EPA Action: Two federal agencies sign watershed management agreement

Dec. 31, 2004
In other news: 1) Cruise company given $2 million sentence in Alaska pollution case; 2) Ex-wrecking yard owner arrested on illegal disposal charges; 3) Pipe company, state inspector indicted in Indiana well-plugging case; 4) Minnesota plating firm convicted in wastewater case; 5) Metals risk assessment framework done; 6) 30 years of SDWA celebrated; 7) EPA amends methyl bromide phase-out for 2005 critical uses; 8) Historic pact on DC rivers to store sewer overflows underground to treat later...

Following is a listing of other Agency developments that may interest you:
-- Two Federal Agencies Sign Watershed Management Agreement
-- Cruise Company Given $2 Million Sentence in Alaska Pollution Case
-- Former Wrecking Yard Owner Arrested on Illegal Disposal Charges
-- Pipe Company, Co-Owner and State Inspector Indicted in Indiana Well-Plugging Case
-- Minnesota Plating Company and Three Individuals Convicted in Wastewater Case
-- Draft Metals Risk Assessment Framework Released
-- EPA Celebrates 30 Years of Progress for the Nation's Drinking Water
-- EPA Amends Methyl Bromide Phase-Out for 2005 Critical Uses
-- Historic pact on DC rivers would store sewer overflows underground to treat later

Two Federal Agencies Sign Watershed Management Agreement

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 30, 2004 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water and the U.S. Army's Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works have entered into an agreement to establish a collaborative watershed partnership. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempts to balance competing demands on the nation's critical water resources through flood control, navigation, recreation, and infrastructure and environmental stewardship. The EPA seeks to ensure drinking water is safe, and to restore and maintain the nation's aquatic resources for human health, to support economic and recreational activities, and to provide healthy habitat for fish, plants and wildlife.

Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works John Paul Woodley Jr., signed the partnership agreement.

"This partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will foster innovative approaches to finding effective answers to the many challenges and demands facing the nation's watersheds today and in the future," said Grumbles. "Managing water resources on a holistic watershed basis makes good sense -- environmentally, financially and socially. This agreement will enable EPA and the Corps to work together to try to resolve conflicts and seek consensus among the many different interests within a watershed concerning the future of these critical national resources."

Woodley also praised the agreement: "This partnership agreement is a great example of the benefits that can be created when federal agencies come together to work toward a common goal and share a common vision. By combining the organizational strengths and capabilities of the Corps and EPA's Office of Water as they relate to watershed health and management, we create a win-win partnership for the agencies and the nation."

The agreement signed on Nov. 19 focuses on facilitating sustainable economic development, protection, and restoration efforts in a public, inclusive and collaborative manner at the national, regional and local watershed level. Other objectives include facilitating communication among all stakeholders and interested parties, enhancing data exchange and promoting the development of innovative approaches to water resource and watershed management.

For a copy of the partnership agreement and more information on wetlands management, visit the Corps' Regulatory Branch website at: www.usace.army.mil/inet/functions/cw/cecwo/reg/, EPA's website at: www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/, or the wetlands mitigation website at: www.mitigationactionplan.gov.

Enforcement Wrap-up for the Week of Dec. 24, 2005

Cruise Company Given $2 Million Sentence in Alaska Pollution Case: WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 22, 2004 -- HAL Marine Ltd., an operating company of Holland America Cruise Lines which is based in Seattle, Wash., pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Dec. 13 in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage on a misdemeanor violation of a federal law commonly known as the Murkowski Cruise Ship Law. This is the first criminal prosecution under this law which focuses on releases of pollutants from ships in Alaskan waters. The case involved the release of 20,000 gallons of sewage from the cruise ship Ryndam into the harbor at Juneau, Alaska, on Aug. 17, 2002. HAL Marine will pay a $200,000 federal fine, provide $500,000 to the National Forest Foundation of environmental work in Southeast Alaska, pay $1.3 million for an environmental compliance program and serve three years probation. A separate civil penalty of $65,000 will be paid to the state of Alaska. Releasing sewage into harbors can create a public health hazard. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Anchorage office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Anchorage and counsel from EPA Region 10.

Former Wrecking Yard Owner Arrested on Illegal Disposal Charges: Wei Guo Huang, also known as Larry Huang, of Kent, Wash., was arrested by Washington state patrol officers on Dec. 14 on state charges that he improperly disposed of waste petroleum products and crushed automobile batteries, failed to properly store hazardous waste, failed to notify state officials about hazardous waste spills and operated an automobile wrecking yard without a license. From early 1999 until February 2003, the defendant operated Japanese Auto Wrecking in Kent on land he rented. He was evicted from the property in 2003, and cleanup costs are estimated at $5 million. The charges allege that Huang disposed of waste gasoline by dumping it in a pit or onto the ground and that he left crushed and leaking automotive batteries lying around his property. The alleged disposal sites were within 150 feet of the banks of the Green River, and created a potential river pollution hazard. Gasoline contains benzene which is a known carcinogen, and battery acids can cause burns. Both chemicals can harm fish and aquatic life if the chemicals are washed by rains into surface waters. The case was investigated by the Washington State Department of Environmental Quality and the Seattle office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by the district attorney's office for King County, Wash.

