Monthly Archives: August 2009

Emergency Planning Notification

equipment3Under Section 302 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (also know as SARA Title III),  any facility that has more than the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) of an extremely hazardous substance must notify the Local Emergency Planning Committee (the fire department in most cases).

The list of Extremely Hazardous Sustances (EHS) and the corresponding TPQs can be found in Appendix A of 40 CFR355 .

Note that the TPQ always refer to the pure chemical form. So if you have a mixture that has 33% sulfuric acid in it and the TPQ for sulfuric acid is 1000 pounds, you will reach the TPQ when you have 3000 pounds of that mixture.

This poses an interesting question for large car dealerships and construction equipment lots. Let’s say each car or tuck on the lot has a battery with a 10 pounds mixture of 33% sulfuric acid in it. If the dealership has more than 300 cars on the lot, it will have exceeded the 1000 pounds TPQ limit for the 33% acid mixture. It must then notify the LEPC in accordance with Section 302 of SARA Title III. See EPA letter.

By the way, SARA is not the name of a girl. It stands for Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act. When Congress reauthorized the Superfund law in 1986, it put EPCRA into Title III of the reauthorization act. Hence the term: SARA Title III. It is the same thing as EPCRA.

Satellite Accumulation Points

SATELLITE40 CFR 262.34(c) allows hazardous waste generators to accumulate waste in a 55-gallon container at or near the place of generation. This is known as the satellite accumulation point (SAP) Once the container is full, the generator has 3 days to move it to the central storage area – at which time the usual (90 days or 180 days) accumulation time starts. By the way, you cannot store waste in a SAP for longer than one year in California.

While it is permissble to have more than one SAP if you generate wastes at different locations, it is illegal for waste generator to move waste from one  SAP to another. Doing so would defeat the purpose of having SAPs in the first place – reduce frequencies of waste movement within the plant.

Analytical samples exemption

Oil samples 3If you have to ship a sample of waste to a laboratory for analysis, that sample is exempt from RCRA regulations per 40  CFR 261.4(d). The exemption is valid throughout the entire cycle starting from sample collection, storage prior to shipping, shipment, lab storage prior to analysis, analysis, and return shipment of excess sample to the sample collector. It means that the sample collector does not need to use a hazardous waste manifest to ship the sample even if it is hazardous (listed, reactive, ignitable, corrosive or toxic). The same goes for samples that you ship to a lab for treatability studies.

Note that if the sample “leaves” the cycle at any point, the exemption ceases to exist. For example, if the lab decides to dispose of the excess sample, the sample exits the cycle and it becomes a solid waste and the lab must determine if it is a hazardous waste. Likewise when the excess sample reaches the sample collector, the cycle ends and the collector must dispose of the sample in accordance with RCRA regulations.

Returning a half-empty (pressurized) gas cylinder to the supplier

uncapped cylinderLet’s say you have some half-empty pressurized gas cylinders that you wish to return to the supplier. Do you need to manifest them as a hazardous waste because they are reactive (pressurized)?

The answer is: No.

EPA has determined that returning a compressed gas cylinder to the supplier does not constitute disposal on the part of the customer. For most parts, the cylinder itself is the property of the supplier and the customer has no control over what the supplier does with the cylinder and its content once the supplier receives it. So the pressurized cylinder you are returning to the supplier is NOT a RCRA solid waste, according to EPA and therefore it cannot be a hazardous waste.

EPA’s RCRA online document RO14760 states that “returning the cylinder to the supplier does not make the customer a hazardous waste generator.”

Please note that you may still need to ship the pressurized cylinder as a DOT hazardous material.

Global warming – is it a hoax?

girl thinking- iStockEver since I posted articles on the topic of greenhouse gas, I have been receiving some pretty interesting emails. I have responded to some here and I have also deleted some because they were more like rants than comments.

 One reader who used a manual typewriter and mailed in his letter (rant) to my editor at Pollution Engineering claimed that global warming is all but a hoax perpetuated by Al Gore and the liberals. Another said that the Supreme Court was made up of a “bunch of stupid lawyers” and that the scientists at EPA sold out to their political masters. I can go on but I won’t.

