Daily Archives: December 2, 2011

Lafarge North America Inc to pay $740,000 for CWA stormwater violations

News Releases from Headquarters

Lafarge North America Inc. Agrees to Pay $740,000 Penalty to Resolve Clean Water Act Violations in Five States/Ready-mix concrete producer agrees to invest an estimated $8 million to improve environmental compliance at 189 facilities in the U.S.

Release Date: 11/29/2011
Contact Information: Stacy Kika, Kika.stacy@epa.gov, 202-564-0906, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON — Lafarge North America Inc., one of the largest suppliers of construction materials in the United States and Canada, and four of its U.S. subsidiaries have agreed to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations. The violations include unpermitted discharges of stormwater at 21 stone, gravel, sand, asphalt and ready-mix concrete facilities in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, and New York. Stormwater flowing over concrete manufacturing facilities can carry debris, sediment and pollutants, including pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals and solvents, which can have a significant impact on water quality.

“EPA is committed to protecting America’s waters from polluted stormwater runoff,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will improve stormwater management at facilities across the nation, preventing harmful pollutants from being swept into local waterways.”

“Owners and operators of industrial facilities must take the necessary measures to comply with stormwater regulations under the Clean Water Act, which protects America’s rivers, lakes, and sources of drinking water from harmful contamination,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The system-wide management controls and training that this settlement requires from Lafarge and its subsidiaries will result in better management practices and a robust compliance program at hundreds of facilities throughout the nation that will prevent harmful stormwater runoff.”

Lafarge will implement a nationwide evaluation and compliance program at 189 of its similar facilities in the United States to ensure they meet Clean Water Act requirements. Lafarge will also pay a penalty of $740,000 and implement two supplemental environmental projects, in which the company will complete conservation easements to protect approximately 166 acres in Maryland and Colorado. The value of the land has been appraised at approximately $2,95 million. Lafarge will also implement one state environmentally beneficial project valued at $10,000 to support environmental training for state inspectors.

The comprehensive evaluation will include a compliance review of each facility’s permit, an inventory of all discharges to U.S. waters, and identification of all best management practices in place. In addition, Lafarge must identify an environmental vice president, responsible for coordinating oversight of compliance with stormwater requirements, at least two environmental directors, to oversee stormwater compliance at each operation, and an onsite operations manager at each facility. The U.S. estimates that Lafarge will spend approximately $8 million over five years to develop and maintain this compliance program.

The company will also develop and implement an extensive management, training, inspections, and reporting system to increase oversight of its operations and compliance with stormwater requirements at all facilities that it owns or operates.

The complaint, filed in federal court with the settlement, alleges a pattern of violations since 2006 that were discovered after several federal inspections at the company’s facilities. The alleged violations included unpermitted discharges, violations of effluent limitations, inadequate management practices, inadequate or missing records and practices regarding stormwater compliance and monitoring, inadequate discharge monitoring and reporting, inadequate stormwater pollution prevention plans, and inadequate stormwater training.

The Clean Water Act requires that industrial facilities, such as ready-mix concrete plants, sand and gravel facilities and asphalt batching plants, have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants.

Since being notified of the violations by EPA, the company has made significant improvements to its stormwater management systems.

The settlement is the latest in a series of federal enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites around the country. The states of Maryland and Colorado are co-plaintiffs and have joined the proposed settlement.

Lafarge is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.

More information on the settlement: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/lafargenorthamerica.html

USEPA proposes changes to boiler emission standards

News Releases from Headquarters

EPA Proposes Changes to Clean Air Act Standards for Boilers and Incinerators/Reconsidered standards would set emission limits for less than one percent of boilers, achieve public health benefits while increasing flexibility and responding to public input

Release Date: 12/02/2011
Contact Information: Enesta Jones, Jones.enesta@epa.gov, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators based on extensive analysis, review and consideration of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. The proposed reconsideration would achieve extensive public health protections through significant reductions in toxic air pollutants, including mercury and soot, while increasing the rule’s flexibility and addressing compliance concerns raised by industry and labor groups. The changes also cut the cost of implementation by nearly 50 percent from the original 2010 proposed rule while maintaining health benefits. These standards meet important requirements laid out in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Soot and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to adverse health effects including cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death. In addition, toxic pollutants such as mercury and lead that will be reduced by this proposal are linked to developmental disabilities in children. These standards will avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.

