EPA Action: Effluent standards eased for wood processors

Other action includes: 1) Conn. shipping company fined $4.2M for dumping oil at sea; 2) EPA announces $2B sewage spill agreement for Los Angeles; 3) EPA to aid in developing better tests for hazardous chemicals; 4) Recycling, remediation technology focus of $700K in contracts; 5) New website showcases innovative environmental solutions; and, 6) Mobil settles for over $5.5M on water violations on Navajo land...

Other action includes:
-- Conn. shipping company fined $4.2M for dumping oil at sea
-- EPA announces $2B sewage spill agreement for Los Angeles
-- EPA to aid in developing better tests for hazardous chemicals
-- Recycling, remediation technology focus of $700K in contracts
-- New website showcases innovative environmental solutions
-- Mobil settles for over $5.5M on water violations on Navajo land

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 13, 2004 -- In a July 30 filing with the Federal Register, the EPA amended effluent limitations, guidelines and standards for wood processors as part of a modification to how their products are regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The action is specific to national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) in the "plywood and composite wood products" (PCWP) source category as well as the "timber products processing" point source category ¿ veneer, plywood, dry process hardboard, particle board ¿ adjusting the definition of process wastewater under the Clean Water Act to exclude certain sources of wastewater generated by air pollution control devices expected to be installed to comply with the final NESHAP rules for PCWPs.

The airborne pollutant restrictions apply primarily to emissions of acetaldehyde, acrolein, formaldehyde, methanol, phenol, and propionaldehyde. The final rule will reduce HAP emissions from the PCWP source category by approximately 6,600 to 11,000 tons a year. It also will cut VOC emissions by 14,000 to 27,000 tons.

Meanwhile, waste discharges by facilities that produce wood veneers, plywood, dry-process hardboard or particleboard will now be excluded from standard effluent discharge regulations. They now can seek a discharge permit on a case-by-case basis with allowances for the permit writer to use "best professional judgment" in determining the appropriate effluent limitations for wastewaters from air pollution control devices.

The final NESHAP rules and amendments to the effluent guidelines are effective Sept. 28. The action is in part due to comments from the American Forest & Paper Association, according to the document.

For more information, see: www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2004/July/Day-30/a6298a.pdf

In other recent EPA action, the following was reported via the agency's website:

Conn. shipping company fined $4.2M for dumping oil at sea
STAMFORD, CT, Aug. 12, 2004 -- OMI Corp. was ordered to pay a $4.2 million fine for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). The OMI tanker Guadalupe illegally discharged oil using a bypass hose to circumvent on-board pollution control equipment and concealed the discharges through false entries in the ship's Oil Record Book. The Guadalupe routinely transported crude oil and petroleum products between the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. In September 2001, the ship's second engineer went to a local police department when the ship docked in Cartaret, NJ. He informed the police that he was being ordered to dump oily wastes at sea. The second engineer was awarded $2.1 million of the fine, said to be the largest bounty ever paid to a whistleblower under APPS. The ship's captain, Ashok Kumar, and chief engineer, Elangovan Mani, also plead guilty in this case. Sentencing took place on Aug. 6 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the New York Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Inspector General's Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

EPA announces $2B sewage spill agreement for Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 6, 2004 -- In one of the largest sewage penalty cases in U.S. history, the Department of Justice, EPA, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Monica Baykeeper and a coalition of Los Angeles community groups have reached a $2 billion settlement with the city of Los Angeles over years of sewage spills.

Under terms of the historic agreement, the city will rebuild at least 488 miles of sewer lines, clean 2,800 miles of sewers annually, enhance its program to control restaurant grease discharges, increase the sewage system's capacity, and plan for future expansion. With approximately 6,500 miles of sewer lines serving almost 4 million residents, L.A. operates the largest sewage collection system in the country. Since 1994, it has experienced over 4,500 sewage spills.

The United States and the regional board are settling their civil penalty claims against the city for a total of $1.6 million, which they will share equally. The city will pay $800,000 to the U.S. Treasury. The regional board is directing its $800,000 to local environmental improvement projects that the city will perform.

This settlement is a groundbreaking effort to address all causes of sewage spills and odors in the city of Los Angeles. The terms of the settlement require a proactive approach designed to prevent problems from developing in the city's system. The city is required to undertake more aggressive maintenance practices and advanced planning to identify and repair or replace problem sewers before they spill.

In total, the city of Los Angeles will perform $8.5 million in environmental projects in addition to the work required to improve its sewer system. The environmental improvement projects required under today's agreement include projects throughout the city to restore streams and wetlands and to capture and treat polluted storm drain flows.

The Santa Monica Baykeeper filed its action against Los Angeles in 1998, and the EPA, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the community groups filed their action in 2001. The community groups include Baldwin Hills Estates Homeowner's Association, Inc.; Baldwin Hills Village Garden Homes Association; United Homeowners Association; Village Green Owners Association; and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.

The agreement takes effect when signed by the District Court judge following a 30-day public comment period.

EPA to aid in developing better tests for hazardous chemicals
WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 4, 2004 -- To better protect humans from the effects of toxic chemicals, EPA has joined in a research agreement with Affymetrix Inc. to develop testing protocols -- based on examination of genetic response of cells -- that are faster, less expensive, and more accurate than current methods of testing laboratory animals. EPA's work in protecting human health and the environment requires screening thousands of chemicals to select those that may be hazardous for more in-depth toxicity tests. The time and cost of screening has limited the number of complete toxicological profiles that are submitted to and evaluated by the Agency each year.

