EPA Looks to Add Air Emissions Reporting Items

EPA Looks to Add Air Emissions Reporting Items

EPA has announced a several changes to its Air Emissions Reporting Rule, or AERR that would make reporting of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) consistent from state to state, add electronic reporting of stack tests, decrease and standardize emissions thresholds, create earlier reporting deadlines, and add new point sources to reporting requirements.

All of the changes EPA is considering making is to help the agency comply with the presidential commitment to enhance environmental justice by gathering more detailed location-specific information.

HAP Reporting

Per the AERR, industry is already required to report emissions of common or criteria pollutants and the pollutants that form them, called precursors.  Right now, the federal rule doesn’t require HAP reporting, but some states require reporting and voluntarily give this information to EPA.  Not all states do, and not all Indian lands do either.  For the ones that do, the rules can vary greatly from state to state.

The new rule would make HAP reporting standard for all facilities in all states who are:

  • Major sources per Clean Air Act operating permits;
  • Non-major sources who were in a certain industry emitting HAPS at or above a certain threshold;
  • Indian lands; and,
  • Offshore deep water ports.

Facilities would also be required to provide other details and data about HAPs from their stack test and performance evaluations.  EPA would like these to be reported electronically through the Consolidated Emissions Data Reporting Interface (CERDI).

To help states find a way to make reporting this data to EPA be more streamlined without the need to create their own separate data collection programs, EPA would like for states to develop procedures to have industry use the online Combined Air Emissions Reporting System, or CAERS system.  CAERS is already in use for reporting National Emissions Inventories and Toxic Release Inventories (TRI).  EPA even hopes to work towards eventually using CAERS to gather Greenhouse Gas Reporting (GHG) data and incorporate the CERDI as well.

The new rule would start in 2027.  This is because states have told EPA it can take two to three years for them to change their air emissions regulations.  EPA also says time it can take states to migrate from their current systems to CAERS could be one to three years as well.

Shorter Deadlines

The proposed rule looks to make states work faster to get this data to EPA.  Right now, states have 12 months after the end of the reporting period to turn in inventory data.  That is, the reporting period ends on December 31, and EPA has until December 31of the following year to turn it in to EPA after receiving it from industry much earlier than that. Starting in 2027, state inventory data would be due to EPA by September 30 and starting in 2030, data would be due by May 31.

Many states already turn in their collected inventory data sooner than that 12-month deadline, but shortening the due dates may force all states to go to electronic systems and may cause some of them to move up due dates for industry.

If EPA’s goals of using CAERS for multiple emissions reports, EPA speculates the possibility arises industry may eventually see one consolidated deadline for all reports rather than the current tiered deadlines of GHG reports due March 31, some air emissions reports due May 31 and TRI reports due July 1.  Another possibility to help alleviate stress in the deadlines in this case would be for industry to potentially report some data directly to EPA rather than go through the state.

EPA is currently seeking comments about the timing of the phase in deadlines and EPA wants feedback on these potential scenarios.

Standardized Emissions Thresholds

Under the current AERR rule, states report data on criteria pollutants and precursors that exceed certain thresholds.  The thresholds are setup to be different each year over a triennial cycle. That is, they are higher in the first two years and then lower in the third year.  On that third year, more facilities end up qualifying for reporting.  The new rule would make the threshold the same each year.  That would be the lower year 3 emissions threshold, causing more facilities to need to report every year.  HAP thresholds would be the same each year as well.

Small Generating Unit Emissions Data Included

Some facilities use small generating units to help meet demand on high electricity demand days or use them to supplement their own electricity.  EPA wants to make these a new source reporting requirement, taking daily data such as fuel use or heat input.  EPA says that when facilities use a number of these at one time, the units can significantly add to ozone formation through emitting of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Currently, emissions for these are reported as an annual, not daily, emissions value and only if they’re located at a point source.  If they’re not located at a point source, they aren’t tracked at all.  The new rule would track all of them at all facilities.

Prescribed Fire Data

The proposed rule would also add the requirement for state, local and tribal forestry agencies to report daily activities associated with prescribed fires on state, tribe, private, or military lands.  This would include fires affecting more than 50 acres where there is forest canopy present (understory fire) or where there is little forest canopy like a grassland or oak woodland fire (broadcast fire), or pile burns of 25 acres or more.

Agricultural fires, land clearance fires and construction fires would not be included.

Comments Period

The public is invited to comment on the proposed rule up until October 18, 2023.  You can find the entire rule HERE.

Need Help Sorting This Out?

If you have questions about air emissions reporting in general, anything discussed in this article or this proposed rule, or need help getting your environmental reporting taken care of, we’re here to help!  Contact iSi today!

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CSB Issues Safety Alert Regarding Emergency Pressure Relief Systems

CSB Issues Safety Alert Regarding Emergency Pressure Relief Systems

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has issued a safety alert regarding emergency pressure relief systems as the agency is continuing to see them playing their part in major chemical incidents.

Who is the CSB?

The CSB is an independent federal agency who investigates the root causes of chemical incidents at industrial sites such as chemical plants, refineries, and manufacturing facilities.  They are not a regulatory agency, but their teams of investigators make recommendations to OSHA and EPA, industry groups and the facilities they investigate.

In addition to investigation reports and root cause analyses, CSB issues safety videos on both their website and YouTube that summarize the important findings from their investigations in order to help prevent similar accidents from reoccurring.

Emergency Pressure Relief System Issues

In its investigations, CSB is continuing to find issues with the safety of emergency pressure relief systems.  In several of their investigations these systems were found to be discharging toxic or flammable materials to areas which were not safe for workers or the public.

Emergency pressure relief systems are devices installed on storage tanks, silos, vessels and processing plant equipment to help relieve the excessive pressure caused by fire, process failure, equipment failure or some other change in condition. The pressure relief device is supposed to prevent the equipment it’s installed on from rupturing or exploding.

One of the most well-known accidents involving an emergency pressure relief system was the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India in the 1980s.  A runaway reaction generated high pressure conditions in a storage tank and a methyl isocyanate cloud escaped from the pressure relief system, killing 3,800 people, and injuring or creating long-term illnesses for tens of thousands.

Three Key CSB Suggestions

CSB recommends that rather than discharge into the air or back into the plant, emergency relief systems should discharge to a flare or a scrubber system.

CSB offers three key lessons from its findings:

  1. Follow Existing Good Practice Guidance

Use API 521, Pressure-relieving and Depressuring Systems as a standard guidance. CSB says this document “…addresses many concerns about releasing flammable vapors directly into the atmosphere and generally requires using inherently safer alternatives for toxic release scenarios or when the potential exists for a flammable vapor cloud.”

CSB also recommends documents published by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) called Guidelines for Pressure-relief and Effluent Handling Systems and Safe Design and Operation of Process Vents and Emission Control Systems as well as viewing American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) presentations and courses on Venting and Emergency Relief.

  1. Evaluate Whether the Atmosphere is the Appropriate Discharge Location or if There May Be Safer Alternatives

CSB typically recommends flaring is safer than atmospheric vent stacks when venting flammable vapor into the atmosphere.  Something like flammable hydrocarbons can cause a fire or a vapor cloud explosion when they are vented into the atmosphere.  CSB recognizes flaring is safer, but does allow for venting into the atmosphere in special cases, especially when that venting will not put workers or the public at risk.

  1. Ensure Hazardous Chemicals Vented Into the Atmosphere Discharge to a Safe Location

Where are the discharge points on your emergency pressure relief systems?  Are they at areas where they can harm workers within its proximity at ground level or on walkways or platforms?   Are they near building intakes?  If your company is subject to Process Safety Management (PSM) requirements, CSB says the required periodic reviews would be a good time to evaluate these issues as well as other audits or incident investigations.

Read the Report

Find CSB’s report, along with four case studies and their resulting recommendations at https://www.csb.gov/assets/1/6/csb_eprs_alert.pdf.

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Making Changes to Equipment or Operations?  Do You Need a Construction Air Permit?

Making Changes to Equipment or Operations? Do You Need a Construction Air Permit?

What Are Construction Air Permits and How Do We Determine If We Need One?

Whenever you plan on making changes to equipment or operations, before you ever get started, your company should always determine whether or not you will need to obtain a construction air permit from your state (or local) environmental agency.

Air Permit Regulations

The Clean Air Act sets standards to prevent significant deterioration (PSD) of the air quality for an area.  This is a federal regulation and EPA has the regulatory authority to enforce it, but it can also delegate authority to individual states by approving the state’s plans to enforce these regulations.

Air permits are required any time a company will exceed criteria for six different criteria pollutants (sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, lead, nitrous oxides, and ozone (volatile organic compounds)) or from a list of 187 hazardous air pollutants. Permits outline the emission sources at a facility and can include emission limitations, equipment maintenance requirements, and reference applicable Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards and New Source Performance Standards (NSPS).

What Kinds of Activities May Need an Air Permit?

Some examples of equipment or processes that may produce emissions that may require an air permit may include:

  • Compressors
  • Paint Booths
  • Degassing Vessels or Lines
  • Engines
  • Generators
  • Ovens
  • Incinerators
  • Boilers

Some activities that may produce emissions to require an air permit may include:

  • Loading/Unloading Operations
  • Material Storage/Transfer
  • Painting
  • Solid Wastes
  • Tank Loading/Unloading
  • Truck Loading/Unloading
  • Valves, Vents, Vessels and Tanks
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Welding
  • Asphalt Mixing/Rock Crushing

Operating Permits vs. Construction Permits

Air permits required for regular operations are called operating permits.  They are applicable to the entire facility.  There are different types of operating air permits based on whether or not you are located in an EPA area of nonattainment, how you much you will be emitting, and what you’ll be emitting.

Air permits can also be required for specific projects where you’re going to be making changes or additions, and these are called construction permits/approvals.  Even though the word construction is used, you don’t have to technically be doing “construction” activities.  In this instance, it means the process of making any change to an operation.  Once the change has been made, that change then becomes part of the operating permit because it becomes part of the facility operations.

Depending on the state, sometimes operating and construction permits are done at the same time to prevent time loss between making the change and getting the new operation up and running.  Some states do them separately.  Some states require construction permits be incorporated into the facility’s operating permit, and other states will issue combined construction/operating permits.

Construction Permits/Approvals

Except in limited situations, air construction permits must be received BEFORE your construction or change can commence.

Some changes to your facility that could require a construction permit include:

  • Installation of new process equipment;
  • Modification to existing process equipment;
  • Installation of or change in an emission control device;
  • Debottlenecking of a process that allows for increased production; or,
  • Increases to throughput or operating hours (if currently limited by an operating permit).

Determining If You Need a Construction Air Permit

As with operating permits, for a construction air permit one of the first things you’ll need to do is determine how this change will affect your Potential to Emit (PTE).  This is the maximum design capacity of a stationary source to emit a pollutant under its physical and operational design.  Calculate the PTE for each pollutant associated with this source.  There are several different ways to do this calculation and your state may have a preference on which one you use to determine your PTE.

Once the PTE for the project or modification has been calculated, compare it to the construction permitting thresholds.  Please note that in some cases, you may still need to have a construction air permit even if potential emissions are lower than the construction approval thresholds.  For examples, what type of equipment it is or what type of process it is may affect its status.  Check your state’s rules on what their guidelines are.

Obtaining the Permit

If your calculations tell you the project requires an air construction permit, the customary application must be submitted for approval.  If a project is going to make such a difference that it will now trigger Major Source or Major Modification thresholds, you may need to obtain a Federal Air Permit.  This is a lengthy application, and approval can take quite a long time, from several months to well over a year or two, depending on your state and the workload.  So, it’s very, very important you try to do this well ahead of the time you plan on making the change.

If you already have an operating permit, be aware that your change that you are looking at getting permitted under the construction permit may cause changes to your operating permit at the same time.  Know exactly what the conditions of your operating permit are and see how these changes will affect it so that if you are in a state which does operating and construction permits separately, you can get started on making changes to your operating permit now so that you can operate the results of the construction.

Some states have a streamlined construction permit application process for certain equipment such as emergency generators or boilers.  These applications are short and sweet and typically receive agency approval quickly.

If the project meets the exemption from air construction permitting, retain all documentation for your files.  Even if exempt from permitting, state or federal regulations may have requirements for the source, and you still may need to complete some state paperwork.

With all air permits, both construction and operating permits, once you have turned in your application, be prepared to wait.  The state agency will check for the completeness of your application and may have questions.  Once any issues have been resolved, you should receive a draft of your permit to review and comment on. If it’s not in your state’s policy to send a draft, ask for one, especially if it’s a combined operating/construction permit.

Make sure you read this draft!  You will be held to what this permit says.  Make sure everything about the permit is correct, including any equipment details, inconsistencies, unclear language, typos, etc.  Remove or clarify any ambiguities to make the conditions as broad as possible. Any errors could cause you issues later when being inspected, leading to an inspector thinking you are doing something differently than what’s allowed in the permit.

Once the draft has been approved, there may be a public notice period depending on state policy, and then after that you should receive your permit.

Please note, your construction permit could take several months to be approved, so make sure you plan accordingly.  And also remember…construction permits must be obtained BEFORE construction can be started.

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EPCRA Tier II: Does the March 1 Deadline Apply to Your Facility?

EPCRA Tier II: Does the March 1 Deadline Apply to Your Facility?

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities to report emergency and hazardous chemical information each year to their state and local emergency response officials and local fire departments. This is a federal requirement, but each state has its own nuances in method of submittal, what’s required with the submission and who to send it to. For reporting, EPCRA has a Tier I form and a Tier II form. The Tier II has all of the information Tier I does, but with more detail, so many states just require the more complete Tier II form.

Does This Apply to My Facility?

First, all chemicals you’re required to keep a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for per OSHA requirements are subject to reporting. Next, determine if the quantities on-site at any one time last year met the threshholds for reporting.

Extremely Hazardous Substances listed in 40 CFR part 355 Appendix A and Appendix B, the reporting quantity is 500 pounds or the amount of the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), (whichever is lower). Gasoline and diesel fuel at retail gas stations have their own individual requirements. For all other hazardous chemicals, the threshold is 10,000 pounds.

There are a few exclusions per EPCRA for food, food additives, drugs, cosmetics, substances for general/household purposes for use by the general public, fertilizer sold to farmers, and substances used by research labs and hospitals.

