December 31, 2013

Neighbors Fume at Radioactive Dump

Source: Dow Jones News Service, December 30, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

A dispute is smoldering here, in one sense quite literally, over what to do with thousands of tons of radioactive waste in a landfill in this suburban St. Louis town.

Some residents argue the waste, created decades ago by the U.S. nuclear-weapons program and other federal work, poses a health and environmental threat and should be removed. The landfill’s owner disputes that and says the best course is to leave the waste in place with some beefed-up protections. The Environmental Protection Agency has favored the second option but is reconsidering in reaction to community opposition.

The dispute is complicated by other factors. What officials from the EPA and the landfill’s owner call a “subsurface smoldering event”–locals call it an underground fire–has sprung up in a nearby nonnuclear landfill area. It isn’t clear what would happen if the smoldering reaches the radioactive materials. Efforts are under way to prevent that.

Digging up the radioactive waste, meanwhile, could cause flight-safety headaches at the nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Officials of the airport say excavating the landfill could attract birds that might pose a risk to planes. A 2010 letter from the airport authority called the landfill, known as West Lake, “a hazardous wildlife attractant.”

West Lake exemplifies one of the enduring challenges created by the federal government’s drive to develop nuclear weapons and other forms of atomic energy: what to do with the radioactive mess left behind.…

December 27, 2013

EPA removes tainted soil from housing complex

Source: Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), December 24, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed 650 tons of lead-contaminated soil from a former playground and nearby areas on a housing complex in the Ironbound section of Newark, the agency said yesterday.

The $1.4 million cleanup project focused on the Millard E. Terrell Homes on Riverview Court. The EPA found high levels of the toxic metal in samples collected there in December 2012 and worked over the past year to remove dirty soil.

“Exposure to lead can have lifelong effects on children’s health and their development, which is why the EPA took steps to reduce potential exposure to lead in the soil at the housing complex,” Judith Enck, the agency’s regional administrator, said in a statement.

The EPA began looking at the site to see whether a nearby industrial facility had left any contamination there. Scientists found high levels of the metal in the top 2 feet of soil where the playground was located. The agency conducted cleanup work through the spring and summer, when it also found contamination in other areas of the complex and removed it.

The neighboring property owner, 99 Chapel Street Partners, will install a barrier wall along the property line to stop further contamination of the housing complex property, the EPA said.


December 26, 2013

5 years after coal-ash spill, little has changed

Source: USAToday.com, December 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

As Tommy Charles looks out of his dining room window, it’s easy to see why he and his wife moved to Lakeshore Drive here nearly 50 years ago.

The Emory River widens as it passes his house. Great blue herons glide above the placid, gray water. It’s an idyllic place to live and raise a family.

Because others saw the same potential, the neighborhood grew to more than 25 homes. No one seemed to mind the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant looming just a short distance away.

That was how things were, at least, before the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2008. When a dike failed at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash cascaded into the Emory and Clinch rivers and smothered about 300 acres of land.

The breach released a slow-moving wave of toxic sludge and polluted water into the river in what remains the nation’s largest coal-ash spill in history. It snapped trees as if they were twigs and knocked homes off their foundations. It destroyed three houses and damaged dozens of others. There were no injuries.

More coal ash spilled at Kingston than oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico two years later. Enough muck spewed forth to fill a football field more than 2,500 feet into the air. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation hit TVA with an $11.5 million fine.

“As soon as I got out and moved around, I saw that mess,” Charles, 74, recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”…

December 18, 2013

EPA continues investigation of vapor intrusion in Riverside

Source: http://envfpn.advisen.com, December 15, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The Environmental Protection Agency will spend the next two months collecting air samples from homes in the Avondale community to determine how serious vapor intrusion is for those Riverside citizens.

But in the meantime, residents are worried about their health and property values.

The area of concern is bordered by Guernsey Dell Avenue, Minnesota Drive, Hypathia Avenue, Rohrer Boulevard and Valley Pike. There are about 130 residences in that neighborhood.

