November 11, 2019
Vaping is the number one method for high school student consumption of nicotine, and it is almost as prevalent in adults. While the health implications of vaping are just now becoming understood, regulations on disposal of vaping waste are in their infancy.
Washing state’s Department of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program (HWTR) has just published an interim policy
for disposal of nicotine and THC-containing vaping wastes. HWTRissued this policy in response to emergency rule Chapter 246-80 WAC banning the sale of flavored vapor products. The policy has been filed with the Washington state Code Reviser’s office, and is expected to be published by November 20, 2019.
This policy provides regulatory guidance to retailers disposing of vapor wastes, and guidance for hazardous waste service providers, brokers, transporters and permitted treatment, storage and disposal facilities(TSD) on how to handle these wastes. This interim policy is in effect from October 10, 2019 to February 7, 2020. Additional information may be found here
on Ecology’s website.
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Ethylene Oxide Emission Reduction Proposed by EPA
EPA is working on a suite of actions to address ethylene oxide by announcing proposed amendments to the Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
(NESHAP), known as MON, to reduce hazardous air pollutants, including ethylene oxide. The Agency is also continuing work to address ethylene oxide from commercial sterilizers; working closely with other federal partners such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address medical device supplies; and providing an update on its work to better understand ethylene oxide – in particular, work to characterize air concentrations of this chemical.
“EPA’s actions underscore the Trump Administration’s commitment to addressing and reducing hazardous air pollutants, including ethylene oxide emissions, across the country,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The proposed MON amendments represent the first regulatory action that EPA is taking to address ethylene oxide under our two-pronged approach to reduce emissions. This proposal would reduce other hazardous air pollutants from our nation’s air, while providing improved compliance measures for industry.”
The proposed MON amendments are expected to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants from the source category by 116 tons per year, which includes a 93% reduction in ethylene oxide emissions from covered facilities. The proposal addresses EPA’s obligation under the Clean Air Act to conduct the residual risk and technology (RTR) review for the miscellaneous organic chemical manufacturing source category. EPA has evaluated the risks posed by air toxics from this source category and has determined cancer risks for this source category to be unacceptable. To reduce risks to an acceptable level, EPA is proposing additional requirements for process vents, storage tanks, and equipment in ethylene oxide service. In addition to reducing ethylene oxide emissions, the MON amendments would include updates to requirements for flares, heat exchange systems, and equipment leaks. These proposed requirements would further reduce emission of air toxics for these covered facilities. EPA is taking comment on all aspects of this proposal and will hold public hearings in early December in Washington, DC and Houston, TX. A separate notice will provide details on the hearings shortly.
To further explain the uncertainties in the estimated cancer risks from ethylene oxide, EPA is also posting the Memorandum: Sensitivity of ethylene oxide risk estimates to dose-response model selection, which explores the various dose-response models evaluated in the ethylene oxide carcinogenicity assessment. This information provides important context for interpreting the risk results from the Residual Risk Assessment developed in support of this proposal.
EPA has been taking steps to address ethylene oxide emissions after EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, issued in 2018, found that ethylene oxide emissions may be contributing to potentially elevated cancer risk in some areas around the country. Since then, EPA has been taking a two-pronged approach to evaluate these emissions. First, the agency is reviewing existing Clean Air Act regulations for industrial facilities that emit ethylene oxide. Second, because the process for revising our regulations takes time, EPA is gathering additional information on ethylene oxide emissions and is working with state and local air agencies to determine whether more immediate emission reduction steps may be warranted. By working with our state and local partners, we seek to identify opportunities to achieve early emission reductions.
In addition to the proposed RTR for the MON, EPA is also reviewing the NESHAP for Ethylene Oxide Commercial Sterilization and Fumigation Operations. EPA intends to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to outline potential approaches and gather comments and data. The ANPRM will seek information on several key topics, including possible approaches to calculate and control fugitive emissions; potential improvements to EtO monitoring technologies; and process differences between types of sterilization facilities. EPA also will issue a survey under Clean Air Act section 114 to gather information from several commercial sterilization companies on facility characteristics, control devices, work practices and costs for emission reductions. Our efforts are intended to inform a potential future proposed rule for ethylene oxide commercial sterilizers in the coming months.
