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Vacaville company faces fine over lead paint in Bay Area homes

By Robert Digitale, The Press Democrat

leadpaintVacaville-based Blue Mountain Air is facing a $51,000 fine for failing to follow federal rules in the treatment and removal of lead-based paint during its renovation of four Bay Area homes, the U.S. Environmental Protection announced Wednesday.

The company, a subsidiary of Blue Mountain Inc., failed to obtain required EPA certification before the renovations, and also failed to keep required records and to ensure the project’s workers were certified to safely remove lead-based paint, the agency said.

The four homes, all foreclosures, were renovated in 2011 and 2012 in Santa Rosa, Napa and El Sobrante. Read more

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Boise construction company fined for asbestos violation

By John Sowell, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Judges_GavelOwyhee Construction Inc. will pay $100,000 and spend three years on probation after violating a federal environmental law when it failed to capture broken cement pipe that contained asbestos during a 2009 upgrade of the city of Orofino’s water lines.

The federal government is also seeking $2.5 million in cleanup restitution, with the final amount to be determined through a civil enforcement action brought against the company and others with potential liability, according to federal court records.

Cement pipe that contains asbestos is considered safe. However, when it is broken, asbestos fibers become airborne and pose a health hazard to anyone breathing them in. Although the company knew the water system contained up to 5,000 feet of pipe containing asbestos, the onsite manager and foreman failed to properly supervise the $3 million project to ensure the material was encased and disposed of properly. Instead, the waste materials were used as fill on 16 private properties around Orofino.

“Deceived into thinking Owyhee Construction had provided them with ‘clean fill,’ citizens and businesses of Orofino used the material to fill their, driveways and yards. The result: a contaminated mixture of crushed pipe and debris laced with harmful asbestos spread over 16 separate sites,” said Tyler Amon,special agent in charge for the criminal investigation division for the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle.

The EPA spent $3.9 million to clean up the material.

District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Owyhee Construction to implement a compliance and ethics program.

Last year, two Owyhee employees were convicted of violating the asbestos work standards of the federal Clean Air Act. Bradley Eberhart, 52, of Garden Valley and Douglas Greiner, 53, each served six months in prison and six months of home confinement.

Greiner was the project superintendent and Eberhart served as the onsite supervisor. The government accused both men of failing to properly supervise the project. Employees who completed the work were not properly trained in asbestos removal and failed to wear proper protective gear. Read more

EPA warns modernizing water system may boost levels of lead

WASA lead pipe replacement

WASA lead pipe replacement (Photo credit: IntangibleArts)

 

By Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune

 

 

 

Chicago study finds high levels of toxic metal in areas of street work or plumbing repairs

 

Dangerous levels of lead are turning up in Chicago homes where pipes made of the toxic metal were disturbed by street work or plumbing repairs, according to a new federal study that suggests the city’s aggressive efforts to modernize its water system could inadvertently pose health risks.

The problem starts with lead service lines that Chicago installed across the city until the mid-1980s to connect water mains with homes. Researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that spikes of lead can leach into tap water when those pipes are altered by water main replacements, meter installations or street work.

High levels can be found in tap water for years afterward, the EPA study found, raising concerns that other cities with lead pipes could face similar problems.

Most homeowners likely are unaware they could be drinking tainted water. Under federal rules, utilities rarely are required to warn residents that work is being done or tell them they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead. A potent neurotoxin, lead can damage the brains of young children, lower IQ and trigger learning disabilities, aggression and criminal behavior later in life.

Lead is so hazardous that the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is no safe level of exposure. The metal has been phased out of gasoline, removed from paint and banned in children’s toys. But the widespread use of lead pipes during the last century has left a festering problem nationwide.

“We owe it to people to tell them that their water might not be safe to drink,” said Marc Edwards, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech University who wasn’t involved with the EPA study but has reached similar conclusions in his own research. Read More

 

 

The Government Shutdown’s effect on the EPA

US-EPA-Seal-EO11628

US-EPA-Seal-EO11628 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reposted from http://ieconnections.com

The shutdown of the federal government that began October 1 is affecting agencies and departments that deal with indoor environmental issues.

