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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: CARB Decision to Increase Ethanol Demand; Omega Superfund Settlement; EPA to Remove Lead at Schools and Day Care Centers

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news

California Regulator’s Decision Will Increase Ethanol Demand. Trade Group Says 

A decision on Thursday by California regulators to lower corn-based ethanol’s so-called indirect land use penalty is good for ethanol demand, but timing of the change is not, the Renewable Fuels Association said Friday.

California is in the midst of refining its Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulations, which go into effect January 1, 2011. The LCFS takes into account indirect land use changes (ILUC) caused by fuels, something that penalized U.S. corn-based ethanol when compared to Brazil’s sugar-based production.

But in a resolution Thursday, the California Air Resources Board said it would take new Purdue University research into account for its ILUC values, something that will lower the penalty for corn-based ethanol “by at least half,” according to RFA.

The new ILUC changes will not be effective when the LCFS begins January 1. Instead they will be incorporated into the regulations “in the Spring of 2011 or as expeditiously as practical afterward,” said CARB in its resolution. That will “confuse and disrupt the market,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen in a statement Friday.

CARB could not be reached for comment.

Brazil’s sugar-based ethanol markers backed CARB’s decision, which will also alter their fuel’s ILUC value. “The Board’s decision…ensures that as the science evolves, so will the regulations,” said Joel Velasco, spokesman for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

CARB, in its resolution, said it continues to work with refiners and other stakeholders to “develop a screening process to assist regulated parties and other stakeholders in identifying high carbon-intensity crude oils.” It is also working with refiners and bio-fuels producers to complete an “evaluation for bio-diesel and renewable diesel.”

The U.S. ethanol industry has challenged the constitutionality of California’s LCFS and expressed concerns that the state will not be able to serve the needs of motorists without corn ethanol. “We hope to bring some sanity to that debate,” Dinneen told Domesticfuel.com. “We hope that California makes some changes to the program or there’s a train wreck waiting to occur there because consumers won’t have enough fuel for their vehicles.”

Growth Energy spokesperson Chris Thorne also commented for Domesticfuel.com on the action taken by CARB. “What the Expert Working Group and the CARB staff are showing us with these decisions is that there are grave doubts about the entire scheme of indirect land use change, which penalizes clean fuels in America for the pollution created by foreign producers,” Thome said. 


EPA Reaches $7 Million Settlement for Cleanup at the Omega Chemical Site in Whittier

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced a multi-million dollar settlement for soil cleanup work at the Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund site in Whittier, Calif. 

The settlement includes 169 parties–73 parties comprising the Omega Chemical Site PRP Organized Group–and 96 others paying cash. According to the consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, OPOG will perform the $5.6 million soil cleanup, pay all of EPA’s costs associated with overseeing the cleanup, and also reimburse EPA for $1.5 million in past response costs. 

Including prior settlements at the site, this brings the total value of commitments from responsible parties to perform cleanup activities to approximately $24 million, plus cash reimbursements to EPA of more than $14 million.

“Today’s settlement is an important step forward in the cleanup of the entire Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund site,” Jane Diamond, the EPA’s Superfund director for the Pacific Southwest region said in a prepared statement. “Soil cleanup is a critical step needed to protect nearby businesses and communities and prevent further contamination of groundwater in the area.”

Soil and groundwater at the Omega Site are contaminated with high concentrations of tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), other chlorinated hydrocarbons and Freons. PCE and TCE are solvents that have been widely used by industry as cleaning and degreasing agents. Freon is used as a refrigerant and as a pressurizer in spray can products.

EPA found that indoor air contamination in the vicinity of the former Omega Chemical Corporation facility stems from vapor intrusion caused by contaminated  soil. Contamination levels in several buildings have been documented at levels above the EPA’s health-protective range for long-term exposure to PCE and TCE. Under the terms of a November 2009 agreement, EPA worked with OPOG to undertake interim measures for reducing contaminant levels in indoor air, and the soil cleanup required by this consent decree should provide a permanent solution to the problem.

Between 1976 and 1991, the former Omega Chemical Corporation – located at 12504 and 12512 East Whittier Blvd. – was a recycling, reformulation and treatment facility that handled primarily volatile organic compounds, such as chlorinated solvents, and refrigerants.

The California Department of Toxic and Substances Control referred the Omega Site to the EPA in 1995. Approximately 3,000 drums of hazardous waste were removed from the location in 1995 and 1996, and in 1999 the EPA added the Omega Site to the Agency’s National Priorities List — a list that includes major hazardous sites across the nation.

Since the mid-1990s, EPA, OPOG and other parties have undertaken numerous investigations to determine how to clean up soil and groundwater at the site. In September 2005, EPA announced the selection of a cleanup action to contain highly contaminated groundwater in the immediate vicinity of the former Omega facility. That interim groundwater remedy was implemented, while investigations of soil and the extent of groundwater contamination continued. In August 2010, EPA issued a proposed plan for addressing a four-mile plume of groundwater contamination down gradient of the former Omega facility.

