Environmental

Steps to Save Money and Protect your Health this Winter

Steps to Save Money and Protect your Health this Winter


On October 18, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency provided steps Americans can take to save money, reduce energy costs, and protect their health at the same time.  Some of the steps seem simple, but all of the steps can have dramatic effects.  


1. Maintain your Heating Equipment
Make sure to maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.  Schedule a cleaning by a licensed contractor, and make sure to regularly change your air filter to reduce allergens and dust.  


2. Use Energy Star Light Strings if Decorating
Christmas lights with an Energy Star rating use 65 percent less energy that regular lights and last 10 times longer.  


3. Program your Thermostat to Lower the Temperature
Lower the temperature in your home by 8 degrees while you sleep and while you’re at work.  The EPA states you can reduce your energy costs by 12 percent by simply programming your thermostat.  


4. Install new WaterSense Products
The average household spends about $500 every year on water and sewer utilities.  Installing water efficient fixtures around the home can save $170 a year on average.  


5. Replace that Old Wood Stove
New, more efficient wood stoves use a third less wood than older wood stoves and they let off about 70 percent less particle pollution within the home.  


6. Look for Cleaning Products with a DfE Logo
Cleaning products with a DfE logo are the safest cleaning products for people and the environment.  The EPA states that Americans reduced harmful chemicals by 756 million pounds in 2011 just by using DfE products.  


7. Test for Radon Gas
About 1 in 15 homes has high levels of radon which can cause lung cancer.  The levels of radon increase in the winter, so buy a test kit and test your home.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Organic Fertilizer Company Sold Synthetic Fertilizer

Organic Fertilizer Company Sold Synthetic Fertilizer


On November 8, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Peter Townsley was sentenced to 364 days in prison after he defrauded customers part of the organic farming industry.  He is also ordered to pay a fine of $125,000, serve six months of community confinement, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service in the organic production trade.  

Townsley was the president for California Liquid Fertilizer (CLF) in Salinas Valley.  He pleaded guilty to selling Biolizer XN fertilizer labeled for organic farming from April 2000 to December 2006 when the fertilizer actually contained chemicals prohibited in organic farming.  


The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 created national standards for the production and labeling of agricultural products.  Farmers can abide by the Act by checking ingredients on the label for fertilizer, and they also check to see if the product is Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved.  


Townsley was able to apply for OMRI approval for the fertilizer in the year of 1998 after he said the fertilizer was made with fish, fish by-products, water, and feathermeal.  He was soon approved, but he admitted that he changed the ingredients starting in April of 2000.  He added ammonium chloride and eventually ammonium sulfate to the fertilizer, and he failed to notify OMRI.  


Townsley was convicted under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341 on seven counts of mail fraud.


U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag stated, “His actions are particularly troubling given the fact that consumers rely on the representations of all participants in the process when they pay a premium price for certified organic products.  This prosecution demonstrates the commitment of federal and state authorities to hold those who choose to violate that trust accountable.”


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

LA Companies Pay $140,000 for Violating Clean Air Act

LA Companies Pay $140,000 for Violating Clean Air Act


On November 8, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that two companies in Los Angeles agreed to pay $140,000 combined after importing generators and vehicles into a Long Beach Port that failed to meet emission controls.  The two companies are All Power America, LLC and Maxtrade, LLC.  All Power in Chino, California has agreed to pay $60,000, and Maxtrade in South El Monte, California has agreed to pay $80,000.  


Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, stated: “Without the right emissions controls, gas-powered ATVs, motorcycles and generators can add harmful pollutants to the air we breathe.  These enforcement actions are part of an ongoing effort by EPA to ensure that all imported vehicles and equipment meet the federal standards.”


All Power imported about 80 generators in 2011 and planned to sell the generators throughout California.  None of the generators had catalytic converters.  From 2009 to 2012, Maxtrade imported about 2,481 off-road motorcycles and ATVs and planned to sell the vehicles in California.  All of the vehicles had improper carburetors and catalytic converters.  


The catalytic convertors are essential in trapping emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and other volatile organic compounds.  If vehicles do not have the convertors installed, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are released into the atmosphere and cause a large number of health problems like asthmas and chronic bronchitis.  


In addition to the fines, the two companies are required to export all of the illegal products out of the country.  All Power has operated in California since 2007, and Maxtrade has operated in the state since 2005.  All Power sells electrical equipment and specializes in generators.  Maxtrade sells vehicles like dirt bikes, ATVs, and go-karts.  


