EPA Action: Agency acts against Walmart, contractor for stormwater violations
In other news: 1) New, worse aircraft drinking water quality data released; 2) EPA launches new Spanish website; 3) EPA proposes to extend stormwater discharge permit deadline; 4) Americans urged to test for radon; 5) EPA joins with organizations to reduce water pollution; 5) EPA helps local governments use innovative tools to address environmental challenges; 6) EPA proposes to modify Toxics Release Inventory reporting requirements; and 7) EPA seeks scientific peer review on PFOA...
In other news below:
-- Aircraft drinking water quality data released with worse results;
-- EPA Launches New Spanish Web Site;
-- Florida Man Sentenced for Illegal Filling of Florida Bay;
-- California Pollution Credit Trader Indicted on Wire Fraud Charges;
-- EPA Proposes to Extend Permit Deadline for Stormwater Discharges;
-- Americans Urged to Test for Radon;
-- Minnesota Electroplater Charged With Illegal Storage of Hazardous Waste, Owner Charged With False Certification;
-- Connecticut Man Pleads to Illegal Asbestos Removal;
-- EPA Joins With Organizations to Reduce Water Pollution;
-- EPA Helps Local Governments Use Innovative Tools to Address Environmental Challenges;
-- EPA Proposes to Modify Toxics Release Inventory Reporting Requirements;
-- EPA Seeks Scientific Peer Review on PFOA
Following are some EPA developments which may interest you:
Agency takes action against Walmart, contractor for stormwater violations
CAGUAS, Puerto Rico, Jan. 24, 2005 -- Continuing its efforts to safeguard water quality in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has taken action against Wal Mart and its contractor, Constructora Santiago, for violations of its storm water permit. An administrative order was issued to both Wal Mart and Constructora Santiago for failure to maintain best management practices to control runoff from storm water at Wal Mart's 28-acre Caguas construction site. The companies did not have a storm water pollution prevention plan, nor did they conduct site inspections at the proper frequency as required by the Clean Water Act Construction General Permit. Construction at the site had ceased for several months, leaving much of it bare of vegetation and susceptible to erosion.
"Companies like Wal Mart and Constructora Santiago that fail to comply with the terms and conditions of their permits cause soil to erode into nearby waterways," said EPA
Acting Regional Administrator Kathleen Callahan. "This runoff has the potential to kill fish, destroy aquatic habitat and impact drinking water supplies."
In accordance with its permit, Wal Mart and its contractor should have stabilized soil on slopes or other areas to prevent erosion where clearing, grading and/or excavation activities took place. These stabilization measures were not done. EPA has taken action against Wal Mart for similar violations at sites across the U.S.; they resulted in a consent decree between EPA and Wal Mart in 2000. A second national consent decree between EPA and Wal Mart, also pertaining to storm water pollution from construction sites, was lodged in Federal Court in May 2004. This violation at Wal Mart's Caguas site was not included in these prior EPA actions, so the Agency is handling it through this action.
This administrative order requires Wal Mart and Constructora Santiago to bring this site into compliance with Clean Water Act storm water requirements, which will reduce pollutants that run into the Jiminez Garcia Creek and the Rio Grande De Loiza watershed.
Aircraft drinking water quality data released with worse results
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 19, 2005 -- A second round of EPA testing shows that 17.2% of 169 randomly selected passenger aircraft carried water contaminated with total coliform bacteria. The latest round of tests were performed on domestic and international passenger aircraft at airports nationwide in November and December of last year. The results confirm the presence of bacteria at levels warranting continued agency scrutiny.
The information released today is intended to help the public make informed decisions while traveling on aircraft. Passengers with compromised immune systems or others concerned may want to request canned or bottled beverages and refrain from drinking tea or coffee unless made with bottled water.
Total coliform and E. coli are indicators that other disease-causing organisms (pathogens) may be present in the water and could potentially affect public health. When sampling identified total coliform in the water of a domestic aircraft, that aircraft was disinfected and retested to ensure that the disinfection was effective. In instances where foreign flag aircraft tested positive for total coliform, those airline companies were notified of the positive test results and advised to disinfect and retest the aircraft.
As part of the first round of sampling, the EPA, during August and September 2004, randomly tested the water supplies on 158 aircraft nationwide. Aircraft tank water is used in the galleys and lavatory sinks. Initial testing of onboard water supplies revealed 20 aircraft (12.7%) with positive results for total coliform bacteria, with two of these aircraft also testing positive for E. coli. Following those tests, the agency announced that further testing would take place, and efforts were undertaken to reach agreements with airlines to more closely monitor water quality on planes.
