What is the Most Dangerous Hazardous Waste?

September 08, 2020
Is it toxic, reactive, or dangerous to the environment?  Does it pose an acute hazard, or is it long lasting?  What are its properties?  Is it currently regulated? If not, should it be?  Give us your opinion, and explain why you think a particular hazardous waste is the most dangerous.  Entries will be judged by Brian Karnofsky at Environmental Resource Center and the person that is the most convincing will win an Amazon HD 10 tablet.
Entries must be submitted by September 10, 2020 to brian@ercweb.com.  The more details you provide, the better your chances of winning.  Only one entry per person, but multiple entries from the same company or organization will be accepted. We’ll announce the winner and some of the runner-up entries in a future Tip-of-the-Week.  Let us know if you do not want your name or company affiliation mentioned. 
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
Environmental Resource Center is looking for a customer service manager with EHS experience and we have openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at brian@ercweb.com.
New Web Tool Assesses COVID Safety at Work
The AFL-CIO launched a new “Am I Safe at Work?” web tool that contains fundamental information to empower workers to identify key COVID-19 workplace risks, provides tools to achieve better safety protections and guides workers on how to contact a union to help negotiate with an employer for safer working conditions.
“No one should be at risk of acquiring COVID-19 because they are working tirelessly to provide necessities for their family and our country,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
According to the union, the pandemic has particularly affected women and people of color. From nurses who take care of the sick to teachers and meat processing and transit workers, every day working people are risking our lives. One of the goals of this online resource is to provide information that can save lives. This website contains tools that empowers workers to fight for COVID-19 and other safety protections and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. Cited for Violations of Multiple Environmental Laws
EPA and the state of Nebraska announced a settlement with Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. to address alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Clean Air Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act at the company’s commercial hazardous waste incinerator in Kimball, Nebraska.
The alleged violations included failure to manage and contain hazardous wastes; failure to comply with air emission limits; failure to comply with chemical accident prevention safety requirements; and failure to timely report use of certain toxic chemicals. Under the terms of the settlement, the company agreed to pay a $790,000 civil penalty and will improve facility practices to protect facility workers and the surrounding community from potentially harmful releases of pollutants.
Reducing risks from such accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA and is identified as one of seven National Compliance Initiatives for the Agency.
“Today’s settlement addresses the repeat violations observed through numerous state and federal inspections at Clean Harbors’ Kimball facility,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “We are encouraged by the positive steps taken by the company to protect its workers and those living in the Kimball community and downwind from the facility.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), the Kimball facility has been subject to previous enforcement actions, including penalty assessments, in 1997, 2004 and 2010.
Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. operates over 150 facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada, including landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, and incineration and recycling centers.
According to EPA and NDEE, improper management of wastes incinerated at the facility led to unsafe conditions that could result in employee injury and/or releases of harmful air pollution outside the facility. For example, the agencies allege that Clean Harbors failed to address multiple fire incidents resulting from the company’s mixing of incompatible wastes.
Terms of the settlement include upgraded plans to classify, manage and contain the wastes incinerated at the facility; an updated fire prevention and response program; and the performance of an environmental audit at the facility to identify and address any continuing noncompliance.
New California Regulation to Further Reduce Smog-Forming Pollution from Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks
The California Air Resources Board has approved a multi-pronged regulation that will dramatically reduce smog-forming emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks.
The “Heavy-Duty Low NOx Omnibus Regulation” will require manufacturers to comply with tougher emissions standards, overhaul engine testing procedures, and further extend engine warranties to ensure that emissions of NOx (oxides of nitrogen, a key component of smog) are reduced to help California meet federal air quality standards and critical public health goals.
“Even as California ramps up the numbers of zero-emission electric and fuel-cell trucks on our roads over the next decade and beyond, tens of thousands of new internal combustion trucks will still be sold in our state,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This regulation ensures that conventional diesel trucks will run as cleanly as possible at every point in their duty cycle. It takes a significant bite out of smog-forming pollution in every region in the state, and will make a major contribution to cleaning the air in communities close to ports, railyards and distribution centers that are now most heavily impacted by pollution from heavy truck traffic.”
Reducing NOx emissions is vital to public heath. As a precursor to smog, NOx can cause or worsen numerous respiratory and other health ailments, and is also associated with premature death. All combustion engines produce NOx, and although technology has advanced markedly over the years, California must still do more to reduce NOx emissions from mobile sources, especially trucks.
The regulation is expected to have a significant impact on communities adjacent to railyards, ports and warehouses that typically experience heavy truck traffic. These trucks often idle, move slowly and make frequent stops – all actions that increase NOx emissions. Today’s heavy-duty trucks do not control NOx effectively during such “low load” conditions. The new standards will reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent or more when trucks are operating under these low load real-world operations.
Once it is fully phased in by 2031, the rule is expected to reduce harmful NOx emissions in California by more than 23 tons per day. These NOx reductions are the equivalent of taking 16 million light-duty cars off the road in 2031. (For context, California currently has 26 million registered light duty vehicles). This will also result in 3,900 avoided premature deaths and 3,150 avoided hospitalizations statewide over the life of the rule (2024 – 2050), and lead to estimated statewide health benefits (savings from health care costs) of approximately $36.8 billion.
All components of the new rule will be phased in, allowing engine manufacturers time to prepare for compliance. The NOx standards that engines must meet will be cut to approximately 75% below current standards beginning in 2024, and 90 percent below current standards in 2027.