The investigation was led by the EPA.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Hyundai and Kia Ordered to Lower MPG Estimates

Hyundai and Kia Ordered to Lower MPG Estimates


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently announced that Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America are required to lower their fuel economy estimates for most 2012 and 2013 models.  The EPA is requiring the companies to lower the mpg estimates because there were discrepancies in the data.  


Most of the gas mileage is reduced by one to two mpg, but mileage for the Kia Soul is decreasing by six mpg.  The EPA has ordered the two companies to re-label cars on dealer lots with new window stickers containing the corrected estimates.  


Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, stated: “Consumers rely on the window sticker to help make informed choices about the cars they buy.  EPA’s investigation will help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field among automakers.”


The discrepancies in data were found after the National Vehicle and Fuel Emission Laboratory (NVFEL) proved the gas mileage was lower than marketed.  The laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is used by the EPA to test about 150 to 200 vehicles a year to make sure the data on mileage and emissions is correct.  The EPA indicates that the auditing makes sure tailpipe emission standards are met and public health is protected.  


Before noticing the discrepancies in the data, the EPA received several complaints about the mileage estimates for the Hyundai.  The testing at NVFEL proved the complaints were right in their assumptions.  The EPA reports that the investigation is continuing to expand into different Hyundai and Kia models.  


The mislabeling has occurred twice since 2000, and this case is the first time a large number of models and vehicles have deviated from the data so greatly.  The EPA and the Department of Transportation have corrected their estimates for Hyundai and Kia since the investigation.  


Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Pacific Islanders Facing Increasing Threats from Climate Change

Pacific Islanders Facing Increasing Threats from Climate Change

 

On November 30, 2012, a new report was released at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha that states island communities in the Pacific Ocean are facing extreme changes and dangers to their environment and economies because of climate change. 

The report, call the Pacific Environment and Climate Change Outlook projects that islands in the Pacific Ocean, especially low-lying islands, may faces losses of 18 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) because of climate change.  Rising sea levels, tropical storms, floods, droughts, and unsustainable fishing methods are affecting the lives of an estimated 10 million people. 

The following statistics were released in the report prepared by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

·  organic waste and chemical waste—especially from mining—have become extensive

·  60 percent of reptiles, 21 percent of mammal species, and 13 percent of birds are threatened in the region

·  leaks in water systems affect about 50 percent of the water supply

·  water conservation practices are not being adopted

·  the sustainable harvest of fish species is reaching limits

·  the catching of the four main tuna species has increased 1000 percent since 1960

·  plastics serve as the biggest environmental threat in the Pacific islands

The report claims that policymakers have done little to protect against environmental change in the area.  Additionally, increased mining activities and the transition to cash crops like palm oil instead of more environmentally-friendly crops have resulted in less biodiversity and land preservation. 

The report makes several recommendations to help the Pacific islands fight climate change:

·  island governments need to form multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) along with plans and strategies

·  governments need to implement agreements instead of just endorsing agreements to stop lower hazardous waste, invasive species, and other environmental damage

·  more awareness needs directed at the public to increase knowledge about the environment

The report covers the following Pacific Island Countries and Territories (including some US Territories): American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. 

Achim Steiner, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, states: “Enhancing local capacity to directly monitor, and manage, the impacts of the region's changing environment is essential for reducing climate risks, but also for unlocking the potential economic benefits that a transition to an inclusive, low-carbon and resource efficient green economy can bring.” 

Source: United Nations Environment Programme

Agreement Made with City of Jackson under Clean Water Act

Agreement Made with City of Jackson under Clean Water Act

 

On November 2012, the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) reached a Clean Water Act settlement with Jackson, Mississippi.  The city failed to meet requirements under the Clean Water Act because overflows of raw sewage and illegal treatment bypasses occurred at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).  The facility is the largest water treatment facility in Jackson.

Ignacia S. Moreno, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departments Environment and Natural Resources Division, stated: “The settlement will bring the city into compliance with the nation’s Clean Water Act, requiring significant upgrades to the existing sewer system.   Under the settlement, assistance will be provided to residents to repair sewer connections in lower-income areas that have suffered historically from overflows of untreated sewage.” 

The consent decree orders Jackson to assess all of its sewer systems and make necessary changes through a rehabilitation program.  Improvements to the sewer system will prevent overflows, and a performance evaluation will investigate bypasses of treatment by the WWTP on Savanna Street. 