Here is the real scoop as I can best figure out. 

Several years ago, a number of states filed a lawsuit against the Bush EPA for failing to regulate CO2 emissions from cars. The Bush EPA’s position was that it did not have the authority to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. The Appellate Court in Washington DC sided with EPA. The states appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The landmark Supreme Court case (Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. No. 05–1120) was decided on April 2, 2007.

Here is what the court said:

CO2 is an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act because §7602(g) of the Act defines “air pollutant” as “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air . . . .”  The Court told EPA that since CO2 is a pollutant, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to regulate it IF it finds that CO2 impacts “public health and welfare”.

The Court reminded the Bush EPA that the purpose of the Clean Air Act as mandated by Congress is to “protect and enhance the quality of Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population.” The law further defines the term “effects on welfare” to include “effects on soils, water, crops, vegetation, man-made materials, animals, wildlife, weather, visibility, and climate…..”

So EPA’s responsibility and obligation under the Act are quite clear.

For those inclined on conspiracies who claim that the Clean Air Act, the Supreme Court and EPA are part of a liberal conspiracy to dream up climate change as a hoax on humanity, I only need to remind them that the Clean Air Act was signed into law in 1990 by a Republican President – George H.W. Bush. He could have vetoed it but he didn’t. Majority of the justices on the Supreme Court that ruled on this case were appointed by Republican presidents. Even the Bush EPA admitted that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It just didn’t want to regulate it.

So what is now before the EPA is very simple. If it finds that CO2 endangers “public health and welfare”, it has no choice but to regulate it. It is the law of the land as demanded by the Clean Air Act and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

By the way – for those of you who may be impressed by pedigree: The U.S. National Academy of Science believes in global warming too! It is asking for quicker response to deal with the problem. Perhaps it is part of the conspiracy too?

I seriously doubt it.

Why SPCC is not delegated to the states?

capitolAs we all know, many federal environmental programs are delegated to the state levels for implementation with oversight from EPA. Such is not the case with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC).

When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it directed the President to develop a National Contingency Plan. Under Section 311(j)(1) of the Act, the President is directed to est”lish procedures, methods,a nd equipment and other requirements for equipment ot prevent discharge of oil and hazardous substances from vessels and from onshore facilities…”…..

The President is specifically authorized to delegate the administration of Section 311 of the Clean Water Act to “the heads of those Federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities which he determines to be appropriate”.  There is no mention of any authority to delegate to state agencies.

Some state governments have enacted state laws that require their industries to have spill prevention plans that are the same as those spelled out in the SPCC regulations. California is one of these states. So if an inspector from one of the California state regional water quality control boards finds that you don’t have a SPCC plan, the agency can cite you  for violating the state law – but not the federal law.

Only an EPA inspector can cite you for SPCC violations.

Corporate view of safety program vs environmental protection

Balancing the AccountsAs someone who has seen up close and personal how senior management views its health and safety program and its environmental protection program, I would like to share some of my thoughts here with our readers.

Corporate health and safety program gets much higher level of management support for a number of reasons. Cost accounting is the main one. Performance of health and safety is monitored at the corporate level through workers compensation costs. A program that drives down the workers comp costs is viewed as an effective one. And rightly so. When the management board sees an 80% reduction in workers comp cost in a few years after implementation of a safety program, it is going to continue to support it with large budgets and manpower.

Safety performance can be reduced to dollar and cents.

Environmental performance, on the other hand, is much harder to track. Environmental protection budgets are often hidden in O&M. The benefits are even harder to quantify – as opposed to a workers comp cost. An environmental program that is working for the company means the company is not being fined. There isn’t a line item in the monthly budget to senior management that reflects that. On the other hand, senior management only knows that the environmental program has failed when it is hit with a big fine. In other words, senior management does not see a need to maintain or improve the environmental budget until something bad happens.

The key really lies in environmental cost accounting. If a company’s accounting system can show management the financial benefits it is getting from its environmental program, management will continue to support it in the same manner that it is supporting the safety program.

Unfortunately, not too many companies have such an accounting system.