With a 31% reduction proposed in EPA’s budget, most of the Agency’s programs will have reduced funding levels, while many are being eliminated. A leaked Agency memo identifies several programs that will be eliminated under the President’s budget:
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Categorical grants to States (funds used by States to implement local statutes and regulatory programs)
- Beach protection, fish programs
- Nonpoint source pollution
- Pollution prevention
- Underground storage tanks
- Climate protection
- Endocrine disruptors
- Environmental education
- Environmental justice
- Geographic programs (Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, Long Island Sound, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, South Florida, Great Lakes)
- Critical infrastructure protection
- Radon program
- Alaska native villages
- Mexico border
- Leaking underground storage prevention
- Marine pollution
- National Estuary/Coastal Waterways
- Radiation protection
- Waste minimization and recycling
- Indoor air
- Science policy and biotechnology
- Small minority business assistance
- Stratospheric ozone multilateral fund
- Targeted airshed grants
- Lead risk reduction program
- Air climate and energy
- Chemical safety and sustainability
- Safe and sustainable water resources – research
- Sustainable and healthy communities grants
- Air, climate, and energy research
- Surface water protection
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.
Charlotte RCRA and DOT Update and SARA Training
Register for RCRA Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Update and Refresher Training in Charlotte, NC, on May 3 and get your RCRA and DOT refresher training in one day. Ensure that your reporting requirements are met at the SARA Title III (EPCRA) Workshop on May 4. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.
St. Louis RCRA and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in St. Louis, MO, on May 9–11 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Further Delay of Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act Proposed
EPA has proposed another delay the effective date of the final rule that amends the Risk Management Program regulations under the Clean Air Act published in the Federal Register on 13 January 2017. On 16 March 2017, the EPA published in the Federal Register a stay and delay of the effective date pending reconsideration to 19 June 2017. The EPA has proposed another delay the effective date to 19 February 2019. This action would allow the Agency time to consider petitions for reconsideration of this final rule and take further regulatory action, which could include proposing and finalizing a rule to revise the Risk Management Program amendments. Written comments must be received by 19 May 2017. The point of contact is James Belke, United States EPA, Office of Land and Emergency Management, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (Mail Code 5104A), Washington, DC 20460; tel: 202-564-8023; email@example.com
EPA Plans to Revise or Rescind its Clean Power Plan
EPA announced that the Agency is reviewing the Clean Power Plan, 80 FR 64662 (October 23, 2015) (CPP), and, if appropriate, will as soon as practicable and consistent with law, initiate proceedings to suspend, revise or rescind this rule. The CPP established emission guidelines for state plans to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The point of contact is Mr. Peter Tsirigotis, Sector Policies and Programs Division (D205-01), U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711; 888-627-7764; firstname.lastname@example.org.
EPA to Revise or Rescind Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From New, Modified, and Reconstructed Electric Generating Units
EPA announced that the Agency is reviewing and, if appropriate, will initiate proceedings to suspend, revise, or rescind the Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units. The announcement indicated that, if appropriate, EPA will as soon as practicable and consistent with law, initiate reconsideration proceedings to suspend, revise, or rescind this rule. The New Source Rule established national emission standards to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants.
For additional information, contact Mr. Peter Tsirigotis, Sector Policies and Programs Division (D205-01), U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711; 888-627-7764; email@example.com.
EPA Wants Your Input on Repeal of Federal Regulations
EPA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, in implementing Executive Order (EO) 13777: Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda, is hosting a meeting to consult with external stakeholders, to hear which rules and regulations our stakeholders believe should be repealed, replaced, or modified, consistent with applicable law.
The EO, signed February 24, 2017, establishes the “policy of the United States to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.” Among other things, it requires each agency to create a Regulatory Reform Task Force to evaluate existing regulations and to identify regulations that should be repealed, replaced or modified. According to the Agency, the meeting will afford the EPA an opportunity to listen and learn directly from those impacted by EPA regulations.
The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 20, 2017, from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm Eastern DST via webinar. Those who wish to participate must contact Joan B. Rogers (202-564-6568 or firstname.lastname@example.org), not later than Friday, April 14, 2017. Requests made beyond the webinar capacity and/or after April 17, 2017 might not be able to be accommodated.
If you would like to provide a four minute oral presentation on a particular regulation, please let Joan Rogers know by Friday, April 14 so she can schedule your slot. EPA requests that commenters be as specific as possible, and include any supporting data or other information.
To participate, or for more information, contact:
Joan B. Rogers, Deputy Director
EPA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
EPA Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman
P: 202-564-6568; F: 202-566-0266
New York Amendments to Radiation Program Regulations
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced proposed amendments to 6 NYCRR Part 380, Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Radioactive Materials, to incorporate federal rule changes and clarify and improve the existing regulations.