EPA is also working with other government agencies to better understand ethylene oxide, including participating in an FDA advisory committee meeting November 6-7, 2019, to discuss how best to advance innovations in medical device sterilization. FDA is actively working with sterilization experts, medical device manufacturers, and other government agencies to advance innovative ways to sterilize medical devices with lower levels of currently used agents, and employ new agents or alternatives, while maintaining device safety and effectiveness. In addition, FDA released a statement
regarding “concerns with medical device availability due to certain sterilization facility closures” on October 25, 2019.
EPA is also beginning to examine the question of whether ethylene oxide is present more broadly in the air in the U.S., and if so, at what levels. As part of this work, the Agency has begun to analyze available air quality samples from a subset of existing, longstanding monitors in the National Air Toxics Trends Stations (NATTS) network and the Urban Air Toxics Monitoring Program (UATMP) network
to determine whether ethylene oxide was present in the air at those locations. These networks, which are not focused on specific industrial sources, are designed to help track progress in reducing air toxics across the country. They include monitoring locations in both urban and rural areas. EPA analyzed samples from the subset of these monitors that send samples to EPA’s national contract laboratory for analysis. The results confirmed the presence of ethylene oxide, with six-month averages ranging from about 0.2 to about 0.4 micrograms per cubic meter. The Agency stated that it believes that there is no immediate, short-term risk from the levels of ethylene oxide found in these limited air monitoring data, but that there is a need to better understand low levels of ethylene oxide over a longer-term period. EPA will continue to collect information from its existing air monitoring networks and share data as it becomes available. To this end, EPA has added ethylene oxide to the list of air toxics that will be routinely monitored at all 34 sites in the NATTS and UATMP networks.
is one of 187 hazardous air pollutants regulated by the EPA. Ethylene oxide is a flammable, colorless gas used to make other chemicals that are used in making a range of products, including antifreeze, textiles, plastics, detergents, and adhesives. Ethylene oxide also is used to sterilize equipment and plastic devices that cannot be sterilized by steam, such as medical equipment. In 2016, EPA updated its risk value for ethylene oxide. The agency is working with state, local and tribal air agencies to address this chemical.
Upcycling Polyethylene Plastic Waste into Lubricant Oils
Plastics pervade almost every aspect of modern life, but once they have served their purpose, it’s tough to get rid of them. That’s because the polymers degrade very slowly in landfills or the environment, and recycling is inefficient. Now researchers reporting in ACS Central Science
have developed a catalyst that can transform polyethylene –– the type of plastic used to make grocery bags and other packaging –– into high-quality liquid products, such as motor oils and waxes.
Hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are produced worldwide each year, and the majority of these materials are discarded after a single use. Most end up in landfills or the environment. Because of technical challenges, even the plastic that does get recycled typically generates materials that are of lower quality and value than the original polymer. Kenneth Poeppelmeier, Aaron Sadow, Massimiliano Delferro and colleagues wanted to develop a catalyst that could be used to selectively upcycle polyethylene into high-quality, value-added products.
The researchers deposited platinum nanoparticles onto a strontium titanate support. At moderate pressure and temperature, this catalyst cleaved carbon-carbon bonds in polyethylene to produce high-quality liquid hydrocarbons. These liquids could be used as motor oil, lubricants or waxes, or further processed to make ingredients for detergents and cosmetics. The new catalyst preferentially bound and cleaved longer hydrocarbon chains, so that the products were all of a similar, intermediate size. In contrast, a commercially available catalyst generated lower-quality products with a broader size range and many short hydrocarbons, limiting the products’ usefulness.
