Water Feed

U.S. EPA Releases One-Week Internal Review on the Colorado Mine Blowout, Concludes the Incident Was “Inevitable”

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza

Colorado Gold Mine Release

Earlier this week, the U.S. EPA released its “Internal Review of the A
ugust 5, 2015 Gold King Mine Blowout,” which provides the EPA Internal Review Team’s “one week rapid assessment” of the events and potential factors contributing to the Colorado mine adit blowout earlier this month.  The Review sets out a series of conclusions and recommendations, many of which lay the foundation for absolving the U.S. EPA of any wrongdoing here while proposing extensive recommendations for the future.

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2015 World Water Week

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

The 2015 World Water Week, August 23-28, is the annual focal point for global water issues. Sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the 2015 theme is Water for Development. World leaders, as well as experts, practitioners, business innovators, and other professionals from a range of sectors and countries will meet to network, exchange ideas, foster new thinking, and develop solutions to the most pressing water-related challenges.

In the world today, 750 million people still lack access to safe water. World Water Week participants will address how water is vital to sustainable development and how we can be smarter about using this very critical resource more wisely. 

A series of sessions will take place, many available to the public and available online, addressing such topics as: building urban sewerage infrastructure; creating water and climate resilient cities; the case for solar water pumps; a water secure world; and impact of subsidies on efficient water technology uptake with agriculture. Another topic to be addressed, of particular interest to U.S. participants, is the California drought and actions being taken to address the impacts and consequences of these climate changes.

In preparation for 2015 World Water Week, earlier this month SIWI issued its special report titled "Water for Development-Charting a Water Wise Path," providing important input for the annual meeting on water and development issues.

A press release issued yesterday provides an overview of meetings, programs, and activities planned this week. You can also follow World Water Week via Twitter at #WWWeek and @siwi_water or on Facebook at World Water Week in Stockholm.


Canada Takes Action to Ban Microbeads

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

The Canadian government recently took action to ban microbeads, very small particles found in a variety of consumer and personal care products that may pose adverse environmental impacts in rivers, lakes, and oceans after they are washed down the drain.

Microbeads

Specifically, the Canadian government proposes to designate microbeads as toxic substances and to develop regulations that would prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of consumer and personal care products containing microbeads.

A thorough scientific review that included an analysis of over 140 scientific papers, as well as consultations with experts, revealed that the presence of microbeads in the environment may have long-term effects on biological diversity and ecosystems. A summary of key findings include:

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Colorado Gold Mine Release Triggers Litigation Threat Against U.S. EPA

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

Colorado Gold Mine Release

On August 5, 2015, contractors working for U.S. EPA at the Gold King Mine near Durango, Colorado, triggered the release of more than 3,000,000 gallons of highly contaminated water into the Animas river.  More specifically, U.S. EPA contractors were in the process of conducting an investigation of the Gold King Mine to assess on-going water releases from the mine. While excavating materials around the entrance to the mine, loose material gave way allowing water from the closed mine to spill into the nearby river.  As of Sunday afternoon, the mine continued to discharge approximately 500 gallons per minute although U.S. EPA notes that the polluted water is being contained and treated in two ponds near the site.

The release has resulted in a visible plume that extends almost 80 miles down the Animas River.  According to preliminary water quality tests, arsenic levels in the Animas River are more than 300 times normal levels and lead had peaked at 3,500 times normal levels.  U.S. EPA is working cooperatively with Region 6 and Region 9 and the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Southern Ute tribe to address the contamination in the Animas river.  The Navajo Nation, however, has declared an emergency and shut down its drinking water systems that rely upon water from the Animus river.  Navajo President Russell Begaye has already indicated that the Navajo Nation intends to sue U.S. EPA for damage to the Navajo Nation’s natural resources.  In addition, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has declared a disaster emergency for the Animas river which makes $500,000 from Colorado's Disaster Emergency Fund eligible to be used to remediate the contamination.  

It is unknown at this time what long-term impacts this release might have on the Animas river which ultimately discharges into the San Juan and Colorado rivers.  U.S. EPA has acknowledged that metals are likely to settle down to the bottom of the river bed and long-term monitoring will be required.    


