EPA Action: Among New Year's issues climate change, perchlorate, vessel discharges

Jan. 18, 2009
ALSO SEE: EPA Releases Report on Sea Level Rise; SPCC Compliance Dates for all Facilities Extended and New Compliance Dates for Farms Established; EPA Seeks Advice on Perchlorate in Drinking Water; $7M in Grants to Fuel Innovation in Methane Reduction and Clean Energy; EPA Releases Clarification on Spent Oil Shale; Vessel Discharges Require Permit; New Technology Offers Faster Leak Detection at Industrial Facilities; N. American Enviro Ministers Advance Cooperation on Chemicals...

CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS:
EPA Releases Report on Sea Level Rise
SPCC Compliance Dates for all Facilities Extended and New Compliance Dates for Farms Established
EPA Seeks Advice on Perchlorate in Drinking Water - Agency Issues Interim Health Advisory
New Report Reviews Cruise Ship Discharges
$7M in Grants to Fuel Innovation in Methane Reduction and Clean Energy
EPA Releases Clarification on Spent Oil Shale
Vessel Discharges Require Permit
New Technology Offers Faster Leak Detection at Industrial Facilities
N. American Enviro Ministers Advance Cooperation on Chemicals

RECENT ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS:

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EPA Releases Report on Sea Level Rise
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 16, 2009 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in collaboration with other agencies, has released a report that discusses the impacts of sea level rise on the coast, coastal communities, and the habitats and species that depend on them. The report, Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region, examines multiple opportunities for governments and coastal communities to plan for and adapt to rising sea levels.

Sea-level rise can affect coastal communities and habitats in a variety of different ways, including submerging low-lying lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, intensifying coastal flooding, and increasing the salinity of estuaries and freshwater aquifers. It is caused by a number of natural and human-induced factors and can vary by region. Some impacts of sea-level rise can already be observed along the U.S. coast.

The primary causes of global sea-level rise are the expansion of ocean water due to warming and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Locally, sea-level rise is also influenced by changes to the geology of coastal land, making coastal elevation mapping an important area of future study. The Mid-Atlantic region, the focus of this report, is one of the areas in the U.S. that will likely see the greatest impacts due to rising waters, coastal storms, and a high concentration of population along the coastline.

EPA led the development of the report with significant contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report is one of 21 climate change synthesis and assessment products commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). CCSP was established in 2002 to provide the U.S. with science-based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems. The program is responsible for coordinating and integrating the research of 13 federal agencies on climate and global change.

More information on the report: www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/sap4-1.html

Information on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP): www.climatescience.gov

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SPCC Compliance Dates for all Facilities Extended and New Compliance Dates for Farms Established
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 14, 2009 -- The EPA is extending the compliance dates for all facilities and establishing new compliance dates for farms subject to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule as part of EPA's multi-phased strategy to address concerns with the current regulation. Specifically, this amendment extends the dates by which the owner or operator of an SPCC regulated facility must prepare or amend and implement its SPCC plan. This rule also establishes the dates by which the owner or operator of a farm must prepare or amend and implement its SPCC plan.

These amendments do not remove any regulatory requirement for owners or operators of facilities in operation before August 16, 2002, to develop, implement and maintain an SPCC plan in accordance with the SPCC regulations then in effect. Such facilities continue to be required to maintain their plans during the interim until the applicable date for revising and implementing their plans under the new amendments.

More information on the rule: www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/index.htm

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EPA Seeks Advice on Perchlorate in Drinking Water - Agency Issues Interim Health Advisory
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 8, 2009 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking advice from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) before making a final determination on whether to issue a national regulation for perchlorate in drinking water.

The agency also is issuing an interim health advisory of 15 parts per billion (ppb) to assist state and local officials in addressing local contamination of perchlorate in drinking water and making a corresponding change to the factors it considers in cleaning up Superfund sites. States have the right to establish and enforce drinking water standards, and EPA encourages state-specific situations to be addressed at the local level. EPA expects to issue a final health advisory concurrent with the final regulatory determination for perchlorate.

"This is a sensible step for protecting public health and preserving regulatory options as the science of perchlorate is reviewed," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water.

On Oct. 10, 2008, the agency issued a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment in the Federal Register. The notice described the agency's decision that there is not a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction" through a national drinking water regulation for perchlorate. The agency received more than 32,000 comments on the notice.

After considering public comments, as well as recommendations from EPA advisory groups and offices, EPA is asking the NAS to provide additional insight on various issues. Specifically, EPA is asking the NAS to evaluate its derivation of the Health Reference Level of 15 ppb, the use of modeling to evaluate impacts on infants and young children, and the implication of recent biomonitoring studies. The agency is also asking the NAS how it should consider the role of perchlorate relative to other iodide uptake inhibiting compounds and if there are other public health strategies to address this aspect of thyroid health.

EPA is replacing the existing preliminary remediation goal of 24.5 ppb with the interim health advisory value of 15 ppb. This goal will be used as a consideration when establishing cleanup levels for perchlorate at Superfund sites.