UN Nudges Universities to Go Green
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) launched a new publication, “The Little Book of Green Nudges,” which aims to inspire up to 200 million students around the globe to adopt environmentally friendly habits and greener lifestyles.
The book is UNEP’s first on behavioural science and nudge theory, which focuses on human actions and how to change them, and was drafted with The Behavioural Insights Team and GRID-Arendal. It contains 40 ready-made nudges - simple measures that make it easier to make green choices – which university campuses can deploy to encourage students and staff to embrace more sustainable behaviours. Nudging can be a powerful tool at universities, especially when deployed alongside strategies like decarbonizing and divesting from fossil fuels. UNEP will be sharing insights from the publication at the World Academic Summit with leaders of some of the world’s top universities.
The Little Book of Green Nudges contains evidence-based guidance on implementing nudges, centered around techniques such as resetting default options, changing the framing of choices, and harnessing social influence. It also includes case studies of nudging interventions rolled out at universities from Thailand to Kenya, Finland and Colombia.
Examples of nudges recommended in the book include:
  • Food: Using appealing descriptions for plant-based dishes, for example “spicy chickpea curry”. A study in a university cafeteria found that describing vegetables in indulgent terms resulted in 25 per cent more diners choosing them.
  • Recycling: Making recycling bins eye-catching and easy to use. One studyfound that bins with specialized lids increased the recycling rate for beverage containers by 34 per cent.
  • Waste: In cafeterias, offering smaller plates and no trays, to discourage food waste. A study conducted in a university dining hall found that going trayless led to a significant decrease in solid waste.
  • Transport: Encouraging cycling by making it easier to park bicycles, while at the same time making it more of a hassle to park cars, for instance by requiring people to frequently reapply for car parking permits.
  • Sharing: Setting up a system to share leftover food from meetings or events. A group of students at one university set up a food-sharing group that has prevented more than 7,000 kg of food from going to waste.
UNEP is collaborating with higher education institutions around the world to pilot nudging on campuses. Already 20 universities have joined the program – including the University of Chile, the University of Nairobi, the University of Tsukuba in Japan and the University of California at Berkeley – many more are set to join up in the months ahead.
“Universities are the source of so much knowledge that students will continue to utilize throughout their lives – instilling sustainable habits and values should be a key part of this education, with the potential to shift to cleaner, greener societal behaviors,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. “Changing behavior is critical if we are to stay within our planetary boundaries. We invite higher education institutions across the world to join us in employing nudges on their campuses.”
David Halpern, Chief Executive of The Behavioral Insights Team, said: “Behavioral science research has shown how effective major life events such as starting university are for establishing new routines and habits which can often last a lifetime. It’s been really exciting to work with UNEP and GRID-Arendal on creating this series of easily achievable but powerful behavior change ideas that will help students and their places of learning deliver major changes to their environmental and sustainability impacts both now and far into the future.”
“At Yale we have seen first-hand how powerful nudges can be. As highlighted in our case study, we were able to improve our recycling rates through some simple measures. We are sure that The Little Book of Green Nudges will be useful to universities all across the world who are looking for creative ways to enhance sustainability on their campuses,” said Lindsay Crum, Senior Manager, Data Analysis & Program Management at Yale University, which is one of the pilot universities.
With COVID-19 forcing a major rethink in higher education, redesigning processes and routines to make their campuses safer, this is a strategic time to make them more sustainable too by incorporating green nudges in their schools. Nudges have been shown to be particularly successful when they are introduced at timely moments of change.
Adopting green nudges could also make universities more desirable to prospective students who are looking to attend institutions that share their values. A recent survey found that 86 per cent of first-year students in the UK want their higher education institutions to actively incorporate and promote sustainable development.
GRID-Arendal Managing Director Peter Harris said: “Nudges are an important tool in our toolbox to help us cut carbon emissions, curb waste and encourage adoption of more sustainable diets and modes of travel. Seemingly small shifts can have dramatic impacts.”
Safely Get Your EHS Training at Home or in Your Office
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. Webcast attendees receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
Upcoming hazardous waste and DOT hazardous materials webcasts:
Hazardous Waste Management: Annual Update – September 14, September 29, October 14 
DOT Hazardous Materials Update – September 15, September 30, October 15
Power Plant Effluent Limitation Guidelines Revised by EPA
EPA announced final revisions to specific effluent guidelines and standards for steam electric power plants. The final rule revises a 2015 regulation by leveraging what the EPA described as newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and taking a flexible, phased-in implementation approach. According to the Agency, the new rule will save the U.S. power sector approximately $140 million annually while reducing pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule.
“EPA’s revised steam electric effluent guidelines shows President Trump’s commitment to advancing American energy independence and protecting the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and flexibility on the regulation’s phase-in will reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time.”
The agency’s final Steam Electric Reconsideration rule revises requirements for two waste streams from steam electric power plants: flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water. Key changes to the 2015 rule include:
  • Changing the technology-basis for treatment of FGD wastewater and BA transport water.
  • Establishing new compliance dates.
  • Revising the voluntary incentives program for FGD wastewater.
  • Adding subcategories for high-flow units, low-utilization units and those that will cease the combustion of coal by 2028 and finalizing requirements that are tailored to facilities in these subcategories.
The agency considered input from a broad variety of stakeholders in developing the final rule and considered a wide range of data, information, and stakeholder input. The agency also updated its industry profile based on more recent data, conducted a limited information request, and collected voluntarily-provided sampling data.
