EPA recently released the Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) Pollutant Loading Tool designed to help individuals determine who is discharging, what pollutants they are discharging and how much, and where they are discharging. The tool calculates pollutant loadings from permit and DMR data from EPA's Permit Compliance System (PCS) and Integrated Compliance Information System for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (CIS-NPDES). Data is available for the years 2007 through 2010. Pollutant loadings are presented as pounds per year and as toxic-weighted pounds per year to account for variations in toxicity among pollutants. The tool ranks dischargers, industries, and watersheds based on pollutant mass and toxicity, and presents "top ten" lists to help you determine which discharges are important, which facilities and industries are producing these discharges, and which watersheds are impacted.
The tool also includes wastewater pollutant discharge data from EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Data is available for the years 2007 through 2010. Users can search TRI data to find the facilities with the largest pollutant discharges to surface waters or sewage treatment plants (a.k.a. Publicly-Owned Treatment Works – "POTWs"). Users can also compare the DMR data search results against TRI data search results and vice versa. The tool clearly labels the source of data when displaying search results but does not mix TRI or DMR data when calculating pollutant discharges.
The Loading Tool uses discharge monitoring and permit data from PCS and ICIS-NPDES. PCS and ICIS-NPDES are databases that automate entering, updating, and retrieving discharge monitoring and permit data:
- PCS and ICIS-NPDES are national in scope, including data from all 50 states and 21 U.S. territories and tribes;
- PCS and ICIS-NPDES contain discharge data that facilities determine through effluent chemical analyses and metered flow; and
- PCS and ICIS-NPDES collectively include information for facilities in all point source categories that discharge directly to receiving streams.
EPA has verified the accuracy of the tool's calculations. EPA has also performed a limited review of the underlying data that has focused on facilities with the largest amounts of pollutant discharges.
DMR data has long been a key source of citizen suits under the Clean Water Act. With the creation of this new tool, this data will be more easily obtained and available in a more user friendly format.
The tool is available at https://cfpub.epa.gov/dmr/.
In December and January, the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ("OEHHA") announced its intent to add seven new chemicals to the Proposition 65 chemicals list:
- Methyl isopropyl ketone
- Coconut oil diethanolamine condensate
The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known as Proposition 65, requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals determined by the State to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. There are four mechanisms by which a chemical can be determined to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity sufficient to require listing: (1) either the Carcinogen Identification Committee or the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, independent committees of scientists and health professionals that are part of OEHHA's Science Advisory Board, make a determination that there is sufficient evidence that the chemical causes cancer or reproductive impacts; (2) an authoritative body such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies the chemical as causing cancer or reproductive impacts; (3) a state or federal agency requires the chemical to be labeled as causing cancer or reproductive impacts; or (4) the chemical meets certain criteria and is identified in the either of two provisions of the California Labor Code as causing cancer or reproductive impacts. The listing of a chemical generally imposes two obligations on businesses that use that chemical: (1) businesses must provide a warning before exposing anyone to a chemical on the Proposition 65 chemicals list; and (2) businesses must prevent the discharge of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water.
Of the seven chemicals for which OEHHA has published Notices of Intent to list in the last two months, five of the chemicals are being listed through the California Labor Code mechanism, four chemicals as a result of findings that the chemicals are carcinogenic (Benzophenone, Coconut oil diethanolamine condensate, Diethanolamine, and 2-Methylimidazole) and one chemical for evidence of developmental toxicity (Methyl isopropyl ketone). The other two chemicals are proposed for listing through the authoritative body mechanism as a result of U.S. EPA studies concluding they are capable of causing cancer (Kresoxim-methyl and Tetraconazole). A comment period was provided by OEHHA for the listing of these chemicals. Once the comment periods have ended (some of which have expired already), OEHHA will then make a final determination and publish a revised Proposition 65 list, no sooner than 60 days after the publication of the Notices of Intent.
In addition to the proposed addition of these seven chemicals to the Proposition 65 chemicals list, OEHHA also announced the selection of two chemicals (deltamethrin and xylene) for consideration by the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee. The Committee will undertake a review of existing scientific evidence regarding the potential for these two chemicals to cause reproductive impacts. With the announcement of the selection of these chemicals, OEHHA requested the public provide information relevant to the Committee's review.
EPA recently announced plans to amend certain hazardous waste regulations under RCRA at 40 C.F.R. Parts 261-265 in its Action Initiation List. According to EPA, the focus will be to streamline these regulations with the overall objective to make targeted, sensible improvements to the hazardous waste regulatory program.
The new proposal will address:
- the amount of time waste accumulates at a facility for the purposes of classifying the facility as a large waste generator;
- labeling standards for storage tanks and drums;
- closure requirements for tanks, containers, drip pads, and containment buildings; and
- certification standards for recyclable materials used in a manner constituting disposal.
Many hazardous waste generation regulations date to the 1980s. EPA and State regulatory leaders agree that a comprehensive review and update is timely.
DOJ attorneys representing the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the "Corps") and the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") found themselves unable to rely on the attorney work product, attorney-client, or deliberative process privileges to avoid disclosure of internal communications relating to a pending CERCLA consent decree. In Menasha Corporation, et al. v. United States Department of Justice(E.D. Wis. 2012), plaintiffs filed FOIA requests seeking disclosure of communications between the Corps and EPA relating to a consent decree, including communications between DOJ attorneys representing the two government entities. The DOJ argued that it was entitled to withhold disclosure of these attorney communications pursuant to the above-mentioned three privileges. Plaintiffs argued that the DOJ lawyers represented separate client agencies with adverse interests in the litigation and that a party's disclosure of privileged communications to an adverse party typically waives the applicable privilege.
