Wastewater Treatment Costs Reduced with Accidentally Discovered Bacteria

March 27, 2017

A type of bacteria accidentally discovered during research supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) could fundamentally re-shape efforts to cut the huge amount of electricity consumed during wastewater cleanup.

The discovery has upended a century of conventional thinking. The microorganisms, “comammox” (complete ammonia oxidizing) bacteria, can completely turn ammonia into nitrates. Traditionally, this vital step in removing nitrogen from wastewater has involved using two different microorganisms in a two-step approach: ammonia is oxidized into nitrites that are then oxidized into nitrates, which are turned into nitrogen gas and flared off harmlessly.

The outcome could be a big rethink regarding the energy-saving innovations developed over the last two to three decades in the field of nitrogen removal. Wastewater treatment is a huge consumer of electricity, accounting for 2–3% of all power usage in western countries, and no less than 30% of its energy bill results from the need to remove nitrogen. Most of the sector's efforts to reduce its energy use have focused on the two-microorganism approach.

The discovery was made by scientists working on the EPSRC-funded Healthy Drinking Water project, which is being led by the University of Glasgow and is due to publish its core findings later this year.

Dr. Ameet Pinto has led the team, which has worked in collaboration with the University of Michigan. He says: "This discovery took us completely by surprise. It's a superb example of how EPSRC support provides a secure platform for a can-do environment enabling researchers to achieve important spin-off breakthroughs in addition to the primary goals of their research".

Comammox was found in a drinking water system in the US. Other research groups have also detected it in wastewater treatment plants, in groundwater and even in aquaculture systems.

Dr Pinto says: "The discovery of a single microorganism capable of full nitrification will have a significant impact on our understanding of the nitrogen cycle and on efforts to manage nitrogen pollution. The potential is there for the wastewater treatment sector to exploit this breakthrough, which other teams in Europe have made in parallel with us.

"That would be an important step towards informing the development of robust approaches in terms of cutting costs and reducing carbon emissions associated with generating the huge amounts of electricity that the sector uses."

San Diego RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Diego, CA, on April 11–13 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Philadelphia RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Philadelphia, PA, on April 11–13 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Virginia Beach RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Virginia Beach, VA, on April 18–20 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

California Approves Broad Plan For Reducing Climate Super Pollutants

The California Air Resources Board has adopted a new plan to curb destructive super pollutants including black carbon, fluorinated gases, and methane. The plan, California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, maps out the route to more rapid greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions by clamping down on these super pollutants.

Super pollutants have more potent heat-trapping effects but remain in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide. Reducing these pollutants can have a more immediate beneficial impact on climate change—and reduces harmful toxins, such as cancer-causing particulates, in California communities.

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) make up about 12% of GHG emissions, but strong actions to reduce them could help reduce global warming by as much as 40%.

This plan to curb super pollutants will accelerate reaching our 2030 goal of a 40% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This plan will also help reduce nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and fine particle pollution.”

The SLCP Strategy is a critical part of California’s emission-reduction framework being developed in the draft Proposed 2030 Scoping Plan. The framework also includes the Cap-and-Trade Program, the Mobile Source Strategy, the Advanced Clean Car Program, the Renewables Portfolio Standard and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

A key piece of the SLCP Strategy is a new regulation aimed at reducing methane leaks from oil and gas operations. It requires emissions-capture technology and stricter monitoring and reporting of potential methane leaks as a means of isolating and fixing them more quickly. That rule will be fully in effect by 2020.

The SLCP Strategy also reduces hydrofluorocarbons, traditionally used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation, and propellants. Substitutes for HFCs are growing in use and continue to be developed. CARB’s efforts are expected to result in HFC reductions of 25% below business-as-usual emissions by 2020. CARB is currently preparing a detailed analysis of future HFC emissions which will undergo a third-party review.

Last fall, Governor Brown Signed SB 1383 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), an ex-officio CARB board member. SB 1383 sets targets for reductions in methane emissions of 40% below 2013 levels by 2030, a 40% reduction in HFCs and a 50% reduction in black carbon. SB 1383 also provides general guidance for regulation of short-lived climate pollutants and requires the Board to complete and approve a plan by January 1, 2018.

CARB began publicly evaluating controls for SLCPs with the first AB 32 Scoping Plan in 2008 and has held at least 10 workshops and public hearings to gather input. Since then Governor Brown signed SB 32, codifying a reduction target for statewide GHG emissions of 40% below 1990 emission levels by 2030. SLCP emission reductions will support achieving this target.