The proposed amendments to Part 380 will strengthen the regulations to protect the state's natural resources and residents from radiation exposure from the discharge and release of radioactive material.
The proposed amendments include:
- Requiring permit applications to include additional information to assist DEC in the thorough review of all required permits. Expanding specific categories of wastes to include animal bedding that meets certain criteria, to simplify waste management practices, and eliminate the need to treat animal bedding as radioactive waste.
- Clarifying that certain types of radioactive materials are not subject to Part 380, such as household waste containing excreted residues of radiopharmaceuticals, intact smoke detectors, and other naturally occurring radioactive material.
- Clarifying that sites containing buried radioactive waste are subject to Part 380.
- Updating airborne emissions reporting requirements.
DEC is holding a legislative public hearing to receive public comment on the proposed amendments to Part 380. Click here for details.
Seaweed: From Superfood to Superconductor
Seaweed, the edible algae with a long history in some Asian cuisines, and which has also become part of the Western foodie culture, could turn out to be an essential ingredient in another trend: the development of more sustainable ways to power our devices. Researchers have made a seaweed-derived material to help boost the performance of superconductors, lithium-ion batteries, and fuel cells.
“Carbon-based materials are the most versatile materials used in the field of energy storage and conversion,” Dongjiang Yang, Ph.D., says. “We wanted to produce carbon-based materials via a really ‘green’ pathway. Given the renewability of seaweed, we chose seaweed extract as a precursor and template to synthesize hierarchical porous carbon materials.” He explains that the project opens a new way to use earth-abundant materials to develop future high-performance, multifunctional carbon nanomaterials for energy storage and catalysis on a large scale.
Traditional carbon materials, such as graphite, have been essential to creating the current energy landscape. But to make the leap to the next generation of lithium-ion batteries and other storage devices, an even better material is needed, preferably one that can be sustainably sourced, Yang says.
With these factors in mind, Yang, who is currently at Qingdao University (China), turned to the ocean. Seaweed is an abundant algae that grows easily in salt water. While Yang was at Griffith University in Australia, he worked with colleagues at Qingdao University and at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. to make porous carbon nanofibers from seaweed extract. Chelating, or binding, metal ions such as cobalt to the alginate molecules resulted in nanofibers with an “egg-box” structure, with alginate units enveloping the metal ions. This architecture is key to the material’s stability and controllable synthesis, Yang says.
Testing showed that the seaweed-derived material had a large reversible capacity of 625 milliampere hours per gram (mAhg-1), which is considerably more than the 372 mAhg-1 capacity of traditional graphite anodes for lithium-ion batteries. This could help double the range of electric cars if the cathode material is of equal quality. The egg-box fibers also performed as well as commercial platinum-based catalysts used in fuel-cell technologies and with much better long-term stability. They also showed high capacitance as a superconductor material at 197 Farads per gram, which could be applied in zinc-air batteries and supercapacitors. The researchers published their initial results in ACS Central Science in 2015 and have since developed the materials further.
For example, building on the same egg-box structure, the researchers say they have suppressed defects in seaweed-based, lithium-ion battery cathodes that can block the movement of lithium ions and hinder battery performance. And recently, they have developed an approach using red algae-derived carrageenan and iron to make a porous sulfur-doped carbon aerogel with an ultra-high surface area. The structure could be a good candidate to use in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors.
More work is needed to commercialize the seaweed-based materials, however. Yang says currently more than 20,000 tons of alginate precursor can be extracted from seaweed per year for industrial use. But much more will be required to scale up production.
Groups Appeal EPA’s Refusal to Ban Dangerous Pesticide
Earthjustice representing Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council asked a panel of three federal appeals court judges to order the EPA to act based on its own scientific conclusions and permanently ban chlorpyrifos, a highly dangerous pesticide linked to many health hazards, particularly to children’s brains.
The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to direct the EPA to act within 30 days to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos, based on the agency’s repeated findings that the pesticide is unsafe. The move comes a week after the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos despite its own findings that the pesticide is unsafe in food, drinking water, and pesticide drift. Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to lower birth weight and neurodevelopmental harms, including reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development.
“President Trump and his EPA flouted court orders and EPA’s scientific findings that chlorpyrifos puts children, farmworkers, their families and many others at risk,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case. “We are asking the court to protect children by ordering EPA to take action now to ban chlorpyrifos.”
Last November, EPA released an updated assessment of the risks linked to chlorpyrifos. It concluded there is no safe level for chlorpyrifos exposure in food or drinking water, and that workers are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide even with maximum protective controls. The EPA also confirmed chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes adjacent to agricultural areas.