Combatting Air Pollution with Nature
Air pollution is composed of particles and gases that can have negative impacts on both the environment and human health. Technologies to mitigate pollution have become widespread in recent years, but scientists are now exploring a new, pared-down approach: using nature to restore ecological balance. They report their findings in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology
In the decades since the Clean Air Act of 1970, air quality across the U.S. has improved dramatically. However, according to the American Lung Association, four in 10 people in the U.S. still live in areas with poor air quality, which can result in serious health effects such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Technology to control and remove pollutants can be costly and often requires a great deal of energy. As an alternative, researchers are looking to nature-based solutions (NBS), a form of sustainable infrastructure that uses natural, rather than manufactured, elements. NBS are adaptable, cost-effective and can support native wildlife, making it a truly “green” solution in combatting pollution and climate change. To better understand the feasibility of NBS to reduce pollution, Bhavik Bakshi and colleagues wanted to perform a data-driven analysis.
The researchers used publicly available data and calculated factors, such as current vegetation cover, county-level emissions from air pollutants and land area available for restoration, to determine the potential benefits of NBS across the U.S. Next, they calculated the financial aspect of implementing NBS to mitigate various air pollutants. The team found that in 75% of counties analyzed, it was more economical to use nature-based solutions for mitigating emissions than to implement technological interventions. Counties that were not strong candidates for NBS either did not have enough available land, or the cost of technological methods was less than that of restoration. Overall, the researchers found that both urban and rural populations could benefit from NBS, though many environmental factors should be considered before putting the approach into practice.
Dow to Pay $77 Million to Settle Dioxin Release
Under a proposed settlement announced
by the United States, the State of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, The Dow Chemical Company will implement and fund an estimated $77 million in natural resource restoration projects intended to compensate the public for injuries to natural resources caused by the release of hazardous substances from Dow’s Midland, Michigan facility. The proposed settlement, which was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is subject to public comment and to approval by the court.
According to a complaint filed on behalf of federal, state and tribal natural resource trustees, Dow released dioxin-related compounds and other hazardous substances from its Midland, Michigan, facility, and such releases caused injuries to natural resources. The complaint alleges that hazardous substances from Dow’s facility adversely affected fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals, contributed to the adoption of health advisories to limit consumption of certain wild game and fish, and resulted in soil contact advisories in certain areas including some public parks.
The settlement identifies a number of specific natural resource restoration projects that will be implemented in different parts of Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties, consistent with provisions of a natural resource restoration plan developed by designated natural resource trustees, including the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs; the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and Department of Attorney General; and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
Dow will implement eight natural resource restoration projects described in the settlement at the company’s expense, subject to oversight and approval by the natural resource trustees. In addition, Dow will pay $6.75 million, plus interest, to a Restoration Account that will used by Trustees to fund five other restoration projects described in the settlement.
The settlement also requires Dow to pay another $15 million, plus interest that will be used by the Trustees for various purposes. At least $5 million of this funding will be used to support implementation of additional natural resource restoration projects that will be selected by the trustees in the future, after a separate opportunity for public input on restoration project proposals. This funding will also be used to cover costs of long-term monitoring and maintenance of restoration projects under the settlement, as well as costs that the Trustees will incur in overseeing restoration projects.
Finally, Dow is required to reimburse costs previously incurred by federal and state trustees in connection with the assessment of natural resource damages relating to Dow’s releases.
“Today’s settlement is good news for communities in this region, and it builds upon ongoing cleanup efforts under the direction and supervision of the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy,” said Principal Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The extensive habitat restoration provisions of this settlement will help accelerate recovery of natural resources over a large area where resources have been adversely impacted as a result of decades of exposure to Dow’s hazardous substances.”
“With this settlement, the natural resources in the Saginaw Bay area will be restored through the creation of natural habitat areas, nature preserves, hiking and biking trails, and greater access for fishing, hunting, and canoeing,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. “We are thankful to Dow and the trustees for their work in reaching this excellent result, which will benefit the residents of the Saginaw Bay area and the wildlife and waterfowl that inhabit it.”