The major sources of methane are livestock, particularly dairy cattle; landfills; and the oil and gas industry. Livestock is responsible for 55% of methane emissions. The SLCP Strategy calls for capturing methane from manure at large dairies, pursuing opportunities to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation, significantly reducing disposal of organics in landfills, and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

California has already reduced black carbon emissions 90% since the 1970s, largely through the state’s stringent diesel regulations. The SLCP Strategy will rely on a variety of tools, including putting zero-emission vehicles on the road and into ports and rail yards, more mass transit, cleaning up woodstoves, and cleaner fuels.

New California Rule for Monitoring And Repairing Methane Leaks From Oil And Gas Facilities

As the federal government retreats from its own efforts to reduce methane leaks, the California Air Resources Board has approved a new regulation aimed at curbing emissions of the powerful GHG that regularly escapes from oil and gas operations. The new rule is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country.

Methane, one of the powerful GHGs called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and the main component of natural gas, has 72 times the impact on global warming as carbon dioxide. The new regulation is expected to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas operations in California by the equivalent of 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year. Locating and repairing leaks in oil and gas systems will provide additional benefits in reducing smog-causing chemicals because the same leaks often release air toxins and volatile organic compounds, such as benzene.

“The Trump administration has backed away from efforts to develop a federal rule to curb methane leaks from existing facilities—the nation’s largest source of methane pollution,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “California’s regulations continue our leadership in fighting air pollutants and help meet our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.”

California’s new air regulation requires quarterly monitoring of methane emissions from oil and gas wells, natural gas processing facilities, compressor stations, and other equipment used in the processing and delivery of oil and natural gas. Some equipment will also be required to add vapor collection systems.

The new regulation adds to emergency regulations that were put in place by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources after the methane leak in the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field. Those regulations require additional monitoring and testing at all underground natural gas storage facilities, making it easier to prevent well leaks.

“This new tool to curb methane emissions complements the rigorous safety and inspection requirements now in place at all gas storage fields in California,” said David Bunn, director of the Department of Conservation. “Not only is California working to prevent another major methane leak like the one at Aliso Canyon, it’s important that we also reduce the cumulative impacts of smaller leaks.”

The regulation provides “valuable tools in California’s continuing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure safe utility infrastructure,” said California Public Utilities Commissioner Cliff Rechstschaffen. “It is another example of the State’s international leadership in addressing climate change and other environmental issues.”

Although the largest source of methane in California is livestock, the oil and gas industry is responsible for about 15% of the state’s methane emissions.

Adoption of the oil and gas rule is an important step toward implementing the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, which provides guidance for development and implementation of California’s overall effort to reduce these highly potent climate pollutants. SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) sets the target for statewide methane reductions of 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. The Board adopted that plan recently.

California’s new regulation was written with extensive stakeholder input and at least seven public hearings or workshops over several years.

FMCSA Delays Final Rule for CDL Training Requirements

The effective date to establish minimum training requirements for entry-level commercial motor vehicle drivers has been delayed until May 22. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the delay March 21 in a document published in the Federal Register. The final rule is intended to set minimum baselines for training first-time applicants for commercial driver’s licenses; drivers seeking to upgrade their CDL to another classification; and drivers seeking an endorsement for hazardous materials, or passenger or school bus operations for the first time. Student drivers seeking a CDL are required to show proficiency “in knowledge training and behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and on a public road.”

Environmental Health and Safety Apps Available for Free

EHS Freeware maintains a collection of free Environmental Health and Safety-related apps for smartphones and mobile devices. The apps provide a wide range of capabilities, such as recording, mapping, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone.

Save 10,000 Gallons of Water a Year

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) challenged residents to check for water leaks in their homes during national Fix-a-Leak Week. The average U.S. household wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water a year through leaks.

In general, water is being drawn out of Minnesota’s aquifers faster than it is being replenished. Groundwater is the primary source of clean water to the Twin Cities metro area and other places around the state. Nationally, the EPA estimates that household leaks waste 1 trillion gallons of water each year—enough to supply the needs of Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles combined.

Limiting water waste will be one key to ensuring we have adequate water in the future.

Common types of household leaks include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. All are easily correctable. One way to check for leaks: Examine your winter water usage. It's likely that a family of four has a serious leak problem if its winter water use exceeds 12,000 gallons per month.