“EPA is refusing to take this chemical off the market—but it is not rescinding its own scientists’ finding that this pesticide is toxic to children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at NRDC. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that a dangerous chemical might be lurking in the fruits and veggies they feed their kids. The health of our children must come before chemical corporations.”
Residential uses of chlorpyrifos were banned 17 years ago. However, this neurotoxic pesticide is still widely used on staple foods like strawberries, corn, wheat, and citrus. In fact, over half of all apples and broccoli in the U.S. are sprayed with chlorpyrifos.
In addition to asking the court to order EPA to ban all food uses of chlorpyrifos, the groups asked the court to order EPA to begin canceling all chlorpyrifos uses. The agency had been under court order to issue a ruling by last Friday resulting from NRDC and PAN’s 2007 petition to ban the pesticide.
California Attorney General Looking into Conflicts of Interest at EPA
Attorney General Xavier Becerra delivered a formal request to the EPA for thirty-two categories of documents related to known conflicts of interest of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and any actions taken by EPA or the Administrator to comply with federal ethics laws.
Administrator Pruitt, until February 17, served as attorney and chief law enforcement officer for the State of Oklahoma in numerous lawsuits against EPA in which California is supporting EPA. He has taken legal and factual positions contrary to EPA on these matters in court filings, press statements, and congressional testimony.
“The public has a right to know whether Administrator Pruitt and EPA are complying with federal ethics laws,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Mr. Pruitt’s numerous conflicts of interest merit close examination now that he has taken a direct role in initiating reviews of numerous EPA regulations he sought to undo through litigation in his previous role.”
Administrator Pruitt has acknowledged the he will need to seek authorization to participate personally or substantially in some matters. The documents requested will shed light on whether he has done so, and whether any waivers that have been granted are sufficiently supported and comply with the law.
New Quick Coating for Batteries Developed
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using the precision of an electron beam to instantly adhere cathode coatings for lithium-ion batteries—a leap in efficiency that promises to save energy, reduce production and capital costs, and eliminate the use of toxic solvents. The technique uses an electron beam to cure coating material as it rolls down the production line, creating instantaneous cross-links between molecules that bind the coating to a foil substrate, without the need for solvents, in less than a second. “Typical curing processes can require drying machinery the length of a football field and expensive equipment for solvent recovery,” said ORNL’s David Wood. “This approach presents a promising avenue for fast, energy-efficient manufacturing of high-performance, low-cost lithium-ion batteries.” Details of the coating technique were published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.
New York Attorney General Sues Trump Administration for Blocking Cost-Saving, Pollution-Cutting Energy Efficiency Standards
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a state and municipal coalition, recently announced that he is commencing legal action against the Trump Administration for violating federal law by delaying energy efficiency standards for several common consumer and commercial products—such as ceiling fans, portable air conditioners, walk-in coolers and freezers, commercial boilers, and more.
The six standards being blocked by the Trump Administration offer dramatic air pollution reductions, as well as energy- and cost-savings to consumers and businesses. According to federal Department of Energy (DOE) estimates, the standards would combine to eliminate emissions of 292 million tons of the greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide, 734 thousand tons of the pollution that creates soot and smog, 1.2 million tons of the potent climate change pollutant methane, and over 1,000 lb of highly-toxic mercury, over a 30-year period.
Over this same period, the Appliance Standard Awareness Project estimates that the efficiency standards would together save over 443 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity—the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of over 36 million households. The DOE itself estimates that the six standards would provide net savings to consumers and businesses of approximately $23.8 billion.
"Energy efficiency standards are vital to public health, our environment, and consumers. This is yet another example of how the Trump administration’s polluter-first energy policy has real and harmful impacts on the public health, environment—and pocketbooks—of New Yorkers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings. I will continue to use the full force of my office to compel the Trump administration to live up to its obligations to the law and the people of New York.”
Attorney General Schneiderman and the coalition charge that the Trump DOE is violating both the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) and Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in the following ways:
- Delaying the effective date of final energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans
- Stalling the final standards for compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, power supply equipment, portable air conditioners, and commercial boilers, by failing to publish them in the Federal Register
Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the lawsuit regarding ceiling fans are the Attorneys General of the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the City of New York. The same coalition, plus the Attorney General of Maryland, are joining Attorney General Schneiderman in sending a 60-day notice regarding the other standards.
The DOE published new energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans as a final rule on January 19, 2017, with an effective date for the rule of March 20, 2017. However, the Trump Administration has subsequently delayed the rule’s effective date twice—most recently pushing it back to September 30, 2017—asserting that stalling the standards was a non-substantive action, and that seeking public input on the delay would be “impractical, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest.”
