Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) PCB Fines (US)

Enforcement action by federal US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) inspectors results in civil penalties (fines) for failure to manage PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) at recycling sites properly in line with the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

In the last two years the USEPA has inspected and taken enforcement action against all three PCB electrical transformer recycling facilities in the Pacific Southwest regarding improper management.

The action settled in October is here.

The action settled in May is here.

USEPA information on PCBs is here – PCBs are man-made organic chemicals used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and cooling oil for electrical transformers. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the US before the USEPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978, and many PCB-containing materials are still in use today. When released into the environment, PCBs remain for decades. Tests have shown that PCBs cause cancer in animals and are suspected carcinogens in humans. Acute PCB exposure can also adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as liver function. Concerns about human health and the extensive presence and lengthy persistence of PCBs in the environment led Congress to enact TSCA in 1976.

Carbon Black Emissions Settlement (US)

Settlement is reached resolving alleged violations in Louisiana and Texas of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). In the complaint filed by the Texas Department of Justice on behalf of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the government alleged a manufacturer made major modifications at its carbon black facilities between 2003 and 2009 without obtaining pre-construction permits and without installing and operating required pollution technology. The complaint further alleged that these actions resulted in increased emissions of NOx and SO2, violating CAA requirements that oblige companies to obtain the necessary permits prior to making modifications at a facility and to install and operate required pollution control equipment if those modifications will result in increases of certain pollutants.

The agreement (with the second largest carbon manufacturer in the US) is the first to result from a national enforcement initiative aimed at bringing carbon black manufacturers into compliance with the CAA’s NSR provisions. The settlement comprises a $975,000 civil penalty and an order to spend an estimated $84 million on state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is a co-plaintiff in the case and will receive $292,500 of the penalty.

The USEPA Press Release on the matter is here.

Carbon black is described as a fine carbonaceous powder used as a structural support medium in tyres and as a pigment in a variety of products such as plastic, rubber, inkjet toner and cosmetics. It is produced by burning oil in a low oxygen environment; the oil is transformed into soot (carbon black), which is collected in a baghouse. The Press Release states because the oil used in the process is low value high sulfur oil, the manufacturing process creates significant amounts of SO2 and NOx, as well as particulate matter.

Per the USEPA Press Release – at all three facilities, the settlement obliges the carbon black manufacturer to optimise existing controls for particulate matter or soot, operate an “early warning” detection system that will alert facility operators to any particulate matter releases, and comply with a plan to control “fugitive emissions” which result from leaks or unintended releases of gases. To address nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, the company must install selective catalytic reduction technology to significantly reduce emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent limits. At the two larger facilities in Louisiana, the company must address sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution by installing wet gas scrubbers to control emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent emissions limits. In addition, the Texas facility is required to comply with a limit on the amount of sulfur in feedstock which is the lowest for any carbon black plant in the US.

The settlement also requires $450,000 to be spent by the company on energy saving and pollution reduction projects that will benefit the communities surrounding the facilities in Franklin and Ville Platte, La. and in Pampa, Texas, such as upgrading air handling units at municipal buildings in the three communities to more efficient technology.

Since 2010, per its Press Release, the USEPA has been focusing enforcement efforts on reducing emissions at carbon manufacturing plants in the US. Currently, none of the 15 carbon black manufacturing plants located in the US have controls on emissions of SO2 and NOx or have continuous emissions monitors.

More Forklift Truck Fines

I posted earlier on enforcement action taken for fork lift truck safety failings. These posts are here and here.

Breaches are in LOLER (regulation 8(1)) and PUWER (regulation 9(1)).

Another LOLER Regulation 8(1) breach is here – this time prosecution occurred after investigation found the company had failed to make sure work to lift beams was planned, supervised or carried out safely. The company had been using fork lift trucks to lift long steel beams, weighing over 100kg, but investigation by Britain’s Health & Safety Executive found the work was not planned and the risks ignored (leading to worker injury).

The company now uses a HIAB crane on the back of a flatbed truck to deliver steel beams to customers, which minimises this risk.

Gas Safety Installation and Use ACoP

ACoP L56 is updated – this Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and guidance gives practical advice on the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations.

I posted earlier on landlord fines for gas safety installation and use failings. This post is here.

Cardinal Environment’s tailored Gas Safety Register is updated. This register is selected for by subscribers to the paid-for Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Registers service.