“It’s easy to overlook a toilet leak or tune out a faucet drip. Fix-a-Leak Week is just a good reminder to check for water waste, and make the necessary fixes,“ says MPCA spokesperson Erin Barnes-Driscoll. “There are tons of how-to videos online that can show you how to do the work. No need to call a plumber!”

Toilets are especially leak-prone: the EPA estimates that 20% of all toilets leak. But because leaking toilets are often silent, the problem can go unnoticed while your home is “robbed” of up to 300 gallons or more of water a day. Put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. Wait 15-20 minutes and see if color appears in the bowl. If so, you have a leak.

Learn more about finding and fixing leaks and conserving water on the MPCA Conserving water webpage and the EPA WaterSense webpage. If you live in Minnesota and while supplies last, you can also order a free packet of leak detection tablets online, call 651-757-2999, or email mailto:leakdetection.pca@state.mn.us.

California Establishes Next Generation of Emission Controls Needed to Improve State’s Air Quality

The California Air Resources Board has approved two critical efforts to provide cleaner air for all Californians. In the first action, the Board approved the State Strategy for the State Implementation Plan (State SIP Strategy), which describes CARB’s commitment for further reducing vehicle emissions needed to meet federal air quality standards over the next 15 years. The Board also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.

The Board also directed staff to report annually on progress on implementation of the SIP Strategy including recommendations on additional funding as well as direction to expedite implementation where possible.

“Today’s action builds upon California’s efforts over the last 50 years and sets the stage for a range of actions into the next decade,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols. “We look forward to continuing California’s air quality leadership, working with our federal and local partners to provide the pathway to cleaner air, along with a vibrant economy.”

The State SIP Strategy maps out a comprehensive suite of actions to deploy the next generation of clean vehicles, equipment, and fuels. These include a portfolio of new engine standards for cars and trucks, and the durability and inspection requirements to ensure these vehicles remain clean over their lifetime. The strategy also includes enhanced deployment of zero emission technologies, cleaner burning fuels, and innovative pilot and incentive programs to accelerate the deployment of this cleaner technology.

In parallel to actions at the state level, CARB will continue to call for strong federal action to develop more stringent engine standards for cars, trucks, ships, aircraft, and locomotives.

These advanced technologies will help transform and clean up California’s transportation system, providing important public health benefits, especially in the South Coast and the San Joaquin Valley, the two regions of the state with the greatest air quality challenges. The cleaner technologies will also deliver significant reductions in GHG and toxic diesel particulate matter emissions that are essential to meeting California’s climate, air quality, and risk reduction goals.

The South Coast’s Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) is a comprehensive roadmap for meeting ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standards in both the South Coast region and the Coachella Valley. In conjunction with state actions to reduce mobile source emissions, the South Coast AQMP includes a broad spectrum of measures to transition residential and commercial homes and buildings to cleaner energy sources, from electrification and fuel cells to solar power.

The District’s plan also contains important actions to achieve further reductions of pollutants from large industrial facilities such as refineries and power plants. Attaining federal air quality standards will provide significant public health protection for the 17 million residents who live in the region, estimated by the District to total $173 billion in cumulative health benefits between today and 2031.

California’s Safer Consumer Products Rule on Polyurethane Foam Systems is Open for Comment

The Safer Consumer Product's second proposed Priority Product regulation is open for public notice. The comment period for Spray Polyurethane Foam Systems with Unreacted Methylene Diphenyl Diisocyanates as a Priority Product opened on March 24, 2017, and ends at 5:00 p.m. PDT on May 16, 2017.

You can download and comment on the Proposed Regulation and supporting documents through CalSAFER, the Safer Consumer Products Information Management System. Your input is very important to DTSC.

A public hearing for this proposed regulation on May 16, 2017, from 1:30 pm to 3:30 p.m. PDT at the CalEPA Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento.

Former Pesticide Ingredient Found in Dolphins, Birds, and Fish

A family of common industrial compounds called perfluoroalkyl substances, which are best known for making carpets stain resistant and cookware non-stick, has been under scrutiny for potentially causing health problems. Focusing on one of the family’s sub-groups, scientists report for the first time that some dolphins, fish, and birds have perfluoroalkyl phosphinic acids (PFPIAs) in their blood. The work appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Studies on PFPIAs have been limited, but some have detected the compounds in human blood samples. The substances also stick around in the environment for a long time, which makes them likely to be inhaled or ingested by people and animals. This particular subgroup of perfluoralkyl substances was once used in pesticides and continues to be used in other industrial applications such as carpet cleaning.