Attorney General Schneiderman and the coalition charge that these delays are illegal, violating EPCA’s “anti-backsliding” provisions by effectively weakening the final standards published in January, and violating the APA by being undertaken without the public notice and comment required by law when substantive changes are made to published final rules. Accordingly, the coalition has filed a lawsuit in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals against the Trump DOE over its illegal delay of the effective date of the ceiling fan efficiency standards. The suit seeks a court order to require the standards to go into effect immediately. Click here to read the petition for review.
Regarding energy efficiency standards for compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, power supply equipment, portable air conditioners, and commercial boilers, DOE issued a “prepublication notice” of a final rule for compressors on December 5, 2016 and for the four other products on December 28, 2016. The posting of these five rules triggered a limited “error correction” period for the public to identify any typographical or numbering errors for correction by the Department. By law, DOE was then required to publish final energy efficiency standards for compressors by February 21, 2017 and for the four other products by March 15, 2017. To date, the DOE has not published any of these final standards.
The coalition charges that the DOE’s failure to publish these five final energy efficiency standards violates EPCA’s standards setting deadline requirements. In accordance with requirements of EPCA, the coalition is sending a 60-day notice to the DOE of its intention to sue the Department over these violations. If the Department fails to publish the five energy efficiency standards as final rules within 60 days, the coalition intends to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking the court to declare that the DOE has failed to perform mandatory legal obligations, and require the Department to immediately publish the final rules. Click here to read the 60-day notice.
Tuolumne County Fined $131,464 for Stormwater Violations
California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has reached a settlement with Tuolumne County for alleged stormwater permit violations at its Jail Access Road construction project in Sonora.
The county enrolled the project in the statewide General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction and Land Disturbance Activities, but failed to comply with the requirements to protect local water quality and the environment. Tuolumne County agreed to pay $131,464 and to comply with the permit requirements to ensure that additional environmental damage is halted.
The settlement was reached using a streamlined process that provided the county an opportunity to quickly resolve the alleged violations that threatened Sullivan Creek, a tributary of Don Pedro Reservoir.
“We take these violations very seriously and we want construction sites across the Central Valley to know we are investigating complaints and taking action to stop further environmental damage,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. “We initiated this fast track approach after Tuolumne County, or its contractors, made a conscious decision not to comply with the basic requirements for the protection of surface waters from their construction activities.”
Water Board staff inspected the site on December 8, 2016, during a rain event and found that the 5- acre site was not prepared for precipitation as there were no erosion control measures installed. Staff witnessed sediment-laden runoff flowing directly into Sutter Creek. Staff re- inspected the site on December 15, 2016, during another rain event and again found a lack of sediment and erosion control, and sediment-laden water was again flowing into Sullivan Creek.
Discharges of sediment can cloud the receiving water, which reduces the amount of sunlight reaching aquatic plants. These discharges can also clog fish gills, smother aquatic habitat and spawning areas, and transport other materials such as nutrients, metals, and oil and grease, which can negatively impact aquatic life and habitat.
The owners of any construction site greater than 1 acre in size must enroll in the General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction and Land Disturbance Activities. Among other items, this permit requires that the owner hire a “storm water professional” to design and install an effective combination of erosion and sediment controls to prevent discharges of sediment-laden stormwater.
Sutter Creek Bridge Construction Site Settles Enforcement Action for Stormwater Violations
California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has reached a settlement agreement with the city of Sutter Creek in Amador County for alleged stormwater and water quality certification permit violations at its Badger Street Bridge construction project.
The city enrolled the bridge replacement project in the statewide General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction and Land Disturbance Activities, and obtained a Water Quality Certification to allow it to disturb the waterway, but failed to comply with the requirements to protect local water quality and the environment. The city of Sutter Creek agreed to pay $86,112 and to comply with the permit requirements to ensure that no additional environmental damage takes place.
The settlement was reached using a streamlined process that provided the city of Sutter Creek with an opportunity to quickly resolve the alleged violations that threatened Sutter Creek.
“Stormwater runoff at construction sites is a serious issue. Not having the proper control measures in place to prevent sediment-laden runoff can lead to serious environmental impacts,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. “We take these types of violations very seriously, which is why we initiated this fast track enforcement approach to help sites such as Sutter Creek’s get into compliance quicker and limit any further environmental damage.”
As part of the settlement, the city will contribute $38,385 to the California Product Stewardship Council for its Sustainable Medication Take Back Program for Amador County, which includes a pharmaceutical disposal education and outreach effort to protect surface waters.
