News and Views

March 19, 2019

Companies agree to cover all costs for Fox River cleanup

Source: https://www.wisfarmer.com, March 19, 2019

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced on March 15, a federal judge has approved a settlement to ensure all future costs related to the decades-long contamination of the Fox River will be paid by the responsible parties.

“Generations of Wisconsinites have been affected by the contamination of the Fox River,” said Attorney General Kaul. “This settlement ensures that final cleanup will be fully funded by those who contaminated the Fox River, and not taxpayers.”

From the mid 1950’s until 1971, river sediments were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) discharged by paper companies that made and recycled “carbonless” copy paper containing PCB’s.

On March 14, Chief Judge William C. Griesbach, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Wisconsin, approved a settlement that insures all future costs related to this contamination will be paid by the parties responsible for the contamination. This settlement resolves all pending state litigation regarding the remediation and natural resource damages of the Lower Fox River and Green Bay.…

March 18, 2019

Crews work to control fire at Texas petrochemicals plant

Source: https://www.sfgate.com, March 18, 2019
By: Juan A. Lozano

A large fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal will likely burn for another two days, authorities said Monday, noting that air quality around the facility was testing within normal guidelines.

The fire erupted Sunday at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Houston. Firefighters were working to control the blaze, and the company said the risk of explosion remained “minimal.”

ITC has said all employees have been accounted for and no injuries have been reported. A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles, including from the Galveston Ferry, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the blaze.

The company said the fire spread to seven storage tanks holding components of gasoline and also used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner. ITC initially said the fire had spread to eight tanks, but company official David Wascome scaled back the number Monday, saying one of the tanks was empty.…

March 18, 2019

Want to understand what Michigan’s PFAS cleanup is going to take? Look to the past.

Source: https://mibiz.com, March 17, 2019
By: Matt Gryczan

Michigan needs to buckle up for a long, long ride on the PFAS rollercoaster.

If history is any guide, coming up with workable solutions to PFAS contamination around the state is going to take decades of painstaking work, billions of dollars and many awkward dances of cooperation between companies, government agencies and citizens groups.

The sheer scope of the problem almost guarantees that patience will be a virtue when it comes to dealing with PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS chemicals are found everywhere in modern life, and PFAS pollution is being discovered at landfills, manufacturing sites, airports, waterways and sources of drinking water.

It’s not just the ubiquity of PFAS that makes it a problem. PFAS-detection technology has raced ahead of technology to remove it from the environment. Science is still developing a clear idea of the long-term effects on human health that come with ingesting microscopic amounts of PFAS. Experts also remain uncertain about which of the nearly 4,700 PFAS chemicals should be classified as “emerging contaminants” in need of regulation.

Individuals with firsthand experience of previous massive, messy environmental problems say there aren’t shortcuts to fact-based remediation — or for negotiating liability. Calls for immediate answers are fanciful and sometimes counterproductive, they say.…

March 18, 2019

Atlantic City MUA pursuing lawsuits to help clean chemical from water

Source: https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com, March 18, 2019
By: Michelle Brunetti

The Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority faces more than $20 million in costs to comply with updated state drinking regulations on a new class of chemical, said ACMUA Executive Director G. Bruce Ward.

Ward said he will not raise water rates to cover the additional costs, but will pursue litigation against manufacturers DuPont and 3M as a way to help offset the cost.

“We are drafting now our complaint to join a multi-district suit,” said Ward at a meeting of the Bungalow Park Civic Association on Thursday night.

Last September, New Jersey began regulating perfluorononanoic acid, or PFNA, used in making plastics, Teflon and other products.

It adopted a maximum contaminant level standard at 13 parts per trillion by 2020.

It’s just one of many per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs, more of which are likely to be regulated soon.

The Department of Environmental Protection is expected to soon also set maximum contaminant levels for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA; and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, toxic compounds released by manufacturing and the use of firefighting foam by the military at as many as 600 Department of Defense facilities across the country.

March 18, 2019

Three Paden City water sources contaminated

Source: https://www.wtrf.com, March 18, 2019
By: Royce Jones

Residents in Paden City, Wetzel County are no longer using the city’s water.

According to test results by the West Virginia Environmental Protection Agency, the water is contaminated with a chemical substance commonly used at dry cleaners.

The Paden City Water Department which services nearly 1300 customers is contaminated with the chemical, perchloroethylene (PCE) is a solvent used for degreasing.