In addition, the consent decree requires Jackson to develop maintenance programs for pump stations and other facilities, including a water quality monitoring program at WWTP. 

The United States has formed similar agreements with municipalities in recent years.  Similar agreements occurred in Mobile and Jefferson County in Birmingham (Alabama), Atlanta and Dekalb County in Georgia, Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville (Tennessee), Miami-Dade County in Florida, New Orleans in Louisiana, Hamilton County in Cincinnati (Ohio), and Northern Kentucky Sanitarian District #1 and Louisville MSD (Kentucky). 

Enforcement on municipal raw sewage and contaminated stormwater regulations has been a priority of the EPA from 2011 to 2013.  The enforcement has attempted to reduce the risk to the public and environment while encouraging the use of green infrastructure. 

In addition to the conditions under the settlement, the city of Jackson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $437,916.  The city has also agreed to begin an environmental project valued at $875,000.  The project will reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system by repairing bad private lateral sewer lines and illegal or outdated stormwater connections. 

Cynthia Giles, the Assistant Administrator with the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, states: “EPA is working with cities to protect the nation’s waters from raw sewage overflows that can have significant impacts on people’s health and the environment.  Today’s settlement will lead to improvements in the management of wastewater overflows, which will reduce water pollution and benefit the Jackson community for years to come.” 

Source: Department of Justice

 

DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%

DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%

 

According to Delaware’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), industrial facilities throughout the state have considerably fallen since 2010.  Since 1990, industrial facilities throughout the state have reduced on-site releases of chemicals by 91 percent. 

TRI is required for certain industrial facilities in Delaware and the rest of the United States.  Title III, Section 313, of the Federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA 313) was passed in 1986 and required industrial facilities to start informing the public about toxic chemicals used around the communities.  Title III of SARA 313 is also called the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

During 2011, companies had to report statistics on the use of 593 individual chemicals and 30 chemical categories.  Individual chemicals include toxic and persistent compounds like mercury and other less serious chemicals, and the chemical categories include chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and more. 

Manufacturing facilities, electric utilities run by oil and coal, and bulk petroleum companies are the most common companies required to submit a TRI.  Reporting is also necessary for companies with 10 or more employees, companies that manufacture or process over 25,000 pounds, or companies that use 10,000 pounds or more of toxic chemicals. 

The companies must report all chemicals that are released into the environment, managed on the site’s grounds, and managed off-site. 

In 2011, 63 different companies reported using 89 TRI-designated chemicals throughout Delaware.  About 3.9 million pounds of the TRI chemicals were released into the environment (2.4 million to the air, 1.2 million to the water, and 279,000 to the land).  Hydrochloric acid releases accounted for 66 percent of air releases, and the majority came from coal power plants. 

Total releases to the air decreased by 1.1 million pounds, or 31 percent.  Releases into the water actually increased by 630,000 pounds, and releases onto land increased by 68,000 pounds. 

Notable decreases in the release of hydrochloric acid were reported by NRG’s Indian River Power Plant and the Edge Moor/Hay Road Power Plant.

Carcinogen releases increased by 28,000 pounds (18 percent) in 2011, and the largest releases were reported by Formosa Plastics, River Power Plant, and the Delaware City Refinery. 

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara stated:  “Productivity is up and emissions are down.  We are demonstrating in Delaware that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy – and we are committed to improving the environmental quality further by working with all industrial facilities to reduce toxic chemical emissions.”

Source: Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

New York Waters Adopt Mandatory Lobster V-Notch Rules

New York Waters Adopt Mandatory Lobster V-Notch Rules

 

As of November 13, 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) now requires lobster permit holders in Lobster Conservation Management Area (LMA) 4 to perform V-notching of legal, egg-bearing female lobsters.  Also, permit holders fishing in more than one LMA must abide by the strictest V-notch rules listed in their fishing permit. 

The Notice of Adoption announced by the DEC adopted the emergency rules instituted on July 11, 2012. 

The changes to the American Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) were approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).  The changes, referred to as Addendum XVII, hope to lower the lobster harvest by as much as 10 percent in the southern part of New England, an area that experienced a huge decrease of the lobster population in recent years.  The new rules now apply from Cape Cod to Virginia in LMA 2, 4, and 5. 