Water Board staff inspected the bridge project on October 28, 2016, during a rainstorm. Staff found the city’s contractors had not installed sediment or erosion control measures as sediment-laden runoff was flowing directly into Sutter Creek. In addition, a diversion dam failed, allowing upstream water to flow directly through the construction site and cause additional sediment to be transported downstream.
On November 3, 2016, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff inspected the site and observed that construction work at the site was causing a significant amount of sediment to be discharged into the creek. CDFW personnel also found insufficient sediment and erosion controls.
EPA Requires U.S. Navy to Close Cesspools at Pearl Harbor
The EPA announced an agreement with the U.S. Navy to close three illegal large capacity cesspools on Oahu. The Navy will pay a civil penalty of $94,212 for violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“All large capacity cesspools must be closed to protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal resources,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “As a result of our action, Pearl Harbor has replaced its remaining large cesspools with approved wastewater treatment systems.”
During May 2013 inspections, EPA found the Navy continued to use cesspools despite a 2005 ban under the Act’s Underground Injection Control program. After Pearl Harbor Naval Station and Hickam Air Force Base combined operations in 2010, a Navy audit revealed that the Joint Base had nine large capacity cesspools. The Navy closed six cesspools in 2012, but failed to close the remaining three in a timely manner. The three respective cesspools served a total of about 160 people at three facilities: a munitions storage area, a hangar and a troop mobilization area. The Navy has since properly closed the remaining three non-compliant cesspools.
Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean. Groundwater provides 99% of all domestic water in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in than any other state. Since a ban was put in place in 2005, over 3,000 large capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance. The ban does not apply to single-family homes connected to individual cesspools.
Pennsylvania Objects to Proposed Cuts to Department of Energy
In a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell and Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin outlined the impacts of proposed cuts to U.S. Department of Energy programs would have on Pennsylvania.
The elimination of funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) would end approximately $41 million for low-income families to improve energy efficiency and cut down on energy costs. Additionally, $1.5 million would be cut from the State Energy Program (SEP), which has been used to test new technologies and help businesses lower energy costs.
“Eliminating this funding cuts the legs out from underneath popular and effective programs that spur economic activity beyond what the line-item costs are,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Energy efficiency, especially for low-income families, is a way to cut expenses and reduce pollution from power generation.”
The WAP benefits more than 8,000 low-income families in Pennsylvania, ensuring adequate heating during cold Pennsylvania winters. In addition to energy efficiency, WAP funds were also being used to study long-term health impacts of radon in homes. High incidence of radon gas in homes occurs in 49 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Cuts to the SEP would curtail several ongoing projects, ranging from energy security and grid protection projects to job training for college graduates.
“These programs don’t just represent savings for residents—they are also important job-creation tools,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “The contractors that install the upgrades, the more than 300 businesses supplying the materials, and staff that oversee the program are all contributing to Pennsylvania’s economy.”
Sacramento Area Sewer District Fined $223,539 After Spills
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Sacramento Area Sewer District (SASD) have agreed to a $223,539 settlement regarding 80 spills of raw sewage to surface waters over a three-and-a-half-year period. Part of the agreement includes a project to supply a clean and reliable source of drinking water to residents with contaminated wells.
The largest spill took place October 17–19, 2015, when a contractor installed a temporary sewage line over Arcade Creek and then left for the weekend. Rain fell over the weekend, causing the creek flow to increase, and a joint in the line separated, spilling sewage into the creek. No one inspected the temporary line or noticed the spill until the contractor returned on Monday. More than 188,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into Arcade Creek. When SASD learned of the spill, it mobilized a response team and was able to recover some of the sewage.
The other 79 spills took place between March 2012 and Nov. 2015. More than 300,000 gallons of raw sewage entered surface waters that lead to the Sacramento River. SASD has attributed the spills to operational and structural failures, including root intrusion, grease deposition, and the presence of debris.
“These sewage spills have the potential to impact aquatic life and human health,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. “This settlement acknowledges the serious nature of the spills, as well as efforts that SASD will take to reduce future spills.”
Any entity that operates a sewage collection system over one mile in length is required to enroll in the Statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements for Sanitary Sewer Systems. Among other items, this permit requires that sewer systems be properly operated and maintained to prevent discharges of raw sewage to surface waters. Raw sewage contains highly elevated concentrations of coliform organisms, biochemical oxygen demand, and ammonia, which can lead to low dissolved oxygen in surface water that can impact aquatic life and human health.
As a condition of the agreement, SASD will pay half the penalty to the State Water Board’s Cleanup and Abatement Account. The funds in this account are used to provide public agencies, nonprofit organizations and tribal governments with grants to clean up pollution when there are no viable responsible parties.