Information Collected

Each state has its own requirements, but the information reported is very similar. Some examples of information you’ll need to gather include:

  • SDS for Each Chemical
  • Facility Information
  • Emergency Contacts and Contacts Knowledgeable of Tier II Information
  • Physical and Health Hazards
  • Chemical Descriptions
  • Maximum Amount Present on any Single Day During Reporting Period
  • Average Daily Amounts (Weights)
  • Number of Days Onsite
  • Storage Types, Conditions and Locations

Reporting

Each state varies on how the information is reported then given to emergency officials. Some states require electronic reporting, others may require you to send it directly to your state emergency response commission, your local emergency response commission and the fire department with jurisdiction over your facility. Check out your state requirements here. Reporting is due March 1.

Need Help?

iSi can help you determine your applicability, what your state requires and then help you complete the Tier II reporting elements. Contact us today for a pricing quote!

Need Help?

Mar. 1 will be here soon — Let iSi take care of this requirement for you!

Need Help?

Mar. 1 will be here soon — Let iSi take care of this requirement for you!

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities to report emergency and hazardous chemical information each year to their state and local emergency response officials and local fire departments. This is a federal requirement, but each state has its own nuances in method of submittal, what’s required with the submission and who to send it to. For reporting, EPCRA has a Tier I form and a Tier II form. The Tier II has all of the information Tier I does, but with more detail, so many states just require the more complete Tier II form.

Does This Apply to My Facility?

First, all chemicals you’re required to keep a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for per OSHA requirements are subject to reporting. Next, determine if the quantities on-site at any one time last year met the threshholds for reporting.

Extremely Hazardous Substances listed in 40 CFR part 355 Appendix A and Appendix B, the reporting quantity is 500 pounds or the amount of the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), (whichever is lower). Gasoline and diesel fuel at retail gas stations have their own individual requirements. For all other hazardous chemicals, the threshold is 10,000 pounds.

There are a few exclusions per EPCRA for food, food additives, drugs, cosmetics, substances for general/household purposes for use by the general public, fertilizer sold to farmers, and substances used by research labs and hospitals.

Information Collected

Each state has its own requirements, but the information reported is very similar. Some examples of information you’ll need to gather include:

  • SDS for Each Chemical
  • Facility Information
  • Emergency Contacts and Contacts Knowledgeable of Tier II Information
  • Physical and Health Hazards
  • Chemical Descriptions
  • Maximum Amount Present on any Single Day During Reporting Period
  • Average Daily Amounts (Weights)
  • Number of Days Onsite
  • Storage Types, Conditions and Locations

Reporting

Each state varies on how the information is reported then given to emergency officials. Some states require electronic reporting, others may require you to send it directly to your state emergency response commission, your local emergency response commission and the fire department with jurisdiction over your facility. Check out your state requirements here. Reporting is due March 1.

Need Help?

iSi can help you determine your applicability, what your state requires and then help you complete the Tier II reporting elements. Contact us today for a pricing quote!

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EPA Proposes Changes to Air Permitting Regulations for New Sources

EPA Proposes Changes to Air Permitting Regulations for New Sources

Companies with operations subject to the Clean Air Act are required to submit their plans for any operational or physical changes before they occur to see if they’ll have a significant affect on air quality.  This program is called the New Source Review preconstruction permitting program, or NSR program.  EPA is making some changes in the way fugitive emissions are figured into the equation to determine if the changes to existing sources will be considered a major modification to the company’s air permit.

 

The NSR Program

EPA’s NSR program wants to make sure that a company’s changes will not significantly affect air quality of the area.  In the U.S., there are cities and regions that have air quality levels that are above EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These areas are called “non attainment” areas and industries in those areas have additional rules, regulations and restrictions they need to follow as a result.  In other cities and regions that are still below the national standards, EPA wants to make sure a company’s changes don’t significantly deteriorate the area’s compliance so that they can stay below non attainment.  This program is called the Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD program.

The NSR program looks to see if your new operations will become a new major source of air pollution, or if any changes to your current major source permit would be considered a major modification, depending on certain thresholds.

 

Fugitive Emissions

When making this determination, EPA counts fugitive and stack (non-fugitive) emissions.  A fugitive emission is one that could not reasonably pass through a stack, chimney, vent, or similar opening.

Historically, for new sources to become new major sources, only certain type of sources belonging to a specific list would have to count fugitive emissions toward the threshold.

Existing sources would have to count both fugitive and non-fugitive (stack) emissions.  However, in 2008, EPA finalized a rule for existing sources that would also allow them to only count fugitive emissions only for certain types of major sources belonging to specific categories.

 

The Proposed Changes

The specific categories of sources that had to count fugitive emissions were petroleum refineries, large fossil fuel-fired steam electric plants, and Portland cement manufacturers.  Everyone else was not required to include fugitive emissions.

However, EPA wants to repeal that 2008 rule for major modifications.  Now, all existing major sources would need to count fugitive emissions toward the major modification thresholds.

Anytime a company’s changes are considered a major modification, they need to obtain a major NSR permit before moving forward with construction. The permit will require emission control measure to ensure that changes won’t degrade air quality.

Another change that EPA is proposing is to remove a provision established in 1980 that exempts certain stationary sources from substantive major NSR requirements if the only reason the change is considered a “major modification’ is because fugitive emissions are included.

 

Upcoming Changes at Your Facility? What’s Your Air Compliance Status?

Are you considering a major change to your operations or equipment that will affect your air compliance status?  Do you need help with construction air permitting or making determinations on what your air quality compliance requirements are?  Let our team of air permitting experts assist you!  Contact us today!

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EPA Issues Changes to 6H NESHAP for Paint Stripping & Surface Coating

EPA Issues Changes to 6H NESHAP for Paint Stripping & Surface Coating

EPA has issued Final Rule updates to 40 CFR Part 63, subpart HHHHHH, the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Paint Stripping and Miscellaneous Surface Coating Operations at Area Sources.  This NESHAP standard applies to companies coating miscellaneous parts/products made of metal, plastic or a combination, anyone stripping paint using methylene chloride, or conducting motor vehicle/mobile equipment refinishing.

EPA issued the changes as part of its technology review.  They didn’t find any new developments in practices, processes or controls that warranted changing existing rules, but they did decide to take the opportunity to update and clarify some of the items in the current requirements.

Here is a summary of what has changed in the regulation:

Electronic Reporting

Rather than mailing reports to EPA, you will now be required to be submit electronically through the CEDRI/CDX platform.  This includes initial notifications, notifications of compliance status changes, annual notification of changes reports and the report required in 40 CFR 63.11176(b).

HAP Content

EPA updated the definition of a “target HAP containing coating” to clarify that compliance is based on the hazardous air pollutant (HAP) content of the coating applied to the part, not the content purchased.

Spray Gun Cups and Liners

For spray guns with disposable cap liners, EPA amended “spray-applied coating operations” to clarify that the allowance to use spray guns outside of a spray booth is based on the volume of the spray gun cup liner, not volume of the cup itself.  They also clarified that repeatedly refilling and reusing the 3.0 fl. oz. cup or cup liner, and/or using multiple liners for a single spray-applied coating operation will be considered trying to circumvent the regulation and you can be fined for this.

Exemptions Became Easier

If motor vehicle/mobile equipment spray coating operations don’t spray apply coatings that contain the target HAP, rather than the current petition for exemption process, the rule now allows companies to submit notifications to the Administrator.  This process is meant to be simplified and easier.  All records to support the notification shall still be kept as a backup to support the notification, but those records don’t need to be sent to the administrator.

Military Equipment: Tanks and Submarines

The NESHAP no longer applies to surface coating or paint stripping on tanks and submarines when that work is conducted onsite at military installations, NASA, or at the National Nuclear Security Administration.  It also doesn’t apply when conducted offsite where military munitions or equipment are manufactured by or for the Armed Forces and that equipment is directly and exclusively used for the purposes of transporting military munitions.

OSHA Carcinogen References

EPA removed references to OSHA’s carcinogens because OSHA no longer spells out what those are.  Instead, EPA will be putting in their own list.  These will include target HAPs that must be counted if they’re present at 0.1% by mass or greater.  All other HAPs will be counted if present at 1.0% or greater by mass.

No Non-HAP Solvents

The term “Non-HAP solvent” will be removed because there’s no requirement in the standard to use them and there is no other place where this is used.

Filter Test Method

EPA updated the spray booth filter test method to the most recent ASHRAE method, ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 52.2-2017 Method of Testing General Ventilation Air-Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particle Size.  The standard also now includes a reference to EPA Method 319-Determination of Filtration Efficiency for Paint Overspray Arrestors as an alternative method.  EPA Method 319 is the same one referenced in the NESHAP for Aerospace Manufacturing and Rework to test paint spray booth filters for hexavalent chromium emissions.

For more information about changes to the rule, you can find the final rule in its entirety here.

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The Comprehensive Guide to an Environmental Audit Checklist

The Comprehensive Guide to an Environmental Audit Checklist

In an era where environmental consciousness is at the forefront, businesses must ensure they meet and exceed environmental compliance norms. As leaders in Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) services, iSi is committed to guiding you through the intricacies of environmental compliance.

Decoding Environmental Compliance

Environmental compliance refers to the adherence to environmental laws, environmental regulations, standards, and other requirements such as site permits to operate. Non-compliance can lead to severe penalties, including substantial fines and potential operational shutdowns.

The Importance of Environmental Audit Reports

Environmental audit reports are essential tools for assessing a company’s environmental performance. These reports provide a comprehensive picture of how well a business adheres to environmental rules, helping identify possible environmental issues and areas for improvement.

The Role of an Environmental Compliance Audit

An environmental compliance audit evaluates a company’s adherence to environmental laws and regulations. It assesses the effectiveness of the company’s environmental management systems, providing a detailed overview of the company’s environmental impact.

Unpacking the Audit Checklist

Creating an audit checklist for an environmental audit can be daunting due to the extensive range of factors involved. However, our expertise allows us to distill this process into key areas that should be your primary focus:

1. Regulatory Requirements: Ensure your business is aware of and complies with all relevant local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations. This includes rules related to air quality, water quality, waste management, and hazardous materials.

2. Environmental Permits: Verify that all necessary environmentally focused permits are current and that operations are within permit conditions. This could include discharge permits, emission permits, or waste disposal permits.

3. Waste Management: Review waste management practices to ensure hazardous and non-hazardous waste is correctly identified, stored, transported, and disposed of. This is particularly important under acts like the Toxic Substances Control Act.

4. Emissions Control: Check that all emission control systems are functioning correctly and comply with required standards.

5. Record Keeping: Ensure all necessary records, reports, and documentation related to environmental compliance, including employee training records, are properly maintained and readily accessible.

6. Employee Training: Confirm that all employees have received appropriate training regarding environmental compliance responsibilities.

7. Emergency Preparedness: Evaluate your company’s preparedness for environmental emergencies and ensure there is an emergency response plan in place.

The Depth of Functional Environmental Audits

Functional environmental audits assess the effectiveness of a company’s environmental management system. These audits evaluate various aspects, such as air quality monitoring, wastewater management, materials management, and compliance monitoring.

Understanding Environmental Laws

Environmental laws are designed to mitigate environmental harm by regulating activities that impact the environment. They cover a broad range of areas, from air and water quality to waste disposal and hazardous materials.

The Role of Regulatory Agencies

Regulatory agencies enforce these laws and regulations. They play a crucial role in issuing environmental permits, monitoring compliance, and taking enforcement action when necessary.

The Impact of a Company’s Environmental Performance

A company’s environmental performance has significant implications for its reputation and bottom line. High environmental performance can lead to cost savings, improved stakeholder relations, and enhanced market opportunities.

The Importance of a Detailed Regulatory Checklist

A detailed regulatory checklist is an invaluable tool for ensuring compliance with environmental rules and regulations. This checklist provides a structured approach to identifying potential compliance issues and addressing them effectively.

Final Thoughts on Environmental Compliance

In conclusion, an environmental compliance audit is not just a formality but a vital part of your business’s sustainability strategy. With this comprehensive checklist and iSi by your side, you can navigate the complexities of environmental compliance with confidence and ease.

At iSi, our focus is not just on helping businesses meet environmental standards but also on fostering a culture of sustainability and responsibility. We believe that environmental compliance is not just a box-ticking exercise but a commitment to our planet and future generations.

Choose iSi for your environmental auditing needs, and let’s work together to create a safer, healthier, and more sustainable world. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve EHS excellence.

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Do you need an idea of where you stand with EPA or OSHA regulations?  Do you need full-time or temporary personnel to manage the day-to-day compliance tasks?  Would your employees benefit from onsite environmental training?  Our team of environmental consultants, safety consultants and industrial hygienists would love to help. Call (316) 264-7050 today!

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What Is Compliance Reporting & Why Is It Important?

What Is Compliance Reporting & Why Is It Important?

What is a Compliance Report?

A Compliance Report is a document that details the adherence to laws and regulations in a particular organization or industry. It outlines the measures taken by an entity to ensure that it is in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. It can include information on audits performed, corrective action taken when violations are found, and the overall effectiveness of an entity’s compliance program. The report can be used by internal stakeholders to assess the company’s level of compliance, as well as by external stakeholders to ensure that the company is meeting all requirements. In the entire compliance process, compliance Reports are essential for any business or industry seeking to protect itself from liability and ensure its operations are compliant with industry best practices.

Regulatory Compliance Reporting vs. Internal Compliance Reporting

Regulatory compliance reporting and internal compliance reporting are both important parts of a business’s operations. Regulatory compliance reporting is the process by which organizations report data to various government agencies and other third parties, while internal compliance reporting is used to track an organization’s own policies and procedures. Regulatory compliance reports are required for certain industries, such as banking, healthcare, and finance, and must adhere to certain government regulations. Internal compliance reports are used within an organization in order to track it’s own internal procedures and ensure that they are being followed.

Both types of reporting can help a business stay organized and on top of their compliance obligations. However, it is important to remember that regulatory compliance reports must always be up-to-date and accurate in order to avoid potential fines or other legal repercussions. Internal compliance reports, while important, are not subject to the same regulations and can be used as a way to ensure that an organization’s policies are being properly followed. A thorough compliance report is important to a successful business, and understanding the differences between them is essential.