Several Employers Cited for COVID-19 Violations by Cal/OSHA
Cal/OSHA has cited 11 employers for not protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure during inspections of industries where workers have an elevated risk of exposure. The industries include food processing, meatpacking, health care, agriculture and retail. The employers listed below were cited for various violations including some classified as serious, with proposed penalties ranging from $2,025 to $51,190.
“We have identified these industries as priorities in our strategic enforcement efforts to make sure employers have adequate COVID-19 infection prevention procedures in place,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “These are industries where workers have been disproportionately affected, and these citations are the first of many to be issued in the coming weeks and months.”
The employers cited for COVID-19 and other safety and health violations include:
Employer Name
Worksite Location
Inspection Type
Proposed Penalties
DL Poultry, Inc.
Food Processing
Monterey Park
Uni-Kool Partners
Food Processing
Olson Meat Company
Meatpacking Facility
Sutter Bay Medical Foundation
Health Care
*Serve Max Farm Labor Contractor
Enforcement taskforce
*Ruiz Farm Labor
Enforcement taskforce
*Michel Labor Services Inc.
Enforcement taskforce
Sierra-Cascade Nursery Inc.
Macdoel (Siskiyu County)
Enforcement taskforce
*Planasa, LLC
Macdoel (Siskiyu County)
Enforcement taskforce
*Duncan Family Farms
Tulelake (Siskiyu County)
Enforcement taskforce
M & J Williams Inc. DBA Grocery Outlet Bargain Market
Santa Clara
Enforcement taskforce
*Includes heat illness prevention violations
The employers were cited for not protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 because they did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus.
The inspections were opened after notification of serious illnesses, complaints of workplace hazards and after proactive joint enforcement efforts.
D.L. Poultry, Inc. in Monterey Park and Olson Meat Company in Orland put their workers at risk for serious illness because they did not ensure their workers were physically distanced at least six feet apart in the processing area, nor did they install Plexiglas or other barriers between the workers. Uni-Kool Partners in Salinas put their workers at risk as they did not implement procedures to screen employees and visitors arriving at the facility, and failed to take appropriate measures for employees who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms at the facility.
Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation in Berkeley was cited after an employee became ill with COVID-19. Cal/OSHA found the employer failed to comply with the Aerosol Transmissible Disease standard that requires proper respiratory protection in health care settings when transporting patients suspected of having airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
The agricultural employers cited were inspected in July as part of Governor Newsom’s multi-agency strategic enforcement taskforce to address COVID-19 hazards. Several of these employers were also cited for failure to protect their workers from heat illness.
Cal/OSHA also conducted almost 8,000 compliance assistance visits in July to identify and correct issues on the spot, and engaged with more than 400,000 businesses as part of an ongoing outreach and education effort that has included emails and conference calls with trade associations, employer groups, employers, labor and other stakeholders. Cal/OSHA is also providing live, online training for employers in the agriculture, meatpacking and food processing sectors.
Cal/OSHA has created guidance for many industries in multiple languages including videos, daily checklists and detailed guidelines on how to protect workers from the virus. This guidance is meant to provide a roadmap for employers on their existing obligations to protect workers from COVID-19.
Labor Day, 2020: Statement by John Howard, M.D., Director, NIOSH
Labor Day was created to honor workers for their contributions and achievements at a time in history when workers faced long working hours and dangerous working conditions. The need to recognize our nation’s workers for their contributions and resilience could not be more relevant today.
Millions of workers provide “essential services”—services that are vital to the health and welfare or critical infrastructure of our nation. These workers carry on through disasters or public health emergencies reporting to their worksite, seeing patients, responding to emergencies, delivering needed supplies, or harvesting crops—often working long hours.
Workers nationwide are experiencing new challenges in the ways they work and connect with others such as transitioning to full-time telework, balancing caregiving responsibilities, increasing work demands, or job insecurity. The new reality of work may adversely affect worker well-being, increasing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mental health is an important part of worker safety and health. A recent MMWR article highlights the significant mental health challenges related to COVID-19. NIOSH’s Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Program, which focuses on supporting workers’ well-being through healthy work design, has recently published a series of blogs with information and resources relevant for these unprecedented times. Topics include the role of organizational support, stress among your workers, economic security, and improving sleep during tough times.
Additional information and resources about coping with job stress and building resilience, including knowing signs of stress, taking steps to manage stress, and knowing where to go if you need help are available from CDC for both workers taking care of others and non-healthcare workers.
The well-being of workers is paramount as we find our way through the new normal we’re facing. It can be easy to lose sight of the important contributions of workers in keeping the world around us running smoothly. We hope you join us this Labor Day in taking a moment to recognize and thank workers for their hard work, dedication, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
DHEC Accepting Applications for Projects Aimed at Reducing Diesel Emissions in South Carolina
Grant funding is now available for the replacement or upgrade of older diesel vehicles, engines, and equipment to help reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality in South Carolina. Diesel emissions make up a significant portion of the mobile source air pollution in South Carolina. For Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2020, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has approximately $285,000 available from the EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to help support clean diesel and alternative fuel projects in South Carolina.
“Older-model diesel engines still in operation produce significantly higher emissions compared to modern diesel engines and engines powered by alternative fuel sources,” said Rhonda Thompson, Chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality.This funding will support projects which target older engines for early replacement or retrofit to help reduce the harmful impact of diesel emissions on public and environmental health in South Carolina.”