The remaining half of the penalty will be used to fund a Supplemental Environmental Project in the southern portion of Sacramento County. The project consists of connecting private residences that are within the general vicinity of the intersection of Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard that are currently dependent on contaminated private domestic wells for drinking water and in-home use, to a public water supply.
MassDEP Fines Sunset City $6,180 for Wetland Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $6,180 penalty to Sunset City, Inc., for violating the Wetlands Protection Act and its regulations at the company's proposed motocross facility on Brookfield Road in Charlton.
MassDEP had issued a Superseding Order of Conditions permitting work on the construction of the motocross facility on July 15, 2016. The Superseding Order was appealed by a group of ten residents of Charlton, and that appeal is still pending. During the appeal, and before obtaining a Final Order of Conditions permitting the work, Sunset City, Inc., commenced work in the buffer zone to wetland resource areas at the project, which was not yet approved.
When Sunset City, Inc., was found by a local conservation official to be conducting unauthorized work, MassDEP directed the company to immediately cease the work, which included tree clearing, grubbing, stumping, filling and grading, and other earth-moving work.
Under the consent order, the company will pay $1,545 of the assessed penalty, and the remainder will be suspended provided that the company completes a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) with an estimated cost greater than $4,635. The SEP proposed by Sunset City, Inc., and approved by MassDEP involves the restoration of a cold water fishery at two locations off Dolge Court in Charlton.
"The wetlands permitting and appeal process allows residents to participate in protecting the environmental resources of their community," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "It's important that project proponents respect that process and wait to obtain final permits before beginning work."
Studies Identify Water Quality Problems and Remedies for the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
According to a new report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and its partner, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD), parts of the RWMWD are polluted as a result of stormwater runoff, internal loading and stream bank erosion. In two lakes and two streams, pollution may inhibit recreational activities, harm aquatic insects and fish, or cause high levels of E. coli bacteria, which can be harmful to human health.
The MPCA has published a set of two reports on the RWMWD, and is seeking comments from the public on both. The first report, known as a TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can accept without exceeding water quality standards, and pollutant load reduction goals.
The second, known as a Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, or WRAPS, summarizes past efforts to monitor and improve water quality, and identifies future strategies for restoring and protecting water quality in the watershed.
The RWMWD is located in eastern Ramsey County and western Washington County and encompasses portions of a number of communities including White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake, Little Canada, Maplewood, Landfall, North St. Paul, St. Paul, Oakdale, Woodbury, Roseville, and Shoreview. The MPCA, RWMWD and local groups are recommending a number of actions including reducing streambank erosion, reducing in-lake nutrients, and improving stormwater management to restore and protect waterbodies.
These reports were developed under the state’s watershed approach, a holistic way of gauging the health of streams and lakes and developing strategies to restore or protect their water quality.
The reports are available on the MPCA’s RWMWD webpage or at the MPCA’s St. Paul office, at 520 Lafayette Road North. The MPCA encourages those interested in the RWMWD to review and provide feedback on the reports. Comments on the reports should be submitted in writing by May 3, 2017, to Brooke Asleson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194, or email@example.com. Brooke is available to answer questions at 651-757-2205.
EPA Lead Paint Inspections Faulted
The EPA is endangering children’s health through sloppy enforcement of lead-safe home repair rules, according to an EPA whistleblower disclosure filed through Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The U.S. Special Counsel found “a substantial likelihood” that the whistleblower disclosure shows not only violations but also a “specific danger to public health” and has directed EPA to respond.
The person blowing the whistle is Elizabeth Wilde, a Lead Advisor at EPA’s Southeastern Regional Office in Atlanta, to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on April 27, 2016. A nearly 30-year veteran of the agency, Ms. Wilde has since retired.
Lead paint in older homes, day-care centers, and other child-occupied buildings is a major lead exposure pathway for an estimated 1.4 million U.S. children every year. EPA regulations require that repair and renovation of these older buildings must be done in a lead-safe manner, so that lead particles do not permeate carpets, drapes, and other surfaces. OSC concluded that this program in the Southeast:
- Failed to identify which inspected units were child-occupied
- Routinely conducted faulty inspections by un-credentialed, inadequately trained staff
- Compromised enforcement by failing to collect documentary evidence or maintain files
“Proper inspections are needed to prevent children and pregnant women from inhaling or ingesting lead-laden paint chips and dust,” stated Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of PEER, whose lawsuit a decade ago forced EPA to adopt these rules. “This type of eco-malpractice puts public health in jeopardy.”
Epitomizing EPA’s lackadaisical approach was the revelation that scores of enforcement casefiles were missing. EPA’s Inspector General (IG) found the files had been recycled. Despite a referral for prosecution by its IG for criminal destruction of official records, EPA took no disciplinary action and only verbally counseled one employee on “the critical nature of records management,” according to a memo PEER obtained. Further, EPA managers knew about the missing records for more than a year but did nothing, possibly because the office had no adequate filing system.