“The settlement requires Dow to implement and fund restoration projects outlined in a draft restoration plan that will benefit fish and wildlife and provide increased outdoor recreation opportunities for the American public,” said Charles Wooley, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This restoration work can now begin even while separate, ongoing clean-up efforts continue.”
“The trustees are working to compensate the public for past and expected future losses to recreational fishing, park use and hunting as a result of public health advisories issued because of releases from Dow’s Midland facility,” said Michigan DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “We appreciate being at the table to ensure that the citizens of Michigan are appropriately compensated for resource damage, and we look forward to continuing to improve the natural resources, wildlife and fisheries opportunities for people within these areas.”
“In addition to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement, the State is simultaneously resolving some claims with Dow that will result in both the funding and the property to support two additional projects that benefit the community,” said Michigan EGLE Director Liesl Eichler Clark. “These projects include a docking facility and education center to bolster BaySail’s environmental science program and the renovation of the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse to allow public use.”
The restoration projects described in the settlement compensate the public for injuries to natural resources, including lost uses of natural resources by recreational anglers, park users, and hunters, by improving habitat for fish and game species, and through creating new – or improving existing – habitat areas that also provide public access to natural resources in and around the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.
Several restoration projects under the settlement will benefit fishery resources through measures that include construction of fish spawning areas in Saginaw Bay, construction of a rock ramp or similar structure to promote increased fish passage over a dam situated at Dow’s Midland facility and improvements to water control structures in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.
Other projects will enhance and preserve natural habitat on thousands of acres of property. Several projects will include planting native species and using natural seedbeds to restore diverse types of suitable natural habitats in areas that currently provide limited habitat value to wildlife. Some projects include provisions for creation of new wetland habitat or enhancement of existing wetland areas. One project will preserve an extensive green corridor along the Tittabawassee River that will be beneficial to wildlife.
Several of the restoration projects will establish publicly accessible nature areas that will provide increased opportunities for recreational use and enjoyment of restored natural resources, through establishment of amenities such as nature trails, fishing platforms, and a bike trail. One of the projects will support increased recreational boating and fishing in Saginaw River and Bay by expanding an existing boat launch facility at the mouth of the Saginaw River.
In addition to resolving natural resource damage claims against Dow, the proposed settlement also incorporates an agreement, exclusively between the State and Dow, that would waive potential State claims for recovery of a limited set of response costs identified in the settlement, in exchange for Dow’s commitment to implement two other projects along the lower Saginaw River that are not part of the Trustees’ proposed natural resource restoration program.
The settlement does not address Dow’s liability to clean up contamination from the Midland facility. Dow has been addressing certain offsite contamination from the Midland facility under a series of administrative orders issued by the EPA. Much of that effort to date has focused on contamination within the Tittabawassee River or in riverbank and floodplain areas adjacent to the river. At this point, EPA mandated cleanup activity is continuing in and along the Tittabawassee River and then downstream into the Saginaw River. Dow has also been addressing other contamination related to the Midland facility under the direction of EGLE. The settlement reserves all rights of the United States and the State to require Dow to continue and complete cleanup of contamination from the Midland facility.
Similarly, except for the limited waiver of State response costs referred to above, the settlement does not resolve Dow’s liability to reimburse the government’s for costs they incur in responding to contamination from the Midland facility.
Finally, the proposed settlement will resolve potential claims by Dow against the United States for recovery of a portion of any natural resource damage expenses and cleanup costs relating to any past or future releases of hazardous substances from the Midland facility. Dow contends that the United States is liable for a portion of these costs, based primarily on federal involvement in WWII era production activities at the Midland facility.
Concurrently with the settlement, trustees released for public comment a draft restoration plan that will guide restoration activities carried out in response to contamination from Dow’s Midland facility. Restoration activities under the settlement must be consistent with the final restoration plan adopted by the Trustees.
