EPA Action: Third phase of proposed cooling water intake rules posted to web
Other agency news includes: New collaboration to help communities return Superfund sites to productive use; New tracking tool for EPA chemical health assessments; Pact reached with major airlines to implement new aircraft water protocols; Two Mid-Atlantic companies settle storm water violations; Four municipalities to cut illicit sewage discharges into New England river; Agency acts to make coastal and Great Lakes beaches cleaner, safer...
The following are some recent agency developments which may interest you:
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 15, 2004 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasn't published them in the Federal Register yet, but its proposed regulations for cooling water intake structures at Phase III facilities have been posted to its website.
They can be found at www.epa.gov/waterscience/316b/ph3.htm, under the heading "Phase III - certain existing facilities and new offshore and coastal oil and gas extraction facilities." The cooling water intake structure rules are grouped under 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. The first two phases of rules changes affected new facilities (Phase I, completed in December 2001) and then large existing electric generating plants (Phase II, completed in July 2004). Phase II is being contested by several Northeast states that claim it unduly weakens aquatic protections.
In the Phase III documentation, the agency reports, "We estimate that the proposed options would protect between 30 million and 50 million aquatic organisms annually from death or injury by cooling water intake structures. The use benefits range from $1.3 million to $1.9 million per year depending on the design intake flow threshold of the proposed options, and are primarily from improvements to commercial and recreational fishing. There are likely to be other benefits, for example, more robust and productive aquatic ecosystems, although these are harder to quantify.
"We estimate the proposed rule would affect between 19 and 136 existing facilities and have compliance costs between $17.4 million and $46.8 million per year, depending on the option. 124 new offshore and coastal oil and gas facilities would be regulated for a total compliance cost of $3.2 million. The rule would cost state and federal agencies between $500,000 and $1 million annually to administer, for a total annual cost of the rule of $21.3 million to $51 million, depending on the option."
The Phase III language was posted Nov. 1 to the EPA website. Basic information on the 316(b) rules changes can be found at www.epa.gov/waterscience/316b/basic.htm.
Storage tank rules: 20 years of protecting America's soil and groundwater
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 10, 2004 -- Until 20 years ago, hundreds of thousands of unregulated underground storage tanks were leaking petroleum and contaminating our nation's soil and groundwater. Today, our environment is better protected because of the collaborative efforts of federal and state governments, tribes and industry to ensure that underground storage tanks don't leak.
This month, EPA commemorates the 20th anniversary of legislation signed by President Reagan to create a program to ensure that leaks from underground tanks are prevented, and if contamination of soil and groundwater is detected, releases are cleaned up. Since 1984, more than 1.5 million substandard tanks have been closed. Because of the effective collaboration of government and communities, more than 300,000 releases have been cleaned up.
Today, the approximately 700,000 active tanks have been upgraded or replaced, in accordance with the federal regulations for release prevention and leak detection. Further, the number of new leaks discovered each year has dropped from a high of more than 66,000 in 1990 to roughly 12,000 in 2003. On Nov. 8, 1984, President Reagan signed legislation directing EPA to protect the public from petroleum leaks from underground tanks at gas stations and other places. Two years later, Congress created the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to provide a funding source for cleaning up these petroleum leaks. EPA set tough standards covering new tanks and requiring owners and operators of substandard tanks to upgrade or close them.
Even with these significant accomplishments, EPA continues to work to address this source of pollution. Many contaminated sites await completion of cleanups, and more than 200,000 petroleum Brownfield sites await cleanup and reuse. More information on EPA's ongoing work to prevent, detect and clean up releases from leaking underground storage tanks and to protect our nation' soil and groundwater is available at: www.epa.gov/oust/pubs/20annrpt.pdf.
New collaboration to help return Superfund sites to productive use
Underscoring the EPA's commitment to returning cleaned up properties to productive uses, a new initiative is being launched today that will support community efforts to reuse formerly contaminated Superfund sites. The national initiative, called "Return to Use," is the agency's latest effort to assist community programs working to reuse cleaned up Superfund sites while ensuring that human health and the environment are fully protected.