“The Trump administration says it wants to refocus the EPA to concentrate on protecting people and the environment. Here is a golden opportunity to start fulfilling that promise,” added Ruch, noting that the proposed Trump budget for EPA cuts lead exposure prevention programs at both the federal and state levels. “This unglamorous public health work is precisely where EPA should focus, not retreat.”
OSC has directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to conduct a formal investigation and report back in 60 days. Ms. Wilde will have the opportunity to review and comment on EPA’s response. The Special Counsel then decides whether the EPA response is complete and reasonable, transmitting that conclusion to the President and Congress.
California Amendments to Heavy-Duty Vehicle Inspection Program
Legislative mandates from the late 1980s and early 1990s required the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regulatory programs to inspect heavy-duty vehicles for excessive smoke emissions and for tampering. These programs, the HDVIP (also known as the roadside program) and the PSIP (also known as the fleet program), remain in force today and are currently CARBs primary HD vehicle screening programs to detect excess opacity emissions from in-use trucks. While these programs have been effective, they were established before the use of diesel particulate filters (DPFs), which come new on 2007 and later model year engines. Because of the widespread use of DPFs and the need to ensure they are operating efficiently, CARB now needs to update the Heavy-Duty Vehicle Inspection Program (HDVIP) and Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP) regulations to reduce the opacity limit to assist in identifying heavy-duty trucks with broken DPFs and in need of repair, and to incorporate other proposed program improvements.
The proposed amendments to the HDVIP and PSIP are also an important first step in transitioning to a more robust multi-pollutant HD I/M program that takes advantage of the extensive capabilities of on-board diagnostic systems in newer engines (2013 and later model year engines) for monitoring the performance of nearly every emission-related engine component and emission control component. At the workshop, staff will also briefly discuss its ongoing work in developing a comprehensive HD I/M regulatory program, which it expects to present to the Board for consideration in the 2020-timeframe.
CARB will hold a public workshop to discuss proposed regulatory amendments to the HDVIP and the PSIP. Staff will discuss proposed amendments that would: 1) reduce the current 40% opacity limit; 2) require opacity testers who perform paid opacity testing services to be trained to ensure compliance with the SAE J1667 snap acceleration test procedures; and 3) implement web-based fleet reporting requirements using a phase-in schedule. Staff also will briefly discuss its ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive inspection and maintenance (I/M) program for heavy-duty (HD) vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating over 14,000 lb for implementation in the post-2020 timeframe.
The workshop will be held at the following location and time, and will be webcast for those unable to attend in person. This is the third and final public workshop before staff is scheduled to present the proposed amendments to the Board at the October 26-27, 2017, public meeting in Riverside, California.
Date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Time: 1:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m.
Location: CalEPA Headquarters Building
The broadcast can be accessed on the day of the workshop at: https://video.calepa.ca.gov/.
For more information and to view the public workshop notice, please visit the program website at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/hdim/hdim.htm. Staff will also post the workshop presentation to this website before the workshop begins.
For more information on the existing HDVIP and PSIP, please visit the program website at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/hdvip/hdvip.htm
If you have questions on the subject matter of the workshop, please contact Jason Hill-Falkenthal, Ph.D., at 916-322-4683 or by email at Jason.Hill-Falkenthal@arb.ca.gov.
EPA Honors 2017 Energy Star Partners of the Year for Outstanding Achievements in Energy Efficiency
EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are honoring 143 businesses and organizations in 34 states and the District of Columbia for their commitment to saving energy, saving money, and protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency achievements. Recipients of the 2017 Energy Star Partner of the Year Award include: KB Home, PEG, Olin Brass, Vornado Realty Trust, and Welbilt.
The awards will be presented in Washington, DC, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on April 26. Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd President and CEO, will deliver the keynote presentation. In 2015 alone, Energy Star and all of its partners saved American families and businesses $34 billion on energy bills, while helping states achieve their air quality goals.
Examples of how Energy Star Partners of the Year are taking action:
- (Los Angeles, California) KB Home achieved a major milestone, surpassing a total of 100,000 Energy Star certified homes built to date, with 8,000 homes certified in 2016 alone. The company builds Energy Star certified homes in 38 markets across the nation. KB’s 100,000 Energy Star certified homes saved homeowners an estimated $30 million on their energy bills in 2016.