“We had a dry cleaner facility in our town that discharged chemicals into our drains and it leaked into our drain system and into the ground and into our groundwater,” said Clyde Hochstrasser, Mayor, Paden City.

According to Hochstrasser, the water first tested positive for PCE in 2010. The city has been able to keep the situation at bay through air stripping machines which help oxidize the chemical.

The city has also maintained the water contamination by using additional wells. Paden City sources their water from four wells. Three of those wells are now contaminated.

The mayor also said the city is struggling to come up with the funds to continue fighting the contamination.

Thrasher Engineering, a company working closely with the city to resolve the problem told Mayor Hochstrasser the system the city would need to implement to solve the issue would cost around $240 thousand.

Hochstrasser said the city can’t afford this system on their own.

In pursuit of financial assistance, the mayor has been in contact with a number of government agencies “the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, the U.S. EPA and the West Virginia EPA,” said Hochstrasser.

Hochstrasser said representatives from Thrasher are currently in Charleston speaking with officials about the Paden City water contamination.…

March 15, 2019

Vermont reaches $3.8M MTBE settlement with oil companies

Source: https://www.wcax.com, March 15, 2019

The Vermont Attorney General’s office has reached a $3.8 million settlement in an environmental case against two dozen oil companies over the gasoline additive MTBE.

The additive was introduced in the 1970s as a way to reduce air pollution. But leaks of underground gas tanks caused contamination of private and public wells around the country. That included dozens of sites in Vermont, including high-profile cases in Killington, Clarendon, Hartland and Hinesburg.

Studies have linked MTBE to a variety of adverse health effects and it is a known animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen.

Vermont banned MTBE in 2007 and filed the lawsuits against BP, Shell, Exxon and other major companies in 2014. A Vermont Supreme Court ruling in 2016 found many of the state’s claims had timed-out under Vermont’s six-year statute of limitations.

As part of the settlement the state has reserved its right to pursue relief under Vermont’s environmental clean-up laws for any newly-discovered MTBE contamination, but all other future claims are released.

New Hampshire won a $236 million case against Exxon-Mobil over MTBEs six years ago that was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

March 15, 2019

Chattanooga city to begin strategic cleanup of asbestos-ridden R.L. Stowe Mill site

Source: https://newschannel9.com, March 15, 22019
By: Shannen Sharpe

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed asbestos at the site of the old R.L. Stowe yarn mill in Lupton City. The property has long been an eyesore and a major complaint for people living in that part of Chattanooga for years.

In January 2017, Mayor Andy Berke pledged $1.5 million to begin cleanup in July 2017, when the city and Hamilton County became owners of the property through unpaid taxes. That did not happen right away.

In October, NewsChannel 9 covered a story where residents in that area held a news conference calling on the city to cleanup the site or sell it to someone who would.

Chattanooga Public Works spokeswoman Colline Miller says the city held a public meeting with the community on Monday. That’s where they told the residents about the asbestos and the expectation of workers showing up at the site in the next month or two.

Right now, it’s not clear exactly how much asbestos exists on the property. Miller says figuring that out is part of the city’s new plan. When workers begin clearing the site there will be air monitoring at all times. According to Miller, the city is working with the Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation, and the EPA.

The main way to avoid asbestos contamination is to keep the materials wet. Miller says that’s part of the initial plan as well.

If there is ever any threat to the public during the cleanup process, the city says they have contact information for residents in that direct area and will alert them as needed.

If you live near the old mill site and have concerns moving forward — you can contact the Public Works Department by calling 423-643-6000 or emailing publicworks@chattanooga.gov.…

March 14, 2019

PARENTS CONCERNED AS FOURTH CHILD DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER WHILE ATTENDING CALIFORNIA SCHOOL WITH CELL PHONE TOWER ON CAMPUS

Source: https://www.newsweek.com, March 13, 2019
By: Anna Gibbs

Parents in Ripon, California say a cell phone tower in a local schoolyard is to blame for the cancer diagnoses of four students in the last three years.

The tower, which is located at Weston Elementary, is the same as others scattered throughout the town. However, one parent told CBS Sacramento that its proximity to her son led to his 2017 brain cancer diagnosis.

“We had a doctor tell us that it’s 100 percent environmental, the kind of tumor that he has,” Monica Ferrulli said in an interview. “It’s indescribable, it’s really tough.”

Ferrulli’s son Mason was the second child to be diagnosed with cancer in just three years at the school. Mason walked by the cell phone tower daily.