More than 99 percent of boilers in the country are either clean enough that they are not covered by these standards or will only need to conduct maintenance and tune-ups to comply. Today’s proposals focus on the less than one percent of boilers that emit the majority of pollution from this sector. For these high emitting boilers, typically operating at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities, EPA is proposing more targeted emissions limits that protect Americans’ health and provide industry with practical, cost-effective options to meet the standards – informed by data from these stakeholders. These limits are based on currently available technologies that are in use by sources across the country.

As a result of further information gathered through the reconsideration process, including significant dialog and meetings with stakeholders, the proposal maintains the dramatic cuts in the cost of implementation that were achieved in the final rules issued in March while continuing to deliver significant public health benefits. As a result, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will see $12 to $30 in health benefits, including fewer premature deaths.

Using a wide variety of fuels, including coal, natural gas, oil and biomass, boilers are used to power heavy machinery, provide heat for industrial and manufacturing processes in addition to a number of other uses, or heat large buildings. EPA’s proposal recognizes the diverse and complex range of uses and fuels and tailors standards to reflect the real-world operating conditions of specific types of boilers.

Some of the key changes EPA is proposing include:

Boilers at large sources of air toxics emissions: The major source proposal covers approximately 14,000 boilers – less than one percent of all boilers in the United States – located at large sources of air pollutants, including refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities. EPA is proposing to create additional subcategories and revise emissions limits. EPA is also proposing to provide more flexible compliance options for meeting the particle pollution and carbon monoxide limits, replace numeric emissions limits with work practice standards for certain pollutants, allow more flexibility for units burning clean gases to qualify for work practice standards and reduce some monitoring requirements. EPA estimates that the cost of implementing these standards remains about $1.5 billion less than the April 2010 proposed standards. Health benefits to children and the public associated with reduced exposure to fine particles and ozone from these large source boilers have increased by almost 25 percent and are estimated to be $27 billion to $67 billion in 2015.

Boilers located at small sources of air toxics emissions: The proposal also covers about 187,000 boilers located at small sources of air pollutants, including commercial buildings, universities, hospitals and hotels. However, due to how little these boilers emit, 98 percent of area source boilers would simply be required to perform maintenance and routine tune-ups to comply with these standards. Only 2 percent of area source boilers may need to take additional steps to comply with the rule. To increase flexibility for most of these sources, EPA is proposing to require initial compliance tune-ups after two years instead after the first year.

Solid waste incinerators and revisions to the list of non-hazardous secondary materials: There are 95 solid waste incinerators that burn waste at a commercial or an industrial facility, including cement manufacturing facilities. EPA is proposing to adjust emissions limits for waste-burning cement kilns and for energy recovery units.

EPA is also proposing revisions to its final rule which identified the types of non-hazardous secondary materials that can be burned in boilers or solid waste incinerators. Following the release of that final rule, stakeholders expressed concerns regarding the regulatory criteria for a non-hazardous secondary material to be considered a legitimate, non-waste fuel, and how to demonstrate compliance with those criteria. To address these concerns, EPA’s proposed revisions provide clarity on what types of secondary materials are considered non-waste fuels, and greater flexibility. The proposed revisions also classify a number of secondary materials as non-wastes when used as a fuel and allow for a boiler or solid waste operator to request that EPA identify specific materials as a non-waste fuel.

Following the April 2010 proposals, the agency received more than 4,800 comments from businesses, communities and other key stakeholders. As part of the reconsideration process, EPA also received additional feedback after the agency issued the final standards in March 2011. EPA will accept public comment on these standards for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. EPA intends to finalize the reconsideration by spring 2012.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/airquality/combustion

Aschengrau et al 2011: Affinity for risky behaviors following prenatal and early childhood exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) – contaminated drinking water: a retrospective study.