Why Compliance Reporting Is Important:

Compliance reporting is an essential part of any modern business. It ensures that organizations are abiding by the laws and regulations in place to protect consumers, workers, investors, and the environment. Compliance reporting allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to safety and sustainability, while also giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace. Additionally, it helps organizations identify potential risks before they become significant issues.

Compliance reports also provide stakeholders with a clear understanding of the company’s operations and performance and can be used to determine whether further action is necessary. Ultimately, compliance reporting helps organizations stay in line with government regulations while ensuring that their reporting practices are ethical and responsible.

What are the different types of compliance reports?

Compliance reports made by a compliance officer are documents that organizations use to document their adherence to regulations and laws. They provide insight into the procedures and processes in place to ensure legal compliance. There are many different types of compliance reports, including financial statement audits, environmental health and safety (EHS) audits, information security assessments, privacy impact assessments, and more.

Depending on the industry or type of organization, there may be additional types of compliance reports that are reviewed and issued. Companies with a well-documented compliance program should make sure that all types of compliance reports are up-to-date and accurate. By doing so, they can minimize the risk of non-compliance and any potential legal penalties.

What industries are often subject to compliance reporting?

Compliance reporting is a requirement for many industries, including but not limited to financial services, healthcare, and government agencies. Financial service providers are typically subject to compliance regulations related to banking and investing practices, while healthcare organizations must adhere to strict laws surrounding patient privacy and security. Government entities have their own set of rules that need to be followed in order to comply with local or federal laws.

All of these industries must adhere to certain standards in order to remain compliant with the law and protect consumer interests. Compliance reporting is also important for companies that handle sensitive data, such as customer information or confidential employee records. By adhering to compliance regulations, businesses can ensure their data is properly protected and not used for any malicious purposes. Additionally, it helps them remain transparent and accountable when it comes to how they use customer information. Compliance reporting is an important part of making sure businesses are operating fairly and ethically.

Benefits of Effective Compliance Reporting

Effective compliance reporting offers many benefits to businesses and organizations. Compliance reporting helps companies stay abreast of regulations in their industry and keep up with the constantly changing legal landscape. Having effectual compliance reporting also ensures that organizations are in line with local, state, and federal laws. It also allows for greater transparency, better communication between management and employees, and improved risk management.

With compliance reporting, businesses are better able to identify areas of risk and then take action accordingly. Additionally, effectual compliance reporting and compliance initiatives can help protect an organization from legal liability and minimize the risk of costly fines or penalties. By taking the time to develop a comprehensive compliance program, organizations benefit from increased efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and higher employee morale.

What should a compliance report include?

A compliance report should include a summary of the organization’s activities to ensure it meets legal obligations, regulatory requirements, and contractual obligations. It should identify any current or potential gaps in compliance and provide recommendations to mitigate risks. The report should also highlight any changes that may have occurred since the last reporting period that could affect compliance. Additionally, the report should assess the effectiveness of existing processes and procedures and recommend actions to improve them, as well as describe any corrective actions taken in response to non-compliances.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an important piece of European Union legislation that sets out strict data protection rules for businesses. It provides a framework for individuals to have control over their personal data, and gives them the right to access, delete, or amend this information at any time. The GDPR also requires organizations to inform people about how their information will be used, how long it will be used and who it may be shared with. Furthermore, it imposes strict rules on organizations to ensure that they protect the data of their customers. With these measures in place, organizations can build greater trust in their services by demonstrating a commitment to respecting people’s privacy.

How to develop a robust compliance reporting process?

The development of a robust reporting process is essential for any organization that needs to comply with the law and adhere to internal policies. Such a process should include the regular review of existing compliance procedures, training on those procedures, adequate communication channels, and periodic audits or assessments. Additionally, organizations need to ensure they have sufficient resources in place to monitor all aspects of their compliance processes and report any non-compliance.

This should include a system of tracking changes in regulations or other requirements that could affect compliance, as well as procedures for reporting instances of non-compliance to the appropriate authorities. Finally, organizations or your chief compliance officer must invest in continual learning and development of their staff to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest compliance regulations and can effectively communicate them within the organization.

What are 3 financial reporting risks?

Financial reporting risks refer to the uncertainty that investors and creditors may face when trying to assess the performance of an entity. The risk of inaccurate reporting can arise from a variety of sources, including accounting errors, fraud, misstatements or omissions in documents and financial statements, inadequate internal control mechanisms, or incorrect assessment of market conditions. The three main financial reporting risks are 1) accuracy risk, 2) materiality risk, and 3) fraud risk.

Accuracy risk pertains to the possibility of accounting errors or incorrect statements made in financial documents. Materiality risk involves the potential for disclosures not being properly defined or presented in a meaningful way by management that could lead to an inaccurate assessment. Lastly, fraud risk is associated with intentional misstatements or omissions which are made to mislead investors or creditors. It is important to understand these financial reporting risks in order to make the right investment decisions and ensure a successful understanding of an entity’s performance.

What is misleading reporting?

Misleading compliance reporting is a practice where organizations act as if they are following applicable laws and regulations, but do not actually meet the required standards. Compliance reports aim to assess whether an organization has taken measures to ensure that it is adhering to pertinent legal rules and regulations. Unfortunately, there are cases in which these reports can be inaccurate or even deliberately misleading about the level of compliance achieved by the organization. In these cases, organizations may be falsely representing their compliance efforts to stakeholders, regulators, and other interested parties.

Misleading reporting can have serious repercussions, including legal ramifications and financial losses due to failure to meet standards or false representation. It is important for companies to ensure that all compliance-related information is accurate and up-to-date, to avoid any such issues. Failure to do so can result in significant penalties and other sanctions. Therefore, organizations must take measures to ensure that all compliance-related information is accurate and up-to-date in order to maintain an accurate record of their compliance efforts.

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Audit Policy

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Audit Policy

United States Environmental Protection Agency Audit Policy: 101

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed to protecting and preserving the environment for all of us, which means ensuring that businesses across the country are following EPA policies. To do this, the agency performs audits on companies in order to ensure compliance with EPA standards.

This includes checking documents and records, sampling chemicals and other materials, evaluating waste management practices, testing equipment, observing production processes, interviewing employees, etc. The goal of each audit is to identify any potential violations or areas of non-compliance with the law.

After completing an audit, the EPA will issue a report outlining its findings and recommendations. Typically, the report will include areas of non-compliance, along with suggestions for corrective action to ensure compliance in those areas. Companies are then required to submit a written response to the audit and provide evidence that steps have been taken to address any issues identified by the EPA.

It is important for companies to be aware of their responsibility and obligation when it comes to environmental protection. The Environmental Protection Agency Audit Policy provides businesses with an opportunity for self-evaluation and proactive strides towards ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations and laws. As such, it is essential that companies remain up-to-date regarding changes in policy or procedure, regularly review their operations and practices, and work diligently to resolve any violations or problems discovered during audits. By doing so, companies can help to ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone.

An important part of the Environmental Protection Agency Audit Policy includes being able to respond effectively to any audit report issued by the agency. Companies should contact an environmental attorney who is knowledgeable about the requirements outlined in the EPA’s Audit Policy, as well as any applicable state or local laws that may be relevant. In addition, they should develop a detailed plan of action outlining how they intend to resolve any issues identified during an audit and provide evidence of their compliance with all applicable standards. By doing so, businesses can help demonstrate their commitment to protecting the environment and set a positive example for others in their industry.

At the end of the day, businesses have a responsibility to protect the environment and ensure compliance with all applicable laws. Companies who take advantage of this policy are helping to set a positive example for others in their industry and create a healthier future for everyone.

EPA’s Interim Approach to Applying the Audit Policy to New Owners | US EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed an Interim Approach to Applying the Audit Policy to New Owners, which provides tailored incentives for new owners of facilities that have been found to be non-compliant with environmental laws prior to acquisition. This approach allows new owners to make a “clean start” by addressing any noncompliance that began before they obtained ownership of the facility.

This Audit Policy incentives include compliance assistance and technical advice, potential reduction in penalties and civil enforcement actions, reimbursement for environmentally beneficial projects, and protection from certain criminal prosecution related to pre-acquisition violations. These incentives are designed to encourage responsible parties at newly acquired facilities to address existing noncompliance issues quickly and effectively through voluntary disclosure or corrective action. By taking advantage of EPA’s Audit Policy incentives, new owners can ensure compliance with environmental statutes and make a fresh start.

What are the benefits of an EPS audit?

The EPA believes that having audits conducted allows organizations to make better-informed actions, optimize performance levels, and ensure sustainable success over the long term..

An EPS audit is a valuable tool for assessing the financial health of an organization. It provides an objective overview of a company’s performance and can help identify areas where improvements or corrective actions may be needed. An EPS audit can also serve as an key preventative measure, providing insight into potential problems before they become catastrophes.

At the same time, it can help to enhance processes and procedures that are already in place by giving management a comprehensive look at their current operations and financial position.

What types of companies are required to perform and environmental audit?

Environmental audit reports are useful to a variety of businesses and industries, local, state and federal government facilities, as well as financial lenders and insurance companies that need to assess environmental performance. Audit reports can be extremely useful for businesses, governments, and financial lenders in understanding the environmental performance of a given facility. They provide detailed information on air emissions, water usage, waste management systems, hazardous materials management practices and storage procedures.

This data is key to ensuring that facilities are meeting regulatory requirements and following industry best practices. Additionally, environmental audit reports may be necessary to meet contractual requirements with customers or other third parties. Finally, financial lenders may use these reports to assess risk associated with a particular project or investment opportunity in order to make informed decisions on whether to lend money or not. Ultimately, environmental audit reports are an essential part of ensuring continual compliance as well as business sustainability.

Who conducts EPA audits?

EPA audits can be conducted by internal auditors, external auditors, and third-party verification organizations.

Internal auditors usually have knowledge and expertise in the specific area being audited, such as environmental protection, energy efficiency or sustainability. External auditors are independent third-party experts who assess and evaluate compliance with EPA ordinances Finally, third party verification organizations provide impartial assessments to verify the effectiveness of an organization’s systems for meeting specific standards. Each type of audit provides its own unique benefits, ensuring that thorough and comprehensive evaluations of facility operations take place.

Through careful review and assessment of procedures, policies and practices, these audits ensure that organizations remain compliant with EPA statutes.

How often are EPA audits required?

Once every three years.

According to the regulations at 40 CFR §§68.58(a) and 68.79(a), owners or operators must certify that they have completed a compliance evaluation of their prevention program every three years in order to ensure that established procedures and practices are adequately maintained and followed.

This process requires the tangible review of all applicable documents, including but not limited to safety protocols, emergency response plans, operating manuals, training records, inspection reports and other relevant documentation.

By completing this certification process on a regular basis, owners or operators can maintain regulatory compliance while helping to protect their employees and fix environmental issues.

What is an environmental audit protocol?

Audit protocols can help facilities evaluate their compliance with environmental laws. They provide guidance on how to develop a plan of action to address any issues and may include information on testing, monitoring, or other practices that are necessary for the facility’s success in meeting environmental requirements.

The protocols should be seen as a supplement to existing permits, statutes and laws; however, these guidelines must still be followed in order to ensure legal compliance. Audit protocols also provide a framework for more efficient evaluation of compliance status, helping facilities save time and resources when assessing their operations.

Why is it necessary for businesses to be sustainable?

Sustainability is becoming increasingly necessary in the business world, as businesses look to adopt greener technologies and practices that benefit both their bottom line and the environment. Sustainable businesses are able to make better use of resources while reducing costs, resulting in greater profits and job security for employees. Smaller businesses can also benefit from sustainable practices, as they often find it difficult to compete with larger organizations due to lower capital investments. An example of such is the The Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) is a comprehensive Federal law that regulates all sources of air emissions.

By adopting more efficient methods and technologies, smaller businesses have the potential to become competitive players in the market. Furthermore, sustainability has a positive impact on employment by ensuring better working conditions for employees; this helps create a more stable economy and helps protect human health. Ultimately, sustainability is essential for creating an economically viable future for businesses, employees, and the environment. By taking strides towards a more sustainable business model, companies can create long-term value for their stakeholders and ensure a brighter future for everyone.

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Our team of experts can help you with whatever compliance issues you may be facing. Whether it is understanding the complexities of a given regulation or recognizing where your company needs to improve, we have the necessary skills and experience to provide assistance. We will take the time to understand your unique needs and develop tailored solutions that address those needs. For facilites looking for help navigating the often perplexing regulatory landscape, contact us today!

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What is EPA’s General Duty Clause? Where is It?

What is EPA’s General Duty Clause? Where is It?

Does This Apply To You?

iSi can help determine which of these options apply to your facility, and help you make sure you’re on the right track in getting the necessary documentation and processes in place.

In our blog, we’ve looked at OSHA’s General Duty Clause, including issues that are commonly cited under the General Duty Clause.  Did you know that EPA has a General Duty Clause too?

Who Does It Apply To?

The EPA General Duty Clause can be found in the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r)(1).  It states companies that produce, process, handle or store hazardous substances/chemicals have a primary duty to identify release hazards and prevent chemical accidents.

If your company doesn’t fall under EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements, you will fall under EPA’s General Duty Clause.

General Duty Clause vs. RMP

If you produce, process, handle or store hazardous substances/chemicals, you will need to comply with either the EPA General Duty Clause or RMP, based on your operations.

The requirements for RMP can also be found in this same Clean Air Act Section 112(r) as the General Duty Clause, and it also applies to the same types of facilities who use hazardous chemicals.  However, RMP is focused on one or more of 140 targeted toxic or flammable chemicals that have the potential to be released at certain threshold quantities.  Some examples of the 140 chemicals included are ammonia, chlorine, propane, formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide.

RMPs are directly submitted to EPA.  Water treatment plants, agricultural COOPs and chemical manufacturers are typical types of companies who need to comply with RMP.

RMPs must include:

  • Potential effects of a chemical accident
  • Hazard assessments
  • 5-year accident history
  • Evaluation of worst-case scenarios and alternative accident release potentials
  • Prevention programs that include safety precautions, maintenance, monitoring, and employee training measures
  • Emergency response program that lists emergency health care, employee training measures, procedures for informing the public.

