Will Aerosol Cans Soon Be Universal Waste?

September 26, 2016

The EPA recently revealed the agency’s Strategy for Addressing the Retail Sector under RCRA’s Regulatory Framework. The strategy identifies EPA’s three-pronged approach to reduce the burden on managing retail products that are hazardous waste:

  • Issue policy, guidance, and rulemaking to ensure a better fit between RCRA regulations and the retail sector.
  • Research retail hazardous waste management practices and related issues in the area of reverse distribution, universal waste, and other challenges
  • Using the results of our evaluation and research, identify additional approaches to address outstanding RCRA retail sector issues if needed.

Many retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and others have found themselves subject to RCRA enforcement for the mismanagement of consumer products which, when disposed of, are classified as hazardous waste because they are ignitable (paints, solvents), corrosive (cleaners, hair dyes), reactive (fireworks), or toxic (pesticides, electronics, cosmetics).

The strategy identifies three activities that will impact not only retailers, but many other hazardous waste generators:

  • Classifying Aerosol Cans as Universal Waste: EPA is moving forward with plans to develop a proposed rule to identify aerosol cans as universal waste.
  • Guide to Recycling Aerosol Cans: EPA is working on a guidance document that will assist generators and recyclers with the recycling of this waste stream. The Agency anticipates that this guide will assist generators of aerosol cans and recyclers to increase their recycling of this ubiquitous waste stream.
  • Policy on Reverse Distribution: EPA plans to addresses the reverse distribution process for the retail sector as a whole. In doing so, EPA is working from the Agency’s understanding regarding the flow of consumer goods among different entities, as well as the roles/relationships of retailers, suppliers/vendors, reverse logistics centers and others with respect to unused/intact consumer goods that have become unsalable at retail stores for a variety of reasons and are moving through the reverse distribution system.

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on October 14 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US

Bring your questions to this live webcast. Click here to register online or call 800-537-2372.

Los Angeles Hazardous Waste, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Los Angeles, CA, on October 11–13 and save $100. Get the training you need to ship dangerous goods by air at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on October 14. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Raleigh 24-Hour HAZWOPER and DOT/IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Operations and Emergency Response 24-Hour Training in Cary, NC on October 17–19 and ensure you are ready to respond. Learn how to prepare hazardous materials/dangerous goods for shipment by ground and air at DOT/IATA: Transportation of Hazardous Materials by Ground and Air on October 20. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Knoxville RCRA and DOT Training

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

New DOT Requirements for Recalled Cell Phones and Batteries

On September 22, the DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a safety advisory notice to inform the public of the risks associated with transporting damaged, defective, or recalled lithium cells or batteries or portable electronic devices, including Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices recently recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) [Recall No. 16- 266].

In accordance with 49 CFR 173.21(c), electrical devices such as batteries and battery-powered devices, which are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat, are forbidden for transportation unless packaged in a manner which precludes such an occurrence. Therefore, passengers or crew may only transport on board an aircraft a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 subject to CPSC Recall no. 16-266 under the following conditions:

  • Turn off the device
  • Disconnect the device from any charging equipment
  • Disable all applications that could inadvertently activate the phone (e.g., alarm clock
  • Protect the power switch to prevent its unintentional activation
  • Keep the device in carry-on baggage or on your person (Do not place in checked baggage.)

Passengers or crew may only carry portable electronic devices on aircraft under the conditions of 49 CFR 175.10(a)(18). Except as detailed below, electrical devices, such as batteries and battery-powered devices, which are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat must not be transported in passenger or cargo aircraft, whether as cargo, carry-on, or in checked baggage, unless packaged in a manner, that would preclude such an occurrence.

On September 2, 2016, Samsung issued a statement to consumers regarding the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. According to CPSC, "Samsung has received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the U.S., including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage." Consequently, as a safety measure, CPSC has urged consumers to turn off, stop charging, and stop using these devices, and the FAA has advised such devices be turned off and not used or charged aboard aircraft and not be placed in checked baggage.