The EPA will be partnering with 11 communities throughout the United States to commence this new initiative. Projects are located in California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah. The agency believes there could be several hundred sites around the country where the Return to Use initiative can help return former Superfund sites to productive use by helping to remove physical or institutional barriers to community use, such as fences at a site or legal deed limitations restricting access. These barriers to reuse will only be removed if it is clear that they are not needed to protect human health, the environment or the remedy in place at the site.
The Return to Use initiative focuses on sites that were cleaned up early in the life of the Superfund program, before the agency's current emphasis on considering the anticipated future use of the land while cleanups are in progress. At many of these sites, the remedy construction is complete and the property is considered ready for reuse, yet remains vacant. At some of these vacant sites, removing or modifying unnecessary barriers with the cooperation of property owners and federal, state and local partners can lead to the site's reuse as green space, recreational or commercial facilities, all without posing any increased risk to human health or the environment.
Returning cleaned Superfund sites to beneficial use not only allows local communities to reclaim lost landscapes, it also removes the stigma sometimes associated with fenced and vacant Superfund sites. Newly productive property can lead to increased property values and a higher tax base. People who are responsibly reusing sites have a stake in protecting the site against destructive activities such as vandalism, trespassing or off-road vehicle racing, that can damage the remedy, and against midnight dumping which can result in recontamination. More information on the Return to Use initiative is available at: www.epa.gov/superfund/programs/recycle.
New tracking tool for EPA chemical health assessments
EPA has introduced IRIS Track, a new online resource that allows the public to follow the development and review of Agency chemical health assessments in the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). IRIS is a key database of information on the potential adverse human health effects from exposure to chemical substances in the environment. The database is used both nationally and internationally to provide peer-reviewed human health risk information to decision makers. IRIS currently contains information on potential health effects for more than 500 chemicals. The new IRIS Track feature provides greater transparency to the public regarding the status of IRIS assessments in progress by displaying major milestone dates for chemical health assessments development and review. It enables IRIS users to monitor current status and view projected dates for future milestones for each chemical assessment. The development of IRIS Track is part of EPA's commitment to improve the IRIS program and to make it more publicly accessible. EPA now publishes an annual IRIS agenda that lists new and ongoing assessments and upcoming IRIS activities More rigorous independent scientific reviews of draft assessments have also been implemented. Reviews are routinely conducted by expert panels in public meetings, where all interested parties may submit additional information for consideration in chemical assessments. These improvements have resulted in an IRIS program that delivers credible and high quality information to a broad user community. More information on IRIS is available at: www.epa.gov/iris. To use IRIS Track, visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/iristrac/index.cfm.
Pact reached with major airlines to implement new aircraft water protocols
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 9, 2004 -- The EPA announced commitments from 12 major U.S. passenger airlines to implement new aircraft water testing and disinfection protocols. These protocols will further protect the traveling public while existing guidance governing potable water aboard passenger aircraft continues to be reviewed by EPA.
Agreements have been signed with 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 EPA. 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 ATA members.
The announcement follows the public disclosure of EPA testing of drinking water aboard 158 randomly selected passenger aircraft during August and September 2004. Preliminary data released by EPA on Sept. 20, 2004 showed that 12.6 percent of the 158 domestic and international passenger aircraft tested in the United States carried water that did not meet EPA standards.
Since that time, the Air Transport Association, which represents the 14 major U.S. airlines and its members, have worked with EPA to develop an agreement that will immediately reduce public health risks to passengers and provide additional testing to help the Agency determine the nature and extent of the problem.
"The agreements we are announcing today will provide critical additional information, and at the same time provide increased protection to the flying public," said Thomas V. Skinner, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "EPA and the airlines have worked hard to address the issues raised by the initial water quality test results."
The agreements in place call for airlines to increase monitoring and implement quarterly disinfection of water delivery systems aboard passenger aircraft. They will strengthen public notification requirements when testing reveals water that does not meet EPA standards. Airlines will also be required to perform an analysis of possible sources of contamination that exist outside of the aircraft and to provide information related to practices of boarding water from foreign public water supplies not regulated by EPA.