DERA funding is intended for county, city, or other local government entities, private businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations. Grants are awarded to eligible applicants for the implementation of diesel emissions reduction projects which will positively impact air quality and public health. These projects should be cost-effective plans to reduce emissions through engine repowers, equipment and exhaust retrofits, or equipment replacements. SCDHEC can share between 25 percent and 100 percent of eligible costs, depending on the type of project.
Previous DERA grant funding has been used to support a variety of different types of emissions reduction projects including replacing concrete trucks, repowering a marine vessel, and retrofitting school buses. A complete list of projects funded by DERA grants in South Carolina can be found here. “DERA grants continue to support innovative projects which improve air quality while simultaneously spurring economic growth in South Carolina,” said Thompson.
The FFY2020 SC State DERA Request for Proposals (RFP), which contains detailed eligibility criteria and application instructions, is available at scdhec.gov/dera. Applications for the FFY2020 SC State DERA grant cycle are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2020 for primary consideration. Applications received after this date will be considered as funding is available.
Contact Sam Christmus at christsw@dhec.sc.gov or 803-898-0717with questions related to DERA grants in South Carolina.
The Widespread Footprint of Blue Jean Microfibers
With many people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, blue jeans are a more popular wardrobe choice than ever. But most people don’t think about microscopic remnants of their comfy jeans and other clothing that are shed during laundering. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters have detected indigo denim microfibers not only in wastewater effluent, but also in lakes and remote Arctic marine sediments.
Over the past 100 years, the popularity of denim blue jeans has grown immensely, with many people wearing this type of clothing almost every day. Studies have shown that washing denim and other fabrics releases microfibers –– tiny, elongated particles –– to wastewater. Although most microfibers are removed by wastewater treatment plants, some could still enter the environment through wastewater discharge, also known as effluent. Blue jean denim is composed of natural cotton cellulose fibers, processed with synthetic indigo dye and other chemical additives to improve performance and durability. Miriam Diamond, Samantha Athey and colleagues wondered whether blue jeans were a major source of anthropogenic cellulose microfibers to the aquatic environment.
The researchers used a combination of microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to identify and count indigo denim microfibers in various water samples collected in Canada. Indigo denim made up 23, 12 and 20% of all microfibers in sediments from the Great Lakes, shallow suburban lakes near Toronto, Canada, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, respectively. Despite a high abundance of denim microfibers in Great Lake sediments, the team detected only a single denim microfiber in the digestive tract of a type of fish called rainbow smelt. Based on the levels of microfibers found in wastewater effluent, the researchers estimated that the wastewater treatment plants in the study discharged about 1 billion indigo denim microfibers per day. In laundering experiments, the researchers found that a single pair of used jeans could release about 50,000 microfibers per wash cycle. Although the team doesn’t know the effects, if any, that the microfibers have on aquatic life, a practical way to reduce denim microfiber pollution would be for consumers to wash their jeans less frequently, they say. Moreover, finding microfibers from blue jeans in the Arctic is a potent indicator of humans’ impact on the environment, the researchers add.
New Power Plant Cooling Water Compliance Deadlines in California
California’s Water Resources Control Board approved an amendment to its Once-Through Cooling (OTC) Policy for four power plants along the coast. The amendment extends compliance or phase-out dates for the facilities, all of which use ocean waters for cooling as part of the power generation process.
The amendment is responsive to a request by the state’s energy, utility, and grid operators and regulators to maintain, for a definitive period, four OCT plants as power choices. The plants are needed to provide more energy grid stability and reliability, as additional energy and storage resources are built over the next three years.
“Once-through cooling power plant operations impose heavy environmental impacts on our oceans and communities, and an extension of these compliance dates aren’t without significant consideration,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Board. “The Board is called to balance the complex and overarching needs of the state, and here appropriately weigh energy reliability considerations even in the pursuit of these important policies.”
The amendment extends Once-Through Cooling Policy compliance or phase-out dates at four fossil fuel power plants, of an original nineteen facilities when the policy was adopted in 2010. The plants and extensions are as follows:
  • A three-year extension of the compliance date for Alamitos, Huntington Beach and Ormond Beach generating stations to Dec. 31, 2023
  • A one-year extension of the compliance date for Redondo Beach Generating Station to Dec. 31, 2021
The amendment revises compliance dates at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant to conform the Once-Through Cooling Policy expiration dates for each unit to those in the corresponding nuclear operating license.
California’s Once-Through Cooling policy, which became effective October 1, 2010, seeks to protect marine life when water from the ocean or estuaries is used for cooling at power plants. Using ocean water for once-through cooling kills millions of fish, larvae, eggs, seals, sea lions, turtles, and other creatures each year when they are either trapped against screens or drawn into the cooling system and exposed to pressure and high heat. Power plants are required to either reduce the velocity of ocean water intake flows or reduce impacts by other comparable means. Many power plants have chosen to comply by stopping use of once-through cooling operations.
The policy acknowledges that compliance date changes may be necessary to support grid reliability. The Board created the multi-agency Statewide Advisory Committee on Cooling Water Intake Structures (SACCWIS) to regularly monitor grid reliability and provide recommendations to the Board if extensions are necessary.
The committee identified possible grid reliability issues in March 2019, and, in January 2020, recommended the Board consider extending the compliance dates of the four fossil-fuels power plants. The amendment is based on the SACCWIS recommendation.
The amendment was prompted by changes in California’s energy demands since 2019. These include a shift in peak energy demand to later in the day and later in the year, when solar and wind resources are not as reliably available to meet demand. The amendment also addresses other energy related factors, including a lower qualifying capacity for wind and solar power than previously determined, a significant increase in projected reliance on imported electricity over historical levels, and earlier-than- expected closures of some inland power plants.