Lithium cells or batteries or portable electronic devices, that have been damaged or identified by the manufacturer as being defective for safety reasons, and have the potential of producing a dangerous evolution of heat, fire, or short circuit may only be transported by highway, rail, or vessel in accordance with the provisions of 49 CFR 173.185(f) or under the conditions of a Special Permit or Approval issued by PHMSA's Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety. See http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/approvals-permits for additional information on obtaining a Special Permit or Approval. For additional information please contact Kevin Leary at 202-366-8553 or the Hazardous Materials Information Center: 1-800-467-4922 or 202-366-4488.

Additional information is available at http://phmsa.dot.gov/safetravel/batteries, at Environmental Resource Center’s battery training, and through the FAA Pack Safe Web site (see http://www.faa.gov/Go/PackSafe). For additional information on returning your device to the manufacturer, please call 1-800-SAMSUNG or 1-800-726-7864. Remember, for additional information on the recall, see the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site at www.cpsc.gov.

Ohio to Revise Release Notification Requirements

Ohio’s State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) is making available for comment a draft of amended language in OAC rule 3750-25-25 and the associated Business Impact Document. The amendments are related to release reporting for oil and gas facilities and aligning the language to the Governor's Executive Order 2016-04K.

DAPC is proposing these changes to align the new rule language for reporting spills/releases at oil and gas facilities regulated under ORC 1509. The rule references a single point of contact (ODNR) and 1-844-0HCALL1 Hotline number for facilities to contact for state agency notification only. Notifications still will be made to the county Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and jurisdictional fire department.

These rules and supporting documentation are available for review. Please submit comments by Friday, October 21, 2016, to Jeffrey.beattie@epa.ohio.gov

EPA Releases New Document to Help Control Legionella Growth in Plumbing

EPA has released a document summarizing the scientific literature on controlling Legionella growth in plumbing found in buildings and facilities. People are exposed to Legionella when they inhale water droplets containing the bacteria. Exposure can lead to the development of a respiratory disease known as Legionellosis. With this document, states and facility owners and operators can make more informed risk management decisions to prevent or mitigate Legionella growth in premise plumbing.

National Assessment of Strategies to Reduce Air Pollution at Ports

An EPA report found that air pollution at the nation’s ports can be reduced significantly at all port types and sizes through a variety of strategies and cleaner technologies. Implementing these approaches, the report finds, would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and other harmful emissions from diesel-powered ships, trucks, and other port equipment.

The National Port Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at U.S. Ports” examines current and future emission trends from diesel engines in port areas, and explores the emissions reduction potential of strategies like replacing and repowering older, dirtier vehicles and engines and deploying zero emissions technologies.

“This report shows that there are many opportunities to reduce harmful pollution at ports that we know will work,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “This is great news for the roughly 39 million Americans who live and breathe near these centers of commerce.”

U.S. ports are set to expand significantly as international trade continues to grow, and the size of ships coming to ports increases. This growth means more diesel engines at ports emitting carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. These engines also emit fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that contribute to serious health problems including heart and lung disease, respiratory illness, and premature mortality. Children, older Americans, outdoor workers and individuals with respiratory and heart conditions can be especially vulnerable. Many ports are located in areas with a high percentage of low-income and minority populations, who bear the burden of higher exposure to diesel emissions.

Accelerating retirement of older port vehicles and equipment and replacing them with the cleanest technology will reduce emissions and increase public health benefits. For example, the report found replacing older drayage trucks with newer, cleaner diesel trucks can reduce NOx emissions by up to 48%, and particulate matter emissions by up to 62%, in 2020 when compared to continuing business as usual. In 2030, adding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to these fleets could yield even more NOx and PM2.5 relative reductions from drayage trucks.

The new assessment supports EPA’s Ports Initiative’s goals to reduce air pollution and GHGs, to achieve environmental sustainability for ports, and improve air quality for all Americans working in and living near our nation’s ports. Through this initiative, EPA is engaging a wide range of stakeholders including ports and port operators, communities, tribes, state and local governments, industry, and other technical and policy stakeholders. EPA developed this national scale assessment based on a representative sample of seaports, and the results could also inform decisions at other seaports, Great Lakes and inland river ports, and other freight and passenger facilities with similar profiles.