The natural resource trustees assessed injuries to natural resources under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration program, which aims to compensate the public for past, present and future loss of fish, wildlife habitat and use of natural areas resulting from releases of contaminants into the environment.
As part of this program, the trustees identify parties responsible for contamination and either litigate or negotiate settlements to fund restoration actions.
The Dow facility in Midland, Michigan, began operating in 1897. Chemical production through the years resulted in the generation of waste products, including dioxins, which were released into the Tittabawassee River.
These chemical waste products contaminated the Tittabawassee River and its floodplains and moved into the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay. The natural resources settlement is separate from the ongoing cleanup of the area being implemented by Dow under the direction of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the EPA.
Under this settlement, restoration work can begin within the watershed, while cleanup efforts in and along the rivers continue.
The Department of Justice will publish a Federal Register Notice advising the public of the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed Consent Decree, as well as on the Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment, within 45 days from the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. A copy of the Federal Register Notice will be posted at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/TittabawasseeRiverNRDA/
Comments on the Consent Decree may be submitted to the Department of Justice at email@example.com or Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. DOJ – ENRD, P.O. Box 7611, Washington, D.C. 20044-7611.
Comments on Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment may submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or Lisa Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI. 48823.
The U.S. Attorney will join trustees at a public meeting to provide more information on the plan and to answer questions at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Four Points by Sheraton Saginaw, 4960 Towne Centre Road in Saginaw.
Michigan Company and Its Owner Sentenced for Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste
Electro-Plating Services Inc. (EPS), located in Madison Heights, Michigan, was sentenced in federal court in Detroit to five years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution of $1,449,963.94 joint and several with Gary Sayers to the EPA. Sayers, EPS’s owner, was sentenced to one year in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The Honorable Stephen J. Murphy issued the sentence, having accepted each of their pleas of guilty to a federal hazardous waste storage felony on Feb. 14, 2019.
The crime related to Sayers’s operation of EPS, which used chemicals such as cyanide, chromium, nickel, chloride, trichloroethylene, and various acids and bases, as part of the plating process. After these chemicals no longer served their intended purpose, they became hazardous wastes, which required handling in compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Rather than having EPS’s hazardous wastes legally transported to a licensed hazardous waste facility, Sayers stored the hazardous waste in numerous drums and other containers, including a pit dug into the ground in the lower level of the EPS building in Madison Heights. For years, Sayers stonewalled state efforts to get him to legally deal the hazardous wastes. Ultimately, the EPA’s Superfund program spent $1,449,963.94 to clean up and dispose of the hazardous wastes.
“This case shows that anyone who chooses to do business with dangerous materials must obey federal laws that protect our fellow Americans and the environment. These defendants’ knowing, illegal storage of waste cyanide, highly corrosive wastes, toxic chromium waste, and reactive wastes posed a significant danger and threat to nearby communities and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “They disregarded the law and numerous warnings and requests by state authorities to comply with their legal obligations. The Department of Justice will act to protect public health and safety.”
“The improper storage of hazardous waste presents a significant danger to our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. “EPS blatantly disregarded the safety of our community and environment. We hope this case will serve as notice to other businesses that law enforcement will take all necessary action to ensure compliance with our environmental laws and protect the people of Michigan.”
“Hazardous wastes pose serious risks to the health of entire communities, so it’s imperative they be handled and disposed of safely and legally,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear signal that EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to the protection of public health and will continue to pursue those who blatantly undermine those efforts.”
According to court records, Sayers—who owned and was the President of EPS—knew that such storage was illegal and had managed the company’s former Detroit facility where he kept hazardous wastes illegally. Starting in 1996, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) repeatedly sent him warnings about his illegal handling of hazardous waste. In 2005, Sayers was charged with and pleaded guilty to illegally transporting hazardous wastes in state court. During the ensuing years, the MDEQ attempted to get Sayers and EPS to properly manage the amounts of hazardous wastes piling up at the Madison Heights location. The MDEQ issued numerous letters of warning and violation notices to the company regarding its hazardous wastes.