 What is Required by EPA’s General Duty Clause?

In an EPA inspection, the inspector can ask your company to produce information to show you are complying with the General Duty Clause.  To be compliant, companies are required to address the following 3 topics, with examples for each.

1.  Identify hazards which could occur if an accidental release happens.

  • Identification of related environmental, health and safety hazards
  • Identification of potential release scenarios through experience/industry research, analysis and logic trees, or “What If” brainstorming
  • Determine the consequences in each scenario

2.  Design and maintain a safe facility. (By putting features such as these in place:)

  • Design safety codes
  • Use of less hazardous chemicals when possible
  • Equipment quality control procedures,
  • Using alternate processes
  • Process siting
  • Using safety technology where possible
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Employee training
  • Change management
  • Incident investigation programs
  • Self audits
  • Preventative maintenance programs

3.  Determine potential consequences of accidental releases and minimize them.

  • Development of an Emergency Response Plan that contains, at a minimum: anticipated releases, mitigation, notification process to local responders and local responder involvement
  • Coordination with local emergency response officials including the local emergency planning committee
  • Training for “out of the norm” circumstances
  • Periodic exercises using your plan, training, and equipment practicing response, evacuation, sheltering-in-place, and worker’s ability to perform in the event of an emergency

Inspectors will also be looking into the thoroughness of your process hazard analyses, your evaluations, and the elements you’ve put into place, and whether or not they apply to your current operations.

Which One Applies to Your Facility?

Because the RMP is specific to certain chemicals and thresholds, all companies with the potential for accidental chemical releases may not fall under its requirements.  However, if RMP does not apply to your company, then the EPA General Duty Clause will.  

Which one applies to your facility?  Have you completed all the necessary analyses required? Do you have all the programs, processes and training in place?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, then iSi can help.  Contact us today for more information.

Curtis Leiker, CSP
Curtis Leiker, CSP

Contributing:

Curtis Leiker, CSP

Certified Safety Professional |  ISO 45001 and 14001 Lead Auditor

Curtis Leiker, CSP is a project manager at iSi Environmental. Besides assisting companies with ISO 14001 and 45001 implementation, Curtis manages environmental and safety programs, reporting and compliance issues for aviation, general industry and agricultural facilities. He’s able to see the big picture, but focus on the details and enjoys working to solve EHS issues.

Email  |  LinkedIn

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EPA Proposes Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos Still in Use Today

EPA Proposes Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos Still in Use Today

Asbestos is contained in thousands of products, from building materials and adhesives, fireproofing materials to consumer products.  The use of asbestos has dramatically declined since the 1980s, and more than 50 countries have banned its use.  However, one type of asbestos is still being used to make certain products in the U.S., and EPA is working to ban it.  It’s called chrysotile, or white asbestos.

Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos.  Its soft, flexible fibers form a serpentine material that’s strong, heat resistant to 3000 degrees and non-conductive. 

Some chlor-alkali manufacturing plants that make chlorine and sodium hydroxide and some vehicle brake and sheet gasket manufacturers still import and use chrysotile asbestos in their products.

The EPA Ban on Chrysotile

EPA has issued a proposed rule to ban chrysotile asbestos in the following products:

  • Chrysotile asbestos used in bulk or in asbestos diaphragms in the chlor-alkali industry beginning two years after the effective date of the final rule;
  • Chrysotile asbestos-containing sheet gaskets in chemical production beginning two years after the effective date of the final rule;
  • Chrysotile asbestos-containing brake blocks used in the oil industry;
  • Chrysotile asbestos-containing aftermarket automotive brakes/linings and other friction products, including for consumer use; and
  • Chrysotile asbestos-containing gaskets, including for consumer use.

Asbestos diaphragms are used by chlor-alkali plants for the water treatment industry, but that use has been declining.  EPA estimates only 9 chlor-alkali plants in the U.S. still use asbestos diaphragms as there are other alternatives, accounting for only 33% of all chlor-alkali plants. 

EPA was not able to quantify the scope of asbestos use in the brake and gasket industries.

EPA’s rule would also include targeted disposal and recordkeeping requirements that would take effect 180 days after the effective date.

Other Upcoming Asbestos Studies by EPA

As part of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), asbestos was one of 10 chemical substances on a list to be studied and put through a risk evaluation.  EPA decided to do the evaluation in two parts. 

The first part was the risk evaluation for chrysotile, leading to this ruling on banning it. 

In Part 2, EPA will be looking at a number of other issues related to asbestos, including:

  • Different types of asbestos (amphibole-type asbestos such as crocidolite, amosite, tremolite)
  • Legacy uses of asbestos in commercial, industrial and consumer products
  • Disposal phases
  • Occupational exposure
  • Consumer and bystander exposure
  • General population exposure
  • Potential exposed or susceptible subpopulations (children, workers, smokers, others)

In addition, EPA will be evaluating asbestos-containing talc and vermiculite.  This does not apply to talc used in makeup, but talc that’s imported and used in industrial, commercial and consumer products such as filler/putty, crayons with talc-containing asbestos and toy crime scene kits with talc-containing asbestos. 

EPA will be looking at the import of this talc, distribution of it in commerce and its disposal.  Vermiculite was used in building materials, and 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. was extracted from an open pit mine in Libby, Montana until it closed in 1990.

EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule for chrysotile asbestos  at https://www.regulations.gov/.

Facility Asbestos Operations & Maintenance Plans

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Sustainability Consulting for the 21st Century

Sustainability Consulting for the 21st Century

The modern world is a sustainable one. It’s time for your business to join the ranks of those who are making a difference.

Sustainability has become one of the most important topics of our time. As the world becomes more and more aware of the environmental, social, and economic challenges we face, more and more businesses are looking for ways to operate in a more sustainable way.

That’s where sustainability consulting comes in. A sustainability consultant helps businesses identify opportunities to operate in a more sustainable way. This can mean anything from reducing energy consumption to increasing employee engagement in sustainability goals.

Sustainability consultants come from a variety of backgrounds, but all share a common goal: to help businesses move towards a more sustainable future with sustainability services.

The good news is that sustainability consulting is one of the fastest growing industries in North America and the world. The bad news is that it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to finding a sustainability consultant that’s right for your business.

Here are four tips to help you find the right sustainability consultant for your business:

1. Define your sustainability goals and ESG strategy.

What does your business want to achieve by working with a sustainability consultant? Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint in your global business? Develop more robust sustainability strategies? Achieve sustainable development goals? Incorporate sustainability solutions and a sustainable infrastructure into your business strategy? Improve employee engagement? Need risk management? Find ways to save money.

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start looking for consulting firms that specialize in those areas.

2. Identify a budget.

Do your sustainability ambitions match resources available for the project? Does the ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) strategy align with your corporate growth strategy?

It is recommended to present a sustainability strategy internally, that outlines tiers of investment and the types of sustainability performance to be expected per expenditure.

3. Do your research.

Do a deep dive in the sustainability consulting services universe. Once you’ve identified some consulting firms that might be a good fit, take some time to learn about their backgrounds and experience and nail it down to your favorite consulting firm.

How long have they been working in a sustainable business? What are some of the clients they’ve worked with? What do other people say about them? Top consulting firms offer diverse corporate responsibility solutions and professional services across a wide swathe of industry sectors.

4. Ask for recommendations.

Talk to other businesses in your industry and see if they’ve worked with any sustainability consulting firms that they would recommend. If you know someone who works in sustainable business, ask them for their thoughts on different consultants.

The best way to find a good consultant in the large world of the consulting industry is through word-of-mouth from people who have worked with them before.

A global management consultancy will have the general pulse on corporate social responsibility. Top sustainability consulting firms will be a global leader in change management and integrated business planning.

The best ones possess deep expertise in the management of business risk and climate risk, while working with you to embed sustainability into your culture.

These days, there’s no excuse for not being sustainable, not manage risk, and not create sustainable business models.

Future leaders and businesses that don’t take steps to operate sustainably will not only be missing out on opportunities and losing business value, but will also be left behind as society progresses towards a more sustainable future.

These can be complex problems. Sustainability consulting is one of the best ways for businesses to make sure they’re operating sustainably and making a positive impact measurement on the world around them.

iSi Environmental is a leading provider of environmental consulting and management consulting services in the United States and we are committed to protecting the planet and its inhabitants with the skills and knowledge of our people. With us you get long term value.

Senior Executives and Sustainability Teams turn to us when:

  • Their team is short on time and resources to achieve organizational sustainability strategy
  • They need hands-on implementation of new compliance processes
  • They need to integrate sustainability at multiple locations
  • Also turn to us when looking to roll local best practices into a global corporate system

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RCRA Air:  What Air Regulations are in the Hazardous Waste Standards?

RCRA Air: What Air Regulations are in the Hazardous Waste Standards?

In our blog article about EPA’s compliance initiatives, EPA said a number of facilities were not complying with RCRA air requirements and as a result, inspectors were being directed to look at these items in inspections.  So, what are the RCRA air requirements, and who is affected by them?

RCRA air regulations pertain to organic air emissions from equipment used for hazardous waste.  There are 3 different standards – Subparts AA, BB and CC – and each are specific to the type of equipment being used. 

Subpart AA deals with process vents used for treating/recycling hazardous waste, Subpart BB deals with equipment leaks and Subpart CC deals with tanks, containers and surface impoundments. All Subparts are focused on controlling emissions from the specific Subpart processes.

Subpart AA

Some equipment examples for this Subpart would include vents associated with solvent extraction, air stripping, steam stripping, thin-film evaporation, and distillation and fractionation columns. 

To be regulated, the unit must:

  • Be permitted or in interim status;
  • Be a recycling unit at a facility that has a RCRA permit or is operating under an interim status due to some other hazardous waste management operation (such as a RCRA-permitted storage tank); or,
  • Be a 90-day container or tank.
  • The hazardous waste being treated or recycled must contain at least 10 ppmw total organics.

Exemptions:

  • The recycling unit is at a facility that has no RCRA permit and is not operating under an interim status; or,
  • Your facility is equipped and operating with air emissions controls complying with other air regulations (CAA, NSPS, NESHAP, MACT) in 40 CFR Parts 60, 61 or 63 for each affected process vent.

Requirements:

If this regulation applies to you, then you’re required to first determine the emissions from all of those vents and if it’s less than 3 lbs/hour and 3.1 tons/year, no controls are required.  However, if it’s that rate or more, your facility must either find a way to reduce those emissions or use control devices that will reduce total organic emissions from all affected process vents by 95%. 

Subpart BB

This subpart is about equipment found in hazardous waste pipelines or the ancillary equipment associated with a hazardous waste tank.  These can be valves, pumps, compressors, pressure-relief devices, flanges, connectors, sampling connection systems or open-ended lines/valves.

To be regulated, the equipment must:

  • Be part of a permitted or in interim status unit;
  • Be part of a recycling unit at a facility that has a RCRA permit or is operating under an interim status due to some other hazardous waste management operation (such as a RCRA-permitted storage tank); or,
  • Be part of a 90-day container or tank.
  • The hazardous waste in the equipment must contain at least 10% total organics by weight.
  • The equipment must be in contact with or contain the hazardous waste for at least 300-hours per calendar year.

Exemptions:

  • The recycling unit is at a facility that has no RCRA permit and is not operating under an interim status;
  • The equipment is operated, monitored or repaired in accordance with air regulations (CAA, NSPS, NESHAP, MACT) for fugitive equipment leaks from 40 CFR Part 60, 61 or 63; or,
  • The equipment is in vacuum service because leaks would go back into the equipment.
  • If the facility can document that the equipment is flushed out between campaigns so that it contacts or contains the hazardous waste for less than 300-hours per calendar year, it is exempt.

Requirements:

If this regulation applies to your company, you’ll be required to implement an LDAR program (Leak Detection and Repair) for the applicable equipment.  LDAR programs are a significant effort and have their own design standards, tagging, and recordkeeping, reporting, inspection and monitoring requirements.

Subpart CC

This regulation applies to hazardous waste tanks, containers and surface impoundments (lagoons, holding/storage pits, ponds, etc).

To be regulated, the equipment must:

  • Be part of a permitted or in interim status unit; or,
  • Be a 90-day container or tank.

Units must receive hazardous waste containing greater than or equal to 500 ppmw volatile organics at the point of waste origination.  For generators, the point of origination is the same as the point of generation.  For TSDF facilities, the point of origination is where the owner accepts delivery/takes possession of hazardous waste.

Exemptions:

  • Satellite accumulation containers;
  • Small Quantity Generators’ 180/270 day tanks and containers;
  • Containers with a design capacity of less than or equal to 26.4 gallons;
  • Units used solely for the onsite treatment or storage of remediation wastes under state or RCRA corrective action or CERCLA;
  • Units not subject to substantive RCRA standards, including wastewater treatment units, elementary neutralization units, immediate response units and totally enclosed treatment units;
  • Units that receive radioactive mixed wastes; or,
  • Equipment with air emissions controls in accordance with air regulations (CAA, NSPS, NESHAP, MACT) in 40 CFR Part 60, 61 or 63.

Requirements:

If this regulation applies to your company, you’ll first need to determine the volatile organic concentration for every hazardous waste managed in one of these units.  If the concentration of every waste entering a unit is less than 500 ppmw, no emission controls will be required. 

Even if your tank contains less than 500 ppmw, if anywhere along the way to the tank from point of origination is 500 ppmw or more, you’ll need the emissions controls.

Tanks

For low vapor pressure wastes, a tank with a fixed roof with no gaps or openings between the roof edge and tank wall can be used.  For all other wastes, there are several options (floating roof, fixed roof with control device, enclosure vented to enclosed combustion device or pressurized tank). Control devices can be a flare or carbon adsorbers.

Containers

There are 3 levels of standards, based on container size.  Level 1 is low vapor pressure wastes in small capacity containers (26-121 gal), 55 gal drums, roll off boxes for soil, and containers greater than 121 gal.  For this level you must use DOT containers, they must have tight fitting covers with no visible holes or gaps, and they need to be closed.

Level 2 is for more volatile wastes in greater than 121 gal containers.  An example would be a tank truck with spent solvent. Here, use DOT containers, they must be closed having no detectable organic emissions, and you must prove they’re vapor tight on an annual basis.