A triangular V-notch cut is placed on the tail fin of a legal female lobster bearing eggs.  It takes several molts for the cut to disappear, and the cuts help fisherman identify the lobsters.  It is illegal to take a V-notched lobster, and the female lobster is protected from harvesting for two whole years. 

Subsection (a) of §44.7 under the Environmental Conservation Law requires the V-notching in LMA 4 and states the following: “V-notches must be to the right of the center flipper as viewed from the rear of the female lobster when the underside of the lobster is down.  The V-notch should be made by means of a sharp bladed instrument, at least one quarter inch in depth and not greater than one half inch in depth and tapering to a sharp point.”

Subsection (b) of the same section requires fisherman to abide by specific V-notching rules in their LMA or the most restrictive rules if they have permits in more than one LMA.  The subsection goes on to state the following: “Any permitee who fails to designate an LMA on their application shall abide by the most restrictive of the LMAs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and Outer Cape Cod (OCC) V-notching rules.  The department shall provide license holders written notice of the current V-notching rules of LMAs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and OCC annually.”

Subsection (c) prohibits the possession or landing of V-notched female lobsters and applies to everyone except the final purchaser or consumer. 

Refer to §44.1 through §44.7 for all requirements on lobsters in New York LMAs. 

Source: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

PCBs Contribute to Significant Pregnancy Delays

PCBs Contribute to Significant Pregnancy Delays


On November 14, 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported findings in a recent study that found high levels of PCBs can delay pregnancy for couples compared to couples with low amounts of the chemicals in their blood.


PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are mainly used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment, but they have other purposes as well.  They classify as persistent organochlorine pollutants, which is a group of chemicals including other industrial chemicals and some pesticides.  The NIH reports that chemicals resist decaying and can remain in the soil, water, and the food chain for decades.  


The health effects of PCBs have long been recorded, but few studies have examined how the chemicals affect the chance of pregnancy.  


During the study, called the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE), 501 couples from Michigan and Texas were examined between 2005 and 2009.  The women were between 18 and 44, and all of the men were over the age of 18.  Blood samples were taken and examined for PCBs and PFCs, or perfluorochemicals.  The women were also required to keep journal entries of their menstrual cycle and results from home pregnancy tests, and the couples were followed as they tried for pregnancy up to a year.  


The study showed that the odds of pregnancy were reduced by 18 to 21 percent if females were exposed to significant levels of perfluorooctane sulfonamide and/or PCB congeners 118, 167, or 209.  Odds of pregnancy were reduced by 17 to 29 percent if males were exposed to DDE (created when DDT degrades in the environment) and/or PCB congeners 138, 156, 167, 170, 172, and 209.  


Other chemicals were not ruled out during the study, and the NIH admits that a combination of chemicals could lead to significant pregnancy delays.  Previous research by the LIFE study found that high levels of lead and cadmium in the blood can significantly delay pregnancy as well.  


Source: National Institutes of Health

Awards Aim to Reduce Pollution to Pacific Ocean

Awards Aim to Reduce Pollution to Pacific Ocean

 

On October 10, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that $214,000 in grants is being provided to the Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in order to reduce the amount of debris entering the oceans.  
 
The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. is receiving $164,245 in order to begin a study on how to reduce disposable plastic packaging.  The study will occur on three California coastal universities.  The hope is to use the results to develop a model for other universities and fast-food corporations.  
 
The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. is working to reduce single-use plastic bottles by 40 percent and polystyrene take-out containers often used by fast-food restaurants, dining halls, and student centers by 80 percent.  
 
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is receiving a $50,000 grant to train 100 teachers and 7,500 students to then lead local community projects that reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean.  The grant will train K-12 teachers and teach the students about the causes and effects of plastic in the ocean.  The community action projects will then address coastal watersheds.  
 
The two projects are targeting plastics that enter waterways in parts of California that eventually gather or disintegrate and pose direct hazards to fish and other wildlife.  The EPA points to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as an example of what plastic pollution can do.  
 
The patch is two huge areas of floating plastic in the North Pacific.  The patches are made up of various forms of litter and debris like old fish nets and various plastic components.  The majority of plastic is in the form of tiny segments that has been broken down through a process called photodegradation.  
 
Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, states: “Reducing waste at the source, rather than just cleaning it up, is the key to protecting our coastal waters.  These two projects are big steps forward to reducing the amount of trash that ends up in our rivers, oceans, and estuaries.” 
 
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency