EPA Action: Oral arguments rescheduled in DuPont Teflon case

In other action: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center hosts World Water Monitoring Day; Environmental Information Exchange Network grants awarded; Nominations open for Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards; Environmental Technology Council created; Municipalities, industries recognized for achievements in wastewater treatment, pollution reduction; Pennsylvania company and its president charged in Clean Water Act case; Guidance on drinking water and lead to be clarified...

The following are the most recent agency developments that may be of interest to you:

EPA Action: Oral arguments rescheduled in DuPont Teflon case
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 20, 2004 -- EPA's Office of Administrative Law Judges has rescheduled oral arguments in administrative law proceedings concerning the Agency's complaint against E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont). In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed three counts against DuPont for failing to report information concerning a substantial risk to public health or the environment from a synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used in the manufacture of certain Teflon products. In September, DuPont filed a motion for an accelerated decision from the judge on counts two and three, and requested oral arguments on its motion. Count one ¿ and depending on the decision following oral arguments on counts two and three ¿ will be taken up at a later hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Oral arguments on DuPont's motion have been rescheduled from Oct. 28 to Dec. 16. To attend the oral arguments, contact the Clerk of the Board by Dec. 2 by calling 202-564-6281. Copies of the prehearing order and other public documents relating to the case are available upon request by calling 202-564-6262.

***

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center hosts World Water Monitoring Day
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 18, 2004 -- World Water Monitoring Day was celebrated today, culminating a month of water quality monitoring activities in which educators, families, volunteer water monitoring organizations and government professionals have been taking water quality samples, sharing data, and educating their communities about water quality.

This is also the 32nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act. "Our national goal is clean and safe water for every American," said Administrator Mike Leavitt. "On the commemoration of landmark clean water legislation and a global effort to monitor water quality, let's remember and reaffirm our commitment to protect and restore watersheds, coasts and oceans."

Mike Leavitt joined officials from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of State and America's Clean Water Foundation, as one of the featured speakers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center facility on the Chesapeake Bay, in Edgewater, Md. The speeches were followed by a cruise on the Rhode River on one of the Smithsonian's research vessels where the event participants collected water, fish and invertebrates samples.

World Water Monitoring Day affords youth and their families the opportunity to get involved and learn about the health of their local watersheds by participating in water monitoring activities. Between Sept. 18, and Oct. 18, 2004, citizens around the world visited their local streams, rivers, lakes or wetlands to test for a few basic indicators of health such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, clarity and pH. The results can be posted on America's Clean Water Foundation Website where they provide a snapshot of global water quality that may help to illustrate long-term water quality trends.

The first World Water Monitoring Day in 2003 included 4,800 sites in the United States and 433 sites in 23 other countries. This year, participants from all 50 states and 35 countries have registered to take part in various events. More information about World Water Monitoring Day is at: www.worldwatermonitoringday.org. Information about EPA's monitoring activities is at: www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring.

***

EPA Weekly Enforcement Wrap-Up -- Oct. 14, 2004
Massachusetts yarn company sentenced on Clean Water Act charges: Dutton Yarn company, L.P., a yarn processing facility in Lowell, Mass., was ordered to pay a $300,000 fine on Oct. 5 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). In June, Dutton Yarn agreed to plead guilty to two counts of violating the CWA. The company was charged with negligently discharging pollution that depleted oxygen levels in receiving water. Pollution that depletes oxygen harms fish and aquatic life. As part of the sentence, Dutton Yarn must also establish an environmental compliance program. The case was investigated by the Boston Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston.