In the second round of water quality sampling, 169 aircraft were tested. The sampling included water from galley water taps as well as lavatory faucets. Testing found that 29 of these aircraft (17.2%) were total-coliform-positive. E. coli was not found in the 169 aircraft included in the second round. Adding together the results of the first and second rounds of testing, the EPA tested 327 aircraft in 2004, with approximately 15% found to be total-coliform-positive.
Following the first round of airline water testing in November 2004, EPA announced that agreements had been signed with the following airlines to increase monitoring of water quality testing and disinfecting processes: Alaska Airlines, Aloha Airlines, American Airlines, America West, ATA Airlines, Continental Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Midwest Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways. Two additional airlines, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines, are currently negotiating separate agreements with the agency. Collectively, these 14 carriers represent the majority of U.S. flag carrying aircraft transporting the flying public. The agency will continue to work with smaller, regional and charter aircraft carriers to address drinking water quality with agreements similar to those reached with Air Transport Association (ATA) members. These agreements will govern airline drinking water safety until additional regulations are completed.
The agency began a review of existing safe drinking water guidance to airlines in 2002. In response to the aircraft test results, it's conducting a priority review of existing regulations and guidance. The agency is placing specific emphasis on preventive measures, adequate monitoring and sound maintenance practices such as flushing and disinfection of aircraft water systems.
For more information on the regulation of water supplies aboard passenger aircraft and to view publicly available testing data, visit: www.epa.gov/airlinewater.
EPA launches new Spanish website
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 19, 2005 -- The EPA has launched a new consolidated Spanish website as part of its ongoing effort to provide environmental information both in Spanish and English.
The new site compiles the agency's Spanish language materials on a wide variety of areas from lead poisoning prevention to controlling asthma triggers, recycling to proper management of pesticides. The site was developed through a series of focus groups to respond to the environmental needs and interests of Hispanics.
In addition to environmental health information, the site also offers educational resources for students and teachers who often seek Spanish language learning tools on the environment. The site also provides information about EPA grants, small business opportunities and environmental jobs at the agency.
To view EPA's Spanish site, visit: www.epa.gov/espanol.
Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of Jan. 19, 2005
Florida Man Sentenced for Illegal Filling of Florida Bay: Jeffrey Balch of Marathon, Fla., was sentenced on Jan. 11 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami for illegally depositing fill material in Florida Bay. The defendant will spend five months in prison followed by five months of home confinement. In addition, he was ordered to pay a $15,000 criminal fine and pay $66,122 to the Florida Keys Restoration Fund. He must also remove the illegally placed fill. Balch owned bayfront property in Marathon. He allowed Felix Equities, a contractor for the Little Venice Sewerage Project to dump excavated fill on his property. Balch then used heavy equipment to place the fill into the waters of Florida Bay. Illegally filling waters can damage fish and other aquatic organisms and affect the health of shoreline ecosystems. The case was investigated by the Miami Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. It was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Miami.
California Pollution Credit Trader Indicted on Wire Fraud Charges: Anne M. Sholtz of Bradbury, Calif., former operator of a bankrupt Pasadena-based internet site called Automated Credit Exchange (ACE) was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles on six federal felony counts that allege she sent a series of faxes and e-mails that defrauded AG Clean Air, a New York-based company that trades in energy credits. Sholtz owned a company called Sholtz and Associates which later merged with a company called EonXchange. Sholtz and the companies used ACE to trade in air emissions credits called RECLAIM Trading Credits (RTCs). The charges claim that in 1999, Sholtz approached AG Clean Air and stated that Mobil Corp. needed to purchase a large number of RTCs for a refinery in Southern California. RTCs allow a company to emit specific quantities of nitrogen and sulfur oxides into the air. Sholtz allegedly told AG Clean Air that if it gave her $12.5 million to buy the RTCs, Mobil would re-purchase them for $17.5 million. The indictment alleges that Sholtz had no such agreement with Mobil, and AG Clean Air lost $2.5 million as a result of the alleged scheme. The case is being investigated by the Los Angeles Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
EPA proposes to extend permit deadline for stormwater discharges
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 13, 2005 -- EPA proposes to extend until June 12 the regulatory deadline that would require stormwater permit coverage for oil and gas construction activities that disturb between one and five acres of land. The agency needs additional time to consider comments raised by stakeholders and to consider the economic, legal and procedural implications related to controlling stormwater discharges from these sites.