EPA’s regulations are already reducing port-related diesel emissions from trucks, locomotives, cargo handling equipment and ships. For example, the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea Emissions Control Areas require lower sulfur fuel to be used for large ocean-going vessels. This requirement has reduced fuel-based particulate-matter emissions from these vessels by about 90%. In addition, some port areas are already applying the emission reduction strategies assessed in the report. The emissions reduction strategies assessed in the report would make a significant difference in reaching the nation’s air quality goals, and would help reduce emissions of the GHGs that contribute to climate change.

Santa Ana Water Board Orders Cleanup of TCE Plume

The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board has adopted a settlement agreement and cleanup and abatement order for the remediation of a trichloroethylene (TCE) groundwater plume in Ontario, California, that has affected the groundwater supplies of area residents.

The cleanup order was issued to the cities of Ontario and Upland, as well as the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., The Boeing Company, General Electric Company, Lockheed Martin, and the United States Department of Defense. The parties worked together under the Santa Ana Water Board’s oversight to reach an agreement that addresses cleaning up the TCE plume, while continuing to supply replacement drinking water to residents whose private wells have been impacted.

“We required the multiple parties to get involved in addressing this problem while the Board actively oversaw their progress,” said Kurt Berchtold, executive officer for the Santa Ana Water Board. “All parties moved beyond assigning blame for the plume and have developed an effective solution that is in the best interest of the public.”

Trichloroethylene is a volatile organic compound that was widely used as an industrial degreasing and cleaning solvent starting in the mid-1940s. The use of TCE declined in the 1970s after environmental and economic concerns curtailed its use.

According to the Order, Ontario and Upland will take over providing an alternative water supply to affected residents, and IEUA will implement cleanup of the plume, which is located west of Interstate 15 and south of State Route 60 in Ontario. The remedy includes a collaborative effort between the public parties and the Chino Basin Desalter Authority (CDA) that leverages CDA’s planned expansion project. The companies—operating as ABGL, LLC—performed the earlier plume investigation and voluntarily initiated the replacement water supply program.

Heritage Crystal-Clean Ordered to Replace PCB Containing Lights in Gary, Indiana, Schools

EPA recently announced a settlement with Heritage-Crystal Clean LLC, of Elgin, Illinois, which provides $400,000 to replace old light fixtures that may contain polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, with energy-efficient lighting at several schools in Gary, Indiana. This settlement resolves the company’s alleged violations of EPA rules on handling of PCBs. The company has also paid a $100,000 fine.

PCBs are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978. PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans.

EPA Takes Action to Stop Potential Spread of Asbestos at Former Arkell and Smiths Sack Company

The EPA is working to stop the potential spread of asbestos at the former Arkell and Smiths Sack Co. facility in Canajoharie, New York. Exposure to asbestos can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“At the request of the local government, the EPA sent staff and federal resources to stop the potential release of asbestos,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA will make sure that the buildings are taken down properly and that asbestos is not spread into the community.”

The EPA was notified by Mayor Francis Avery of Canajoharie in November of 2015 about hazardous conditions posed by the dilapidated and collapsing buildings at the complex located at the intersection of Hill and Mill Streets. The original factory was built in the 1860s and was once home to the manufacturer of the first flat-bottom paper sack. The property was sold in 2007 and fell into disrepair. The site is 2.6 acres and contains seven interconnected buildings covering 65,000 square feet.

In February of 2016, the EPA took building and debris samples and determined that the asbestos from badly deteriorating structures on the site has the potential to impact the surrounding area. The buildings are falling apart and the asbestos within the building deteriorated to a point it could spread beyond the property. Homes are located within 30 feet of the site.

The EPA will demolish the buildings and asbestos-containing materials will be either removed or secured at the site, and disposed of properly at permitted facilities. Materials containing asbestos will be kept adequately wet until they are collected and properly disposed of. The air will be monitored during operations to ensure that asbestos is not spreading.

The EPA is coordinating with the Village of Canajoharie and local police to minimize disruptions during the work. Throughout the EPA’s work, the community will be kept informed and any member of the public that has questions or concerns may contact the EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinator, Larisa Romanowski, at 518-407-0400 or romanowski.larisa@epa.gov.

While this site is not on the Superfund National Priorities List, the Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA will seek to hold any liable parties accountable for the costs of the investigation and cleanup.

EPA Requires Mid Valley Agricultural Services to Safely Manage Pesticides

EPA recently announced a settlement with Mid Valley Agricultural Services, Inc., over misbranded and improperly stored agricultural pesticides. The chemical and fertilizer retailer has agreed to pay $76,240 in civil penalties and is now in compliance with the law.

Mid Valley Ag has facilities throughout California’s Central Valley, including in the communities of Linden and Hughson, where inspections by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation in 2012 and 2014 found violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The inspections were conducted on behalf of EPA to determine compliance with FIFRA, which regulates the safe distribution, sale and use of pesticides in the U.S.

“When not managed properly, pesticides can pose a serious risk to people and the environment,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Facilities that produce highly toxic pesticides must protect the safety of their workers and anyone using their products.”

The company’s Linden facility, which produces and dispenses pesticide products to agricultural customers, sold and distributed a “restricted use” pesticide, ‘Firestorm,’ with labels lacking the required storage and safe disposal language. EPA classifies some pesticides as restricted use because of their potential to harm the environment or injure applicators or bystanders. These products are not available for purchase by the general public and can only be used by certified applicators or someone under their direct supervision.

In addition, the Linden facility had failed to seal cracks in its secondary containment structures, was improperly monitoring levels of liquid pesticide in its storage tanks, and failed to protect pesticide dispensing equipment against damage. All these violations can lead to an increased risk of pesticide spills and leaks to the environment.

At the Hughson facility, Mid Valley Ag sold and distributed “IAP 440 Spray Oil,” used as insecticide to protect fruit and other crops, with labels that lacked the batch code and content information. Among other things, batch codes can be used to track pesticide distributions. This helps agencies respond appropriately if health or environmental problems are tied to a specific pesticide product.

At both the Linden facility and the Hughson facility, pesticide storage containers were labeled with the incorrect EPA establishment number. This number is used to identify where the product was last produced, and is crucial in maintaining product integrity.

FIFRA authorizes EPA to review and register pesticides for specified uses, to regulate safe storage and disposal of pesticides, and to conduct inspections and enforce pesticide requirements. Under FIFRA, EPA labels include directions for use and statements to minimize the risks associated with the product, including which personal protective equipment, such as protective eyewear or gloves, should be worn to protect those using the product.

ExxonMobil to Pay $12 Million Settlement for Damages from 2011 Yellowstone River Oil Spill

The Departments of Justice and the Interior joined with the state of Montana to announce a proposed settlement with ExxonMobil Pipeline Company to resolve claims stemming from the July 2011 oil spill into the Yellowstone River.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has agreed to pay $12 million in natural resource damages to the federal government and the state of Montana as trustees for the natural resources injured by the spill. A proposed consent decree was filed in federal court recently. The state and federal government have also issued a draft restoration plan which sets forth proposed actions to restore the river and wildlife habitat, and improve public lands and recreational resources.

“This proposed settlement will restore this great natural resource for the people and the environment of Montana and its benefits will flow for generations to come,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will require Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company to make this river—upon which both people and wildlife depend for enjoyment and sustenance—whole again.”

“This settlement is an important part of the work being done to ensure that the 2.7 million miles of oil, gas and liquid chemical pipeline in this country remain safe and that when incidents occur, the operators assume responsibility for cleanup,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter for the District of Montana. “This settlement was the product of significant collaborative work by federal and state negotiators over a number of years and sends a strong message to operators in this field that they must assume the costs and risks, as well as reaping the benefits, of extracting natural resources.”

“Montanans deserve and expect ExxonMobil Pipeline Company to be held accountable for the damages they caused to Montana’s Yellowstone River, our communities and our economy,” said Governor Steve Bullock for the state of Montana. “This proposed settlement goes a long way in protecting Montana’s Yellowstone River, one of the last, great, free-flowing rivers in the United States that plays a vital role in our strong $6 billion outdoor economy.”