Level 3 is where hazardous waste is being stabilized. They must be connected to a closed vent system to a control device and meet special requirements for being managed in an enclosure.

Surface Impoundments

Emission controls for surface impoundments must have an air-supported or rigid cover that’s vented to a control device or be an HDPE or similar floating membrane with a minimum thickness of 2.5 mm.

Does This Apply to You?

iSi can help you determine if you’re subject to RCRA Air regulations, and which Subpart you’re required to follow.  Contact us today for a price quote!

Do You Need to Comply With This?

Is this regulation something you need to be complying with?  iSi’s consultants can help you figure that out, and help you determine if you qualify for one of the exemptions.

Questions?

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Sarah Winfrey
Sarah Winfrey

Contributing:

Bria Weast

Environmental and Safety Consulting Manager

A member of our Consulting Services division, Bria works with client facilities for annual environmental reporting and day-to-day environmental compliance assistance.  She also manages iSi project managers.  Bria has conducted well over 100 Phase I environmental site assessments for iSi and is one of the trainers for our Hazardous Waste Management class.

Email  |  LinkedIn

EPA Discusses Current Compliance, Enforcement Priorities and Initiatives

EPA Discusses Current Compliance, Enforcement Priorities and Initiatives

At the recent KDHE Environmental Conference, Dave Cozad, Director of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division with Region VII EPA gave an update outlining EPA’s upcoming compliance and enforcement priorities.

Compliance Inspections & Public Posting of Reports

EPA was scheduled to go back out to do more onsite inspections, but the resurgence of COVID put a delay on that.  For the past year they had been doing some announced remote inspections to evaluate compliance.  However, unannounced inspections will eventually resume.  Inspectors will have Smart Tables preloaded before they go onsite.  Their goal is for the report of findings be available in less than 60 days after inspection.

One important comment made was that EPA is working on implementing the public posting of inspection reports.  That is, what is found at your site during an inspection and what’s on your report will eventually be available for anyone to see.

Executive Orders Provide Roadmap

EPA has been given several directives through Executive Orders (EOs), and the issues EPA will focus on will very much be related to these.

These EOs include the following guidelines:

  • Hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.
  • Strengthen and enforce environmental violations with disproportionate impact on underserved communities
  • Create a community notification program to monitor and provide real-time data to the public on current environmental pollution
  • Strengthen enforcement in communities with environmental justice concerns
  • Tackle climate change and enforcement of climate change-related issues

The term “environmental justice”, or EJ, goes along with these directives and will be applied to daily decision making.  To meet the directives, EPA will be spending more of their time looking at regulated industries in these underserved communities and will be strengthening enforcement of violations for cornerstone environmental statutes and civil laws.  Thus, the number of air, wastewater, and hazardous waste inspections in these areas will increase and items such as air monitoring results may be posted for the public to review.

EPA plans on going into these areas and speaking with the people about their enforcement case concerns rather than just determining themselves what EPA thinks they need, as they historically have done.

In the area of climate change, they’ll be targeting cases with greenhouse gas-related requirements and a ban on importing hydrofluorocarbons.  Climate-focused mitigation and resilience will be a part of the efforts.  For example, taking a look at situations like floods where there are chemical plants in floodplains or where sewer systems could have major overflows.

National Compliance Initiatives

National Compliance Initiatives are set goals that follow a certain process and include the states. Because of this, they  are much harder to change from administration to administration.  Some of these have been initiatives for the past 2 years, but give an idea of certain targets of inspections.

RCRA Air

This is hazardous waste emissions via air, where there are regulations related to the quantity of VOCs emitted.  This is for facilities with tanks, surface impoundments and valves.  Inspectors have started making a concerted effort to look at these during their inspections and it’s one of the lesser items focused on by some facilities. Right now 30% of facilities being inspected are not complying with this part of the regulation, and the fines can be $255,000.  What is RCRA Air? Learn more here.

Chemical Accident Reduction – RMP

EPA will be checking that Risk Management Plans are in place and implemented properly for those that are required to have them.  This is related to Clean Air Act section 112(r) for the prevention of accidental releases of chemicals.  Facilities that store and handle large quantities of listed regulated substance in a process, over certain threshold amounts.  EPA inspection data is showing that 50-75% of facilities are not complying fully with RMP.

Creating Cleaner Air for Communities and Drinking Water

We listed these 2 initiatives together because they will be treated similarly under the umbrella of EJ.  Making air and water cleaner has always been a goal, but considering the EOs, a focus on issues with public water systems, lead-based paint and air emissions from inner-city factories helps EPA accomplish more than one goal.  Plus those kinds of issues will affect a large amount of people at once. It becomes a more bang for their buck item, so to speak.

Mobile Source Aftermarket Defeat Devices

EPA is looking to conduct enforcement on companies who make, develop and sell aftermarket devices that bypass, defeat or renders inoperative any emission control device in order to enhance engine performance.  Examples would be plates that partially block a portion of exhaust gas stream, kits that enable the removal of the catalytic converter or the diesel particulate filter or tuners that stop signals from going to the   vehicle’s computer that usually would turn on the check engine light or put the vehicle in limp mode.  EPA’s news updates have been announcing fines for a number of companies recently for violations so this initiative is up and running.

NPDES Permit Compliance

EPA is looking to reduce the significant non-compliance they’re seeing with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. In an EPA memo to regional administrators regarding this initiative, they identified they wanted to reduce the non­compliance baseline rate by 50% by the end of FY 2022, while assuring that the worst violators are timely and appropriately addressed.

EPA wants its regions and states to work together.  Each state’s rate will be looked at as will its approaches (past and future) to reduce the non-compliance rate, the completeness and accuracy of its compliance data (and why it’s wrong/missing), and how and when they plan on addressing the more severe non-compliance violations.

Over 60% of the non-compliance is attributed to “non-receipt” of Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs).  Interestingly, EPA speculates that some of this isn’t all about companies not turning in their reports, but the way the states communicate or handle getting the information into the EPA’s tracking system.  However, make sure you get your DMRs in as this is something that’s on the radar.

If any of these initiatives can be tied back to those EOs, then all the better for EPA and their compliance goals.  For example, in the press release announcing a settlement for one of the companies found selling mobile defeat devices, part of the settlement was for the company to “…replace 3 school busses in a Columbus, OH in the areas of environmental justice concern.” In that same release, the regional administrator said she was “…pleased that the settlement will reduce the impact of pollution in already overburdened neighborhoods.”

EJScreen

EPA has a screening and mapping tool to help them identify areas that may be candidates for environmental justice-related consideration, outreach or programs. EJScreen is considered to be “…a consistent tool that can be used by EPA, its governmental partners and the public to understand environmental and demographical characteristics of locations throughout the United States.”

EJScreen was actually developed in 2010 as a response to an Executive Order by the Clinton Administration.  It is geared to help users identify areas with minority/low income populations, potential environmental quality issues and places where environmental and demographical indicators are greater than usual.  EPA plans to use EJScreen to implement permitting, enforcement, compliance, outreach and enhance geographically-based initiatives.  Facilities who lie within an EJScreen target area will be the ones who will receive the most inspections.

Check out EJScreen at: https://ejscreen.epa.gov/mapper/.

Other Areas

Other compliance hot topic/focus areas mentioned on EPA’s radar include:

  • Children’s health, mainly related to lead
  • Generators without proper status/notifications
  • Asphalt plants using mine tailings from CERCLA sites
  • PFAS
  • “Recycling” facilities
  • Coal combustion residuals
  • Potential return of supplemental environmental projects
  • EPA budget and staffing

Do you see any issues here that may be affecting your company?  Or are you unsure which ones may affect you?  Contact iSi today for EPA and state environmental compliance assistance and advice!

Stay Informed of EPA & OSHA Updates!

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Sarah Winfrey
Sarah Winfrey

Contributing:

Bria Weast

Environmental and Safety Consulting Manager

A member of our Consulting Services division, Bria works with client facilities for annual environmental reporting and day-to-day environmental compliance assistance.  She also manages iSi project managers.  Bria has conducted well over 100 Phase I environmental site assessments for iSi and is one of the trainers for our Hazardous Waste Management class.

Email  |  LinkedIn

A Look Into the Biden Administration’s Environmental Priorities

A Look Into the Biden Administration’s Environmental Priorities

New year, new president, and a new push on policies. Trying to guess what will happen for the next four years into any new Administration is like trying to figure out when it will actually rain here in the Midwest. But, just like the assistance of a meteorologist, we can start to predict what we will see with the help of folks who understand and specialize in public policy.  

At the head of the Biden EPA is Michael Regan. A 20-year experienced environmental regulator, he was the head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and returns to the White House from formerly being an air quality specialist in the Clinton EPA.

Here are a few things to look for from the Biden/Regan team:

Environmental Justice (EJ)

While there are still questions bouncing around about how the Administration will carry out EJ, facilities can get ahead of the game and be prepared for what is to come. One of the biggest items that will be coming out of EJ is communities having their voices heard in environmental regulation. Something companies can start doing to prepare for this is reaching out to the communities where their facilities are located at. We understand the data we collect and how we collect it, but does the public understand it? Now is the time to educate the community you share a fence line with.

There are two major legislative proposals to keep an eye on. The Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act of 2021 will create a tool built upon the EPA’s EJScreen to identify demographic factors, environmental problems, socioeconomic circumstances and public health concerns. This data collected will help build maps of communities that are affected the most. This will help the Administration to direct appropriate funds to those communities.

Companies should be looking at the EPA’s EJScreen tool. It interprets and shows environmental indicators and demographic indicators. It is used for informing outreach and engagement practices, as well as permitting and compliance implementation, just to name a few.

The Environmental Justice for All Act will establish EJ requirements, advisory bodies and programs to address the environmental effects on human health for low-income communities. It will also provide the establishment of the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice Compliance.

More Inspectors on the Ground

With COVID-19, we saw fewer boots on the ground and the number of virtual inspections and audits go up throughout facilities. With vaccines rolling out and the country starting to open back up, there is going to be a drive to get inspectors back on the ground. Now is the time to go over your facility’s reporting to make sure it is accurate and to re-evaluate your risk assessment plans and make sure your facility complies with all regulations.   

Waters of the United States (WOTUS)

WOTUS is already under review for this Administration. We can expect to see extreme discussion on this since having to define WOTUS is difficult, as it is controversial.  Multiple states, tribes and environmental groups pushed back on the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, so we can speculate that the Biden Administration will want to expand the definition and scope and go for a broader rule to replace it.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Expect to see the enforcement of PFAS being talked about, as well. Some questions are if the Biden Administration will use the All-of-Government approach like we are seeing in climate change, if they will revisit the 70 ppt LHA for drinking water and if the remediation of PFAS will be listed as a hazardous waste under RCRA or CERCLA. States are also getting involved with PFAS. There will be multiple legislation pieces floating around on both the federal and state level.  Regan is committed to making PFAS a “top priority” for this team and he mentioned in his Senate confirmation that part of this approach will include pursuing discharge limits and water quality values.

Need Any Help?

If you need help with getting your facility in compliance, iSi has multiple project managers that specialize in doing third-party compliance audits and reporting.  Contact us today!

Stay Informed of EPA & OSHA Updates!

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Sarah Winfrey
Sarah Winfrey

Contributing:

Sarah Winfrey

Sales Development Representative

Sarah works with our Business Development and Marketing team, assisting with client and internal communications, pricing proposals, customer support and sales efforts.  She also maintains a number of iSi's contractor registrations and assists with industry and regulations research.

Email  |  LinkedIn

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EPA Watches TV Too – EPA Fines Renovation and Reality Shows

EPA Watches TV Too – EPA Fines Renovation and Reality Shows

As an EHS professional, have you ever found it hard to turn off the part of your brain that sees potential violations when you’re out and about, living your life away from the job?  Our industrial hygienists talk about seeing mold in restaurants and our safety professionals find bad staircases, exposed wires and more.  Have you ever been watching a TV show where you started wondering if they were following the rules like you have to every day?

Well EPA has been watching TV too, and has been handing out fines to some of your favorite reality shows.   

Clean Air Act Violation for Truck Show

The Discovery Channel’s Diesel Brothers reality show was fined for violations of the Clean Air Act.   The show takes diesel trucks and makes extreme modifications to them.  They have touted their trucks as “rolling coal.” 

The fine was related to trucks with non-existent or bypassed emissions systems.  

The show was exposed when a group called the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment purchased one of the trucks and sent it for emissions testing.  Testing found the truck was 36 times dirtier than a normal stock truck.  The physicians group filed a citizen enforcement action under the Clean Air Act, and a court case ensued.  The show was ordered to pay $761,451 to the federal government for the violation, $90,000 to the state of Utah, and the court costs for the Utah Physicians group, believed to be $1.2 million.

Home Renovation Shows in Trouble

Home renovation shows have been getting fines for violations of Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule).

The RRP Rule pertains to firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978.  These companies need to be certified by EPA (or an EPA-authorized state), use certified renovators who have been trained by EPA-approved training providers, and follow lead-safe work practices.   This includes in-house maintenance staff and any outside contractors they use.

The companies responsible for producing the shows Fixer Upper, Bargain Mansions, Rehab Addict, and Texas Flip N Move have all gotten fined for violating this RRP Rule. 

Home Renovation Show Violations

Perhaps the most notable and highest fined of those listed is Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Homes and the show Fixer Upper.  They were fined $40,000 and had to pay an additional $160,000 for lead abatement projects in high-risk homes in Waco, Texas.  This is because they violated the RRP Rule for renovations of 33 properties in the Waco area.  As another part of the settlement with EPA, they were required to implement an internal monitoring program.  They also produced a video about renovating lead-contaminated homes that was shown on their website and social media channels.  In Episode 16 of Season 5, they also featured testing an older home for lead and showed some precautions taken required by the rule.

Rehab Addict and Bargain Mansions were using unlicensed and untrained workers who were not following lead-safe practices.  These shows were fined a total of $59,000, and that includes several Kansas City-area subcontractors that Bargain Mansions used to help them.  Consequently, the violations included everyone involved.  The hosts of each show will be required to take steps to ensure compliance in the future.  They are also to educate the public about lead-based paint hazards and appropriate renovation through videos, social media postings and public events.

The most recent was Texas Flip N Move.  In addition to a fine, they have to do the same tasks as Fixer Upper did, plus use a third-party entity to conduct  lead abatement in low-income target-housing residences or child-occupied facilities within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. 