A regulatory determination is a formal decision by EPA as to whether it should initiate development of a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA has drinking water regulations for more than 90 contaminants. Every five years, EPA develops a Contaminant Candidate List to consider for regulation and then makes regulatory determinations on some of the contaminants based on scientific information on health effects, occurrence in drinking water and the opportunity for risk reduction.

A health advisory provides technical guidance to federal, state, and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methods and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. Health advisories also contain guidance values that are concentrations of a contaminant in drinking water that are likely to be without adverse health effects.

More information on the perchlorate health advisory: epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/unregulated/perchlorate.html

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New Report Reviews Cruise Ship Discharges
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 6, 2009 -- A final national report on cruise ship discharges will `help EPA determine whether the existing State of Alaska discharge standards for sewage and graywater from cruise ships operating in Alaskan waters are adequate, or if more stringent standards are needed.

The Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report reviewed five waste streams from cruise ships: sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste and hazardous waste. For each waste stream, the report discusses the nature and volume of the waste stream generated, existing federal regulations applicable to the waste stream, environmental management (including treatment) of the waste stream, potential adverse environmental impacts of the waste stream, and actions by the federal government to address the waste stream. In addition, the report presents a wide range of options and alternatives to address the specified waste streams from cruise ships.

EPA invited comment on a draft of the report last year, and specifically requested public input on options, alternatives, and recommendations for addressing the waste streams assessed by EPA. The report includes suggestions from the public comments.

Much of the information in the draft report also helped EPA develop a Clean Water Act vessel general permit.

The Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report: epa.gov/owow/oceans/cruise_ships/disch_assess.html

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$7M in Grants to Fuel Innovation in Methane Reduction and Clean Energy
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 22, 2008 -- Through the Methane to Markets partnership, EPA is making up to $7 million in grants available for innovative international projects and activities. The agency expects to award up to 40 cooperative grants agreements ranging from approximately $100,000 to $700,000. The Methane to Markets partnership is an international initiative to reduce global methane emissions by promoting capture-and-use projects in oil and gas systems, coal mining, landfills, and animal waste management.

EPA requests proposals for projects that directly identify, characterize or implement methane capture-and-use projects. Examples include technology transfers and demonstrations, feasibility studies, training and capacity building, information clearinghouses, and improved methane emissions estimates.

A wide variety of institutions are eligible, including international governments, universities, and public or private non-profit organizations to advance project development in the following Methane to Markets Partner countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Additionally, EPA will consider proposals from developing countries or countries with economies in transition that are applying to join the partnership, as long as an acceptable letter of intent is submitted to the Methane to Markets Administrative Support Group prior to the close of the RFP deadline. The estimated project period for awards is September 2009 through September 2012. Proposals are due by March 5, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

By 2015, the partnership has the potential to reduce methane emissions by 50 million metric tons of carbon equivalent annually – comparable to planting 55 million acres of trees, or recovering 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Grant information: epa.gov/methanetomarkets/grants.htm

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EPA Releases Clarification on Spent Oil Shale
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 22, 2008 -- EPA has released a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) on the regulatory status of spent oil shale generated by above ground retorting or heating of oil shale.

The NODA clarifies that oil shale from above ground operations is not considered a Bevill waste excluded from the pertinent regulations under RCRA Subtitle C. The NODA also makes available analytical data on the characteristics of spent shale from above ground retorting operations that indicate that such waste is unlikely to exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic, and thus, is unlikely to be a hazardous waste.

Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock that can be heated, vaporized, cleaned and upgraded to form synthetic crude oil. This synthetic oil can be used as an alternative energy source for traditional crude oil.

Comments on the NODA will be accepted for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected within the next two weeks.

More information on the oil shale NODA: epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/oil/oilshale.htm

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Vessel Discharges Require Permit
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 18, 2008 -- A new general permit will reduce releases of 26 types of discharges from vessels operating in U.S. waters. Beginning Dec. 19, approximately 61,000 domestically flagged commercial vessels and 8,000 foreign flagged vessels will need to comply with the permit.

As a result of a court ruling, vessel owners and operators who have previously been exempt from Clean Water Act requirements for the last 35 years will now require a permit starting Dec. 19.

"EPA met the deadline and delivered a protective and practical permit to protect the nation's waterways from ship-borne pollution and to avoid an environmental and economic shipwreck," said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles.

Without this permit, all shipping within U.S. waters could come to a halt because of liability risks.

The permit covers non-recreational vessels 79 feet in length or longer, such as cruise ships or oil and cargo tankers, but excludes fishing vessels of any length, unless they discharge ballast water. The new permit incorporates the Coast Guard's mandatory ballast water management and exchange standards, and provides technology-based and water-quality-based effluent limits for other types of discharges, including deck runoff from rain or cleaning, ballast water used to stabilize ships and "gray water" from showers, sinks and laundry machines. It also establishes specific corrective actions, inspections and monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

Earlier in the year, Congress responded to the court ruling in part by enacting a law to exempt recreational vessels from the permitting requirement and requiring further analysis and action by EPA and the Coast Guard.