The ACoP fourth edition includes the following changes (per the HSE):

– Guidance and ACOP on standards of training in safe gas installation are included (in Part B) from COP20 ‘Standards of training in safe gas installation. Approved Code of Practice’, which is due to be withdrawn early 2014
– Guidance for landlords under regulation 36 is removed and replaced with a small amount of ACOP text. Refer to HSE Landlord’s responsibilities.
– The material on ‘requirements for appliances and flues’ formerly contained in Appendix 1 is updated and is found in Appendix 3.
– Examples of unsafe situations are removed – details are in the Gas Industry Unsafe Situations procedure.
– Lists of standards and regulations have been removed. A list of appropriate standards etc is available from Gas Safe Register.
– Minor revisions have been made to the definition of gas fitting and gas work (regulation 2), and to regulation 27 material (to reflect concerns around flues in voids)
– The material in Part C, Meters and regulators, is updated, partly to reflect the introduction of smart meters.

Gas Safety Installation and Use Fines

Update: another illegal gas boiler fitting fine (22nd November).

I posted earlier on an illegal boiler installation by a landlord. This time it’s a landlord failing to maintain a faulty gas boiler (and the death of a tenant from carbon monoxide poisoning). The sentence is a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, 200 hours community service, a fine of £4,000, and an order to pay costs of £17,500.

Per the Press Release of Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – the landlord had failed to arrange gas safety checks to be carried out at the property over a four-year period. The letting agency had arranged for a gas safety check to be completed before the tenant and his partner moved in (2005) but the landlord decided not to engage the letting agency and no further landlord gas safety checks or servicing of the gas appliances were completed. In 2008, an employee of National Grid Gas visited the house to replace the gas meter. The boiler was labelled as ‘Immediately Dangerous’ due to ‘fumes at open flue’ and was disconnected. He left a report with the tenant’s partner and subsequently a letter was sent to the property addressed to the landlord, but this was not passed to the landlord. Irrespective, the boiler was not repaired and was not used throughout the following winter. The gas fire stopped working in the autumn of 2009 and the only heating in the home was a borrowed electric fire. On 31 October 2009 the tenant’s partner was away from home overnight and returned to find the house warm as the tenant (the deceased) had reconnected the boiler. She suggested it should be checked but she did not think it ever was. On the evening of 28 December 2009, the next door neighbour became unwell and was taken to hospital. A blood test showed a 22 per cent carbon monoxide content. The next day, two friends were unable to contact the tenant and so went to the house where they found him dead in the sitting room and his partner barely conscious and unresponsive. She was taken to hospital for treatment. Tests showed the tenant’s blood was found to contain 61 per cent carbon monoxide. A level of 50 per cent is enough to be fatal.

The investigation found that the boiler, which was probably installed in 1982, was producing high levels of CO which affected both the landlord’s property and the houses on either side. The court heard the incident resulted from a number of factors; the boiler was reconnected even though it was dangerous; the flue was too short and would be affected by the wind; the ventilator was fitted with fly screens that were blocked with dust and the boiler had not been serviced for a considerable period. The heat exchanger was partially blocked with soot and there were substantial soot deposits on the draught diverter and within the flue.

Regulation 36(2) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 states: Every landlord shall ensure that there is maintained, in a safe condition, (a) any relevant gas fitting; and (b) any flue which serves any relevant gas fitting, so as to prevent the risk of injury to any person in lawful occupation or relevant premises.

Regulation 36(3)(a) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 states: Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (2) above, a landlord shall (a) ensure that each appliance and flue to which that duty extends is checked for safety within 12 months of being installed and at intervals of not more than 12 months since it was last checked for safety (whether such check was made pursuant to these Regulations or not).

Workplace Transport Fatality

A Crown Court heard (12th November) a worker (a load inspector carrying out load inspection duties) had been working around a large wood pile being used to feed a hammer mill at a recycling plant. The shovel vehicle had been moving material from one part of the site to another. As he crossed to a skip, the worker was struck and run over by the load shovel and died of his injuries at the scene.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found no segregation measures had been put in place by the recycling company to separate vehicles and pedestrians working on the site. Workers were unprotected from the dangers of constantly moving vehicles – despite previous incidents where vehicles had collided, and workers reporting other near misses.

The HSE has information about workplace transport safety, at http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/index.htm.

The HSE Press Release about this incident is here.

Regulation 4(1) of the Workplace [Health, Safety and Welfare] Regulations, 1992 states: Every employer shall ensure that every workplace, modification, extension or conversion which is under his control and where any of his employees works complies with any requirement of these Regulations which— (a) applies to that workplace or, as the case may be, to the workplace which contains that modification, extension or conversion; (b) is in force in respect of the workplace, modification, extension or conversion.

Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace [Health, Safety and Welfare] Regulations, 1992 states: Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.