As the recent extreme heat event in California has shown, more power is needed for peak usage on hot days until 2023, when renewable energy sources are scheduled to be online to cover anticipated demand.
The State Water Resources Control Board is charged with implementing federal Clean Water Act Section 316(b), which states that the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures must reflect the best technology available to protect aquatic life. The power plants operate under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which the nine regional water boards will modify to implement the amendment to the OTC Policy. The public is invited to participate in the permitting process.
See the OTC Policy's Official Policy Documentation. A Once Through Cooling Fact Sheet has additional information on the history of this policy, documenting efforts by the energy industry to stay in compliance.
Virtual Safety Summit: Sept 21 – 25
At the Workplace Learning Safety Summit, you can learn how to implement the WLS safety culture development system. The journey begins when safety is more than a goal or objective, but an unwavering value. Environmental Resource Center is partnering with WLS to provide environmental compliance training during the summit on the following topics:
  • EPCRA reporting
  • SPCC Tier I plans
  • Stormwater
  • Universal Waste
You can find the full agenda and registration details at this link.
Indiana Power & Light Fined over $1.5 Million and Will Spend Additional $5 Million for PSD and Opacity Violations
The US Department of Justice announced that Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Indiana law by undertaking measures to improve its environmental compliance at the Petersburg Generating Station, in Pike County, Indiana. The State of Indiana is also a party to the agreement.
The settlement agreement resolves the claims under the Clean Air Act and related Indiana laws that the United States and Indiana have alleged against IPL in the complaint filed in federal district court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The agreement, which is memorialized in a consent decree lodged in the district court, requires IPL to reduce its plant’s emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM) and sulfuric acid mist (H2SO4). IPL will install a pollution control device known as a Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction System (SNCR) on one of the plant’s coal-fired units, upgrade its sulfuric acid mitigation system, and continually operate all of its pollution control equipment to meet levels that will achieve reductions in NOx, SO2, PM and H2SO4 emissions.
The agreement recognizes that IPL may permanently retire two of its Petersburg units earlier than it had planned. Retirement of those units would result in emission reductions significantly greater than any reductions achieved by installing and operating the SNCR. Thus, IPL may forego installing that control device if it in fact retires the two units prior to July 1, 2023, the deadline under the consent decree by which IPL must install the SNCR.
IPL will pay a total civil penalty of $1.525 million, of which $925,000 will go to the United States and $600,000 to the State of Indiana.
“The citizens of Indiana will breathe cleaner air, thanks to IPL’s agreement to significantly decrease its excess emissions,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are pleased that our Indiana State counterparts have worked closely with our federal team to achieve this favorable result for the environment.”
“Working together with our state partners, EPA is helping to make the air cleaner in Indiana,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “This agreement will significantly reduce excess emissions of harmful air pollutants to protect public health and our environment.”
“Clean air is vital to Hoosiers’ long-term health, and IPL’s commitment to reducing the emissions from its Petersburg Generating Station is an environmentally conscious step in the right direction,” said Curtis Hill, Attorney General of Indiana.
Under the agreement, IPL will also undertake a project costing $5 million to mitigate the harm to the environment caused by the plant’s excess emissions over the years. IPL will submit a proposal to EPA and the State to construct and operate a system that will provide a new, non-emitting source of power at an on-site location known as the auxiliary electrical unit. The new source of power is expected to reduce emissions of SO2, NOx and PM from that unit.
In addition, at the request of Indiana, IPL will expend $325,000 to undertake a state-only environmentally beneficial project designed to restore and preserve some ecologically significant parcels of land near the plant.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register and to final approval by the court.
Ferrellgas, Inc. to Pay $400,000 Penalty for RMP Violations
EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have reached a settlement agreement with Ferrellgas, Inc., doing business as Blue Rhino (Blue Rhino), to resolve violations of their duty under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to prevent and mitigate the consequences of chemical accidents at Blue Rhino’s propane cylinder refurbishing and distribution plant in Tavares. Under the proposed agreement, Blue Rhino has agreed to pay a $400,000 civil penalty.
"It is vital that facilities comply with Clean Air Act requirements designed to protect our communities from chemical accidents," said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “Today’s agreement demonstrates EPA’s commitment to pursuing violations of laws that are critical to protecting public health and safety, while bringing companies into compliance.”
Blue Rhino operates several facilities throughout the United States that refurbish and refill 20-pound liquid propane cylinders for distribution to retail locations. The facility in Tavares has an approximately four acre asphalt storage yard where full and empty propane cylinders are stored. On July 29, 2013, workers at the facility improperly vented several cylinders to the atmosphere, causing propane to collect in the yard. As the propane cylinders were venting, a spark from a forklift ignited the vented propane gas resulting in a fire that caused the pressure relief valves in other cylinders to release propane, leading to a chain reaction and a large series of explosions. The fire and explosions injured workers and caused approximately $3.5 million of property damage, including minor damage to six nearby businesses and one residence. Blue Rhino shut down the facility for five months to investigate and to take corrective action.
EPA investigated the fire and explosions, and as a result of the investigation, EPA alleged that Blue Rhino violated section 112(r)(1) of the CAA by failing to identify hazards that may result from accidental releases of propane gas using appropriate hazard assessment techniques. Further, EPA alleged that Blue Rhino failed to design and maintain a safe facility by taking the necessary steps to prevent the accidental release of propane gas.