EPA to Remediate Lead-Contaminated Soil at Missouri Schools and Day Care Centers

EPA Region 7 on Friday announced plans to remove and replace soils at 11 schools and 16 child care centers and Head Start facilities in St. Francois County, Mo., because recent testing has confirmed elevated levels of toxic lead in the soil.

EPA ordered further soil testing at the county’s schools and child care facilities as the next phase of its project to remove and replace lead-contaminated soils at Central Middle School in Park Hills. The work at Central Middle School was part of EPA’s cleanup activity at the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Superfund Site, located in Missouri’s Old Lead Belt, where lead mining and milling has occurred for more than a century. The 110-square-mile site is composed of six large areas of mine waste, as well as surrounding residential and recreational areas.

“EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment carries a special obligation to take action against environmental threats to the health and development of young children,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said in a press release. “These removal actions will protect more than 5,300 of St. Francois County’s children from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposures to lead in places where they learn and play.”

Although the effects of lead poisoning are a potential concern for humans of all ages, children less than seven years old and pregnant women are especially at risk. Significant health risks associated with lead poisoning include brain damage, developmental delays, behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss and hyperactivity.

Young children are typically exposed to lead by playing in contaminated soils and then putting dirty fingers in their mouths, and by breathing contaminated dust. EPA said it will work in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) as well as school officials, child care center operators, and parents, to ensure children avoid playing in or near contaminated soils at the 27 facilities until the removal actions are completed. Frequent and thorough hand washing, and cleaning of outdoor toys and play equipment, is also advised. Taking these measures will allow the facilities to operate normally until EPA can remove the contaminated soils from areas where children are likely to be exposed.

EPA said it intends to begin the soil removal process as soon as possible, and will work cooperatively with school administrators and child care facility operators to minimize disruptions at their facilities as the work is completed. School vacation schedules and weather conditions may affect the pace of the work. Facilities and schools attended by children less than seven years old will be addressed first.

EPA estimates that the initial phase of removing contaminated soils from the 27 facilities will cost at least $6 million, not including additional costs for contaminated soil disposal and new soil replacement. EPA will pay for the initial costs of removal, but may seek to recover some or all of its total costs if one or more parties responsible for the contamination are properly identified.

The 11 schools designated for contaminated soil removal and clean backfill replacement include:

    • North County Parkside Elementary School, 100 North Parkside, Desloge
    • North County Intermediate School, 801 Elm Street, Desloge
    • North County Primary School, 405 Hillcrest Drive, Bonne Terre
    • North County Middle School, 406 East Chestnut, Desloge
    • North County Senior High School, 7151 Raider road, Bonne Terre
    • Unitec Career Center, 7163 Raider Road, Bonne Terre
    • West Elementary School, 403 W. Fite Street, Park Hills
    • Central Elementary School, 900 St. Francois Avenue, Park Hills
    • Central High School, 116 Rebel Drive, Park Hills
    • Special Acres State School, 519 Eighth Street, Park Hills
    • St. Joseph School, 20 Saint Joseph Street, Bonne Terre

The 16 child care centers and Head Starts designated for contaminated soil removal and clean backfill replacement include:

    • A To Z Learning Tree, 301 Hillcrest Street, Bonne Terre
    • Bonne Terre Head Start, 2 Savannah Drive, Bonne Terre
    • Lil Britches Day Care Preschool, 24 Rivermines Drive, Park Hills
    • Kidz Connection, 801 N. Desloge Drive, Desloge
    • Patches and Pigtails Child Care, 203 Yale Street, Bonne Terre
    • Grandma’s House Child Care Center, 204 N. Cantwell Lane, Desloge
    • Becky’s Daycare, 535 Cochrane Road, Park Hills
    • All Aboard Play and Learn Center, 703 E. Main Street, Park Hills
    • Tender Care Day Care Center, 611 Jefferson, Park Hills
    • Mid St. Francois County Head Start, 204 10th Street, Park Hills
    • Bright Beginnings Child Care Center,10 S. 6th Street, Park Hills
    • Start Daycare, 905 Tyler Street, Park Hills
    • Scribbles Play and Learn Center, 403 S. School Street, Desloge
    • North County Educational Center, 110 Pointview Drive, Bonne Terre
    • West County’s Happy Times Day Care, Bismarck
    • Children’s Zone LLC, 1109 N. Desloge Drive, Desloge

School administrators and child care facility operators have been informed of the testing results, EPA’s plans for soil removal and replacement, and a series of recommended interim health and safety precautions to protect children from harmful lead exposure while the removal work is proceeding at the facilities.

EPA will host a public meeting to share information and answer questions about the testing results, the soil removal and replacement plan, and health issues associated with lead exposure from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, November 29, at Mineral Area College, North College Center Rooms A and B, 5720 Flat River Road, in Park Hills.

Representatives from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) will be present at the meeting to offer free blood lead screenings. Representatives of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the St. Francois County Health Department will also attend.

Meeting Location:  Mineral Area College, North College Center Rooms A and B, 5720 Flat River Road, in Park Hills, Mo.

Date: Monday, November 29

Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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