The court agreed, noting that EPA (in its enforcement capacity) and the Corps (as a PRP) are Executive Branch agencies with competing interests. According to the court, "attorneys who represent parties with adverse interests waive attorney-client and work product privileges as to documents they willingly share with their adversaries." The court found DOJ's argument that it represented a single client, the United States, unavailing. Here, DOJ's Environmental Enforcement Section is responsible for coordinating enforcement efforts whereas the Environmental Defense Division is responsible for coordinating defense litigation strategies. Because the United States has competing interests in this case, it properly had separate counsel from the Enforcement Section and the Defense Division independently representing the interests of both respective agencies. However, because the interests of these two agencies were adverse, the court found that communications between them were not privileged and had to be disclosed.
This decision will have obvious implications at any site where there is a government agency PRP. It might also cause DOJ lawyers to be more careful with respect to internal communications. To see a copy of this decision, please click here.
A recent decision from the Eastern District of Wisconsin rejected plaintiff's efforts to demonstrate RCRA imminent and substantial endangerment, notwithstanding the presence of benzene in indoor air in the basement of a facility. In Tilot Oil, LLC v. BP Products North America, Inc., plaintiff brought a RCRA citizen suit against BP, seeking to compel BP to remediate petroleum contamination that had impacted, and continues to impact, plaintiff's property. According to the plaintiff's allegations, when the water table under its facility rises, groundwater contaminated with petroleum constituents has been observed above the floor slab in the basement. Indoor air sampling in the basement indicated the presence of petroleum-hydrocarbons (benzene) at levels that, although they did not exceed the OSHA PELs, did exceed applicable NIOSH recommended exposure limits, Wisconsin's vapor action levels, and U.S. EPA screening levels. As a result of the contamination, plaintiff has been forced to continually maintain and operate a ventilation fan in the basement and plaintiff had voluntarily elected to restrict employee activity in the basement (although there was some dispute as to whether the basement had ever really been used). Over the past several decades, BP has taken, and continues to take, a number of remedial actions to address the contamination at issue under the oversight of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ("WDNR"), albeit voluntarily and not as a result of any order being entered. These remedial actions were intended to in part to address the contamination that was present on plaintiff's property, including the contamination that was impacting the basement of plaintiff's facility.
There was no dispute that BP was responsible for the contamination that was impacting plaintiff's property; instead, BP argued that (1) plaintiff had not offered sufficient evidence of potential endangerment and (2) there is no injunctive relief that might be granted because of the ongoing WDNR-approved remedy. The court rejected BP's argument that there was no injunctive relief that might be granted, noting that plaintiff had presented evidence of potential additional remedial activities that could be taken. However, according to the court, just because further action could be taken does not mean that it is necessary. The court noted that testing showed that the levels of benzene present in the basement while the ventilation fans were running did not exceed the OSHA PELs. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that exceedances of U.S. EPA screening levels equates to substantial endangerment, noting that these merely set the level at which further investigation is required; they are not a determination of actual danger. As to the Wisconsin vapor action levels, exceedances of these levels again merely indicate that further action is required, which the court noted was occurring (BP's ongoing remediation and the operation of the ventilation fan in the basement). With respect to the NIOSH exceedances, the court found that to be a relevant factor but not a determinative factor. According to the court, "when the [ventilation] fan is running, there is no substantial threat. And, while there may still be some threat of harm, through the possibility of the fan being shut off or losing power, that harm is not substantial or serious in that it necessitates action; it is simply too remote." The court also found relevant the fact that plaintiff had never really used the basement for any activity in the first instance.
This case is important in that it could be seen as providing some degree of protection from RCRA citizen suits for persons engaged in ongoing remedial activities under the supervision and oversight of a regulatory agency, assuming of course that the case is upheld on appeal. Typically, parties that are faced with RCRA citizen suit claims in situations where there are ongoing remedial activities will raise abstention and/or primary jurisdiction defenses. Demonstrating that there is not a threat of imminent or substantial endangerment is typically an uphill battle. Here, however, the court seemed to go out of its way to reject plaintiff's efforts to claim that the ongoing remediation was insufficient or inadequate. The decision can really be summed up in footnote 16 in the decision: "Ultimately, [plaintiff's] argument appears to be that [BP America] is simply not doing enough regarding the speed of cleanup. However, RCRA is not intended to remedy such a situation as long as there is no potentially imminent and substantial endangerment." To see a copy of the order, please click here.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced its second meeting focused on strengthening global collaboration in chemical risk assessment to be held 29-30 March 2012 in Bonn, Germany. The first meeting was held in March 2010.
The two day meeting will follow up on key issues and priority actions to address the needs identified in March 2010 including: capacity building/training; chemical risk assessment/sharing knowledge; risk assessment methodology; and, research. The objective of the first day of the meeting is to provide an update on tools developed to increase capacity globally in chemical risk assessment and propose strategies to enhance update of risk assessment methodologies. The objectives of Day 2 of the meeting are to further explore interest in participating in a WHO Risk Assessment Network, to discuss the Network design in terms of vision, goals and objectives, structure and function, as well as to propose options for its implementation.
The WHO previously identified ten chemicals of major public health concern that are an important focus in the continuing risk assessment work:
- Air pollution
- Dioxin and dioxin-like substances
- Inadequate or excess fluoride
- Highly hazardous pesticides
More information about this upcoming meeting and WHO's outreach on chemicals and related risk assessment is available at https://www.who.int/ipcs/en/.