EPA Action: Governors, tribal leaders to nominate projects for watershed grants

In other news: 1) Billerica wastewater plant settles clean water violations; 2) 10 states, EPA to launch Clean Energy-Environment Partnership Program; 3) EPA, NARUC announce energy efficiency, renewable energy projects with six states; 4) Oil firms pay $1.5 million to settle Santa Monica MTBE cleanup costs; 5) Three firms to pay $720,250 for failure to clean up old Rhone-Poulenc site; 6) 3M-Brookings site recognized as a top environmental performer...

In other news below, see:
-- Middlesex County wastewater treatment plant at Billerica settles Clean Water Act violations;
-- Ten states, EPA to launch Clean Energy-Environment Partnership Program;
-- EPA, NARUC announce energy efficiency, renewable energy projects with six states;
-- Oil companies pay EPA $1.5 million to settle Santa Monica MTBE cleanup costs;
-- EPA demands $720,250 from three companies for failure to clean up former Rhone-Poulenc site;
-- EPA recognizes 3M-Brookings as a top environmental performer

Governors, tribal leaders asked to nominate projects for watershed grants
WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 21, 2005 -- To further protect and restore the country's waterways, the Bush Administration is calling on the nation's governors and tribal leaders to apply for the third round of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency watershed grants.

In addition to announcing Friday that it had set a limit for perchlorate in drinking water (see: "EPA sets reference dose for perchlorate in drinking water," the agency announced that $18 million in grants would be available for grants to support community-based approaches and activities to help local water resources.

The Targeted Watersheds Grant Program was first proposed by the president in 2002 to protect America's waterways. In its first two years, the EPA awarded nearly $30 million in grants to 34 watershed organizations across the country. Of the $18 million approved by Congress for fiscal year 2005, $8 million will go directly to grants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This notice announces the beginning of the 2005 process for the $10 million targeted for watershed nationwide watershed grants.

"Our Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is a shining example of cooperative conservation and environmental innovation," said EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles.

The 34 watersheds already in the program cover more than 110,000 square miles of the nation's lakes, rivers, and streams. They represent varied landscapes from the forests of Maine to the tropics of Hawaii; from the sparsely populated areas in Alaska to highly urbanized watersheds of the East Coast. Funds are already going toward restoration and protection projects such as stream stabilization and habitat enhancement, implementing agricultural and stormwater best management practices, and working with local municipalities and homeowners to promote sustainable practices and strategies. The selected organizations were chosen to receive the awards because their projects were the most likely to achieve environmental results quickly.

In this third year of the program, EPA will continue to support coalition-based strategies for improving water resources on a watershed level, including activities such as attaining water quality standards, and protecting and restoring the natural and beneficial uses of floodplains. The goal of the Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is to advance successful partnerships and coalitions that have completed the necessary watershed assessments and have a technically sound watershed plan ready to carry out. This Program is intended to encourage the kind of proactive, and incentive-based protection and restoration measures that will yield cleaner water and better protected ecosystems. The agency anticipates that typical grant awards for the selected watersheds will range from $600,000 to $900,000 depending on the amount requested and the overall size and need of the project.

Nominations by the country's governors and tribal leaders for the third year of grants competition will be due to the EPA on or before May 19. The agency will then evaluate and rank each submission based on a set of criteria outlined in today's notice. Final selections of the watershed grantees will be announced in late summer. To access the Federal Register notice and other information about the Targeted Watersheds Grant Program go to: www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/initiative/.

Following are other agency developments which may interest you:

Billerica wastewater plant settles clean water violations
BOSTON, Feb. 18, 2005 -- The Middlesex Sheriff's Office and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which respectively operate and own the Billerica Jail and House of Correction in Billerica, MA, which in turn operates a domestic wastewater treatment facility, have reached a settlement with EPA stemming from violations of the federal Clean Water Act, according to the EPA Region I Office.

The wastewater treatment plant violated the environmental statute by discharging pollutants into to the Concord River, violating limits contained in the facility's "National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit," also referred to as a NPDES permit.

On approximately 220 occasions between Jan. 1999 and April 2004, the plant discharged effluent to the Concord River exceeding effluent limits for total residual chlorine, fecal coliform bacteria, biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids.