She also told the Modesto Bee that when questioned, the school district cited an “obsolete American Cancer Society study” in keeping the tower in place since the controversy erupted two years ago. Ferrulli told the newspaper that parents will continue to fight and keep their children out of the school.

On Tuesday, more than 200 children were absent from Weston Elementary as a form of protest. Tuesday night, the children’s parents attended a meeting of the Ripon Unified School District.

Richard Rex, whose family lives across the street from Weston School, said a bump appeared on his 11-year-old son’s abdomen a month ago. He said his son’s classroom is near the tower.

Rex’s son was taken to doctors for examinations and tests that found a tumor wrapped around his liver. The boy now has a portal for starting cancer treatment, his parents told the Bee.

“They said they can shrink it and cut it out. They’re also talking liver transplant. It is very scary,” Rex said.

In a statement to Newsweek from RUSD said the school board and administration “empathizes with and support these children and their families in their recovery.” The statement also said independent tests shown the tower is performing within the guidelines established as safe by current government and global standards.

RUSD is 10 years into a 25-year contract with the tower’s owner, Sprint, which requires it to honor the lease for this tower location.

“There is no legal contractual basis on which the district can demand the cell phone company remove the tower, however, we are working together with them to come to a mutual resolution,” the statement said.

Adrienne Norton, a Sprint representative, indicated that the company’s goal is to provide wireless service to Ripon residents.

“When it comes to the deployment of network infrastructure, we always strive to achieve a win/win process with local municipalities and residents,” Norton wrote.

The school district is working with Sprint to address the concerns of the community, the statement said.

A group of parents were unconvinced by the district’s reassurances and hired Eric Windheim, an electromagnetic radiation specialist.

“I wouldn’t send my kids there at all, it absolutely is dangerous,” Windheim said in an interview with CBS Sacramento. “Children are still developing and their cells are still being divided. It’s the worst possible time in their life to be exposed.”

The Cochran Firm of Los Angeles has been hired to look at health effects of the cell tower and water contamination as a possible source.…

March 13, 2019

State reaches $7M agreement over 1,400 abandoned oil and gas wells

Source: https://stateimpact.npr.org, March 11, 2019
By: Reid Frazier

Alabama company has until 2033 to plug wells or put them back into production

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it reached an agreement with an Alabama company over the costs of plugging 1,400 abandoned conventional oil and gas wells in the state.

The agreement requires the company to put up a $7 million performance bond to cover plugging costs for the wells, and sets a schedule for the company to either plug all the wells or put them into production over the next 14 years.

“This agreement is a win for the commonwealth because it ensures that over 1,400 oil and gas wells are properly maintained or plugged and that these operators, not Pennsylvania citizens, bear the full cost of operating or plugging them,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement.

Most of the wells are in western Pennsylvania.

The agreement covers wells owned by Birmingham-based Diversified Gas & Oil Corporation and its subsidiaries, Alliance Petroleum Co. LLC and Diversified Oil & Gas, LLC. The company owns over 23,000 conventional wells in Pennsylvania. The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.…

March 13, 2019

Leaking Sewers Cost City 50% of Dry Cleaner Site Cleanup Costs

Source: https://www.jdsupra.com, March 12, 2019

Are you in a case where an on-site and off-site groundwater plume of dry-cleaning solution (perchloroethylene or PCE) or other hazardous substance is intersected by sewers through which the used and disposed solution flowed?  If so, the case of Mission Linen Supply v. City of Visalia (2019 WL 446358) bears your close review.

Based on the facts and expert testimony adduced at the bench trial, the court determined that: 1) the sewers were installed by the City below general industry standards; 2) the City sewers had numerous defects including holes and broken pipes, cracks, separated joints, missing portions of pipes, root intrusion and other conditions; and, 3) PCE was released into the environment as a result of these defects.

Pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.), the two dry cleaners who operated at the site and the City were found liable.  In allocating the future cleanup costs, the court determined the equitable basis for allocation was the plume itself.  The prior dry cleaners were responsible for the on-site costs and the City was responsible for the off-site costs “because the City’s defective/leaking pipes transported and spread the PCE beyond the property boundaries.”   50% of future costs were assigned to the City.

A review of this case’s Findings of Fact show what expert testimony and evidence is necessary to reach the result reached by this court.  The case is also a warning to municipalities with sewer lines intersecting cleanup sites or what could become cleanup sites.  Do not fail to regularly and properly maintain your sewer systems.…