This is a typical epi study which makes a provocative claim. It by no means shows cause and effect and has many limitations, but it ends up being reported as such in an alarming manner (click here). I am going to reserve judgement until I can closely review the paper, but I have to wonder if this group is having difficulty finding something useful to do……Is drinking water expsoure now the blame for bad social behaviors, or homosexuality as this mayor claims (click here)?

A. Aschengrau, J.M. Weinberg, P.A. Janulewicz, M.E. Romano, L.G. Gallagher, M.R. Winter, B.R. Martin, V.M. Vieira, T.F. Webster, R.F. White and D.M. Ozonoff.  Affinity for risky behaviors following prenatal and early childhood exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated drinking water: a retrospective cohort study. Environmental Health 2011, 10:102 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-102   Published: 2 December 2011

Provisional abstract:

Background: Many studies of adults with acute and chronic solvent exposure have shown adverse effects on cognition, behavior and mood. No prior study has investigated the long-term impact of prenatal and early childhood exposure to the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) on the affinity for risky behaviors, defined as smoking, drinking or drug use as a teen or adult.

Objectives: This retrospective cohort study examined whether early life exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water influenced the occurrence of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use among adults from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Methods: Eight hundred and thirty-one subjects with prenatal and early childhood PCE exposure and 547 unexposed subjects were studied. Participants completed questionnaires to gather information on risky behaviors as a teenager and young adult, demographic characteristics, other sources of solvent exposure, and residences from birth through 1990. PCE exposure was estimated using the U.S. EPA’s water distribution system modeling software (EPANET) that was modified to incorporate a leaching and transport model to estimate PCE exposures from pipe linings.

Results: Individuals who were highly exposed to PCE-contaminated drinking water during gestation and early childhood experienced 50-60% increases in the risk of using two or more major illicit drugs as a teenager or as an adult (Relative Risk (RR) for teen use=1.6, 95 % CI: 1.2-2.2; and RR for adult use=1.5, 95 % CI: 1.2-1.9). Specific drugs for which increased risks were observed included crack/cocaine, psychedelics/hallucinogens, club/designer drugs, Ritalin without a prescription, and heroin (RRs:1.4-2.1). Thirty to 60% increases in the risk of certain smoking and drinking behaviors were also seen among highly exposed subjects.

Conclusions:  The results of this study suggest that risky behaviors, particularly drug use, are more frequent among adults with high PCE exposure levels during gestation and early childhood. These findings should be confirmed in follow-up investigations of other exposed populations.

Click here for the full paper (free).

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard decision delayed, science in question

In response to this letter, the Department of the Interior has delayed a decision on the listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard for 6 months.

Amar 2010: Ensuring safe water in post-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies.

P.K. Amar. Ensuring safe water in post-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2010 Jul;2(3):253-66.

Disaster scenarios are dismal and often result in mass displacement and migration of people. In eventuality of emergency situations, people need to be rehabilitated and provided with an adequate supply of drinking water, the most essential natural resource needed for survival, which is often not easily available even during non-disaster periods. In the aftermath of a natural or human-made disaster affecting mankind and livestock, the prime aim is to ensure supply of safe water to reduce the occurrence and spread of water borne disease due to interrupted, poor and polluted water supply. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies augment the dilemma as an additional risk of “contamination” is added. The associated risks posed to health and life should be reduced to as low as reasonably achievable. Maintaining a high level of preparedness is the crux of quick relief and efficient response to ensure continuous supply of safe water, enabling survival and sustenance. The underlying objective would be to educate and train the persons concerned to lay down the procedures for the detection, cleaning, and treatment, purification including desalination, disinfection, and decontamination of water. The basic information to influence the organization of preparedness and execution of relief measures at all levels while maintaining minimum standards in water management at the place of disaster, are discussed in this article.

Click here for the full article (free).