"Today's actions will help the Agency develop new regulations for monitoring and maintaining aircraft water systems," said Benjamin Grumbles, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Water. "The new regulations will ensure safe drinking water for airline passengers while reflecting the unique characteristics of aircraft."
EPA began a review of existing guidance in 2002. In response to the aircraft test results in August and September, EPA has initiated an accelerated rule-making process to develop regulations for water aboard aircraft. The Agency will work collaboratively with other federal agencies overseeing the airline industry, industry representatives and the interested public to identify appropriate requirements ensuring safe drinking water aboard aircraft. The agreement announced today and resulting administrative orders signed by the airlines will govern airline drinking water safety until final regulations are released.
EPA is also announcing the initiation of additional water quality inspections, beginning today, on 169 randomly selected domestic and international passenger aircraft at 14 airports throughout the United States and will make those results available to the public by early January.
For more information on the regulation of water supplies aboard passenger aircraft and to view publicly available testing data, go to: www.epa.gov/airlinewater.
American Sugar Refining, Lane Construction settle storm water violations
PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 9, 2004 ¿ In a consent agreement with EPA Region 3 office, American Sugar Refining Inc., which produces Domino Sugar, has agreed to pay a $37,500 penalty to settle Clean Water Act violations related to storm water runoff at its raw sugar refinery in Baltimore, Md.
In other news, Lane Construction Corp., based in Meriden, Conn., has settled alleged Clean Water Act violations at the company's asphalt plants in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The Domino Sugar violations focused on storm water runoff that flows from the refinery into the Northwest Harbor of the Patapsco River. Uncontrolled storm water runoff from industrial sites often contain raw materials, products, and byproducts resulting from the industry's manufacturing process, in this case, primarily sugar.
The biodegradation of sugar in streams can deplete water of the dissolved oxygen that supports aquatic life. The Clean Water Act requires owners of certain industrial operations to obtain a permit before discharging storm water runoff into waterways. These permits require pollution-reducing "best management practices" such as spill prevention safeguards, material storage and coverage requirements, runoff reduction measures, and employee training.
A July 2003 inspection of the American Sugar refinery by EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment revealed several site conditions that fell short of requirements in the facility's state-issued permit. Specifically, the inspectors observed the following conditions that were likely to contribute to contaminated storm water runoff:
* Outside storage of uncovered piles of calcium carbonate.
* Syrupy substance outside the raw sugar shed.
* Runoff leaking from open trash containers used for the disposal of sugar and manufacturing byproducts.
* Broken sugar boxes in open rolloff trash containers.
* Spillage of raw sugar at an unloading dock.
* Failure to clean spillage of raw sugar at a dock and pier at the facility.
The company has cooperated with EPA to resolve violations, and has taken prompt action to comply with Clean Water Act requirements.
In the Lane Construction case, the EPA issued an order requiring the company to correct violations, and comply with applicable Clean Water Act requirements. Lane will pay a $51,500 penalty for allegedly failing to prepare and implement storm water pollution prevention plans and will take other steps to reduce water pollution from runoff at the following Lane-owned facilities:
* Lane Construction Corp., Bridgeville Plant, 3 Prestley Road, Bridgeville, Pa.
* Lane Construction Corp., McKees Rocks Plant, Robb Street, McKees Rocks, Pa.
* Senate Asphalt, 60 P Street, S.E., Washington, D.C.
* Virginia Paving Co., Loudoun Plant, 1003 Old Ox Road, Sterling, Va.
* Virginia Paving Co., Fredericksburg Plant, 10233 Tidewater Trail, Fredericksburg, Va.
* Virginia Paving Co., Stafford Plant, 1012 Garrisonville Road, Stafford, Va.
* Virginia Paving Co., 5601 Courtney Avenue, Alexandria, Va.