“This settlement was reached through the efforts of the Montana Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program and the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Interior,” said Attorney General Tim Fox for the state of Montana. “Under a joint State-Federal restoration plan, also issued today for public comment, these funds will be used to restore and improve the environmental and recreational resources of this great river.”

The state and federal government are seeking public comment on both the proposed consent decree and the draft restoration plan.

On July 1, 2011, a 12-inch diameter Silvertip pipeline owned by ExxonMobil Pipeline Company ruptured near Laurel, Montana, resulting in the discharge of crude oil into the Yellowstone River and floodplain. The discharge is estimated to have been approximately 63,000 gallons (about 1,500 barrels) of oil. The discharge occurred during a high-flow event, affecting approximately 85 river miles and associated floodplain. Oil from the spill, along with the cleanup activities, harmed natural resources including fish and other aquatic life, birds (including migratory birds), wildlife, large woody debris piles, aquatic habitat, terrestrial habitat, recreational use and the services provided by these natural resources. These public natural resources are under Trusteeship of the state of Montana and the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Oil Pollution Act and other laws.

The primary goal of the Oil Pollution Act is to make the environment and public whole for injuries to natural resources and services resulting from a discharge of oil or other hazardous substances to the environment. In the restoration plan, the trustees have presented an evaluation of injuries to the natural resources, restoration alternatives and projects that benefit the same or similar resources injured by the oil spill.

Projects include:

  • Acquiring terrestrial/riparian bottomland to conserve and restore terrestrial habitat with some acquisitions focusing on habitat requirements for injured birds
  • Acquiring and restoring terrestrial/riparian habitat
  • Controlling invasive woody species on state and federal lands
  • Acquiring channel migration or other easements or fee title land acquisitions to provide areas for large woody debris recruitment
  • Removing flanked riprap from the river
  • Removing side channel blockages
  • Providing fish passage around fish barriers
  • Restoring and stabilizing river banks using soft bank restoration techniques
  • Increasing American white pelican production through improvement of breeding and nesting areas
  • Improving city parks and public lands bordering the Yellowstone River
  • Improving urban fishing opportunities adjacent to the Yellowstone River
  • Developing new and preserving existing public access on the Yellowstone River

The trustees evaluated a range of restoration alternatives that would provide resource services to compensate the public for losses pending natural recovery of resources injured by the oil spill. The trustees have identified preferred restoration alternatives designed to address the resource injuries. The trustees plan to work with project partners such as local, state, and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations and landowners to implement the projects.

The trustees will host a public meeting to summarize key components of the restoration plan and hear public comment. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 12, at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks conference room at 2300 Lake Elmo Drive in Billings, Montana, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The trustees will review and consider comments received during the public comment period when preparing the final restoration plan.

The settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register and final approval by the court.

$69K Fine for Chemical Reporting Lapses

EPA reached a settlement with a Warwick, Rhode Island, company that makes metal products, which will help ensure that the public is aware of the potential for chemical releases in their community. Lucas-Milhaupt Warwick, LLC, also agreed to pay a penalty of $69,265 to resolve claims that it failed to file the proper Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Reporting Forms, for copper and silver for 2012, 2013, and 2014, in violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

The company makes silver and copper-based brazing and soldering filler metals and fluxes—or cleaning agents—for the appliance, construction, and metal-working industries.
“Failing to file toxic inventory forms deprives the community of its right to know about releases and the presence of chemicals in facilities in their community,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Companies that work with or produce potentially hazardous chemicals must follow federal reporting requirements so the community is not deprived of its right to know about potential chemical releases that may affect public health and the environment.”

The Toxic Release Inventory is a resource for learning about toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities reported by industrial and federal facilities. Toxic Release Inventory data support informed decision-making by communities, government agencies, companies, and others. Timely information from the Toxic Release Inventory can influence health studies as well as the cleanup of industrial pollution.

The company was cooperative with EPA, which allowed this matter to be resolved quickly.

More information on Toxic Release Inventory reporting requirements is available at https://www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/learn-about-toxics-release-inventory.