Vapor intrusion occurs when underground pollutants give off dangerous gases that can rise up through the soil and seep into buildings through foundation cracks and holes, causing unsafe indoor air pollution, according to the EPA.

The drinking water is not impacted by these site conditions, according to the EPA. The drinking water comes from the city of Dayton’s public water supply.

Steve Renninger, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s Region 5 in Cincinnati, said it is possible the contamination extends beyond the initial area of concern.

“The data drives the decisions,” Renninger said. “If we start seeing elevated levels past in any direction, we’ll step it out another block until we see it subside.”

Kenneth Emmons, who lives with his parents at 2620 Bushnell Avenue, said since he and his fiancee moved in back in June, he regularly gets headaches and becomes nauseated.…

December 16, 2013

New look at old refinery aims to assess sources of pollution

Source: http://www.news-journal.com, December 8, 2013
By: Peggy Jones

Federal oversight of the old Longview Refinery property on Premier Road entered a new phase this past week when environmental experts from across Texas met there to inspect existing groundwater monitoring wells and pick locations for new soil and groundwater testing that will begin early next year.

The new round of Environmental Protection Agency testing is aimed at determining whether toxic hazards still exist at the refinery, which operated from 1935 until 1992, and if so, to what degree. Officials said they hope results can determine the source of contamination and help them draw up a plan to remediate it.

Owner Ken Williams, under the gun to clean up the property, is making a case to the EPA that any contamination present today migrated from off-site, because there has been no activity on the property for 21 years.

In February the EPA will install 14 groundwater monitoring wells, collect subsurface soil samples from the monitoring well borings, and develop the new and existing monitoring wells according to an agreement reached between Williams and the federal agency. All data will be analyzed at the EPA laboratory in Houston.

The tour Monday was guided by Williams, president of Gregg County Refining, who told the group, “We have nothing to hide.”

They spent hours trudging through often-times shoulder-high brush to determine locations for the new test sites, most of which were selected based on topography and the flow of groundwater.…

December 5, 2013

Airline joins battle over biofuels

Source: Houston Chronicle, December 1, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Delta Air Lines, which paid $150 million for a Philadelphia refinery last year in hopes of controlling fuel costs, is hitting turbulence in the form of U.S. biofuel mandates.

Through its year-old refinery unit, Monroe Energy, Delta is mounting its own legal and lobbying challenge to the 8-year-old renewable fuel standard, joining a battle led for years by the oil industry’s top trade groups.

Monroe has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit broadly challenging the renewable fuel requirements the Environmental Protection Agency established for 2013. Refiners have until June 30 to prove they have complied with this year’s biofuel quotas.

The EPA sets the annual targets under the renewable fuel standard, which requires refiners to mix steadily increasing amounts of ethanol and other alternatives into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supplies — up to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

For every gallon of biofuel they incorporate, refiners generate compliance credits called renewable identification numbers. Refiners that don’t meet their annual biofuel quotas can buy the credits instead on an open market.

Because Monroe is a “merchant refiner” that generally sells unblended products to wholesale marketers, it doesn’t produce its own credits by blending in renewable fuels and instead must buy the credits to satisfy the mandate.

As a result, Monroe says in its Oct. 4 federal court petition, it must spend millions of dollars acquiring compliance credits at what it alleges are artificially inflated prices. Although renewable identification numbers were trading below a quarter each last week, prices had climbed above a dollar earlier this year.…

October 28, 2013

EPA adopts cleanup plan for Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

Source: http://www.lexology.com, October 9, 2013
By: Karen Leo Mintzer

On September 30, 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a record of decision documenting its final selection of a remedy for cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site. The Site consists of the entire length of Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. It borders several residential neighborhoods, including Gowanus, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, with housing located within one block of the canal. The cleanup remedy selected by EPA will address both contaminated sediments in the canal and continuing sources of contamination outside of the canal. EPA estimates that it will take another three years to complete design of all of the elements of the remedy, and six years thereafter to implement the remedy. However, EPA acknowledges that some elements of the remedy may not be completed within six years and additional interim measures may be required.