The public may provide comments on the proposed extension for 30 days upon publication in the Federal Register. A copy of the proposed extension and information about EPA's stormwater program is available at: www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater.
During the next 15 months, EPA intends to: complete an economic impact analysis; evaluate several regulatory options for addressing these stormwater discharges; and evaluate practices and methods used to control stormwater discharges from these sites. EPA intends to hold at least one public meeting with stakeholders to exchange information on current industry practices and their effectiveness in protecting water quality.
Today's proposed extension also outlines EPA's intent to develop and propose a regulation that would address stormwater discharges from these oil and gas construction sites. This proposal, to be made by Sept. 12, 2005, will be made available to the public for review and comment.
Americans urged to test for radon
EPA is issuing an annual reminder for Americans to test for radon gas in their homes. Jeff Holmstead, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, has signed a proclamation declaring January as National Radon Action Month.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States with about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year related to radon exposure. A radioactive, invisible, odorless gas that comes from the decay of naturally occurring uranium in the earth's soil, radon can accumulate in homes at dangerous levels. Because families spend more time indoors during the winter months, January is an opportune time to test for radon.
Simple, inexpensive do-it-yourself radon test kits are available at local hardware stores. EPA recommends that houses with radon levels of four picocuries or higher of radon should and can be fixed to prevent accumulation of radon gas indoors. To learn more about how to receive a discounted radon home test kit, for more information about radon and to contact your state radon office, visit: www.epa.gov/radon/ or call 1-800-SOS-Radon.
Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of Jan. 13, 2005
Minnesota Electroplater Charged With Illegal Storage of Hazardous Waste, Owner Charged With False Certification: Hard Chrome Inc., which operated an electroplating facility in Minneapolis, Minn., was charged on Dec. 22 in a document filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis with illegally storing hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The charges also alleged that Hard Chrome's owner and operator Richard Walters knowingly made and delivered a false writing with respect to Hard Chrome's alleged misconduct. The Hard Chrome plating facility had a plank flooring which had gaps of several inches between the boards. Between July and October 1999, Hard Chrome allegedly operated its facility in a manner that allowed hazardous industrial wastes including liquids from plating tanks; tank bottom sludges; and wastewater treatment sludges containing caustics, acids, zinc, nickel, chromium, cyanide and other heavy metals, to fall through the floor and pool in open lagoons in the facility's basement. Hard Chrome at no time had a RCRA permit to store these hazardous wastes. In addition, on or about Oct. 16, 2000, Richard Walters allegedly made and delivered a false writing related to the facility's operations. Open pools of hazardous waste create a serious potential for injury if humans are exposed to them. The case was investigated by the Minneapolis Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the City of Minneapolis Regulatory Services, Hennepin County Environmental Services, and the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. Support was provided by EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and EPA Region 5. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis.
Connecticut Man Pleads to Illegal Asbestos Removal: Michael J. Robichaud of Milford, Conn., pleaded guilty on Jan. 5 in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in New Haven, Conn., to violating the Clean Air Act by directing his employees to remove asbestos without following federal workplace standards. The defendant's company, MJR Contracting LLC, was licensed to provide asbestos abatement services. The violation took place in January 2003, when MJR Contracting was performing asbestos abatement at the Pequot Motor Inn in Fairfield, Conn. Not following federal workplace standards can expose workers to the inhalation of asbestos fibers which can cause lung cancer, a lung disease known as "asbestosis," and mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. When sentenced, Robichaud faces a maximum possible sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in New Haven.
Agency joins with organizations to reduce water pollution
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 12, 2005 -- Today, Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles, along with officers from several organizations that focus on septic systems, formalized an agreement to improve wastewater treatment for 25 million homes nation-wide. These organizations are committed to working together in information exchange and technical assistance.
"This agreement will help solidify our national partnership to protect drinking water supplies and local water quality through promoting change in the way these waste water systems are managed," said Grumbles. "I am pleased to formally recognize the contributions these partners make to achieve results in protecting public health and improving water quality."