- (Fairfax, Virginia) PEG is an engineering and environmental consulting firm that has been an active participant in the Energy Star certified homes program for more than eight years. In 2016, PEG verified more than 5,000 Energy Star certified homes, for a cumulative total of more than 65,000. In addition, PEG conducted more than 30 Energy Star building science and training sessions for more than 500 home builders and trade representatives.
- (Louisville, Kentucky) Olin Brass, a leading manufacturer of copper and copper-alloy sheet, strip, foil, tube, and fabricated components, achieved more than a six-percent reduction in energy intensity over the past year for savings of one million dollars. Employees at Olin’s East Alton, Illinois, Brass Mill reduced energy intensity by more than 13% in four years and were recognized for achieving the Energy Star Challenge for Industry.
- (New York, New York) Vornado Realty Trust, one of the largest owners and managers of commercial real estate in the nation, continued to demonstrate a sophisticated and strategic approach to energy management. This approach resulted in 36 properties earning the Energy Star certification. Vornado achieved a weather-normalized site energy use reduction of 4.8% across its portfolio, saving $882,000 in 2016, for a total of $8.6 million in savings since 2012.
- (New Port Richey, Florida) Welbilt, with its family of brands, continues to help food service businesses save energy and money. The Frymaster brand, which offers chefs, restaurants and other commercial kitchens highly-efficient electric fryers, introduced more than 300 new Energy Star models in 2016, each offering customers an average of $125 (or 1,100 kilowatt-hour) savings per year.
Read more about each of the award winner's achievements
- Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence: The 97 Sustained Excellence winners have demonstrated continued leadership over several years in the Energy Star program and in achieving environmental protection through superior energy efficiency.
- Partner of the Year: Thirty-seven organizations have been awarded the Partner of the Year award for comprehensively managing their energy use, promoting Energy Star products and practices in their own operations, and providing energy-efficient products and services to their customers.
- Home Performance with Energy Star Contractor of the Year: Two of the Partner of the Year Awardees are winning at least in part for their superior efforts in promoting the Home Performance with Energy Star program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy with support from EPA.
- Excellence: Nine winners are receiving recognition for demonstrating outstanding promotion of energy-efficient products, homes, or buildings.
Energy Star has 16,000 partners working to protect the environment through greater energy efficiency, including manufacturers, retailers, public schools, hospitals, real estate companies, and home builders. Since 1992, Energy Star and its partners have saved American families and businesses $430 billion on their energy bills and 4.6 trillion kilowatt-hours of energy, while achieving broad emissions reductions—including 2.8 billion metric tons of GHG emissions.
Energy Star is the simple choice for energy efficiency. For 25 years, EPA’s Energy Star program has been America’s resource for saving energy and protecting the environment. Join the millions already making a difference at energystar.gov. The Energy Star program has been targeted for elimination in the President’s budget.
CSX/ALI to Receive EPA’s “Excellence in Site Re-Use” Award
The EPA will present the Region 4 Excellence in Site Re-Use Award to CSX Transportation (CSX) and their subsidiary Atlantic Land & Improvement (ALI) in recognition of their commitment and dedication for remediating the Raleigh Street Superfund Site. The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 11:00 am, at the Raleigh Street Site. The Raleigh Street Superfund Site is located at 4209 Raleigh Street, Tampa, Florida.
CSX/ALI received this honor, because of the work they accomplished as a part of the required site cleanup. This included the restoration of the site property to natural ecological conditions that would support re-establishment of the native habitat. These actions have led to the revitalization of on-site wetlands, establishment of a native habitat for butterflies, birds, and the protection and restoration of a native habitat in part of one of the last undeveloped areas of Tampa Bay. Additionally, the site has become an ecological asset for the Hillsborough County, Florida. community.
From the mid-1970s until 1991 dumping took place on the Raleigh Street Superfund Site. A significant volume of waste originated from unknown parties that impacted this ten-acre site located along the East Bay Channel of Tampa Bay near the Port of Tampa. Waste materials such as battery casings, furnace slag, tires, and construction debris were dumped and used to fill wetlands. In 2013, more than 33,000 tons of soil, debris and sediment were excavated, removed and disposed off-site by CSX/ALI. In addition, over 40 tons of illegally dumped and used tires were recycled during cleanup efforts. Restoration of the groundwater is currently being monitored to achieve cleanup goals.
The EPA views the restoration and preservation of natural habitats and wetlands once affected by contaminated sites as a key component of its mission to protect human health and the environment. The Raleigh Street Site is an excellent example of EPA Region 4 collaboration with environmental stewards, such as CSX/ALI and their contractors, to restore once contaminated wetlands, preserve wildlife habitats, and protect sensitive eco-systems in the Southeast.
Environmental News Links
Trivia Question of the Week
Coal is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. while producing how much of our electricity?