To find out more about PFPIAs, Amila O. De Silva and colleagues analyzed blood samples from northern pike near the Island of Montreal, cormorants from the Great Lakes and bottlenose dolphins from Sarasota Bay, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina. Although the concentrations were low, the survey detected PFPIAs in 100% of the samples. The researchers say this ubiquity underscores the need for further studying the potential effects of these substances.

The authors acknowledged funding from Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan.

Illegal Dumping of Asbestos-Contaminated Waste Leads to $385,000 Fine

Seven parties who worked on a sewer pipe replacement project in Framingham have agreed to pay $385,000 in penalties to settle allegations that they allowed asbestos-containing soil and waste from the project to be illegally disposed behind a Milford home, Attorney General Maura Healey announced recently. The parties include five companies working on the Framingham sewer pipe project, the Town of Framingham, and the owner of the Milford disposal site.

According to the complaint, entered along with the consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, the contractors on the sewer pipe replacement project allegedly removed asbestos-containing pipe at the Framingham work site illegally and failed to properly inspect, secure, and dispose of asbestos-containing waste material and other solid waste at the work site, putting the public at risk of exposure to asbestos. The complaint also alleges that the parties failed to adequately monitor the work site in order to prevent the violations.

“Asbestos can pose serious health risks if it is not handled and disposed of properly,” said AG Healey. “We expect those trusted with the removal and disposal of this hazardous substance to take the proper precautions required by state laws in order to keep workers, residents and the public safe from the risks of asbestos exposure.”

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen and MassDEP regulations require specific handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures to protect workers and the general public from exposure,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “As this case demonstrates, failure to follow the prescribed work practices and to ensure that those work practices are followed will result in significant penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”

The AG’s Office also alleges in its complaint that S.B. General Contracting, Inc., CJM Construction Co., Inc., of Milford, and William F. Rowe, III, the owner of the disposal site behind the Milford home, hid the asbestos-containing waste after MassDEP secured a search warrant to inspect the site.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, S.B. General Contracting, Inc., is prohibited from bidding on public projects for one year. It also requires the companies that allegedly transported and disposed of the waste illegally—CJM Construction Co., Inc., Ed Brown & Son, Inc., of Westwood, and R. Oliveira Trucking, Inc., of Dighton—to have their drivers take training courses to improve their awareness of the dangers of improperly handling asbestos. The Town of Framingham has worked cooperatively with the AG’s Office to identify and implement practices to ensure waste on similar municipal projects is properly handled and disposed in the future.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs for which there is no known effective treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin membranes of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart, that may not show up until many years after exposure, and that has no known cure, although treatment methods are available to address the effects of the disease.

AG Healey has made asbestos safety a priority, as part of the office’s new “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” Initiative that was announced earlier this month in an effort to better protect the health of children, families, and workers in Massachusetts from health risks posed by asbestos.

For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Louis Dundin, with the assistance of Chief Regional Counsel Anne Blackman, Asbestos Program Section Chief Gregory Levins and Solid Waste Program staffer Greg Root of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.

Rowley Property Owner Sued for Allegedly Destroying Protected Wetlands

A Rowley property owner has been sued after he allegedly altered and filled protected wetlands in violation of state law, Attorney General Maura Healey announced recently.

In a complaint, filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court, the AG’s Office alleges that beginning in 2013, Sean Blair destroyed at least six different types of protected wetlands located on Haverhill Street in Rowley, where he resides and operates a construction, excavation and septic installation business. The AG’s Office alleges that Blair illegally cleared trees and other vegetation and stockpiled debris on approximately three-quarters of an acre of protected wetlands while widening a roadway and constructing a stable and paddock on his property without obtaining required permits, in violation of the Wetlands Protection Act and its regulations.

“Wetlands are a vital resource for our state and help provide us with clean drinking water supplies, prevent flooding and storm damage, and support wildlife,” said AG Healey. “Those who illegally destroy these valuable resources will be held accountable.”

“Protection of wetlands resources is critical to ensuring a healthy ecosystem,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “MassDEP will aggressively pursue individuals who illegally fill wetlands, particularly those who fail to comply with their obligations under a MassDEP enforcement order.”

The complaint alleges Blair failed to comply with a 2014 administrative consent order from MassDEP requiring him to pay penalties to the state for violating the Wetlands Protection Act and requiring him to fully restore the protected wetlands. Blair allegedly failed to pay the full penalty and has continued to make unapproved alterations to wetlands at the property in violation of the consent order.