In 2016, the MDEQ identified over 5,000 containers of liquid and solid wastes at the Madison Heights location. That same year, the city of Madison Heights revoked the company’s occupancy permit. In January 2017, the EPA initiated a Superfund removal action, after determining that nature and threats posed by the stored hazardous waste required a time-critical response. The cleanup was completed in January 2018.
Assistant Attorney General Clark and U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider thanked EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Environmental Investigation Section for their work investigating this case, as well as the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE, formerly the MDEQ) and the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which provided investigative support. Senior Counsel Kris Dighe of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara D. Woodward of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.
PFASs From Ski Wax Bioaccumulate at Nordic Resort
With winter approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are looking forward to hitting the slopes. However, a recent study suggests that ski wax applied during winter months could have consequences that stretch to summer and beyond. Researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology
have found that certain perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) found in ski wax bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the food chain at a Nordic skiing area.
PFASs are used in a variety of consumer products, including ski waxes. When applied to skis, the compounds enhance the glide on the film of water between skis and snow. Recently, scientists have become concerned about the persistence, bioaccumulation and potential toxicity of PFASs in the environment. As a result, the U.S. and other countries have banned or limited use of the most worrisome forms, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctansulfonate (PFOS), but these stable compounds and other PFASs can remain in the environment for many years. Randi Grønnestad and colleagues wanted to examine the levels of various PFASs in soil, earthworms and bank voles, which are small rodents, at a skiing area in Norway.
The researchers collected soil and animal samples from the Granåsen Ski Center in Trondheim, Norway, and from a reference site –– a forested area not used for ski sports –– about 9 miles away. When the team analyzed PFAS levels in soil, they found that three individual PFASs were present at significantly higher levels at the ski area compared with the reference site. In earthworms, only two compounds were found at significantly higher levels at the ski resort. In contrast, bank voles from Granåsen had 5.7 times higher total PFAS levels in their livers and significantly higher levels of several long-chained PFASs found in ski waxes, including PFOS, than those at the reference site. Although the detected levels of all PFASs were far below toxicity thresholds, the observed bioaccumulation in earthworms and biomagnification of PFOS from worms to voles suggests that the compounds could accumulate at much higher levels in top predators, the researchers say.
TC Energy Corporation Issued Corrective Action Order for Keystone Pipeline Leak
On November 5, 2019, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration issued a Corrective Action Order
to TC Energy Corporation requiring the company to take corrective actions to protect the public, property, and the environment as a result of an October 30, 2019 leak involving 42,042 gallon oil release from its Keystone pipeline in North Dakota.
TC had been granted a Special Permit to operate the pipeline at a stress level of 80% of the steel pipe's specified minimum yield strength (SMYS), as opposed to the normal operating pressure for hazardous liquid pipelines of 72%. The permit required TC to more closely inspect and monitor the pipeline over its operational life than similar pipelines installed without a special permit. A blog on the troubled history of the pipeline can be found here
Water Gremlin Cited for Hazardous Waste Violations
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an administrative order to Water Gremlin
requiring the company to make changes to the way it manages hazardous waste at its White Bear Township facility. The new requirements were ordered after an MPCA investigation determined that Water Gremlin failed to comply with hazardous waste regulations that minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous waste at its White Bear Township facility.
On Oct. 11, 2019, the MPCA issued an alleged violations letter to Water Gremlin identifying violations discovered from three inspections in September 2019. The agency found leaks of hazardous waste containing lead and TCE on the facility’s floor, walls and equipment. In addition, cracks in the facility’s floor provided pathways for lead and TCE-contaminated materials to leak under the building into the subsoils. The MPCA’s investigation also found that Water Gremlin failed to stop releases of used oil to the environment. The company’s filtration equipment that removes soot and ash from exhaust fumes was releasing lead-contaminated used oil onto Water Gremlin’s pavement.