Home Depot Fined for RRP Too

On the topic of RRP, just in December (2020), Home Depot, often a major sponsor for renovation shows, negotiated a nationwide settlement with EPA on violations of the RRP Rule.  Home Depot uses outside contractors to conduct home improvement work as an add-on service for its local stores.   EPA found hundreds of cases where Home Depot was sending uncertified firms to conduct renovations that fell under the certified firms and trained workers requirements.  Home Depot wasn’t keeping compliance documentation of certifications, training or use of lead-safe work practices. Contractors also weren’t passing out the required lead pamphlets to occupants. 

The fine was $20.75 million, plus an additional $750,000 to Utah, $732,000 to Massachusetts and $50,000 to Rhode Island.   Home Depot is required to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure its contractors are properly licensed, trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices.  Where the most serious violations occurred, they’re offering those customers testing by a certified inspector and then additional specialized lead cleaning if something is found. 

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What have you seen on TV that your environmental or safety eyes couldn’t NOT see?  Choose one of the social media buttons to the left and share and comment on this story.  Make sure you tag us!  (@iSi_ICT on Twitter, @isienvironmental on Facebook and @ isi-environmental-services on LinkedIn!)

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Grade D Breathing Air:  What Requirements Do I Have to Meet for My Breathing Air System?

Grade D Breathing Air: What Requirements Do I Have to Meet for My Breathing Air System?

Compressed air, either through a fixed or a portable system, can be used to supply air to employees as they perform tasks that could not be done using an air purifying respirator.

Supplied air respirators are respirators that supply the user with breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere.

First we’ll take a look at breathing air and then we’ll cover what its OSHA requirements are.

What Operations Use Supplied Breathing Air?

Supplied breathing air can be used across all industries for many different functions throughout the facility.  Some of the most common include:paint booth worker

  • Confined Space Entry
  • Sand/Media Blasting Operations
  • Working in Paint Booths
  • Welding

What Are the Components of a Breathing Air System?

A simple breathing air system has four basic components.

Air Source

The air source can be from a fixed or portable compressor. This compressor can be either electric, gas or diesel powered. Another source can be from bottled or tanked air. The air source should be sized to provide a minimum of 4 cubic feet per minute (CFM), but depending on the work being done, workers may require up to 15 CFM. Typical systems operate around 10 to 12 CFM. Pay special attention to the intake area of the compressor to be sure that no gasses or vapors can be drawn into the system as they will be passed down to the employee.

Filtration

The filtration used is very important. The filtration system should be able to remove water, oil and particles, and many use a charcoal bed to remove odors and tastes. Remember to make sure the filtration system can supply the required CFM. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a special danger if the air source is not an oilless compressor and a CO monitor with alarm is then required. This alarm needs to be able to be heard by everyone connected to the air source at their point of use.

Air Distribution

The filtered air then needs to be set to the proper pressure required by the specific respirator so a regulator will be needed to drop the air pressure and not overpressure the employee’s mask. Employees are able to connect to a breathing air system via quick connect couplings, OSHA requires these couplings to be unique to the breathing air system. This ensures that employees are unable to connect a respirator to a non-breathing air system (shop air). It is also a requirement that the hose the employee uses is a maximum of 300 feet.

Respirator

The selected respirator can be of several varieties such as pressure demand or continuous flow, tight fitting face piece or loose-fitting hoods or helmets. These choices need to be made prior to the set up of the system as they can affect the design of the system. For example, if you are planning to use a continuous flow system a bottle supplied air source will not last very long.

breathing air system

What are OSHA’s Requirements for a Breathing Air System?

Breathing Air Gases Testing

The OSHA standard requires the employer provide employees using atmosphere-supplying respirators with breathing gases of high purity. To this end, OSHA has incorporated the ANSI/Compressed Gas Association Commodity Specification for Air, G-7.1 to include testing to meet the following:breathing testing

  • Oxygen content percentage by volume: Between 19.5% and 23.5%
  • Hydrocarbon (oil and particulate): maximum of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air
  • Carbon monoxide: maximum of 10 parts per million by volume
  • Carbon dioxide: maximum of 1000 parts per million by volume
  • Lack of noticeable odor

This breathing air gases are also commonly referred to as Grade D breathing air.  There are other grades of breathing air available that differ in oxygen content, hydrocarbons and water content that are used by fire departments and other SCBA wearers, but Grade D breathing air is the standard for industry.

While OSHA does not require breathing testing to be done on any interval, the industry standard for this testing is to be done annually for each distribution point.

Written Respiratory Protection Plan

Any company requiring employees to use respiratory protection must have a written Respiratory Protection Program that meets all the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134.

Medical Evaluations

OSHA first requires the respirator user to be medically cleared to use a respirator. The doctor will need to know that the employee will be using a supplied air respirator so they can understand the physical requirements of the respirator being used.

Training

OSHA then requires that all respirator users be trained on how to use their respirator, the limitations of that respirator and any procedures such as when the CO alarm goes off what needs to be done.

Fit-Testing

If the respirator selected is a tight fitting facepiece, OSHA requires a fit test to ensure the facepiece provides a proper seal to the users face.

Preventative Maintenance Plan

On a system that has a CO monitor, a preventive maintenance plan needs to be established to perform calibration on the monitor. Most manufacturers require monthly calibration with a certified canister of carbon monoxide gas. Calibration dates should be documented.

Questions?  Need Help?

iSi has Grade D breathing air system testing equipment and routinely conducts tests for our clients.  We can also help you with the other breathing air system requirements of OSHA.  Contact us today!

Need Help?

iSi can help with Grade D breathing air testing, required written plans, training and more! 

Compressed air, either through a fixed or a portable system, can be used to supply air to employees as they perform tasks that could not be done using an air purifying respirator.

Supplied air respirators are respirators that supply the user with breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere.

First we’ll take a look at breathing air components, then we’ll cover its OSHA requirements.

paint booth worker

What Operations Use Supplied Breathing Air?

Supplied breathing air can be used across all industries for many different functions throughout the facility.  Some of the most common include:

  • Confined Space Entry
  • Sand/Media Blasting Operations
  • Working in Paint Booths
  • Welding

What Are the Components of a Breathing Air System?

A simple breathing air system has four basic components.

Air Source

The air source can be from a fixed or portable compressor. This compressor can be either electric, gas or diesel powered. Another source can be from bottled or tanked air. The air source should be sized to provide a minimum of 4 cubic feet per minute (CFM), but depending on the work being done, workers may require up to 15 CFM. Typical systems operate around 10 to 12 CFM. Pay special attention to the intake area of the compressor to be sure that no gasses or vapors can be drawn into the system as they will be passed down to the employee.

Filtration

The filtration used is very important. The filtration system should be able to remove water, oil and particles, and many use a charcoal bed to remove odors and tastes. Remember to make sure the filtration system can supply the required CFM. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a special danger if the air source is not an oilless compressor and a CO monitor with alarm is then required. This alarm needs to be able to be heard by everyone connected to the air source at their point of use.

Air Distribution

The filtered air then needs to be set to the proper pressure required by the specific respirator so a regulator will be needed to drop the air pressure and not overpressure the employee’s mask. Employees are able to connect to a breathing air system via quick connect couplings, OSHA requires these couplings to be unique to the breathing air system. This ensures that employees are unable to connect a respirator to a non-breathing air system (shop air). It is also a requirement that the hose the employee uses is a maximum of 300 feet.

Respirator

The selected respirator can be of several varieties such as pressure demand or continuous flow, tight fitting face piece or loose-fitting hoods or helmets. These choices need to be made prior to the set up of the system as they can affect the design of the system. For example, if you are planning to use a continuous flow system a bottle supplied air source will not last very long.

breathing air system

What are OSHA’s Requirements for a Breathing Air System?

Breathing Air Gases Testing

The OSHA standard requires the employer provide employees using atmosphere-supplying respirators with breathing gases of high purity. To this end, OSHA has incorporated the ANSI/Compressed Gas Association Commodity Specification for Air, G-7.1 to include testing to meet the following:

  • Oxygen content percentage by volume: Between 19.5% and 23.5%
  • Hydrocarbon (oil and particulate): maximum of 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air
  • Carbon monoxide: maximum of 10 parts per million by volume
  • Carbon dioxide: maximum of 1000 parts per million by volume
  • Lack of noticeable odor

breathing testing

This breathing air gases are also commonly referred to as Grade D breathing air.  There are other grades of breathing air available that differ in oxygen content, hydrocarbons and water content that are used by fire departments and other SCBA wearers, but Grade D breathing air is the standard for industry.

While OSHA does not require breathing testing to be done on any interval, the industry standard for this testing is to be done annually for each distribution point.

Written Respiratory Protection Plan

Any company requiring employees to use respiratory protection must have a written Respiratory Protection Program that meets all the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134.

Medical Evaluations

OSHA first requires the respirator user to be medically cleared to use a respirator. The doctor will need to know that the employee will be using a supplied air respirator so they can understand the physical requirements of the respirator being used.

Training

OSHA then requires that all respirator users be trained on how to use their respirator, the limitations of that respirator and any procedures such as when the CO alarm goes off what needs to be done.

Fit-Testing

If the respirator selected is a tight fitting facepiece, OSHA requires a fit test to ensure the facepiece provides a proper seal to the users face.

Preventative Maintenance Plan

On a system that has a CO monitor, a preventive maintenance plan needs to be established to perform calibration on the monitor. Most manufacturers require monthly calibration with a certified canister of carbon monoxide gas. Calibration dates should be documented.

Questions?  Need Help?

iSi has Grade D breathing air system testing equipment and routinely conducts tests for our clients.  We can also help you with the other breathing air system requirements of OSHA.  Contact us today!

Need Help?

iSi can help with Grade D breathing air testing, required written plans, training and more! 

Contributing:

Keith Reissig

Industrial Hygienist | Project Manager

Keith brings over 20 years of industrial hygiene and safety experience to iSi and its clients. An industrial hygienist, Keith jokes that he "sucks air for a living."  He specializes in workplace exposure testing and sampling strategies, safety compliance, ergonomics and training in a variety of topics in both the industrial hygiene and safety field.

Email  |  LinkedIn

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Annual Supplier Chemical Notification: Does This Affect Your Company?

Annual Supplier Chemical Notification: Does This Affect Your Company?

Recently EPA sent email reminder notices to companies who submitted 2018 and 2019 Toxic Release Inventories under EPCRA Section 313.  These reminders were about the regulation’s annual supplier chemical notification requirements for those companies who process or manufacture chemicals or chemical mixtures.

This annual notifications rule can be found at 40 CFR § 372.45.

Who Does This Affect?

  1. SIC codes 20-39 (or NAICS codes corresponding to those SIC categories), and…
  2. You manufacture (including import) or process a toxic chemical on the EPCRA Section 313 list, then…
  3. You sell/distribute that chemical under a trade name, or sell/distribute a mixture containing one or more of these chemicals.

Suppliers who are not required to complete a Toxic Release Inventory can still qualify for this rule.  They would still need to notify if they meet those 3 criteria.

The Notification

An annual notification must be sent with the first shipment of the chemical sent within the calendar year.  The notice needs to include the following information:

  • A statement that the mixture or trade name product includes a toxic chemical listed pursuant to EPCRA section 313 or 40 CFR Part 372;
  • The name and, if applicable, associated CAS registry number of each listed chemical, and;
  • The percentage by weight of each listed chemical in the mixture or trade name product.

The chemical notification can be a letter, a label or a written notice within the shipping papers.  It may accompany and be attached to the product’s SDS, but an SDS alone will not suffice if the SDS is missing the required notification information.  If your SDS has the required information on it, that can be used for the first shipment.  Then in subsequent years, a letter referencing the previous year’s SDS would suffice as long as the customer still has the most current version of your SDS.  If an SDS is not required for your chemical, you can send the notification on a separate written notice.

If you have any changes or updates to the information for the notice, you need to send out a revised notice within 30 days of that change.  If find that you had errors in your notice, you’ll need to send a revised notice listing the shipment dates that the new correct data would cover.

Exclusions

There are a few exclusions to this rule, including:

  • Not falling within those specific SIC/NAICS codes.
  • The chemical is a result of a chemical reaction from two or more chemicals mixed. You do not have to notify in this case because it would not be considered a mixture anymore.
  • If the chemical is prepared for consumer use, you don’t have to notify. However, if you prepare a version for consumer use in one type of packaging, but provide an industrial version in a different quantity or packaging, then you would have to notify.
  • The quantity of the toxic chemical is below the de minimis level (1% or 0.1% for OSHA carcinogens).
  • It’s a waste.

If your company does not fall within the SIC/NAICS codes or you just repackage the chemicals (not manufacture them), and you receive notifications from your suppliers, you should forward on those chemical notifications with the EPCRA Section 313 chemicals you send to users who would be covered under these codes.

Recordkeeping

You’re required to keep the following records for 3 years:

  • Notifications sent to recipients;
  • All supporting materials used to develop the notice;
  • If you are claiming a trade secret, a record of why it’s considered a secret and why the generic name you can use in your notification is appropriate; and,
  • If the concentration is a trade secret, record explanations of why it’s a secret and the basis for the upper bound concentration limit you’re allowed to use is appropriate.

More Information

More information can be found in the rule and in EPA’s Frequently Asked Questions about this rule.

Need Help?

If you need help determining how this new rule will affect you, or help with any environmental compliance issue, contact us today!

Questions?

Does this apply to your company?  Do you have questions?  Contact us!

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Paint Booth Cleaning: It’s the Law, but Can Save You Money

Paint Booth Cleaning: It’s the Law, but Can Save You Money

iSi paint booth cleaning example

In this week’s blog, we’ll explore the case for paint booth cleaning.  Not only is it the law, but it can save your company a lot of money.

Cleaning is the Law

There are a number of regulations and standards which include paint booth cleaning and maintenance as part of their directives. Most of these are to protect the workers inside the booth, workers outside of the booth and the environment. Some of these include:

  • OSHA 1910.107 and 1910.94
  • EPA NESHAP, 40 CFR Part 63 Subparts HHHHHH and XXXXXX
  • NFPA 33

Cleaning SAVES Money

iSi has been providing paint booth cleaning personnel for a number of years to industrial facilities. One of the biggest comments we get from our clients in favor of routine cleaning is how much a clean booth will affect the quality of the painted part. A clean booth significantly reduces the amount of dirt and impurities in the air, leading to a dramatic reduction in the number of re-paints. This in turn saves painter time and resources, increases productivity, and improves the quality of the finished product.