Contaminated sediments will be addressed by the dredging of shallow sediments and capping of deeper “native” sediments with multiple layers of clean material, including an active layer to remove contamination that could well up from below, an isolation layer to ensure that the contaminants are not exposed, and an armor layer to prevent erosion of the underlying layers from boat and traffic currents. In the most contaminated portions of the canal, EPA will conduct targeted in situ stabilization of native sediments to prevent the upward migration of contaminants before installing the multiple layer cap.…

October 10, 2013

Environmentalists, API Spar Over Findings Of Fracking Emissions Study

Source: Clean Air Report, October 10, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is refuting the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) claims that a recent EDF study on “fugitive” uncontrolled emissions from natural gas production shows that hydraulic fracturing is environmentally safe and that any new EPA air regulations for the sector are unnecessary.

The study, which EDF jointly conducted with the University of Texas and a host of oil and gas companies, examined direct measurements of methane emissions from the extraction phase of natural gas production at 190 sites across the country.

EDF’s analysis, published Sept. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that the measurements of the amount of emissions released during the flowback phase of fracking ranged from 0.01 megagrams (mg) to 17 mg, levels 97 percent lower than EPA stated in its 2011 greenhouse gas (GHG) estimates. Flowback is the part of the fracking process in which fracking fluid is separated from the well to make way for gas.

EDF says the findings show that the agency’s new source performances standards (NSPS) for the sector — which offers incentives for early adoption of emissions control technology — are helping cut pollution.…

September 24, 2013

PRP letter triggered coverage–but delay precludes claim against insurers

Source: http://www.lexology.com, September 18, 2013
By: Amy B. Briggs, David B. Killalea , Stephen T. Raptis, Robert H. Shulman and Susan P. White, Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP

A letter sent by the EPA in 2001 pursuant to CERCLA warning Land O’Lakes that it could be a potentially responsible party (“PRP”) for cleanup of an old refinery site triggered Land O’Lakes’ insurers’ duty to defend, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held. This is consistent with the majority rule nationally, and typically is the position advocated by policyholders. In the case of Land O’Lakes, however, this unfortunately meant that the statute of limitations applicable to breach of contract had run as a result of Land O’Lakes’ seven-year delay in challenging its insurers’ denials of coverage.

In 2001 the EPA sent a Special Notice Letter (or “PRP Letter”) to notify Land O’Lakes that the agency considered Land O’Lakes to be a PRP under CERCLA for an oil refinery acquired by Land O’Lakes and later declared a Superfund site. The PRP Letter demanded that Land O’Lakes reimburse the EPA for $8.9 million that it had spent cleaning up the site, and encouraged Land O’Lakes to enter into negotiations with the EPA regarding additional cleanup.

Land O’Lakes denied any responsibility, arguing that a prior owner of the refinery site legally was responsible for the costs. But Land O’Lakes notified two of its insurers, Employers Mutual Liability Insurance Company of Wausau and The Travelers Indemnity Company, about the PRP Letter and requested coverage under historical CGL policies they had issued to Land O’Lakes. Both insurers declined to defend Land O’Lakes.…

September 13, 2013

Interstate pollution: Smother my neighbour

Source: The Economist, September 7, 2013
Posted on: http://fpn.advisen.com

How much should upwind states care if their filth blows next door?

“ON SOME days even if we shut down the entire state, we would be in violation of some health standards because of pollution coming over from other states.” Thus the late Senator Frank Lautenberg griped about foul air blowing into New Jersey. For years, upwind states could dump part of the cost of pollution onto their neighbours, while reaping all the benefits of the factories that caused it. Though banned by the Clean Air Act, such smother-my-neighbour policies persist.

The Supreme Court may soon weigh in, however. It has accepted appeals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association concerning the agency’s 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which controls interstate emissions that cause ozone and fine-particle pollution.

Under the law states are responsible for cleaning their own air. They must also reduce emissions that “contribute significantly” to another state’s dirty air. The CSAPR is the latest attempt to give teeth to this “good neighbour” requirement. The rule’s scope is vast, covering 28 eastern and midwestern states. Power plants there were found to emit too much sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, pollutants that can travel long distances and harm people.…