Whole Foods Agrees to Improve Waste Management in EPA Settlement

EPA announced a settlement with Whole Foods, Inc., over violations of hazardous waste regulations. During a year-long investigation, EPA found Whole Foods improperly identified or mishandled hazardous waste at company facilities throughout Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. In addition to correcting the violations, Whole Foods will also pay penalties totaling more than $3.5 million and promote hazardous waste compliance in the retail industry as part of a supplemental environmental project, or SEP.

“All companies must follow the law and be responsible stewards of their hazardous waste, from generating it to safely disposing of it,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Whole Foods is correcting these violations and will ensure their stores and facilities continue to comply with environmental regulations. They will also look into launching an innovative hazardous waste tracking system that we hope becomes the industry standard.”

After the New Mexico Environment Department asked EPA to follow-up on information they shared on Whole Foods, EPA enforcement officials uncovered violations during a year-long investigation and record review of Whole Foods’ actions as a generator of hazardous waste. Investigators in EPA Region 6 found Whole Foods did not properly make hazardous waste determinations at facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, as required by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Whole Foods also improperly handled spent lamps, which are categorized as “universal” hazardous waste, a type of hazardous waste composed of items common to many types of facilities and industrial sectors.

As part of the settlement with Texas facilities, Whole Foods will create and fund a SEP to educate Texas retailers, particularly smaller businesses, about hazardous waste laws and the importance of maintaining compliance. This SEP, worth $500,000, aims to raise awareness of business owners’ responsibilities and increase compliance with regulations, and will result in environmental benefit to communities.

The RCRA Hazardous Waste Program establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal, including treatment and storage. EPA and the states verify compliance with these requirements through a comprehensive compliance monitoring program, which includes inspecting facilities, reviewing records and taking enforcement action where necessary.

Panda International Trading Co. Convicted for Multiple Hazardous Waste Violations

A Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) investigation led to a combined six felony convictions against Panda International Trading Co., Inc., (Panda) and its owner Da Xiong Pan on September 14, 2016. The felony convictions are for violating California’s hazardous waste control laws.

The criminal complaint was filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on April 28, 2016. On September 14, 2016, Pan pled guilty to five felonies and received 16 months in prison, which was suspended to one day in jail and 1,000 hours of community service. Panda pled guilty to one felony charge and both the company and the owner will pay a total of $53,568.26 in restitution. Both also received three years of probation. There are several other restrictions for both Pan and the company as well.

“With these convictions comes three years of probation for the facility and the owner. Among the restrictions is neither the owner nor Panda can store or dispose of hazardous waste or operate any business that does so,” said Hansen Pang, DTSC’s Chief Investigator for OCI. “It’s critical that all facilities that handle hazardous waste abide by state regulations.”

DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) obtained a search warrant in November 2013 and collected evidence that indicated the company released toxic levels of metal particulates onto the public sidewalk in front of its facility at 3570 Fruitland Ave. in Maywood, Los Angeles County. The criminal complaint stated that Panda and its owner knowingly disposed of, treated, and stored hazardous waste (copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, nickel, chromium) at the facility without a permit or authorization from DTSC.

Panda, which is no longer operating, was a scrap metal recycler that received, handled, and stored cathode ray tubes and universal waste, such as old household appliances. Cathode ray tubes contain lead and other metals. Improper handling of these hazardous wastes may result in a release of toxic metals into the environment.

In addition to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, DTSC received assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Port Police, Los Angeles Public Works, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Los Angeles County Fire Department Health Hazardous Material Division.

Documents pertaining to this case can be found here.

There was a magnesium fire that started at the Panda facility on June 14, 2016. US EPA is in control of the site and overseeing the cleanup of that fire. LA County Fire is also conducting an investigation. DTSC is acting in a supporting role and has served a search warrant at the site as part of its own investigation into the incident

Farmworkers Call for Suspension of Chlorpyrifos

United Farm Workers, labor, and community health groups from Florida to California petitioned the EPA to immediately suspend hundreds of uses of chlorpyrifos, an acutely toxic pesticide that harms workers and their family members.