Dirty booths can make a big difference on booth effectiveness. Built-up coatings on floors and walls become harder and harder to remove as time goes on. Filters which are dirty, not changed on a regular basis, paint-coated, missing, or not sized for the type of booth they’re in all contribute to poor booth performance. Coated sprinkler heads and fire devices are a fire safety hazard. Not addressed on a routine basis, these issues can end up costing your company in additional labor costs, equipment replacement costs and product painting redos.

What Should be Cleaned?

Booths walls and floors, paint grates, sprinkler heads, filters, gauges, ventilation ductwork and fan blades should all get routine attention. For safety reasons, gauges should shut down if there’s not enough flow through the filters. Paint scraps should never be left in piles on the floor, and drums of rags and wastes should be removed each day.  OSHA says that in some cases, daily cleaning may be needed.

Who Should Clean the Booth?

What are the hazards involved in the paint that you’re using? If the paint is hazardous, this puts you in a totally different level of effort and compliance responsibility than a traditional janitorial or maintenance company may be able to provide. For example, iSi conducts cleaning of booths contaminated by hexavalent chromium paints. This requires our workers to wear special PPE and respirators and follow strict protocols. As a company, iSi is required to have a respirator program, a hexavalent chromium program, and routine medical monitoring.  Other hazardous paints may have similar requirements, so if you’re using your own personnel to clean the booths, make sure you’re compliant with all OSHA and medical requirements for this work.  It may look like it’s just a cleaning job, but the materials your workers will be exposed to make it much more complicated.

Some companies will have their painters do the cleaning either before or after a shift. This takes extra time away from their regular duties, and sometimes lack of time and shifting priorities can create shortcuts. Thus, companies end up paying for maintenance duties at skilled painter labor rates.  It’s fine for you to use your own personnel, but you may want to consider what’s best use of their time and what you’re spending in the long run.

If you have questions or comments about paint booth maintenance, contact us today, and we’d love to help you!

How can iSi help your company with paint booth cleaning and compliance? Check us out!

EPA Adds 1-BP to Clean Air Act Hazardous Air Pollutants List

EPA Adds 1-BP to Clean Air Act Hazardous Air Pollutants List

EPA has added 1-bromopropane (1-BP), aka n-propyl bromide, to its list of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.  This is the first time since 1990 that EPA has added a chemical to the list from a petition request.

The CAS number for 1-BP is 106-94-5.

How is 1-BP Used?

1-BP is found in products for the following applications:

  • Adhesive sprays
  • Solvent sprays for asphalt production, aircraft maintenance, and synthetic fiber manufacturing
  • Vapor and immersion degreasers for cleaning plastics, metals, electronic components and optical components
  • Dry cleaning
  • Spot removers
  • Coin cleaners
  • Paintable mold release products
  • Automotive refrigerant flushes
  • Lubricants

Which EPA Compliance Obligations Will This Affect?

Since the change is part of the Clean Air Act, you will need to take note that this will affect the following EPA reports and permits:

You should also now start tracking the quantities purchased and used to help you with these reports.

What is the Hazard?

1-BP can be inhaled as a vapor or mists of spray and can also be absorbed through skin contact.   It is colorless with a sweet odor.  It can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and can damage the nervous system.  Women of childbearing age are cautioned that prolonged exposure can cause developmental and reproductive effects.  Extreme cases can cause kidney and liver issues as well as neurological issues such as dizziness, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, confusion, twitching and difficulty walking.  

Some people have experienced symptoms with use as little as 2 days, but most cases have effects after long-term exposure.

Make Sure You Know Your Exposures

If your company is using products with 1-BP, please make sure you are conducting industrial hygiene sampling of your employees and their usage of 1-BP to identify what their exposures are.  The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist’s (ACGIH) threshold limit value for 1-BP is a very low 0.1 ppm, so any exposures over that will require respiratory protection.

iSi has conducted 1-BP sampling for two of our clients within the past year.  Each were using vapor degreasers with 1-BP in them.  Exposures measured at 3.74 ppm for one company and 49.5 ppm for another.  These were very well above the recommended 0.1 ppm and each company needed to change protocols to get the exposures down.

PPE and Administrative Controls

Besides respiratory protection when limits are over the thresholds, both EPA and OSHA recommend usage of chemical protective gloves/clothing and eye protection when handling 1-BP. 

OSHA has specific recommendations for eliminating the hazard altogether through isolation, ventilation and other engineering controls.  Some administrative controls they recommend include reducing both the time and number of workers exposed to the chemical, purchasing and storing the least amount possible and keeping containers closed between use.

Because of the hazard, there are other products now on the market that can be used for the same functions that do not have 1-BP in them.

Get 1-BP fact sheets on the EPA website here and on the OSHA website here to learn more.

Questions?

If your company is using 1-BP and you have questions on how it will affect your compliance reporting and tracking obligations, we can help!  Email us or contact us by phone.

1-BP Assistance

If you need help determining how this new rule will affect your air reporting, or if you need 1-BP exposure sampling to see where you stand, contact us today!

Questions?

Does this apply to your company?  Do you have questions?  Contact us!

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EPA Enforcement During COVID-19 Disruption: What Do You Need to Do?

EPA Enforcement During COVID-19 Disruption: What Do You Need to Do?

UPDATE:  EPA has announced they will be ending these policies on August 31, 2020.

The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting businesses — from creating labor challenges to shutting them down altogether. As a result, you may not be able to meet your EPA or state environmental obligations. During this time, what is EPA doing about enforcement?

EPA has issued a guidance document on how it will conduct enforcement for noncompliance. Basically, the overall message is to communicate, document-document-document and do your best to make a good faith effort to comply.

EPA is leaving discretion to the states on how they want to handle noncompliance. So although in this article we are going to cover what EPA says (and what iSi’s experience has been with state agencies lately) ALWAYS double check with your state or your permitting agency because what they say will be the overall direction you will need to follow. Better yet, keeping in contact with your permitting agency and alerting them of potential noncompliance is likely the best policy because if their policies differ, they will be able to tell you so. Always document your conversations or communications for your files.

Overall EPA Guidance

EPA wants your company to make every effort to comply, but if you cannot,

  • Act responsibly until you can;
  • Identify the nature of what your noncompliance will be, on what dates, and the reasons why COVID-19 was the cause;
  • Document the steps you are going to take to become compliant,
  • Work to become compliant ASAP; and,
  • Document all actions and reasons and keep those in your files.

EPA understands that staffing may be limited and resources like contractors and laboratories may affect your compliance status. So until further notice from EPA, they will not be penalizing the following actions if they agree with you that COVID-19 was the legitimate cause of your noncompliance:

  • Monitoring
  • Sampling
  • Lab Analysis
  • Integrity Testing
  • Reporting
  • Certification
  • Training

Although training is on that list, EPA says they expect you to maintain your training certifications as there are a number of online alternatives available. An example where they would excuse noncompliance is if you needed to make a choice between having certified and qualified operators running your operations vs. sending them to training. They would prefer you to keep operations running if that was the only choice you had.

Resume bi-annual and annual reporting as soon as possible and submit late reports as soon as possible. If your report requires a handwritten signature, it can be digitally signed. If you miss a sampling or monitoring episode, you will not need to make it up later if it is typically conducted in intervals of 3 months or less.

Hazardous Waste

If possible, continue to conduct your weekly inspections. If you have containers onsite that will exceed the number of days you can store them, such as a 90-day storage limit, continue to properly store and label them until you can get them removed. EPA will not consider you a TSDF (treatment, storage and disposal facility) if you go past the date. If you are a Small Quantity Generator or a Very Small Quantity Generator, you will retain your generator status if you go past the date.

Ensure you document everything and put it in your records.

Air Emissions

Get very familiar with your permits and what they say about notifications during shutdowns. In some permits, there may be a reference to emergency episode plans that typically address equipment failures, but see if they say anything about temporary shutdowns. Some permits may also mention that temporary shutdowns may cause less emissions during shutdown, then exceedances when the equipment is refired. You may have to give a notification in both instances.

If you cannot find anything, double check with your permitting agency and then document any phone calls or emails. Self-reporting shows good faith efforts on your part.

Wastewater

Every permit may be different, so check what yours says about shutdowns. Many permits will mention that you must notify if there will be a “significant change,” and a shutdown would be a significant change. You will likely need to continue doing weekly inspections and sampling. For shutdowns over extended periods, when you return to service, you may need to do weekly sampling for a set term to prove you’re in compliance.

When any part that is covered by your permit is removed from service, you’ll need to notify the permit authority to ensure the water and the environment is protected.

Stormwater 

Stormwater regulations vary from state to state and in some areas, city to city. Most will have quarterly inspections and rain event sampling. Continue to do that whenever possible. If you cannot, contact your local stormwater authority and/or document the reasons why this cannot be accomplished.

Spill Prevention, Control and Countermesure (SPCC)

Most SPCC plans require monthly inspections. Continue to do these, and if for some reason you cannot, document the reasons why.

Public Water Supply

For those who operate public water supplies, it needs to be run business as usual. EPA has specifically called out this operation as critical to public safety and health. If you are having staffing or laboratory issues, you need to work with your state to get these issues solved.

Accidental Releases

If you have an accidental release or an equipment failure that causes an exceedance which can affect the environment, this needs to be handled business as usual as well. You need to stop the release, mitigate the affects of it as quickly as possible, and still make all the necessary notifications.

Questions?

If you have questions about what you need to do, or need us to help while your own staffs are short, please contact us!

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EPA Rule Adds PFAS Chemicals to the TRI Report

EPA Rule Adds PFAS Chemicals to the TRI Report

EPA has added certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the list of chemicals which need to be tracked annually on your EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report (below).   This rule is effective 1/1/2020, so you’ll need to start tracking and collecting data on their usage immediately.

PFAS chemicals (aka PFOS and PFOA because these are the most common PFAS chemicals) have been widely used in industrial processes and can be found in many consumer products including firefighting foam, pizza boxes, cookware, paints and polishes, electronics manufacturing, fuel additives and more.

The new rule was signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act on December 20, 2019.  Reporting threshold is only 100 pounds, far less than typical TRI chemicals.  The de minimis concentration for PFOA is 0.1% and all other chemicals have a de minimis level of 1%.

Because PFAS chemicals come in so many shapes and sizes and in so many industries and consumer products, it’s thought that an alarmingly high percentage of people have been exposed to them.  Contaminated drinking water is the most documented source, but food, house dust, and workplace exposure are among the top as well. In communities with contaminated drinking water, human health effects that have been found include higher cholesterol, increased uric acid, lower birth weight, lower response to vaccines, diabetes, and cancer.

As a result, dealing with PFAS issues has become an EPA focus.  There have already been other efforts by EPA recently to develop methods and guidance for drinking water monitoring and laboratory testing, development of a PFAS Management Plan, conducting toxicity reviews, development of recommendations for addressing groundwater already contaminated with PFAS, and other actions.

If you need assistance with determining if this new requirement affects your facility, we can help.  Contact us today!

PFAS Now on TRI List

Click here to go to EPA’s list of PFAS chemicals that you need to start tracking now for your TRI report.

NAICS Codes Affected

EPA lists the NAICS codes of industries subject to TRI reporting.  Is your company affected?  Click here to go to EPA’s list of NAICS codes.

What is a TRI Report?

TRI, Form R and SARA 313 are all names for the same report.  What is it and does it pertain to you? Click here to find out.

Need Help?

Do you need help sorting out this regulation?  What about TRI reporting?  Contact us for more information or a price quote.

brady gerber
brady gerber

Contributing:

Brady Gerber

Environmental Field Services Supervisor | Project Manager

Brady Gerber has over 13 years’ experience working in environmental site investigation and remediation projects and various environmental compliance regulations pertaining to stormwater, fuel storage, hazardous waste, wastewater discharge, spills, emergency response, and brownfields.

Email  |  LinkedIn

EPA Issues Air Permitting Updates for New Sources, PSD and Title V Air Permits

EPA Issues Air Permitting Updates for New Sources, PSD and Title V Air Permits

​EPA has issued air permitting updates in order to help companies save time and reduce paperwork and compliance burdens.

Air Permitting Update:  Definition of Adjacent Areas

As we first reported here last fall, EPA was considering changing the interpretation of the word “adjacent” for its EPA Title V air permit and New Source Review (NSR) air permits for new construction or modifications.  That interpretation change is now final.

In the regulations, the word adjacent comes into play when determining if a facility qualifies for permits.  When determining sources, a building, structure, facility or installation must be under the control of the same person, belong in the same industrial grouping, and located on one or more contiguous or adjacent properties.  When it came to “adjacent”, EPA had been also considering “functional interrelatedness,” that is, grouping together facilities with similar functions, even if they were miles apart.

According to the new rule, for all industries other than oil and natural gas production and processing, adjacent is physical proximity only.  EPA makes additional comments on the word “contiguous” as well, noting the difference between adjacent and contiguous.  Operations do not have to be contiguous to be adjacent.  That is, operations that do not share a common boundary or border, not physically touching each other will be adjacent if the operations are nearby.  If there is proximity (neighboring or side-by-side operations where the “common sense notion of a plant” can be deduced) that will be considered adjacent.  Railways, pipelines and other conveyances will not determine adjacency.

Please note that states with their own air permitting programs aren’t required to follow the new interpretation, so be aware of the regulations in your own state.

More information about EPA’s change can be found here.

Air Permitting Update:  Revised Exclusions for Ambient Air

EPA has broadened the exclusions industrial facilities can take from the ambient air regulations.

The Clean Air Act sets standards that affect ambient air quality, that is, that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has access.  In the air permitting process, companies are required to make air quality analyses of how their operations, (or changes to operations) will affect the ambient air quality.  Within that requirement, there’s been an exclusion for areas that the public didn’t have access to.  That is, you didn’t have to count the effects to the air quality of the areas of your facility that the public didn’t have access to as long as your company owned or controlled that area.

