follow the proper removal, handling, packaging, and labeling procedures required by MassDEP’s regulations.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company will pay $49,000 of the penalty with the balance suspended for one year provided it has no further violations.
“As the owner and manager of multiple properties, NE Capital should be fully familiar with the need to identify asbestos-containing materials and ensure that those materials are properly removed before beginning any demolition or renovation,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, Director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen and following the required work practices is imperative to protect workers, tenants, and the general public. As this settlement demonstrates, failure to follow the asbestos regulations will result in significant penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”
Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP Regional Office for assistance.
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