The objective of the section 112(r)(1) of the CAA is to prevent the accidental release of extremely hazardous substances and to minimize the consequences of any such releases that do occur. Owners and operators of facilities that produce, process handle or store extremely hazardous substances have a general duty to: identify hazards at their facility using appropriate hazard assessment techniques; design and maintain a safe facility taking steps necessary to prevent accidental releases; and minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.
In response to the accident and to maintain a safe facility, Blue Rhino instituted multiple changes at the plant. These changes included the purchase and installation of new equipment for accident prevention and mitigation, revised training programs, a process hazard analysis for the storage yard, and a designated safe “Vent Zone.” Blue Rhino also revised a number of its standard operating procedures to specify, among other things, that bleeder screws can only be opened in the designated “Vent Zone” and to ensure that a cylinder is empty before a valve is removed.
12 New Environmental Justice Lawsuits Target Polluters in New Jersey’s Lower-Income and Minority Communities
NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced the filing of 12 new environmental enforcement actions targeting polluters across New Jersey whose actions threaten the health and safety of residents in minority and lower-income communities in Newark, Orange, South Orange, Paterson, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Hillside, Fairton and Upper Deerfield Township.
These lawsuits are a part of the State’s comprehensive justice agenda to address harms disproportionately affecting the public and environmental health of New Jersey’s low-income, non-English speaking and minority residents. They come as New Jersey residents confront the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented public health crisis that has unduly burdened these communities.
Many of the properties that are the subject of today’s complaints have pollutants known to contribute to health problems including respiratory tract irritation, chronically reduced lung function, kidney problems, neurological disorders and certain cancers, which may only exacerbate COVID-19 risks.
Since announcement of the State’s environmental justice initiative in 2018, Attorney General Grewal and Commissioner McCabe have filed numerous lawsuits, making New Jersey a national leader in environmental justice enforcement.
“In New Jersey, we’re committed to our pathbreaking approach to environmental enforcement, which ensures that our efforts to clean up our environment will also serve our comprehensive justice agenda for low-income communities and communities of color,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Today’s twelve lawsuits, filed in cities and towns across our state, are a reflection of that commitment to environmental justice principles. The scourge of COVID-19 has put a harsh spotlight on the way environmental injustices affect our basic health, and we’re going to do the hard work necessary to protect communities from dumping, contamination and other illegal activities. The message to New Jersey residents should be clear: everyone, and I really mean everyone, deserves to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment.”
“The actions the DEP is taking today exemplify the Murphy Administration’s deep commitment to principles of environmental justice and equity that strengthen all of our communities, especially those most vulnerable to environmental harm,” said Commissioner McCabe. “Together, we are holding accountable those who, by design or circumstance, disproportionately harm the environment and communities of our low-income and minority neighbors. The lawsuits complement the many ways that we pursue environmental justice, standing with every New Jersey community and for the shared natural resources that unite us.”
As the accompanying fact sheet describes, the complaints filed seek to address a host of environmental threats across the state in low-income and minority communities, and are brought under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, Water Pollution Control Act, Air Pollution Control Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Industrial Site Recovery Act and Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.
The 12 cases involve a broad range of harmful contamination including such hazardous substances as arsenic, copper, lead, petroleum hydrocarbons, gasoline, waste motor oil, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), and semi-volatile organic compounds.
The complaints seek a variety of remedies, including clean-up of contaminated properties and compliance with all outstanding DEP orders, payment of damages and penalties, reimbursement to the State for clean-up costs expended to date and, in certain instances, natural resource damages.
As outlined in the accompanying Fact Sheet, these actions include:
  • Former Penick Corp./Unilever, Newark: Natural Resource Damage (NRD) case, which involves groundwater contamination. Based on elevated concentrations of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and various metals. Defendants include: Penick Corp., Penick Realty, LLC, and Unilever United States, Inc.
  • American Fabric Processors, Paterson: Emissions of volatile organic chemicals and NOx, and failure to perform required emissions tests. Defendants include American Fabric and two corporate officers, David and Jacob Binson.
  • Deerfield Organics, Upper Deerfield Township: Contaminated storm-water discharge. Prior owner improperly disposed of solid waste from recycling operations by burying the waste on-site, which has not been addressed by current owner. Defendants include Deerfield Organics, Nature’s Choice Recycling, and Harvest Garden State.
  • 1576 Maple/Road Runner Fuel, Hillside: Elevated levels of dry cleaning chemicals PCE and TCE in the groundwater and indoor air (1576 Maple) and an unremoved underground storage tank system and gasoline discharge contamination (Road Runner Fuel). Defendants include Irfan Hassan; Little Mason Properties, LLC; Astro Cleaners; 1576 Maple Avenue Associates, LLC; and Road Runner Fuel Services, LLC.
  • Friends Gas Station, Newark: Gasoline-contaminated soil. Defendants include Little Mason Properties, LLC; Hassan and Friends Gas.
  • Delta Gas Station, South Orange: Gasoline discharge contamination. Defendants include Wayne Sanford and Sanford Service, owners and operators at the time of the discharges, alongside current owner Little Mason Properties, LLC.
  • Adolfo Auto Repair, Paterson: Failure to investigate and address potential petroleum product contamination. Owner removed two deteriorating underground tanks containing sediment and water/petroleum sludge years ago without a site investigation to identify any discharges of hazardous substances; still has not performed one. Defendant is Adolfo Gonzalez.
  • 43-45 South Center Street, LLC (Orange Automotive): Gasoline and waste oil contamination. Owner failed to comply with 2019 order to remediate the contamination caused by discharges from multiple underground storage tanks. Defendant is 43-45 South Center, LLC.