The owner and operator of the plant will pay a penalty of $157,500. Since Sept. 2004, when EPA formally filed an administrative complaint on this issue, the plant has retained a contractor to correct facility infrastructure issues that led to the discharged pollution to the river. The owner and operator are also working with the Town of Billerica to construct a sewer line that will connect the Billerica Jail and House of Correction to the Town of Billerica's publicly-owned treatment works. The connection to the Town's sewer system is scheduled to be completed in April 2005.

"It is very important that wastewater treatment plants meet their responsibilities, ensuring that we all can enjoy clean and healthy water, " said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Clean water is essential to a healthy environment. I am hopeful that Middlesex County is now on the path to meeting state and federal standards."

For more information, see: www.epa.gov/region1/pr/2005/feb/dd050204.html.

10 states, EPA to launch Clean Energy-Environment Partnership Program
WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 17, 2005 -- On Feb. 18, the EPA will launch the new Clean Energy-Environment State Partnership Program with 10 states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Under the voluntary program, the agency assists states as they develop and implement action plans to improve air quality, decrease energy use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance economic development.

"EPA is pleased to initiate a new effort to help states work on cost-effective energy and environmental strategies that make sense for their air, their electricity systems, and their economies," said Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation. "Through our joint efforts, the increased use of energy efficiency, renewable energy and other clean power options can help meet our nation's growing energy demand in a way that also supports our clean air goals, creates jobs and lowers costs."

With the demand for energy expected to climb 40% by the year 2025 and about 126 million people living in counties where monitored air is unhealthy at one time or more during the year, many states are seeking to integrate their energy and environmental policies to protect public health while addressing concerns with electricity reliability, energy security and economic development.

The EPA estimates that if all 50 states implemented cost-effective clean energy-environment policies, the expected growth in demand for electricity could be cut in half by 2025, and more demand could be met through a cleaner energy supply. This would mean annual savings of more than 900 billion kilowatt-hours and $70 billion in energy costs by 2025, while preventing the need for more than 300 power plants and the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 80 million of today's vehicles.

Under the new partnership program, states agree to work with the agency to develop and implement a state-specific Clean Energy-Environment State Action Plan that contains one or more clean energy-environment goals. It provides partner states with access to a comprehensive technical assistance package of planning, policy, technical, analytical and information resources and helps direct them to other federal programs that support clean energy-environment strategies. In addition to receiving technical assistance from the EPA, partners benefit from learning from their peers about successful programs and policies at work in other states, identifying themselves as environmental and clean energy leaders, and receiving agency recognition for the environmental benefits that result from their efforts.

Examples of policies and programs that states may choose to pursue as part of their Clean Energy-Environment Action Plan include energy efficiency incentive programs to promote technologies that can lower emissions and save consumers energy costs and programs to support the adoption of cost-effective green power.

The EPA was to announce the program at the National Association of State Energy Officials' (NASEO) 2005 Energy Outlook conference. Information about the conference is available online at: www.naseo.org/events/outlook/default.htm.

For information on the program and Charter Partners, go to: www.epa.gov/cleanenergy.

EPA, NARUC announce energy efficiency projects with six states
WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 16, 2005 -- The EPA and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) announced the formation of EPA-State Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Projects between the agency and utility regulators from six states. The six states involved in the initiative are Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Minnesota and New Mexico. The projects involve state utility regulators working with the agency to explore approaches for reducing the cost of consumer electric and gas bills through cost-effective energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean distributed generation.

Based on a number of recent studies, the EPA estimates that if all states were to implement cost-effective energy efficiency and clean energy policies, the expected growth in demand for electricity could be cut in half by 2025, providing billions of dollars in customer savings, contributing to lower prices for natural gas and substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Through the EERE projects, EPA and the states will explore policies and programs for delivering more energy efficiency to electric and gas customers, which in a growing number of states across the country is delivering energy savings at a significantly lower cost than the construction of new electricity supply or buying natural gas. The initiative will also explore opportunities for combined heat and power and renewable energy to contribute to a lower cost, cleaner power system.

The projects will build upon the past decade of experience by EPA's Energy Star program in helping utilities and others to implement low-cost energy efficiency programs that deliver energy bill savings to their customers. Through 2004, Americans with the help of Energy Star have reduced national electricity demand by almost 4%, saving about $10 billion annually and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 20 million vehicles.