Storm water runoff from industrial and construction sites often contains oil and grease, chemicals, nutrients and oxygen-demanding compounds and other pollutants. The Clean Water Act requires owners of certain industrial and construction operations to implement pollution-reducing "best management practices," such as spill prevention and runoff reduction safeguards, storage or coverage of materials that are likely to contaminate runoff, and employee training.
For more information about EPA's storm water program, visit www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater
Four municipalities to remove illicit sewage discharges into Charles River
BOSTON, Nov. 9, 2004 -- The EPA Region 1 office ordered four municipalities along the Charles River to remove illicit pipes discharging raw sewage into the Charles River. Watertown, Brookline, Newton and Waltham have been ordered to conduct comprehensive investigations and to remove pipes that discharge combined sewer and storm water into the Charles. The four communities receiving orders have failed to provide EPA with progress reports, as required, or to make a commitment to removing the connections by the end of 2004.
These orders are part of a larger effort by EPA New England to ensure that the Charles River is fishable and swimmable on a consistent basis.
Last year the Charles met boating standards 85 percent of the time and swimming standards 46 percent, a significant improvement since 1995 when the Charles was meeting bacteria boating standards only 39 percent of the time and swimming standards only 19 percent. During that time, significant efforts by state and local agencies, businesses and individuals have successfully reduced storm water discharges, illicit sewer connections and other pollution sources. Removing combined sewers along the river has been a critical part of the cleanup.
In addition to grants and low interest loans for wastewater treatment plant construction, EPA has recently invested $1.55 million in the cleanup of the Charles, primarily to fund studies, provide technical assistance to municipalities, to provide support to environmental groups, conduct research and cleanup and to support watershed education programs in the local high schools. This includes a $400,000 grant last year to the Charles River Watershed Association, as part of EPA's competitive national Targeted Watersheds program.
More importantly, the agency has taken a number of enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act to eliminate contamination through public reconstruction of infrastructure. Discharges from CSO's have been reduced 90 percent and more than one million gallons per day of contaminated water from illicit connections, such as those being addressed by the orders issued today, have been removed.
"By eliminating dozens of illegal sewer discharges, we have been able to significantly improve the quality of water in the Charles River," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "Today's orders will help ensure that we continue our progress towards a cleaner and healthier Charles River."
Agency acts to make coastal and Great Lakes beaches cleaner, safer
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 8, 2004 -- To further protect beach goers at their favorite recreational spots, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signed a final regulation that helps improve the health of the nation's beaches on coastal and Great Lakes waters.
"This Administration has taken an important step in fulfilling the promise of clean, safe beaches for every American," said EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. "We're putting in place improved, health-based standards for pathogens in water to further protect the public, particularly children who are often more vulnerable to bacteria-causing illnesses in beach water."
The BEACH Act of 2000 required coastal states and states bordering the Great Lakes to adopt bacteria standards by April 2004 to better protect beach bathers from harmful pathogens. For states that have not yet adopted more protective standards, the Act required EPA to establish standards.
Acting Assistant Administrator Ben Grumbles noted, "The rule reflects our priorities of working with States and others to improve water quality monitoring, public health protection and coastal watersheds -- all important recommendations of the US Commission on Ocean Policy in its recent Report."
Of the 35 states and territories that have coastal or Great Lakes recreational waters, 14 have adopted water quality standards that are as protective of health as EPA's recommended criteria for all their coastal recreation waters, five have adopted the criteria for some of their coastal recreation waters, 13 states are in the process of fully adopting the criteria and three have not begun the process. Although the agency is establishing federal standards through this final rule, any state that adopts its own standards that are as protective as EPA's and receives approval will be removed from these federal requirements.
EPA will continue to grant funding to all BEACH Act states and territories regardless of their status under this action. The agency is committed to ensuring continued monitoring of the nation's beaches and public notification of beach closures and advisories. EPA estimates that Americans take a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year and spend about $44 billion at those beach locations. EPA has provided about $32 million in grants to help states implement this monitoring program.
For more information about the new criteria and the rule, see: www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches/bacteria-rule-final-fs.htm.
For more information in general about beaches and EPA's activities to protect them, see: www.epa.gov/beaches.