The MPCA’s administrative order laid out more than 20 specific requirements that Water Gremlin must complete to become fully compliant for its hazardous waste violations. Those requirements include cleaning up solid TCE- and lead-containing hazardous waste from its facility operation areas, and managing its hazardous waste streams by properly storing and labeling waste, working with law enforcement and emergency response teams to coordinate services in the event of a hazardous waste emergency and fixing its filtration equipment to prevent future contamination. Water Gremlin has already completed seven of the required actions. The full list of requirements is listed in the MPCA’s administrative order
On Aug. 22, 2019, the MPCA issued an administrative order prohibiting Water Gremlin from operating its solvent-coating operations after an investigation found TCE, tDCE and lead in the air, ground and surface water on the property. That administrative order remains in effect.
Two Permian Basin Oil and Gas Producers Cited for Air Quality Regulatory Violations
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued two Notices of Violation to Matador Production Company and Mewbourne Oil Company for violations of the state’s Air Quality Control Act and Federal Clean Air Act. The EPA has issued similar notices for these violations.
During an April 2019 inspections sweep in southeast New Mexico, NMED and EPA staff found violations of state and federal air quality laws at Mewbourne and Matador facilities. These violations include failure to capture emissions from storage vessels, failure to maintain pilot lights on flares, failure to comply with closed vent system requirements and failure to ensure natural gas is captured and not emitted to the atmosphere.
“We are committed to holding the oil and natural gas industry accountable for compliance with rules and permits,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Enforcement of state and federal standards is essential to protecting public and environmental health and creating a level playing field among operators.”
Failure to comply with state and federal air quality laws can result in uncontrolled emissions of volatile organic compounds, contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone and hazardous air pollutants.
A collateral benefit of compliance with these laws is a reduction in methane emissions. Methane, the key component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 84 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Oil and gas operations in New Mexico are a significant source of methane emissions in the state.
Precision Coating Fined $17,204 for Odor and Air Emission Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has assessed a $17,204 penalty to Precision Coating Co., Inc. for violating the Massachusetts Air Pollution Control regulations at its facility located at 51 Parmenter Road in Hudson.
During multiple site visits in 2018 and 2019 to the company's facility that spray-coats medical and industrial devices, MassDEP personnel confirmed neighbors' complaints of odors from the facility. During the MassDEP visits, agency personnel also observed visible stack emissions in excess of the MassDEP-issued air quality permit. The company is now investigating new air quality control techniques to reduce odors and particulate matter emissions.
Under a recently finalized consent order, Precision Coating will pay a $17,204 penalty, and the company will install a large activated-carbon control device and new spray booth exhaust filters to minimize the odors and particulate emissions to return to compliance with its air permit.
"Companies that discharge pollutants into the air must ensure that they are complying with their air quality permits to control odors that can affect local residents," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "Odors and visible emissions are clear indicators that a company's air pollution control systems are not functioning properly."
LANXESS Solutions US Inc. Granted Provisional Variance from Hazardous Waste Accumulation Period
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) has granted LANXESS Solutions US Inc. a provisional variance for a hazardous waste accumulation period so as not to violate applicable hazardous waste storage requirements. The need for the provisional variance is due to the shutdown of the facility for unplanned maintenance. In accordance with the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, the Agency issued a press release to give prompt notice to the public of the Agency's actions.
LANXESS Solutions US Inc., located in Mapleton, produces industrial organic chemicals. Hazardous wastes are generated from the manufacture and laboratory testing of the chemicals. This waste is stored in a 10,000-gallon storage tank at the facility. Standard operating procedure is to process this waste in an on-site hydrolysis unit, which renders the waste non-hazardous. The facility has been out of production since August 21, 2019, preventing the material from being rendered non-hazardous by the hydrolysis unit. The company requested the variance from its hazardous waste storage requirement as the material may have to remain at the site beyond its 90-day accumulation period.
LANXESS must continue to meet all other hazardous waste storage requirements. The storage tank is maintained and monitored in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements. The material will either be processed on-site or shipped off-site to an authorized treatment/disposal facility.