The EPA-State EERE projects were announced at NARUC's 2005 Winter Meetings held in Washington, D.C.

More information is available online at: www.epa.gov/cleanenergy.

Oil firms pay EPA $1.5 million to settle Santa Monica MTBE cleanup costs
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 16, 2005 -- Under the terms of a settlement filed today in federal court, several oil companies will pay $1.5 million to the EPA for costs it incurred while directing the investigation and cleanup of methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE, a gasoline additive, from a groundwater basin formerly used for drinking water by the city of Santa Monica, according to the agency's Region IX Office.

"The EPA welcomes this settlement as one more step in resolving the issues associated with the Santa Monica MTBE contamination problem," said Wayne Nastri, the U.S. EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "The EPA is committed to working closely with our state and local government partners to assure that sites are cleaned up and responsible parties are held accountable."

The money from this settlement will go into the U.S. government's Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund, which finances investigations, cleanups and enforcement actions at leaking underground storage tank sites.

"The agreed settlement is another reminder of our continued efforts to hold parties financially responsible for polluting the environment," stated Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Placing the financial responsibility on the shoulders of those who cause contamination ensures future funding to address contaminated sites throughout the country."

The EPA has been working with the City of Santa Monica and the Regional Water Quality Control Board to require cleanup of the MTBE contamination since 1996.

"Santa Monica thanks the EPA for stepping up to the plate early on in our MTBE crisis and assisting us in a settlement that will ensure long-term water security for our citizens," said Craig Perkins, Director, Department of Environmental & Public Works Management, City of Santa Monica.

"The Regional Board is pleased to continue working with all parties to oversee the cleanup at the source sites and regional groundwater monitoring within the Charnock Sub-Basin. This oversight and regulation will continue until the drinking water aquifer is restored to its full beneficial use as a drinking water supply for the City of Santa Monica," said, Susan Cloke, Chair, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The agreement between the EPA and the oil companies follows eight years of investigation and cleanup under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and California's Porter Cologne Act. The MTBE contamination in the vicinity of Santa Monica's drinking water wells came from at least 25 possible sources, most of which were gas stations in the Charnock Sub-Basin.

Under orders from the EPA and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, the oil companies have extracted more than 346 million gallons of contaminated groundwater and removed over 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. Approximately 6,000 pounds of MTBE have been recovered.

Including past costs, the oil companies are expected to spend in excess of $200 million to address the contamination.

Banned in California since 2004, MTBE is a gasoline additive and potential carcinogen that is highly soluble in water. MTBE was first introduced in 1979 to make gasoline burn more cleanly; it became a problem due to leaks into groundwater.

Santa Monica's Charnock Sub-Basin public drinking water supply wells have been shut down since 1996 when MTBE contamination was first discovered. The wells formally provided more than six million gallons per day of local water, approximately half of Santa Monica's daily water demand. In addition to directing the cleanup, the EPA and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board have required the oil companies to supply replacement water to Santa Monica at a cost of more than $3 million a year.

In 2003, Shell Oil Co., ChevronTexaco Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. signed an agreement with Santa Monica, which required that the oil companies build treatment systems for Charnock water supply wells to remove the MTBE that had spread beyond source sites. This will eventually allow Santa Monica to restore use of the Charnock drinking water supply. No water from the Charnock Sub-Basin is currently being used for drinking water.

The companies named in this settlement are:
-- Shell Oil Co.
-- Shell Oil Products Co. LLC (as successor in interest to Shell Oil Products Company),
-- Equilon Enterprises LLC,
-- Shell Pipeline Company LP (for itself and as successor in interest to Equilon Pipeline Company),
-- TMR Company (formerly know as Texaco Refining and Marketing Company),
-- ChevronTexaco Corp.,
-- Chevron USA Inc.,
-- Exxon Mobil Corp.,
-- Mobil Oil Corp.,
-- ExxonMobil Oil Corp.,
-- Thrifty Oil Co. and,
-- Best California Gas, Ltd.

For more information on the Charnock site, please visit: www.epa.gov/region09/charnock/.