Now that the government has run out of money due to the failure to reach a budget agreement, federal agencies must decide which employees are “essential” and which ones can be furloughed for the duration of the budget impasse.

Ninety-four percent of the employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are being furloughed. This will suspend, for the time being, the agency’s ability to enforce its rules regarding lead-based paint, which require landlords to notify prospective tenants at rental units about potential hazards and contractors to be certified with respect to their knowledge of safe practices. Individuals should, of course, remain in compliance, as the agency will certainly reopen at some point.

But the head of the union that represents EPA employees issued a statement noting that some workers will remain on duty.

“Even today, some employees will continue to assist flood ravaged communities so that they can once again have clean, safe drinking water and fully functioning bathrooms,” the letter said. “They are helping these communities put the essentials in place so that they can begin to rebuild. But they will not have the support of their colleagues in the office, because they have been sent home to wait, wait for Congress to do its job and fund the government.” Read More

Landowners blast EPA cleanup

By Seaborn Larson, http://www.thewesternnews.com

Before Judy Lundstrom finally agreed to let the Environmental Protection Agency remove asbestos from her property, she wanted to know what her yard would look like after cleanup workers dug up the soil and removed the contaminated material.

Lundstrom, 72, said she was told by an EPA official that her yard, pasture, flower beds and garden would be “put back the same way, if not better.”

Three years later, after countless visits by EPA officials and contractors, Lundstrom said she has had enough. The asbestos has been removed, but she fears her property will never look as good as it once did.

“After they first did my lawn in 2010, I told them ‘This isn’t right. It shouldn’t be this way,'” Lundstrom said. “I’ve been going through this with (the EPA) for three years now. As far as I’m concerned they haven’t done anything right. It’s been a nightmare.” Read More

 

 

EPA cleans up lead contaminated lot in Pilsen

Environmental Protection Agency Seal

Environmental Protection Agency Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

 

By Shannon Heffernan, http://www.wbez.org

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun cleanup of brain-damaging lead contamination on the former site of Loewenthal Metals in Pilsen.

 

Jerry Mead-Lucero is an organizer with Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO). He says lead contamination of over over 400 parts per million (ppm) is a concern. On the Lowenthal site, they discovered  lead levels levels as high as 23,000 ppm.

 

“Really we were quite shocked because that was off the charts from what we’ve seen before.  And it’s very close to a school and very close to a community garden,” said Mead-Lucero.

 

Lead exposure is especially damaging to pregnant women and young children. PERRO says the EPA knew about the contamination of the soil as early as 2006, but they only responded after PERRO began to pressure them. Read More

 

 

EPA Losing a Bundle on RRP Program

By Lauren Hunter, http://www.remodeling.hw.net

According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the EPA is losing money on its lead-based paint program. Based on the agency’s estimates since the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule went into effect in 2010, the total loss will amount to $16.4 million by 2014. Fiscal year 2010 actually turned a profit of $8.9 million, but costs are exceeding fee collections by $25.3 million for 2011 through 2014.

According to the report, three issues are contributing to the EPA’s unrecovered costs. The agency has not conducted recommended biennial cost reviews to ensure that fees are in line with costs, and the fee structure also does not take into account all the indirect costs needed to recover the cost of administering the lead-based paint program. More importantly, the agency notes that RRP firm participation is lower than projected. Read More

 

W.R. Grace & Co. To Pay $250 Million in Record Asbestos Settlement

3/12/2008 9:59:58 AM In the largest asbestos-related settlement on record, W.R. Grace & Co. (GRA) agreed Tuesday to reimburse the federal government $250 million. The money was used by the government in the town of Libby, Montana, where hundreds of people were sickened by asbestos, including some that died. The investigation and cleanup cost the taxpayers $168 million, with another $175 million likely.

The record payout is awaiting approval by a federal bankruptcy judge. The funding for the cleanup was originally taken from the government’s Superfund environmental cleanup program, and the $250 million from W.R. Grace & Co. will reimburse taxpayers….

Read the full story at RTT News: Global Financial Newswires