Since 2008, Blair has owned a 13.6-acre parcel of land on the property where the violations allegedly occurred. The parcel he owns has a residential home, storage sheds, a riding arena, and a paddock area. The property contains multiple wetland areas protected by the Wetlands Protection Act and its regulations including riverfront areas, land under waterbodies and waterways, banks, and bordering vegetated wetlands.

In the complaint, the AG’s Office is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction requiring Blair to restore and remediate the damaged wetlands on the property.

Auto Shop Owner Indicted for Dumping Oil

The owner of a Lawrence auto shop has been indicted in connection with illegally dumping over a thousand gallons of hazardous waste oil down a drain that could discharge into the Merrimack River, Attorney General Maura Healey announced recently.

Andres Pichardo, age 44, of Lawrence, was indicted on Monday by an Essex County Grand Jury on three counts of disposing of hazardous waste in a manner endangering the environment and without a license from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

Pichardo will be arraigned on the charges in Salem Superior Court at a later date.

“People that illegally dump waste oil in a way that could pollute our rivers will be held accountable,” said AG Healey. “We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to go after those who evade important laws put in place to keep our water clean.”

In February 2016, the AG’s Office began an investigation after the matter was initially referred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID).

“This case was referred to our Environmental Strike force by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, and it is a good example of government agencies working together to protect the environment and the public health,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “We will continue our partnerships to identify and appropriately prosecute significant cases that have an adverse impact on the public interest.”

Authorities allege that, in September 2015, rather than pay for proper disposal of his hazardous waste, Pichardo instructed an employee and a contractor to illegally dump more than 30 55-gallon barrels of used automotive waste oil down the drain, which ultimately can discharge to the Merrimack River in wet weather events.

The Massachusetts hazardous waste statute and accompanying regulations require certain licensing and procedures for the proper disposal of waste oil. Under G.L. c. 21C, § 10, it is a felony to improperly dispose of waste oil in a manner that could endanger the environment.

Louisiana DEQ Presented 2017 Environmental Leadership Program Awards

DEQ hosted the Environmental Leadership Awards at the DEQ headquarters in the Galvez building in downtown Baton Rouge. DEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Brown recognized the ELP winners’ environmental achievements. Members of ELP were commended for their voluntary pollution prevention efforts, community environmental outreach initiatives, and environmental ordinances that went above and beyond regulatory compliance to improve the environment.

ELP Awards were presented to large, medium and small businesses, municipalities and academia. Twenty-one new ELP members who joined in 2016-2017 were recognized. This year, DEQ presented 17 awards in recognition of the following:

Pollutants reduced by the projects:

  • 1,227,882 lb of pollutants including VOCs, NOx, CO2, CO, SO2, PM, H2S, spent catalyst, spent caustic, hazardous catalyst
  • 21,000 gallons (gals) of wastewater

Pollutants reused:

  • 8,760,000 gals Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) purified from landfill gas

Pollutants recycled:

  • 18,853,832 lb e-waste
  • 2,558,179 gals oily water

“The Environmental Leadership Program encourages voluntary actions to help improve the environment and the quality of life in Louisiana,” LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck CARR Brown said. “With local schools, governments and industries promoting innovative ways to reduce pollution, recycle and reuse resources beyond regulations, we get the best results and help educate the public about voluntary environmental protection.”

The ELP began in 1995 as a cooperative effort between DEQ and participating companies in the state. Today, any company, federal entity, municipality, non-governmental organization, school or university committed to improving the quality of the state’s environment is eligible to join the program. For more information about the ELP, contact Linda Hardy at 225-219-3954 or visit the DEQ website at http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/elp.

Trump Administration Lifts Freeze on Endangered Bumble Bee

The disappearing rusty patched bumble bee won a victory recently when the Trump Administration reversed course and listed the bee as endangered after having frozen the listing a few weeks ago.

“The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species just in the nick of time. Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed the freeze on the bumble bee’s listing last month, just one day before federal protections were set to take effect. The delay stems from a January 20th White House memo instructing agencies to withdraw or freeze a broad array of rules issued by the Obama administration to protect public health and the environment. Agricultural trade groups, and even the American Petroleum Institute, had petitioned the agency to extend the freeze through January 2018.

NRDC filed a lawsuit in federal court on February 14—four days after the freeze took effect—asking the court to stop the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from violating the law by freezing the bumble bee’s listing. NRDC is currently evaluating next steps.