  • Heba Auto Repair, Jersey City: Gasoline contamination. Underground storage tanks removed without necessary permits; site is alleged to have been back-filled with gasoline-contaminated soil. Owners not complying with DEP site investigation/remediation orders. Defendants are Fathi Hassanein and Alia Hassanein.
  • Hyman’s Automotive and Hyman Concreate & Construction, Fairfield Township: The issues the State is seeking to address include oil and hazardous fluids leaking from junk cars, and illegally stored and burned piles of wood and concrete. Defendants include Ennis Hyman, Gerald Hyman, and Hyman Concrete and Construction, LLC.
  • 125 Monitor Street JC, LLC, Jersey City: Soil and groundwater contamination, including with arsenic, copper, lead, petroleum, PCE and TCE. Defendant is 125 Monitor Street JC, LLC.
  • Elizabeth Bolt and Nut, Elizabeth: Lead and petroleum contamination from industrial processes spanning decades. Defendants include Elizabeth Bolt & Nut Manufacturing Corporation, the Estate of Rose Haskell, Stemple Corporation, and current owner Aquaserv Bottled Water Service, Inc.
These filings are the latest in a series of environmental enforcement and environmental justice actions taken by Attorney General Grewal and Commissioner McCabe over the past 2+ years. Among other things, they have:
  • Filed dozens of environmental justice lawsuits, encompassing a wide array of lower-income and mostly-minority communities across New Jersey, and developed a new Environmental Enforcement and Environmental Justice Section in the AG’s Office.
  • Filed 11 Natural Resource Damages cases—the first in more than a decade—including cases against:
    • E.I. DuPont de Nemours, including for pollution in Pompton Lakes and in Chambers Works;
    • Exxon-Mobil, for pollution at its Lail facility in Gloucester County; and
    • Manufacturers and distributors of a toxic family of chemicals known as “PFAS” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
  • Filed a series of enforcement actions against polluters, including those responsible for:
    • A solid waste dump in Vernon Township, Sussex County (Feb. 2019);
    • A solid waste dump in Plumsted Township, Ocean County (Aug. 2019);
    • Odor pollution in the Ironbound section of Newark (Sept. 2019).
  • Filed lawsuits against the federal government to:
    • Prohibit offshore drilling off the New Jersey coast;
    • Prevent the Trump Administration from rolling back critical federal rules that address climate change, clean air, and clean water;
    • To ensure the US EPA fulfills its duty to reduce out-of-state ozone pollution entering New Jersey.
Photographs of the sites involved with the environmental justice announcement are available here.
Reliable Electroplating, Inc. Penalized, Required to Upgrade Onsite Industrial Wastewater Treatment System
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has assessed a $13,123 penalty to Reliable Electroplating, Inc. of Norton in response to violations related to the treatment of hazardous waste at its 304 West Main Street facility. The facility utilized evaporation as a process to treat some hazardous waste streams generated by its electroplating operations without obtaining a license for utilizing that treatment in its onsite industrial wastewater system.
MassDEP identified the violations based on site inspections conducted in 2018 and subsequent review of records during 2019. At the time of inspection, the facility failed to accurately identify waste generated by the plating activity as hazardous, specifically the ion exchange regeneration waste, spent acid and caustic cleaning baths, and the rinses from precious metal plating lines.
“The facility has recognized the importance of complying with applicable permit requirements and, as such, has agreed to complete a redesign of its industrial wastewater treatment system in order to address the violations,” said Millie Garcia-Serrano, Director of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville. “When the redesign is implemented, the facility will meet all Massachusetts laws, regulations and requirements.”
In addition to paying the penalty, Reliable Electroplating will submit a plan to MassDEP for its approval, prepared by a Massachusetts registered professional engineer, that details the changes. Additionally, the company will complete the installation of its redesigned onsite industrial wastewater system within 10 months of MassDEP’s plan approval.
Late and Underestimated Spill Report Results in $28K Fine
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced that it has assessed penalties to Springfield-based Brown Bear Transportation, LLC, and Franklin-based Regency Transportation, Inc. for violating the oil spill notification and response regulations following a spill of diesel fuel at Regency Transportation’s facility in July, 2019.
Brown Bear Transportation was fined $15,000, which includes a requirement to perform a supplemental environmental project, while Regency Transportation was fined $13,000.
“It is imperative that commercial fuel oil carriers and fuel oil tank owners notify MassDEP in a timely way of any releases of oil to the environment,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Working with MassDEP to quickly address any potential threats greatly minimizes actual harm to the public and the environment.”
On July 2, 2019, Brown Bear Transportation delivered a load of diesel fuel to the Regency facility at 5 Kenwood Circle in Franklin, resulting in an accidental overfill of a 12,000-gallon fuel storage tank and a release of fuel to the pavement and ground surrounding the tank. An 8,000-gallon delivery was added to 4,500 gallons already in the tank, resulting in a spill of more than 200 gallons. However, the companies initially estimated the spill at just 6-8 gallons and failed to timely notify MassDEP of the release until the following day, despite a requirement to notify the agency of such a spill within two hours. The diesel fuel was eventually cleaned up.
Under the terms of consent orders with each company, Brown Bear Transportation must pay $5,000 of the $15,000 and perform a supplemental environmental project amounting to $10,000, in which the company will sponsor oil spill training seminars with local fire departments and first-responders in Franklin and in the Worcester area. Regency Transportation must pay its penalty of $13,000.