“We are seeking an immediate and total chlorpyrifos ban because farmworkers have been overexposed even with all the protective clothing that could possibly be required,” said Erik Nicholson, UFW National Vice President. “It’s nearly impossible for them to escape chlorpyrifos exposure because the poison is in the air they breathe, in the food they eat and in the soil where their children play.”

The petition filed with the EPA seeks immediate action to stop uses of chlorpyrifos that EPA has determined to pose unacceptable risks of acute poisonings to workers. It also asks EPA to protect children from exposures that cause irreversible brain damage, including reduced IQ, attention deficit disorders, and learning disabilities.

Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed the petition on behalf of United Farm Workers, League of United Latin American Citizens, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Medical Association, Farmworker Association of Florida, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Migrant Clinicians Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, GreenLatinos, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

“Farmworkers are simply seeking what others have in this country—a safe workplace. Nothing more, nothing less,” said Ramon Ramirez, President of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, Oregon’s farmworker union). “EPA must stop putting on the blinders when it comes to the harmful effects chlorpyrifos and take this hazardous pesticide out of all fields and other locations to ensure a safe workplace for all.”

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that originates from nerve gases the Nazis developed during World War II. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and causes systemic illnesses to workers by inhibiting the body’s ability to produce cholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for the proper transmission of nerve impulses.

In 2000, EPA found that homeowner uses of chlorpyrifos harm children who play on pesticide-treated carpets or hug their pets after a flea bomb, but it left farmworker children and their communities unprotected.

According to the EPA, 10,000–20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 2 million U.S. agricultural workers. However, many more pesticide poisonings go unreported.

“The incidence of pesticide poisonings is a heartbreaking statistic because the true, total number of workers injured is not known,” said Hector E. Sanchez, Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). “Many pesticide poisonings go unreported due to a number of factors, including workers fearing job loss, lack of medical care and language barriers.”

In December 2014, EPA found that workers face unacceptable risks of acute poisonings from hundreds of activities involving chlorpyrifos. In 2015, EPA entered into negotiations with the pesticide industry to stop these uses or reduce exposures, but the negotiations broke down. EPA told a court that regulatory action would be necessary, but more than a year has passed and EPA has failed to initiate regulatory action.

“Over a decade ago, EPA stopped household uses of this dangerous chemical due to harm to children but failed to take action to protect farm workers,” said Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “EPA needs to end this shameful double standard and protect vulnerable workers and their families in rural areas.”

“The EPA showed leadership in eliminating this neurotoxic threat from household uses but not from agriculture,” said Dr. Elena Rios, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA). “Why hasn’t this been done to protect farmworkers? Our community deserves equity.”

“EPA has already acknowledged that chlorpyrifos is related to developmental impairments like reduced IQ and attention deficit disorder,” said Maureen Swanson, Director of the Healthy Children Project at the Learning Disabilities Association of American (LDA). “It is time for EPA to finally ban this neurotoxic pesticide that puts thousands of workers and their children at risk of serious illness every year.”

“EPA’s and other scientists' independent findings show that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage to children and poisons workers and those living in agricultural communities. It is unconscionable for the most vulnerable communities to have their health and lives threatened by this dangerous chemical,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator at the Farmworker Association of Florida. “A total ban of chlorpyrifos is the only acceptable option for farmworkers and their families.”

“Farmworkers and their children deserve a chance to work and live free of the toxic grip of chlorpyrifos,” said Amy Liebman, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN). “EPA should move swiftly to ban chlorpyrifos and protect the next generation.”

“Farmworkers have been historically excluded from a range of federal protections. Today’s agricultural workforce is predominantly Latino, immigrant, and indigenous, including nearly 500,000 children,” said Mark Maga?a, President and CEO of GreenLatinos. “Ensuring that our nation’s most vulnerable communities secure parity in protections from toxic exposure, and chemicals like chlorpyrifos, is paramount for GreenLatinos, and a continuation of our commitment to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS).”

"Farmworkers, who are predominantly poor and the majority are people of color, bear the brunt of poisonings from chlorpyrifos,” said Virginia Ruiz, Director of Occupational and Environmental Health at Farmworker Justice. “EPA must swiftly move forward on the path to environmental justice and ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.”