The rusty patched bumble bee has lost almost 90% of its range in the past 20 years. It is the first bumble bee ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.

2017 Pennsylvania Environmental Excellence Award Winners

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that 21 organizations across the commonwealth will receive the prestigious 2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for 16 projects that represent the very best in innovation, collaboration, and public service in environmental stewardship.

“The Environmental Excellence Awards show just how many Pennsylvanians, from fourth-grade students to factory owners, care deeply about the air, land, and water in their communities,” said Governor Wolf. “We all benefit, as their commitment to tackling important environmental challenges improves our quality of life statewide.”

The award-winning projects remediate acid mine drainage, take fresh approaches to environmental education, reduce emissions and GHGs, conserve energy, implement green municipal infrastructure, prevent pollution, reduce waste, conserve water, and restore the health of rivers and streams in locations across Pennsylvania.

Any individual, business, school, government agency, or community organization in Pennsylvania was eligible to apply for the award. DEP chose the winners from more than 50 applications, a 25% increase over 2015–2016.

Although past winners may submit applications for different projects each year, more than half of this year’s awardees are first-time recipients.

“Every year we’re impressed anew by the ingenuity and commitment Pennsylvanians bring to environmental stewardship,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It’s exciting to see the interest is growing.”

The awardees will be recognized at an event hosted by DEP and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council on April 25 at the Hilton in downtown Harrisburg.

2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence:

  • Building STEM Skills through Aquaponics
  • City of Pittsburgh 100 Percent Biodiesel Project
  • Fall Brook Acid Mine Drainage Remediation
  • Helping Our Earth Field Project
  • Making a Difference in the Community and Lake Erie Environment by Recycling Plastic Bags
  • Merck Cherokee Water Conservation
  • Modeling Biomass Excellence
  • Mulberry Street Two-Way Conversion
  • Parking Garage Lighting Retrofit and Best Practices
  • Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum Improvements
  • Saving Energy to Save Wildlife
  • South Campus Energy Project
  • Tanoma Passive Abandoned Mine Discharge Remediation Trompe
  • Tire War
  • Water Education Day
  • WikiWatershed Web Site

Take Care Of Texas Offers Tips To Decrease Ozone

Spring weather can be beautiful, with sunny skies and seemingly clear air. But what we don’t always see is ozone forming in the atmosphere because of that bright sunshine.

Take Care of Texas has ways you can decrease the amount of ozone that forms in the atmosphere.

  • Limit driving and idling: carpool, combine errands, use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk
  • Refuel your vehicle in the late afternoon or evening
  • Keep your vehicle maintained, including keeping tires properly inflated
  • Maintain your yard equipment, including changing the oil and replacing air filters regularly
  • Also consider using tools without motors. Hand tools such as shears, edgers, and push reel mowers are lightweight, quiet, and easy to use, and do not generate emissions.
  • Don’t burn yard waste
  • Use paint and cleaning products with fewer or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Ozone, often called smog, forms when sunlight causes reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. These NOx and VOCs enter the air through vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities.

It’s important to reduce ozone because high levels can aggravate symptoms in people who have decreased lung function.

Environmental News Links

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The Arctic Just Set a Grim New Record for Low Levels of Sea Ice

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A Warming Planet Might Mean More Diabetes

Auto Industry Gets Fuel Economy Bailout, While Oil Industry Goes After Electric Cars

Backlash to Trump’s Proposed EPA Cuts Grows

Man Sent to Prison for Falsifying Hazardous Material Tests on Tanker Trucks

Delaware Company to Pay $3.5 Million for Environmental Crimes

Paint, Pesticides, and Polishes: Where Does Hazardous Waste End Up?

Advocates Push Back on Proposed Cuts to EPA

FAQs on Convenience Store Waste Management

California Bills Target Plastic Bottles and Take-Out Containers

Arctic Sea Ice Plunges to Record Winter Low

Permit Issued for Keystone XL Pipeline

Maryland Gov. Hogan Supports Fracking Ban

Do You Live Near Toxic Waste? See 1,317 of the Most Polluted Spots in the U.S.

What Would the U.S. Look Like Without the EPA?

Taking B Vitamins May Reduce Epigenetic Effects of Air Pollution

Trivia Question of the Week

Which law launched the creation of the EPA?

a. Environmental Protection Act of 1970

b. Anti-Pollution Act of 1968

c. Environmental Policy Act of 1969

d. Natural Resources Protection Act of 1970

Answer