Through this agreement, EPA will assess the feasibility of using Affymetrix GeneChip® technology for predicting chemical toxicity in humans. If successful, besides reducing time and costs, this technology will also allow researchers to extract the maximum of data from far fewer animal test subjects. This project supports and enhances ongoing efforts in EPA's computational toxicology research program to develop improved testing protocols for identifying chemical hazards to human health.

"EPA is pleased to be entering this partnership with Affymetrix to evaluate the use of GeneChip technology in improving our ability to prioritize chemicals for screening and testing for human health hazard. Since such testing can be both time- and cost-intensive, we see great potential in being able to use chip technology to more efficiently and effectively select chemicals for toxicological evaluation," states Dr. Paul Gilman, Assistant Administrator for Research and Development.

Affymetrix will provide the appropriate GeneChip arrays for the project. EPA will conduct the experiments at its National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Both Affymetrix and EPA will collaborate on the analysis of the test results.

Under the Federal Technology Transfer Act, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA allows private industry and state/local governments access to federal laboratories to exchange EPA personnel, equipment or services for a particular project. The goal of a CRADA is to more efficiently collaborate with others to move technology into real world applications. CRADAs are flexible and can be adapted to fit the goals of a variety of organizations.

For more information on EPA's computational toxicology program, visit the website at: www.epa.gov/comptox. To learn more about CRADAs, visit: www.epa.gov/osp/ftta.htm

Recycling, remediation technology focus of $700K in contracts
WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 4, 2004 -- To encourage companies to recycle materials and remediate wastes, EPA awarded $700,000 to three companies to develop more cost-effective recycling and clean-up technologies through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Twelve federal agencies participate in the SBIR program, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of small businesses in federal Research and Development. SBIR businesses must have less than 500 employees and at least 51 percent of the business must be owned by U.S. citizens. National Recovery Technologies, Inc. of Nashville, TN, will develop a prototype electronic-waste (e-waste) plastic sorting system for recovery and recycling of plastics from the computer industry. 13 billion pounds of e-waste plastics from computers alone are estimated to be produced in the next decade. The new technology will sort plastics by structure (polymer type), which allows the recycled materials to be reused in high-value, profitable applications. OnMaterials, Inc. of San Diego, CA, will continue development of high surface-area iron powder to detoxify ground water contaminated with halogenated hydrocarbons, chemicals primarily used in fire extinguishers and refrigerants. Lower amounts of the new decontamination powder will be needed to treat contaminated ground water, thus reducing clean-up costs substantially. Little Bear Laboratories, Inc. of Golden, CO, will develop methods to reduce acid drainage at mining sites. A significant environmental problem for the mining industry, uncontrolled oxidation of sulfide minerals in mine wastes causes acid rock drainage that contaminates receiving waters. The new methodology uses a chemical coating that selectively inhibits the action of acid-forming microbes. The SBIR program spawns commercial ventures that improve our environment, create jobs, and increase productivity and economic growth. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir

New website showcases innovative environmental solutions
WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 4, 2004 -- A new EPA website offers environmental policies and best practices from countries around the world including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Australia. The online global library provides links to journals, databases, guidelines, programs and case studies involving innovations in air, toxics, waste and water issues, as well as multi-media approaches, such as Environmental Management Systems, sustainable transport, smart growth and industrial ecology. It provides examples of state and local partnerships with other countries and regions that have resulted in creative environmental solutions in the United States such as: constructed wetlands to treat wastewater; green buildings and renewable energy to address climate and air pollution; industrial ecology to support pollution prevention and brownfields revitalization; a list of fellowships for group and individual exchanges; and a number of resources on evaluating international initiatives. The library will help state and local governments, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, as well as other countries learn from these experiments. For more information, visit the website: www.epa.gov/innovation/international

Mobil settles for over $5.5M on water violations on Navajo land
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 3, 2004 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced a settlement with Mobil Exploration and Producing U.S. Inc. worth over $5.5 million for numerous oil and produced water spills from its oil production activities on the Navajo Nation in southeastern Utah.

The settlement includes a $515,000 penalty and requires the company to spend about $4.7 million on field operation improvements to reduce spill incidences.

Mobil will also spend approximately $327,000 on environmental projects that include sanitation facilities and construction of a drinking water supply line extension that will provide running water to 17 of the remote residences located on the oil production fields. Currently, local residents may drive as long as an hour to fill 55 gallon drums with drinking water.

"This settlement brings Mobil's oil production activities into compliance with water pollution control requirements, and also brings much-needed public health benefits to residents of the area who still lack an in-home drinking water supply," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest region.

"Companies that operate and manage our nation's oil producing infrastructure have a responsibility to ensure the safety and integrity of their operations," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonetti of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today's settlement is an excellent mechanism for bringing Mobil's operations into compliance and also works to improve the well-being of those living on the Navajo Nation in southeastern Utah."

In March 1998, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit claiming that between December 1991 and March 1999 approximately 83 spills at Mobil's oil fields reached tributaries of the San Juan River-- a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Mobil's violations include:
1) Unauthorized discharge of oil and oil and water mixtures into tributaries of
the San Juan River;
2) Failure to prepare and fully implement an adequate spill prevention and
control plan;
3) Failure to implement existing plans;
4) Failure to prepare a facility response plan or conduct drills and training
5) Failure to notify the EPA of discharge events.

Mobil's oil production fields are located on both sides of the San Juan River in southeast Utah on lands leased from the Navajo Nation. The EPA worked closely with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency in addressing the spills, which the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency first brought to the EPA's attention in 1996.

###

More in Environmental