Bridge Project Manager Pleads Guilty in North Carolina: Michael E. Hillyer of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., project manager for Balfour Beatty Construction Inc., a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Balfour Beatty, PLC, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., to conspiring to violate the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA) and the Clean Water Act, and to a substantive violation of the RHA. As project manager for Balfour Beatty, Hillyer oversaw the dredging of a portion of the Croatan Sound and supervised the discharge of the dredged spoil into the sound in October 2002. The company did not have a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to do this work. The violations occurred when the company's employees removed a temporary load-out trestle that had been constructed in shallow water near Manns Harbor as part of the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge construction project. The five-mile bridge spans the Sound from Manns Harbor to Manteo. In order to get a crane to the trestle site, Balfour Beatty employees used backwash from a tugboat propeller to cut a channel next to the trestle. As a result, 5,500 cubic yards of dredged spoil was expelled from the channel and deposited on approximately 8.2 acres of habitat on the sound bottom. Croatan Sound has been designated as high quality waters, and covering habitat can injure fish and wildlife. When sentenced, Hillyer faces a maximum penalty of up to four years in prison and/or a maximum fine of up to $500,000. BBC and two other BBC employees have already pleaded guilty in this case. The case was investigated by the Charlotte Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Wyoming man convicted of clean water violations affecting Indian lands: John Hubenka, of Riverton, Wyo., was found guilty by a jury on Sept. 28 in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming on charges that he built unpermitted dikes in the Wind River in violation of the Clean Water Act. The dikes altered the course of the river and this resulted in 300 acres of tribal lands being cut off from the Wind River Reservation. Between March 1999 and November 1999, Hubenka conducted and managed dredging and construction activities in various locations as part of building three earthen dikes. The defendant used earth moving equipment to discharge rock, sand and other dredge and fill material into the river. Unpermitted discharge of dredge and fill material into rivers can harm fish and wildlife and separating tribal lands from an Indian reservation can create an economic burden on Indians who wish to use the lands for agricultural or other economic purposes. The case was investigated by the Denver Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with legal support from EPA Region 8 in Denver. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne.

Minnesota warehouse firm charged with illegal hazardous waste storage, disposal: Roof Depot, which owned a store in Minneapolis, Minn., was charged on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis with allegedly violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. In September 1998, the company allegedly brought several pallet-loads of hazardous waste roofing cement, strippers and solvents to its facility on 28th Street in Minneapolis and stored them behind some buildings under a tarp. In March 1999, a former operations manager for Roof Depot allegedly ordered employees to bury these hazardous wastes in an unloading dock area that the company was filling and grading. The case was investigated by the Minneapolis Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of Hennepin County Environmental Services. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis.

***

EPA awards Environmental Information Exchange Network grants
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 13, 2004 -- EPA announced the award today of 67 grants totaling more than $20 million to states, territories, and tribes for continued work on the nationwide Environmental Information Exchange Network. Thirty-two states, three U.S. territories, and 18 Native American tribes received grants under fiscal year 2004 funding. Electronic data exchange provides federal and state governments with more timely access to environmental data from diverse sources, leading to better informed environmental decisions.

When complete, the Exchange Network will transform the way states, tribes and other partners provide information to EPA. In the past, states and other partners had to resolve hardware or data incompatibility problems in order to transfer data. Now no data transfer will be necessary -- they will establish nodes, special computers that store their environmental data, and EPA will collect the data using a universal format software language, XML. Thirty-five states are expected to have operational nodes by the end of 2004.

"The Exchange Network exemplifies the benefits of collaboration -- different parties working together to create a better solution for all -- in this case, a national environmental computer network," said Mike Leavitt. "EPA needs timely environmental information to make informed policy decisions. The states and other partners require accurate data to monitor their progress toward cleaner water and air. And the American public is entitled to view the latest and best available data on their communities. By combining resources, all parties get what they need quicker and at less cost to the taxpayer."

The creation of the Exchange Network is also part of the E-Government Initiative of the President's Management Agenda, which mandates that the federal government take advantage of the power of information technology to make data more accessible to citizens and other interested parties. EPA anticipates that Congress will continue to fund the grant program for a fourth year in FY 2005.

The Exchange Network program includes three types of grants:
1. Readiness Grants are for developing the basic information management and technology capabilities needed to participate in the Exchange Network.
2. Implementation Grants help grantees develop Exchange Network connections, nodes, and data flows.
3. Challenge Grants fund collaborative projects that advance the Exchange Network, including projects that result in a higher level quality of data, reduce reporting burden, or provide increased public access.

More information on the different types of grants, EPA's National Environmental Information Exchange Network, and a complete list of the grantees (pdf file) is available at: www.epa.gov/Networkg/.

***

Nominations open for Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 13, 2004 -- The EPA is now accepting nominations for the 2005 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. These prestigious awards recognize innovative chemical technologies that incorporate green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use ¿ and that have broad applications in industry. Green Chemistry strives to develop alternative ways to synthesize industrial chemicals in order to reduce or prevent the generation of environmental pollutants. Any individual, group or organization, both nonprofit and for profit, including academia, government and industry, may nominate a green chemistry technology for these awards. Self-nominations are welcome and expected. Typically, five awards are given each year: one to an academic researcher, one to a small business, and the rest in specific areas of green chemistry. EPA has given 46 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Each nominated technology must have reached a significant milestone within the past five years in the United States. Nominations must be postmarked by Dec. 31, to be eligible for the 2005 awards. The 2005 awards, marking the 10th year of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge, will be presented at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 2005. More information on the Green Chemistry Program is available at: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/. More information about the nomination process is available at: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/wanted.html.