The memorandum of understanding is a first step in implementing EPA's program that works cooperatively with national organizations that represent septic system practitioners and the public. These systems are used in nearly 25% of homes across the country and used in about one-third of all new housing and commercial development. When properly sited, designed and maintained, these systems are capable of producing high quality wastewater. However, decentralized systems are the second greatest threat to groundwater quality, second only to leakage from underground storage tanks. It is estimated that nation-wide, 10 to 20% of decentralized systems are not adequately treating wastewater due to inadequate site location, design and maintenance.
The program strategy that accompanies the MOU identifies EPA's vision, mission and actions to improve the performance of decentralized wastewater treatment systems. The MOU and the strategy are intended to upgrade the management of these systems and facilitate collaboration between EPA headquarters, EPA regions, state and local governments and national organizations representing practitioners and assistance providers. Improved performance of decentralized systems will provide better protection of public health and water resources.
For more information about the effort or the decentralized wastewater treatment system program, visit EPA's website at: http://epa.gov/owm/septic.
Agency helps local governments address environmental challenges
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 12, 2005 -- Environmental management systems (EMS) are a well established tool to help local governments prevent pollution, operate more efficiently and improve environmental performance within their communities. Since 1997, EPA has helped local entities establish EMS that include effective environmental policies and measurable goals for reducing impacts on the environment. Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton, N.J., who co-chairs the National Conference of Mayor Urban Watershed Council said, "Introducing EMS as a tool reduces costs and improves government efficiency in addition to preserving environmental quality, making it a 'must do' for mayors and their staff and programs."
The agency has been working with local governments and others to help understand the benefits of an EMS and assist those that choose to put one in place. EPA in cooperation with the Global Environment and Technology Foundation has worked with more than 30 local governments around the country to reduce operating costs, improve their compliance and significantly reduce environmental impacts in the community. In the first year of implementing an EMS, the city of San Diego's Solid Waste Division was able to reduce air emissions from heavy equipment more than $800,000.
EPA is also leading a program to work with non-profit organizations, called EMS Local Resource Centers, to help increase the number of local governments that adopt EMS. These centers provide a range of services to local governments including education, training, workshops and guidance. There are 11 local resource centers around the country, including four new centers recently designated by EPA. These newly designated centers are located at the University of Missouri-Rolla, Kansas State University, the University of Colorado, and EcoVenture in Oakland, Calif. Each of these local resource centers is playing an important national leadership role by helping local governments operate in a more environmentally and economically sound manner and provides more efficient services for taxpayers in their communities. Information about EMS and the new centers is available at: www.peercenter.net.
Agency proposes to modify toxics release inventory reporting requirements
EPA announced today the first of two proposed rules intended to reduce the time and resources needed to submit annual reports to EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). TRI data and information are currently provided to federal officials by nearly 23,000 industrial and federal facility owners and operators nationwide.
These rules are being proposed after the agency received suggestions from stakeholders in meetings and on-line between November, 2002 and March, 2004. The proposed rule being announced today is the "Toxics Release Inventory Forms Modification Rule" in the Federal Register Volume 70, Number 6. Today's proposals contains several options that could potentially reduce the amount of time that facility representatives currently spend each year submitting data and information (by an estimated 45,000 hours).
The proposed changes to the TRI Reporting Forms are not anticipated to impact human health or environmental quality. EPA believes that these changes will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the TRI program, while continuing to provide the public with the same high level of information about chemical releases and waste management in their communities.
Comments on the proposed rule are due to EPA by March 11, 2005. For further information on this proposed rule or ways to submit comments on EPA's proposal, visit the TRI Web Site at: http://epa.gov/tri/tridata/tier3/formsmodrule.html or the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Hotline, Washington, D.C., at 800-424-9346
Agency seeks scientific peer review on PFOA
Today EPA announced that an outside panel of scientific experts will review a preliminary draft PFOA risk assessment. The agency is seeking scientific peer review on the preliminary assessment to ensure that the approaches being used are scientifically sound. The preliminary assessment does not provide conclusions regarding potential levels of concern. The Science Advisory Board is scheduled to conduct its review on Feb. 22 and 23, 2005, in Washington, DC., and the panel report is expected several months later. PFOA is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of a wide range of non-stick surfaces. The agency is continuing to work with industry and other interested parties to develop the information that will be necessary to better understand the sources and routes of exposure in humans, determine whether PFOA poses any risks to human health and the environment, and what voluntary or regulatory actions, if any, may be necessary. The preliminary draft PFOA risk assessment, information on the meeting and additional information on PFOA are available at: www.epa.gov/opptintr/pfoa.