Environmental regulations allow a generator to seek an extension of the on-site accumulation period for up to 30 days from the Illinois EPA if hazardous waste must remain on-site for longer than 90 days due to unforeseen, temporary, and uncontrollable circumstances. The 90-day accumulation period end date for the storage tank is November 22, 2019. Illinois EPA has determined that such facts and circumstances exist in this situation and grants LANXESS Solutions US Inc. a provisional variance for a period of 30 days.
PBI-Gordon Cited for FIFRA Labeling Violations
EPA announced a settlement with PBI-Gordon Corporation (PBI) of Shawnee, Kansas, resolving alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA
) in Longmont, Colorado, and Monroe, Washington. Under the terms of a Consent Agreement and Final Order filed on November 5, PBI will pay a civil penalty of $79,000 to resolve the alleged violations.
“EPA’s pesticide laws ensure that consumers have clear and current information about products and how to use them safely,” said Suzanne Bohan, director of EPA’s regional enforcement program. “We will continue to secure compliance with labeling requirements that protect people from exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.”
The PBI-Gordon Corporation supplies herbicide products to approximately 60 distributors throughout the United States which package and sell lawn turf weed-and-feed products to retailers such as Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Walmart. As the registrant of these herbicides, PBI is responsible for ensuring its distributors are using the most current and complete pesticide labels to ensure protection of human health and the environment.
The settlement resulted from EPA-led inspections at PBI distributor facilities in Colorado and Washington. On June 9, 2015, EPA conducted an inspection at the Wolfkill facility in Monroe, Washington, and found the facility was packaging a weed-and-feed product with labels missing required information including precautionary language, directions and instructions for proper use, and current storage and disposal directions.
On July 29, 2016, EPA conducted an inspection at the Gro Tech II/Green-it Turf facility in Longmont, Colorado. EPA found the facility was distributing two PBI weed-and-feed products with outdated labels missing required storage and disposal directions.
FIFRA’s labeling requirements provide the public with important, current information on how to safely use, store and dispose of pesticide products.
EPA and Silver Bay Seafoods Settle Water Discharge Violations
Alaska-based seafood processor Silver Bay Seafoods, LLC has reached a settlement with the EPA over federal Clean Water Act discharge violations. EPA found violations of Silver Bay’s wastewater discharge permit during a routine inspection of its Sitka facility.
Following the inspection, EPA notified the company of the Clean Water Act violations and required Silver Bay Seafoods to complete a dive survey to assess seafloor conditions near its discharge pipe. The results of that survey, completed in 2017, revealed a 2.76-acre seafood waste pile – more than double the one-acre limit in their permit.
According to Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle, seafood processing can cause real damage to underwater ecosystems if permit limits aren’t maintained.
“Fish processing facilities have wastewater discharge permit limits for a reason,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “Local receiving waters can get inundated with fish entrails, blood, oil and other byproducts at levels they just can’t handle. Where seafood waste piles exceed permit requirements, companies must take swift action to reduce discharge volumes and comply with legal limits.”
Based on the dive survey findings, Silver Bay Seafoods took proactive measures to reduce discharge volumes and help reduce the size of the pile. In response to the dive survey, the company installed new treatment technology that decreased the volume of seafood waste they discharged by almost 90%.
The settlement with EPA calls for continued monitoring of the seafood waste pile and a more extensive assessment of environmental impacts if the pile size has not decreased to below the one-acre limit by December 2022. Silver Bay Seafoods also paid an $82,500 civil penalty.
Other Clean Water Act violations documented during EPA’s inspection included:
- Failure to monitor treatment system, sea surface and shoreline
- Failure to develop an adequate best management practices plan
- Failure to route seafood processing waste through a conveyance and treatment system
- Unauthorized discharges of oil, blood and foam
EPA’s Kowalski also noted that Silver Bay Seafoods undertook waste reduction measures and instituted new operating procedures prior to signing the EPA settlement.
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