Until now, fences and other physical barriers have been the determining factor on public access.

In the updated regulations, EPA is allowing for other types of measures to which deter public access.  Some examples could include:

  • Signage
  • Security Patrols
  • Remote Surveillance Cameras
  • Drones
  • Natural Barriers Such as Cliffs or Rugged Terrain (case-by-case basis)

Your company will still need to have the legal authority to prevent the public from going onto that property.  Please note that in this case as well, states with their own air permitting programs aren’t required to follow the new interpretation, so be aware of the regulations in your own state.

For more information, check out the EPA’s guidance page here.

How Does This Apply to Your Facility?

Need help determining where you stand on air compliance? Let iSi’s environmental team help you with your site-specific obligations.

iSi can help you with air permits & determinations – Contact us today!

EPA’s National Compliance Initiatives Show Enforcement Priorities

EPA’s National Compliance Initiatives Show Enforcement Priorities

Does This Apply To You?

We can help determine which of these apply to your facility, and help you make sure you’re on the right track if you’re inspected.

Just like OSHA has national emphasis programs for areas they want to target in their enforcement, EPA has its own national emphasis targets.  Called the National Compliance Initiatives (NCI), EPA has listed 7 priority areas to target for enforcement for Fiscal Years 2020-2023. 

So what’s on the EPA NCI Target List?

Air – Reducing Air Emissions at Hazardous Waste LQGs and TSDFs

EPA has found that facilities that generate a greater amount of hazardous waste have air emissions issues.  Their focus will be on air emissions at Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) and Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs).  This emphasis item was in the agency’s last list of NCIs, and inspectors have found there is still significant noncompliance at these facilities.  EPA wants improved compliance in controlling organic air emissions from certain management activities.  They will especially be looking at the following areas in which they are continuously finding problems:

  • Leaking or open pressure relief valves;
  • Tank closure devices;
  • Monitoring; and,
  • Recordkeeping.

Water – Reducing NPDES Permits Noncompliance

EPA will be looking at your facility’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits to see if you’re in compliance.  NPDES permits are for water discharges, whether they be wastewater, stormwater or otherwise.  In 2018, 11,000 permits had violations totaling 4 billion pounds of pollutants above permitted limits, and EPA wants to crack down on that.  Out of 40,000 facilities with NPDES permits, EPA estimates 29% are in significant noncompliance.  EPA’s goal is to cut that in half by fall 2022.  EPA specifically mentions failure to submit required reports and significant exceedances of limits as two of the most violated areas.

Air – Reducing Excess Emissions of HAPs and VOCs from Stationary Sources

EPA wants a focus on reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).   They will be focusing on sources of VOCs that may have substantial impact on an area’s attainment or non-attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards.  EPA will also be focusing on areas with a greater concentration of HAP sources.  EPA has listed over 180 chemicals that are HAPs, including mercury, asbestos, toluene, cadmium, chromium, benzene, perchloroethylene, and lead.

Hazardous Chemicals – Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities

This was on EPA’s list last time, and is continuing.   This NCI not only applies to facilities subject to Risk Management Program requirements (for accidental chemical releases at facilities that store certain chemicals above a certain threshold).   EPA cites a General Duty Clause in their Clean Air Act to cover all facilities with regulated substances and extremely hazardous substances, regardless of quantity.  They’ll be using that General Duty Clause (Clean Air Act Section 112(r)) which requires companies:

  • Identify hazards that may result from accidental releases by using appropriate hazard assessment techniques;
  • Design and maintain a safe facility;
  • Take steps to prevent releases; and,
  • Minimize the consequences of the accidental releases that occur.

It will be important that your facility not only has conducted the proper hazard assessments and has plans and controls in place, but has documentation that has occurred.  This exercise and documentation will help you with both EPA and OSHA compliance.

Air – Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Engines

This is a new item on EPA’s list.  They will be looking to stop the manufacture, sale and installation of defeat devices on engines.  Often called tuners, these devices bypass the engines’ emissions control systems in order to improve engine performance or fuel efficiency.  The systems modify the exhaust system or electronic chips within the vehicle.   EPA has been levying fines on car manufacturers for a number of years in this area.  One of the most famous cases is the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal where vehicles were rigged to recognize regulatory emissions testing, but operated differently in real world driving conditions.  Now EPA is going after the aftermarket manufacturers and have already started.  However, the emphasis isn’t just limited to vehicles on the road, it’s for any engine, including non-road vehicles and engines.

Water – Noncompliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Systems

This is a new NCI area for EPA.  EPA says that out of 50,000 Community Water Systems that serve water to the same people year-round, 40% violated at least one drinking water standard in 2018.  Also at these facilities, 30% had monitoring and reporting violations and 7% had health violations.  EPA’s goal is to reduce this noncompliance by 25% by having EPA’s Office of Water work to increase capacity within the states and tribes to address these violations.

Lead – Child Exposure to Lead

This one is an unofficial NCI emphasis because it will be treated as a directive but not be a part of the official NCI enforcement list as a separate program.  EPA has an overall initiative for lead, and the NCI guidance documents affirm enforcement commitment to participating in that initiative.   Plans for EPA’s overall lead initiative include:

  • Increasing compliance with and awareness of lead-safe renovations with the Renovation, Repair and Painting rule;
  • Developing a mapping tool to identify communities with higher lead exposures;
  • Targeted geographical initiatives; and,
  • Public awareness campaigns on lead issues.

What’s Next:  Regional Plans

Each region is to develop a strategic plan on how they will be accomplishing these EPA NCI goals.  Within these plans the regions are to determine how they’re going to allocate resources to these NCIs and how much investment will be put into each one.  The plans are due August 1.   

These NCIs are the goals for Fiscal Year 2020-2023, thus they will go into effect October 1, 2019.

Does your facility fall under these targets?  We can help you determine that, and get you ready — Contact us today!

EPA’s “Once In, Always In” May Be Officially on the Way Out

EPA’s “Once In, Always In” May Be Officially on the Way Out

EPA has proposed a rule that would officially eliminate the air regulations rule of “Once In, Always In” for major source hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions.  As a result, EPA is estimating reduced regulatory burden for thousands of locations, and thousands of others could now have a better incentive to reduce air emissions.

Background: Air Emissions Regs

Locations that emit one or more of the 187 named hazardous air pollutants above a certain threshold are classified as a “major source.”  As a result, they become subject to a number of additional regulatory obligations.  They are required to follow certain rules established by their related Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules and are required to complete annual Title V Air Emissions permitting. 

If locations have HAP air emissions below the stated threshold, they are classified as “area sources.”  The regulatory requirements at this level are much less burdensome.

What’s Once In, Always In?

EPA’s Once In, Always In policy stated that once a location reaches that major source classification, they were always going to be a major source, not matter what – even if the company took steps to reduce emissions below that threshold.  It was developed in 1995 as a guidance memo and originally intended to only be in place until the agency could propose amendments, but it stayed in permanently. 

As part of the 2017 Executive Order for agencies to review and reduce regulations, EPA looked at Once In, Always In.  They determined the Clean Air Act really did not specify or support time limits.  As a result, EPA issued its own interpretation memo saying there was no basis for major sources to have that classification permanently.  These sources should have the ability to reclassify as area sources if they implemented the controls and reductions necessary to become area sources.

This new proposed rule is the formal step to make this interpretation final.

The Benefits

This rule will benefit companies that have already implemented technologies to control HAP emissions, and companies whose processes or operations have changed to the degree that they no longer emit or have the capabilities to emit HAPs above the thresholds. 

EPA estimates that out of 7,920 major sources, approximately half will now be eligible to reclassify as an area source.  Besides the lessened compliance burden, EPA estimates costs savings of $168.9 million in the first year, and $163-$183 million each year after.

Those companies who are still major sources will also now have a concrete incentive to make changes to operations that would further reduce HAP emissions.

Public Comment

Find out more information about this rule here.  EPA is also soliciting public comment at regulations.gov.  They want to hear about all aspects of their proposal including their interpretation of Once In, Always In, requirements for establishing effective HAP limits, allowing limits issued by states/local/tribal agencies as effective as long as they are legally and practically enforceable, and ideas for safeguards to ensure emissions are not increased.

Which Source Are You?

Is your site a major source or an area source? Can you reclassify?  Let us help!

iSi can help you with air emissions determinations & compliance — Contact us today!

New Clean Air Act Interpretation May Affect Facility Air Permitting

New Clean Air Act Interpretation May Affect Facility Air Permitting

Facilities required to have an EPA Title V air permit, New Source Review (NSR) air permit, or a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) air permit may soon be affected by a proposed new interpretation of the word “adjacent”.

Adjacent Properties

In the regulations, the word adjacent comes into play when determining if a facility qualifies for permits.  When determining sources, a building, structure, facility or installation must be under the control of the same person, belong in the same industrial grouping, and located on one or more contiguous or adjacent properties.  When it came to “adjacent”, EPA wouldn’t give a determination on how far apart the properties needed to be and said that it would be determined on a case by case basis.  Besides physical proximity, EPA has been considering “functional interrelatedness” in its adjacent determinations.

Companies determine how their facilities should be permitted within the rules, whether there is one combined source, or whether there are separate sources.  In one court case, EPA disagreed with a petroleum company that it had separate sources.  EPA said the company’s operations and wells were adjacent, even though they were miles apart.  EPA was considering the operations, pipelines and wells as having functional interrelatedness.  The petroleum company sued EPA, and the court found in favor of the petroleum company.  The court said the definition of “adjacent” was simple and meant only physical proximity.

After the court ruling, EPA tweaked interpretation rules by region to include functional interrelatedness, and they were also thrown out by courts in other lawsuits and challenges.

The New Interpretation

EPA has issued a draft guidance for the interpretation of adjacent and it’s available for public comment.  The new interpretation says for all industries other than oil and natural gas production and processing, adjacent is physical proximity only.  EPA makes additional comments on the word “contiguous” as well, noting the difference between adjacent and contiguous.  Operations don’t have to be contiguous to be adjacent.  That is, operations that don’t share a common boundary or border, not physically touching each other will be considered adjacent if the operations are nearby.  If there is proximity (neighboring or side-by-side operations where the “common sense notion of a plant” can be deduced) that will be considered adjacent.  Railways, pipelines and other conveyances will no longer be used to determine adjacency.

What’s Next

The interpretation will be used from now on for new sources only.  Operations already considered one source will remain that way as long as common control and industrial grouping code (SIC) criteria exists.  States with approved NSR and Title V permitting programs aren’t required to follow the new interpretation but EPA recommends it for greater uniformity in permitting decisions.

Read EPA’s memorandum regarding adjacent properties here.

How Does This Apply to Your Facility?

Need help determining where you stand on air compliance? Let iSi’s environmental team help you with your site-specific obligations.

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What is EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy ACE Rule?

What is EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy ACE Rule?

EPA has proposed a new rule for greenhouse gas emissions at power plants called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) Rule. This rule is a replacement for the controversial Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule.

The CPP Rule was developed by the Obama Administration, and it put some definite limits in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at power plants. The rule created quite a bit of controversy and EPA was taken to court by a number of parties. The Trump Administration and EPA put the CPP on hold in order to review it for potential repeal and replacement. The new ACE Rule is the result of this review.

With the new ACE Rule, EPA hands over greater power to the states to set their own limits. According to EPA, ACE will reduce greenhouse gas emissions through four actions:

  1. Defines a “Best System of Emission Reduction”, for existing power plants based on heat rate efficiency improvements;
  2. Provides states with an example list of technologies that may be used in their rules to establish standards of performance;
  3. Updates the New Source Review permit program to further encourage efficiency improvements; and,
  4. Puts the regulation in Clean Air Act section 111(d) to give states time to develop their own plans.

Opponents of the original CPP Plan say that while limiting greenhouse gas emissions is very important, the makeup of the CPP Plan went too far. It would create burdensome regulation and a tremendous negative economic impact. Coal industry advocates are happy with the ACE Rule in that it will save coal industry jobs. Also, giving the responsibility back to the states will allow states to customize their rules for the conditions and economies around them.

Critics of the new ACE Rule say the new regulations will not nearly reduce the emissions the CPP would have. There is some fear it’ll allow states to write less strict regulations that the power companies will be able to get around. Other say the new rule appears to be an appeasement to the coal industry.

EPA says that replacing CPP with ACE will save $400 million in net benefits and $400 million in compliance burden, will still reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and may reduce carbon dioxide emissions even as much as 33-34% from 2005 which is even more than what CPP projected.

The ACE Rule is available for comment and there will be a public hearing scheduled. The D.C. Circuit Court will also have to determine if it is a suitable replacement for the CPP rule, which is still on hold with the court.

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EPA to Propose Repeal of Clean Power Plan

EPA to Propose Repeal of Clean Power Plan

power plant
A number of news agencies have obtained a document outlining EPA’s plans to propose a repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The announcement from EPA may come early this week and then a formal proposal will be issued in the Federal Register.  The plans include a 60-day comment period to solicit ideas on alternatives or a replacement approach.  Plans also include a cost-benefit analysis of a repeal, estimating $33 billion in compliance cost savings.

The Clean Power Plan rule was developed by the previous administration as a way to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030.  Opponents have contended that the rule’s compliance and equipment requirements will create massive costs on the power sector and its consumers, that EPA overreached its authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, and it invaded the powers of the states, who’ve traditionally managed and regulated the energy sector. Over 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric Co-Ops and 3 labor unions have sued EPA over the rule.  A bipartisan group of over 200 Senators and House members also filed a briefing against it.

How can iSi help your company with air compliance issues?
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EPA Broadens Definition of “Remote” Sites for Stationary Engine Air Compliance

EPA Broadens Definition of “Remote” Sites for Stationary Engine Air Compliance

A change in the definition of what a “remote” site is in EPA’s NESHAP Subpart ZZZZ air compliance regulations could bring good news for companies with stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE).  Stationary RICE engines are typically used at natural gas compressor stations, for other uses in the oil and gas industry and for landfills.

The modified definition, which went into effect January 30, 2016, makes a change to what is considered to be “remote.”  If a company’s RICE is remote, the engine will be exempt from Subpart ZZZZ requirements for initial compliance testing.

According to the new rule, a remote engine is now considered to be:

There’s more!  Click here to continue…

 

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