Information on the permits: epa.gov/npdes/vessels

ALSO SEE:
-- "Parts of Mass. North Shore Seek "No Discharge" Designation to Stem Boat Pollution"

-- "Three Towns in Southern Maine Seek 'No Discharge' Designation to Stem Boat Pollution"

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New Technology Offers Faster Leak Detection at Industrial Facilities
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 15, 2008 -- The EPA is issuing a final amendment to the leak detection and repair requirements allowing the use of optical gas imaging technology to locate emission leaks. The leaks are displayed on a video screen similar to the way night vision goggles are used to show the heat signature of objects. This amendment provides requirements for using the new technology; however, facilities may continue to use existing approved work practices to detect leaks.

This amendment modifies about 40 national rules requiring facilities to find and repair leaks from equipment, including pumps, valves, and connectors, from refineries, chemical production plants, and bulk liquid storage facilities. This amendment, which was proposed in 2006, will be effective upon publication in the Federal Register.

View the rule: www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3pfpr.html
More information on the rule: www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3fs.html

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N. American Enviro Ministers Advance Cooperation on Chemicals
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 9, 2008 -- To strengthen the assessment and management of chemicals in North America, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts have signed a statement of intent on North American chemicals cooperation. The statement affirms the commitments made by President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America's Leaders' Summit in Montebello, Quebec, in August 2007.

"Chemicals are used everyday in all types of settings - from science labs to our homes," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "The more EPA and our international colleagues know about the chemicals we use today, the more we can ensure a healthier, safer tomorrow."

To date, the U.S. and Canada have completed and made public screening assessments on hundreds of chemicals. Mexico has made progress in the design and development of its chemicals inventory. Under this cooperative effort, the U.S. committed, by 2012, to assess and initiate action, as needed, on more than 6,750 chemicals produced above 25,000 pounds a year.

So far, EPA has posted assessments under its Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) on more than 150 high-production-volume chemicals — those manufactured or imported above 1 million pounds a year — and initiated follow-up action on several. EPA also recently began posting assessments on moderate-volume chemicals, which are manufactured or imported at a level between 25,000 and 1 million pounds a year.

EPA expects to accelerate the pace of the ChAMP assessments in 2009 and beyond. By sharing expertise and resources and setting priorities among the three countries, EPA anticipates stronger protection for public health and the environment in North America.

More information on statement of intent and EPA's ChAMP efforts: www.epa.gov/champ

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RECENT ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS:
"Final Decision on Missouri's Impaired Waters List" [1/16/09]
"Cleanup Work Set to Proceed at Industri-Plex Site in Woburn, Mass." [1/13/09]
"Shell to Pay $1 Million Penalty, Enhance Pollution Controls for Clean Water Act Violations in Puerto Rico" [1/12/09]
"EPA Orders Arklatex Operating Company Inc. to Cease Discharges" [1/12/09]
"EPA Makes Cleanup Decision Final for First Phase of Passaic River Cleanup" [1/12/09]
"EPA and OP-TECH Agree on Enhanced Environmental Testing for PCB Waste" [1/12/09]
"Three Companies Face Fine for Lack of Oil Spill Prevention Plans" [1/9/09]
"Citation Oil and Gas pays penalty for spill to North Fork Powder River, Wyoming" [1/8/09]
"Oklahoma Pipeline Company to Pay Penalty for Jet Fuel Spill" [1/8/09]
"EPA asks for comments on Duke Energy disposal wells" [12/16/08]
"EPA orders Estate of James Campbell and Sogo Hawaii, Inc. to cleanup the former Chem-Wood site" [12/15/08]
"EPA orders former East Bay mine operator to take action to prevent contamination of waterway - Former Mt. Diablo Mercury Mine operator must stabilize pond containing mercury" [12/11/08]
"Port Salerno Industrial Park Redevelopment Innovation at Contaminated Property Grabs Attention of Environmental Regulators" [12/10/08]

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ALSO SEE:
-- "Three New England Projects Share $600K for Brownfields Environmental Job Training" [1/15/09]
-- "CBF, partners sue EPA over failure to keep Bay restoration commitments" [1/5/09]
-- "John Rapanos agrees to pay for Clean Water Act violations" [12/29/08]
-- "ExxonMobil charged in Boston Harbor oil spill" [12/23/08]
-- "EPA assesses health of America's coasts" [12/22/08]
-- "EPA announces finalist for grants to improve Gulf of Mexico"
[12/19/08]
-- "Environmental community grants to be awarded" [12/17/08]
-- "Man-made chemicals found in drinking water at low levels" [12/3/08]
-- "Comment period extended for proposed carbon sequestration regulations" [11/21/08]
-- "EPA seeks comment on adding hazardous pharma waste to Universal Waste Rule" [11/20/08]
-- "CAFO final rule, webcast" [11/17/08]

For the latest EPA press releases on water, click here.

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