Three firms ordered to pay $720,250 on clean up of old Rhone-Poulenc site
SEATTLE, WA, Feb. 16, 2005 -- The EPA is demanding that a group of current and former owners of a south Seattle, Washington industrial chemical processing site pay $720,250 for failing to abide by the terms of an agreement to clean up industrial pollutants at the site. The agreement was created in 1993 under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Most recently operated by Rhone-Poulenc and now owned by Container Properties L.L.C., the facility manufactured and processed a wide variety of industrial chemicals until it closed in April 1991. The site has a long history of above- and below-ground releases of contaminants such as toluene (a toxic solvent), arsenic, cadmium, copper, mineral oil, sulfuric acid and other pollutants. Sampling has detected contamination of groundwater flowing into the Lower Duwamish River which is home to threatened Chinook salmon and depressed steelhead runs. The Lower Duwamish Waterway is a Superfund site.

In a letter to the current and former owners of the property -- Container Properties L.L.C., Bayer CropScience (successor of Rhone-Poulenc Inc.) and Rhodia Inc. -- the EPA noted that the companies were required by the 1993 Administrative Order to follow a workplan to construct and operate facilities to prevent contaminants from entering the river. The companies failed to comply with several requirements of the Order. Each company will now be considered a Significant Non-Complier, a term used to identify chronic or recalcitrant violators; or those who deviate substantially from the terms of an order.

EPA officials believe the repeated failure to meet requirements of the 1993 consent order was either a matter of blatant disregard or ignorance of the requirements of the order.

"Bottom line, these companies had an approved plan to keep this contamination from becoming a worse problem and they didn't follow through," said Mike Bussell, Director of the EPA's Regional Office for Compliance and Enforcement. "We're very concerned. Contamination of this degree requires serious efforts to clean it up."

"Let's hope these penalties re-focus the group's attention on the seriousness of their cleanup responsibilities to the public living in the South Park area and those who use the river for recreation," said Bussell.

The EPA is demanding penalties for the following violations of the 1993 Administrative Order:
1. Failure to construct the approved groundwater treatment system.
2. Failure to install the approved transducers and data recorder.
3. Failure to obtain and retain performance data in accordance with approved Work Plans.
4. Failure to report system shutdowns and other activities in the monthly progress reports.
5. Failure to submit a required Operation and Maintenance Plan on time.
6. Failure to maintain required operating records.
7. Failure to provide a copy of all reports of discharges at the time required.
8. Failure to maintain site security and to log inspections.
9. Failure to conduct sampling in accordance with the approved Work Plan.
10. Failure to provide timely notification of sampling events.
11. Failure to comply with the requirement to certify documents.

In 1998 and 2000, the same group paid penalties of $320,000 and $159,500, respectively, for failing to conduct required cleanup work at the site.

For more information, see:
-- Rhone Poulenc Incorporated - EPA Region 10 Cleanup Website.
-- Lower Duwamish Waterway Site - EPA Region 10 Cleanup Website.

EPA recognizes 3M-Brookings as a top environmental performer
DENVER, Feb. 15, 2005 -- The EPA Region 8 Office announced today that the 3M facility in Brookings, S.D., has been selected as a member of the agency's National Performance Track, a voluntary leadership program for top environmental performers.

3M- Brookings is the second 3M facility in South Dakota to be accepted into the Performance Track program. Criteria for membership include demonstrating a comprehensive Environmental Management System, a history of sustained compliance with regulatory requirements, a commitment to continuous environmental improvement and a community outreach program. 3M-Brookings joins more than 350 facilities in the nation that have been accepted into the program.

3M-Brookings has also achieved the International Standard certification 14001 for its Environmental Management System, a standard that indicates the exceptional commitment of managers and staff to reduce environmental impacts and increase operating efficiency. This standard is verified by an external auditor who confirmed that the lodge's EMS meets rigorous international environmental standards and certification requirements.

"We welcome 3M's commitment to state-of-the-art environmental management practices and continuous improvement at its Brookings facility" said EPA's Assistant Regional Administrator in Denver, Steve Tuber. "Performance Track is the 'gold standard' for facility-based environmental performance."

The Performance Track program recognizes, rewards and encourages environmental performers that consistently exceed regulatory requirements, work closely with their communities and excel in protecting the environment and public health. The program is open to public or private, manufacturing or service-oriented facilities of all types, sizes and complexity.

3M-Brookings will be recognized at EPA's Performance Track program annual recognition event on April 12 in Chicago.

For more information, please visit www.epa.gov/performancetrack/.

EPA Region 8 encompasses the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and 27 Tribal Nations.

###

More in Environmental