“The evidence has long been in,” said Patti Goldman, a managing attorney for Earthjustice, a national nonprofit environmental law firm. “This pesticide causes needless harm to workers and damage to their children’s brains. It’s time to put an end to this travesty.”

EPA Honors NOAA’s Guam Weather Forecast Office with Federal Green Challenge Award

The EPA recently recognized National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Guam Weather Forecast Office with EPA’s 2016 Federal Green Challenge Education and Outreach award. The Federal Green Challenge encourages federal agencies to lead by example in reducing the federal government's environmental impact.

“The NOAA Guam Forecast office staff is leading the way towards zero waste,” said John McCarroll, Pacific Islands Office Manager for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Island environments have special challenges, so it’s great to see federal employees who work on Guam show their commitment to sustainability.”

To reduce their environmental impacts and achieve maximum employee participation, NOAA’s Guam office took action by:

  • Establishing dedicated recycling collection points for paper, aluminum cans, heavy metal, batteries, and electronic waste
  • Collecting and transporting over six tons of materials for recycling last year. The amount they recycled weighed about as much as 24 full-sized refrigerators.
  • Providing employees with environmental education and opportunities to lead environmental change
  • Establishing a culture of shutting off lights in the hallway and unoccupied rooms, such as the server, storage and mail rooms, and installing bathroom light-motion sensors
  • Promoting reuse by stocking the break room with dishes and silverware donated by employees and making scratch pads of previously used paper

In 2014 the NOAA Guam office became the first federal facility thus far in the Pacific Territories to join the Federal Green Challenge. Prior to that, the Guam office, located at 3232 Hueneme Road, was already an environmental leader. In 2000, it won the Clean Energy Innovations Award for the construction of an environmentally-friendly “green building” that featured a solar water heater, recycled building materials, and energy-efficient lighting.

The Federal Green Challenge is a national effort challenging federal agencies to lead by example in reducing the Federal Government's environmental impacts. In 2015, 290 participating facilities reduced their environmental footprints to cut GHG emissions by the equivalent of taking 518.000 passenger cars off the road for a year, and saved an estimate $21 million in avoided waste disposal and utility costs.

EPA is also celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the tremendous impact this groundbreaking federal environmental law has had and will continue to have. RCRA protects human health and our environment from hazardous and solid wastes, and advances Sustainable Materials Management.

Environmental News Links

EPA Updates Rule on Exceptional Ozone Pollution

Three New England Universities Selected by EPA to Research Water Quality Benefits

EPA Honors Yosemite High School Teacher with Environmental Education Award

Following Decades Of High Cancer Rates and Birth Defects, EPA Begins Cleanup Of Uranium Mines On Navajo Reservation

California Updated List of Non-PFOS Based Chrome Plating Chemical Fume Suppressants

Pesticide Manufacturers' Own Tests Reveal Serious Harm to Honeybees

EPA Plans to Allow Unlimited Dumping of Fracking Wastewater in the Gulf of Mexico

Greenland May be Losing Ice Even Faster than We Thought

Is Your Flat-Screen TV Gulping more Electricity than Advertised?

Countries Back ‘Ambitious’ Phaseout of Globe-Warming Refrigerant

Ohio EPA Accepting Comments on Changes to Surface Water Regulations

Pennsylvania DEP and North-Central Partners Restoring Streams for Seventh Consecutive Year

Montana DEQ Accepting Public Comments on Municipal Stormwater Discharge Permit Renewal

Montana Mining Programs Lauded for National Environmental Protection Achievement

Hazardous Material at Minnesota Waste Station that Sickened Staff Was Likely Ammonia

EPA’s Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Pose Challenges for Industry, Particularly Importers

Environmental Concerns—and Anger—Grow in Month After Thousand-Year Flood Strikes Louisiana

Company Transparency On Climate Change

Trivia Question of the Week

New studies suggest the world’s ice is melting faster than previously thought. How many extra tons of ice does Greenland lose annually?

a. 200 thousand

b. 20 million

c. 200 million

d. 20 billion