Environmental Technology Council created
EPA has formed a new Environmental Technology Council to apply new technologies to address complex environmental problems. This year, the Council will select at least 10 priority environmental concerns needing new technology approaches. As the United States continues to face difficult and costly environmental challenges, Administrator Leavitt has identified technology as key to developing more cost-effective, timely solutions. The Council will consist of representatives from EPA, the states and tribes. For each problem, the Council will form an action team that may bring in experts from other federal agencies, industry and other stakeholders. Selection of problems will be based on risk, connection to regulatory requirements and potential for significant cost reduction. One example the Council may address is the limitations and cost of conventional methods of emissions monitoring by states and private companies for regulatory compliance. Remote sensing (RS) technology has greatly improved in the last decade, and now could supplement or replace older emission and pollution detection methods. Current RS technology can detect a number of pollutants simultaneously, thus reducing the amount of time and resources needed to accomplish monitoring objectives. By focusing and combining existing resources from EPA, states, other governmental agencies and the private sector, the Council will achieve its goals without new resources. More information about the Environmental Technology Council can be found at: www.epa.gov/etop/tc.

***

EPA recognizes municipalities, industries for achievements in wastewater treatment, pollution reduction
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 7, 2004 -- On Monday, Oct. 4, EPA announced the 29 first and second place winners of the 2004 National Clean Water Act Recognition Awards during the Water Environment Federation's Technical Exposition and Conference in New Orleans, La. This is the 19th year EPA recognized municipalities and industries for demonstrating outstanding water quality achievements for projects and programs in five award categories: operations and maintenance, biosolids management, pretreatment, storm water management and combined sewer overflow control programs. The presentation of these awards help to raise public awareness of the pollution reduction efforts that wastewater treatment plants make to improve the nation's waters. The awards program provides national recognition and encourages public support of programs that protect the public's health and safety and the nation's water quality. State water pollution control agencies and EPA regional offices make recommendations to headquarters for the national awards. A listing of the 2004 National awards winners is available at: www.epa.gov/water/.

Pennsylvania company and its president charged in Clean Water Act case
BEF Corp. of Allentown, Pa., and Elward Brewer of Englewood, Fla., BEF's founder and president, were each charged on Sept. 22, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia with allegedly violating the Clean Water Act by discharging silver-laden and acidic waste water into sewers operated by the City of Bethlehem, Pa., and the City of Allentown, Pa. BEF buys used one-hour photo-processing machines, refurbishes them and then resells them throughout the world. During the refurbishment process, BEF generates silver-laden and acidic wastewater. In addition, BEF was also charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and with 12 counts of making false statements to the government. These charges stem from BEF's exportation of goods to Iran, and from BEF's alleged practice of discounting the fair market value of its photo labs on Shippers' Export Declarations to help its international customers avoid paying import duties. Unlawfully disposing of metal laden and acidic waste water into sewers can damage sewage treatment equipment and can interfere with the proper treatment of sewage by sewage treatment facilities. The case was investigated by the Philadelphia office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement and the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Investigative assistance was provided by the waste water treatment departments of the Borough of Catasauqua, the City of Bethelem, South Whitehall Township and the City of Allentown. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia.

***

EPA to clarify guidance on drinking water and lead
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 6, 2004 -- Over the past several months, EPA has undertaken an unprecedented review of the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule, including collecting monitoring data, reviewing state programs, and conducting expert workshops. Within the next few weeks, EPA will reiterate and clarify the guidance to states on how utilities can improve implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule.

The quality of drinking water in the United States is among the best in the world. The nation's Lead and Copper Rule has successfully reduced levels of lead in drinking water throughout the country. Blood lead levels in children have decreased significantly due to this rule and other actions taken to reduce lead exposure.

EPA's drinking water data, which includes state reporting of 73,000 water utilities from all over the country, demonstrate that lead in drinking water is not a widespread problem. In the limited cases where it is a concern, the Agency is working with states, which have primary responsibility for implementation, compliance and enforcement, to notify the public and ensure that lead levels are reduced by controlling for corrosion, and when necessary, replacing lead service lines.

If there are any utilities that have violated federal law by providing false, incomplete or misleading data on drinking water quality, EPA or the state will pursue appropriate penalties under federal and state law.

###

More in Environmental