Environmental Resource Center Update
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. To continue to serve you, our seminars have been converted to live online webcasts. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
If you have enrolled in a seminar in September through December, in many cases the seminar will be held on approximately the same dates and at the same times via online webcast. We will contact you by phone or email regarding the details on how to attend the class. On-site training and consulting services are proceeding as usual. If you wish to convert these to remote services, please call your Environmental Resource Center representative or customer service at 800-537-2372.
Because many of our live and on-site training sessions have been postponed or canceled, we have staff available to assist you in coping with COVID-19 as well as your routine EHS requirements. If you have EHS staff that have been quarantined, we can provide remote assistance to help you meet your ongoing environmental and safety compliance requirements. For details, call 800-537-2372 x 239.
O’Reilly Auto Parts Cited for Unsafe COVID Workplace Conditions
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) cited a Santa Fe business for violations of the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, resulting in an unsafe workplace.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts store at 4715 Airport Road in Santa Fe did not ensure employees wore face coverings during an NMED inspection in early July, in violation of state law, public health orders and COVID-Safe Practices and exposing the five employees working in close proximity to one another in the sales area to the imminent danger of COVID-19. The store also did not encourage or post signage urging customers to wear face coverings while inside the store, further endangering employees.
An NMED inspector observed during subsequent inspections that the store appears to have corrected these violations.
“Everyone in New Mexico deserves a safe place to work,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “When employers do not take steps to protect employees from COVID-19 or other workplace hazards, we will hold them accountable.”
The business must pay $79,200 in penalties and provide documentation that the violations have been corrected. O’Reilly Auto Parts has the option to contest the citation and penalty.
Energy Companies Fined Over $7 Million for Air Permit Violations
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued administrative compliance orders to DCP Operating Company, LP (DCP) and Energy Transfer Partners for violations of air permits at natural gas plants in southeast New Mexico.
Four of DCP’s facilities in southeast New Mexico were cited for emitting more than 1.6 million pounds of pollutants between May 2017 and August 2018. Energy Transfer Partners was cited for emitting approximately 3.1 million pounds of emissions in excess of their permit limits at its Jal #3 Gas Plant between January 2017 and August 2018. The Compliance Orders include assessments of civil penalties in the amount of $3.3 million to DCP and $4 million to Energy Transfer Partners.
“NMED is committed to holding polluters accountable, full stop,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “In this administration, compliance is front and center, and our Department will pursue enforcement action when appropriate to address past violations.”
To remedy the violations, the companies must immediately comply with all air permit emission limits and applicable regulations.
Failure to comply with permitted emissions limits results in emissions of harmful levels of air pollutants that can impact public health and the environment, including contributing to the formation of ground- level ozone and other hazardous air quality conditions.
Asphalt adds to air pollution, especially on hot, sunny days
Asphalt is a near-ubiquitous substance — it’s found in roads, on roofs and in driveways — but its chemical emissions rarely figure into urban air quality management plans. A new study finds that asphalt is a significant source of air pollutants in urban areas, especially on hot and sunny days.
Yale researchers observed that common road and roofing asphalts produced complex mixtures of organic compounds, including hazardous pollutants, in a range of typical temperature and solar conditions. The results of their work, from the lab of Drew Gentner, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering, appear Sept. 2 in the journal Science Advances.
Decades of research about and regulations of emissions from motor vehicles andother combustion-related sources have resulted in improved urban air quality. But recent studies show that as those efforts succeeded, numerous non-combustion-related sources have become important contributors of organic compounds. These can lead to secondary organic aerosol (SOA), a major contributor of PM2.5 — an important regulated air pollutant comprising particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter — that have significant effects on public health.
The researchers collected fresh asphalt and heated it to different temperatures. “A main finding is that asphalt-related products emit substantial and diverse mixtures of organic compounds into the air, with a strong dependence on temperature and other environmental conditions,” said Peeyush Khare, a graduate student in Gentner’s lab and lead author of the study.
After some time, the emissions at summer temperatures leveled out, but they persisted at a steady rate — suggesting there are long-term, continued emissions from asphalt in real-world conditions. “To explain these observations, we calculated the expected rate of steady emissions and it showed that the rate of continued emissions was determined by the time it takes for compounds to diffuse through the highly viscous asphalt mixture,” Gentner said.
They also examined what happens when asphalt is exposed to moderate solar radiation and saw a significant jump in emissions — up to 300% for road asphalt — demonstrating that solar radiation, and not only temperature, can increase emissions.
“That’s important from the perspective of air quality, especially in hot, sunny summertime conditions,” Khare said.
Paved surfaces and roofs make up approximately 45% and 20% of surfaces in U.S. cities, respectively. The researchers estimated the potential total emissions and formation of SOA in Los Angeles, a key city for urban air quality case studies.
Because of the types of compounds asphalt emits, its potential SOA formation is comparable to motor vehicle emissions in Los Angeles, the researchers said — implying that finding ways to make roads more environmentally friendly is as important as doing the same for cars and trucks. Gentner noted, though, that the effect of asphalt emissions on ozone formation was minimal compared to that of motor vehicles and volatile chemicals in personal care and cleaning products — another key emerging source of reactive organic emissions that produces large quantities of SOA in urban areas.
Gentner emphasized that asphalt is just one piece in the puzzle of urban SOA. “It's another important non-combustion source of emissions that contributes to SOA production, among a class of sources that scientists in the field are actively working to constrain better,” he said.
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