Pipe Company, Co-Owner and State Inspector Indicted in Indiana Well-Plugging Case: Bi-State Pipe Co. Inc., of Mt. Camel, Ill., Carl F. Hanisch, co-owner of Bi-State, and Donald G. Veatch of Francisco, Ind., were all indicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis on charges they made false statements concerning a well-plugging operation in Southern Indiana. At the time of the alleged illegal conduct, Veatch was an inspector for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources's Division of Oil and Gas. According to the charges, Bi-State was sub-contracted to plug 51 leaking inactive wells in Vandenbergh County in 1999. The defendants allegedly falsified forms for 21 wells submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The charges contend the defendants falsely stated on the forms that Bi-State Pipe had installed cast iron bridge plugs in the wells to prevent petroleum-based hydrocarbons from contaminating freshwater zones higher up in the wells. The certifications were later used by the state of Indiana to receive $269,949.85 in reimbursement from the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the costs to plug the wells. The case was investigated by the Indianapolis Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Indiana Interagency Environmental Crimes Task Force. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Indianapolis and counsel from EPA Region 5.

Minnesota Plating Company and Three Individuals Convicted in Wastewater Case: Prime Plating of Maple Grove, Minn.; Scott Hanson, Prime Plating's owner; and two other individuals, Sam Opare-Addo and Arlyn Hanson, were each convicted by a jury on Dec. 15 in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis on eight counts of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). In addition, Prime Plating and Scott Hanson were convicted of conspiracy and failure to notify the local sewage treatment authority of changes in a discharge system and failure to notify of a bypass. In addition, Prime Plating was convicted of introducing pollutants into a sewage treatment system which the defendant knew or should have known could cause injury or damage. Prime Plating is in the metal finishing business. The conspiracy took place in June and July of 2003, when Hanson and Prime Plating conspired to discharge industrial wastewater from the Prime Plating facility in order to allow the business to continue operations even though it did not have a functioning pre-treatment system for its waste as required by the Metropolitan Council. As a result of the conspiracy, untreated wastewater was discharged directly into sewers using pumps and garden hoses. In addition, Prime Plating and Hanson hid the illegal discharges from state and federal regulators. Discharging plating wastes into sewers can prevent the proper treatment of wastewater at sewage treatment facilities. The case was investigated by the Minneapolis Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and the Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis.

Draft Metals Risk Assessment Framework Released

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 20, 2004 -- The EPA released the "Draft Framework for Inorganic Metals Risk Assessment" to provide guidance to scientists in assessing the human health and ecological risks associated with inorganic metals and metal compounds. The draft framework is available for public comment through Jan. 18, 2005. Many agency programs make decisions on whether and how to regulate metals, particularly controlling releases to the environment and establishing acceptable levels in air, water, land and other media. The agency continually updates scientific guidance documents such as the metals framework to ensure that the agency's regulatory actions are based on sound science. The framework presents recommendations for conducting metals risk assessment; including tools, methods and data for conducting human exposure and health assessments. In developing the framework, the agency consulted extensively with the scientific community and stakeholders. Scientific papers were prepared by outside experts working in cooperation with EPA scientists to provide information on key metals issues such as environmental chemistry, exposure, human health and ecological effects, and bioavailability and bioaccumulation. The draft framework is available on the EPA website at: http://cfpub2.epa.gov/ncea/raf/recordisplay.cfm?deid=88903. As an additional step to ensure the framework reflects sound science, EPA's Science Advisory Board will conduct a rigorous review of the draft framework in early February 2005.

EPA Celebrates 30 Years of Progress for the Nation's Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 16, 2004 -- Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which has been a cornerstone of efforts to ensure public health protection by improving the quality of drinking water for all Americans. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 has helped more than 273 million people served by 53,000 community water systems enjoy one of the safest and cleanest water supplies in the world. In carrying out the Act, the EPA has established public health standards for more than 90 contaminants to protect the public from chemicals and pathogens that can cause waterborne illnesses.

It takes the committed efforts of thousands of people at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that our water supplies are clean, safe, and secure from acts of intentional harm. State personnel are making sure that water suppliers understand and implement regulatory requirements. States, private organizations, landowners, and local governments are working to protect surface and ground water supplies from contamination. Local water suppliers are providing dedicated service to ensure that safe water is available when consumers turn on the tap. And citizens are becoming more interested in understanding where their drinking water comes from and how it is treated by reading the consumer confidence report that is provided to them annually by their water utility.

The last 30 years have seen great success in protecting public health. Throughout 2005, the agency will celebrate those successes and conduct an educational campaign focused on four themes: "Community Water Systems: The Backbone of Public Health;" "Protecting Sources of Drinking Water;'' "Public Involvement in Safe Drinking Water;'' and "Planning for the Future." Information about the 30th anniversary is at: www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/30th/index.html. General information about the Safe Drinking Water Act is at: www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/index.html and information about drinking water is at: www.epa.gov/safewater/dwhealth.html.