EPA’s Safer Choice Program Awards

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

EPA’s Safer Choice program (formerly Design for the Environment) recognizes products that meet stringent ingredient and product level criteria. Safer Choice products do not contain  carcinogens or reproductive or developmental toxins. The program helps consumers and commercial buyers identify and select products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance.

EPA Safer Choice

According to EPA, there are over 2,000 products that currently qualify for the Safer Choice label. This summer, EPA’s new Safer Choice labels began appearing on consumer products such as household soaps and cleaners. To qualify for the Safer Choice label, a product must meet stringent human and environmental health criteria.

In the first  year of the Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards, the Chicago/Region V area has more winners than any other part of the country. Local award winners include: AkzoNobel/Chicago; ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association/Northbrook; Jelmar, LLC/Skokie; Loyola University Chicago, Institute of Environmental Sustainability/Chicago; and Stepan Company/Northfield. Nationwide, 21 entities won EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards. EPA confirms there are nearly 500 formulator-manufacturer partners that make more than 2,000 products for retail and institutional customers.

More information about the Safer Choice program is available at http://www2.epa.gov/saferchoice.


EPA Finalizes 2015 Revisions to the 1988 RCRA Underground Storage Tank Regulations

Capture

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza

Last week, on July 15, 2015, the US EPA revised the 1988 underground storage tank (UST) regulation and the 1988 state program approval (SPA) regulation.  Some of these changes had their roots in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which set out additional requirements in states that received federal RCRA Subtitle I money from EPA.  Part of the impetus for this regulation was to apply these changes to Indian country and all states.  Other changes relate to revising the regulations in light of technological changes and challenges that have surfaced over the years.  The effective date of the regulations is October 13, 2015.  Some of the key changes are set out below.

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New EPA Report: Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

A new EPA report, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, estimates the physical and monetary benefits to the U.S. of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The report summarizes results from the Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis (CIRA) project, a peer-reviewed study comparing impacts in a future with significant global action on climate change to a future in which current greenhouse gas emissions to continue to rise.

The report shows that global action on climate change will significantly benefit Americans by saving lives and avoiding costly damages across the U.S. economy. The report and its finding perhaps foreshadow the U.S. participation in the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris, France later this year, from November 30 through December 11. This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Once again, the conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all of the nations of the world.

Below is a video developed by EPA discussing the report and its findings.

 


Jenner & Block Recognized as #1 Pro Bono Firm

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

Jenner & Block has been recognized by The American Lawyer in its 2015 rankings as the No. 1 law firm in the United States for pro bono service. This is the second consecutive year the firm as ranked No. 1 and the sixth time we have done so in the past eight years. The firm also has been included among the top 10 pro bono programs in the United States every year since the AmLaw initiated the survey in 1990.

In an article published this month titled “Treading Water,” The American Lawyer highlighted the important work of one of Jenner & Block’s Environmental and Workplace Health & Safety lawyers—Gay Sigel.

Gabrielle Sigel

In 2014, the biggest investment of time—1,553 hours—was for the ongoing representation of environmental groups, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a Clean Water Act suit against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago over its discharge of raw sewage into area waterways and Lake Michigan. Gay was the lead attorney and presented oral arguments in this case last February.  Gay is quoted as saying “If we win, this will change the Chicago rivers from a giant sewage conduit to the swimmable and fishable waterways that the Clean Water Act requires.”

A final judgment was issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirming the District Court ruling in favor of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago on July 9.

We are proud to be a part of the pro bono tradition at Jenner & Block. Congratulations to Gay on this important environmental work and special recognition from The American Lawyer.


Red Tuna Crabs Overrun CA Beaches

PictureBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Masses of small red tuna crabs have been washing up along San Diego, California area beaches from Ocean Beach to La Jolla. The species, Pleuroncodes planipes, is unique in that it can live its entire life cycle, from larva to adulthood, in the water column from surface to seafloor. Accordingly, it can be particularly vulnerable to being carried along by winds, tides, and currents.

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World Environment Day—June 5

PictureBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. The WED theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume With Care.” Learn more about WED, other UN environmental initiatives, and celebrations around the world today at http://www.unep.org/wed.