EPA Amends Methyl Bromide Phase-Out for 2005 Critical Uses

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2004 -- The EPA is amending regulations governing the phase-out and allocation of the ozone-depleting fumigant, methyl bromide (MeBr). This action amends the MeBr phase-out regulations to allow for an exemption for new production and import to meet the needs of remaining critical uses, for which there are currently no technically and economically feasible alternatives. The amendment will make approximately 35% of the United State's baseline available for critical uses in 2005. This 35% is 8,942 metric tonnes of the 25,528 metric tonnes used in 1991 and established by international treaty as the U.S. baseline by which reductions are measured.

This action implements existing authority contained in the Clean Air Act and reflects decisions made pursuant to the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty to protect the stratospheric ozone layer.

The Montreal Protocol established 1991 production and consumption levels of MeBr as the baselines to measure reduction of the chemical. Since the early 1990s, apart from allowable exemptions, the United States has phased out its production and consumption of MeBr and has remained within the cap set by the treaty. Since the inception of the Protocol, the United States has phased out over 95% of its consumption of ozone depleting substances.

Methyl Bromide has been used in a wide variety of agricultural and commodity applications. Examples of MeBr uses include growing strawberries, tomatoes and fumigating flour mills across the United States. The critical use exemption (CUE) process was established to provide relief to users of MeBr who do not have any technically and economically feasible alternatives. Under the current structure of the Montreal Protocol, each year the EPA will promulgate a rule to cover the amount of MeBr to be made available for critical use in the future. MeBr allocations and use are strictly regulated and monitored by the agency.

The United States is committed to phasing out methyl bromide as recently registered alternative chemicals and those under development and regulatory review penetrate the marketplace and the use of currently available alternatives are optimized. Today's action continues that process while providing access to MeBr consistent with the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol.

In March 2004, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol granted the United States approximately 90% of its CUE request for 2005 which amounted to approximately 35% of the U.S. baseline. In 2005, the Agency will propose an additional portion of the baseline that was authorized for 2005 critical uses during the 16th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in Prague, Czech Republic, Nov. 26, 2004.

For more information on this action and MeBr regulation visit: www.epa.gov/ozone/mbr/.

Historic pact to protect DC rivers would store sewer overflows underground

WASHINGTON D.C., Dec. 16, 2004 -- A milestone legal agreement filed in U. S. District Court here will set a new clean-water standard for American cities by nearly eliminating massive sewage overflows into the waterways of our nation's capital when it rains.

The agreement creates a final plan to store rainwater and raw sewage from the district's combined sewer system in10 miles of holding tunnels deep underground.

At a total cost exceeding $1.5 billion, the project represents the largest injunctive relief ever granted for sewage overflows, and makes Washington D.C. a model for overflow controls.

Thomas L. Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, commented: "The controls contained in today's consent decree will significantly improve the district's waters and protect its citizens for decades to come. This settlement reflects the federal government's commitment to work with District of Columbia to regulate and control the discharges. This is a good resolution for district residents."

Thomas V. Skinner, EPA acting assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said: "Sewer overflows are a nationwide problem that have real local impacts. This plan stands out because it brings all the tools to bear on the problem. This is a major victory for the environment."

Among the tools used are budgets setting the total maximum daily pollution loads permitted in rivers, a new discharge permit for the district, an enforceable compliance schedule, and municipal assistance.

The proposed settlement would resolve a lawsuit by the U. S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency against the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the D.C. government. It places DC WASA on a 20-year enforceable schedule to complete needed controls.

Each year, an estimated 3.2 billion gallons of untreated sewage flows into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek, making these waters unsafe for swimming and fishing. In an average rainfall year, district sewers overflow into the Anacostia River 82 times. Today's Clean Water Act settlement would eliminate those overflows except during the largest storms.

Under the settlement, 96% of the district's sewage-laden storm runoff would be captured in three tunnels deep underground for processing later at the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant.

These tunnels are the equivalent of a 10-mile long subway 25 feet wide, capable of holding 193 million gallons of combined sewage and storm runoff. This system will nearly eliminate a major source of fecal coliform bacteria in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek.

The $1.5 billion sewage control project, which will take 20 years to completely build, marks the biggest environmental milestone in the district since the Blue Plains treatment plant opened in 1938. Significant sections of the new system will be placed in operation along the way so greater levels of sewage treatment and control will occur in the meantime.

Today's settlement will cost $1.4 billion for long-term controls. Add to that $140 million in interim upgrades to sewers and the Blue Plains treatment plant and the total value of the pollution controls rises to $1.5 billion.

WASA also has agreed to pay a $250,000 civil penalty for past permit violations, to undertake $1.7 million in storm water pollution prevention projects, and to fund a $300,000 "green roof " demonstration project by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

In a companion action today, EPA issued a major modification of WASA's Clean Water Act permit to require immediate implementation of a long-term sewage overflow reduction plan.

Since the mid-1990s, EPA has supported WASA's development of the long-term control plan included in today's consent decree. EPA has provided more than $7 million in direct support to develop and foster stakeholder input into the plan, and Congress has already appropriated $84 million to control sewer overflows in the district.

The proposed consent decree announced today is subject to a 30-day public notice and comment period, and final court approval.


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