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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: EPA Identifies Areas Violating Lead Standards; EPA Order CalTrans Storm Water Upgrade; Fox River Meeting

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news

EPA Identifies 16 Areas Violating Lead Standards

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that 16 areas across the country are not meeting the agency’s national air quality standards for lead. These areas, located in 11 states, were designated as “non-attainment” because their 2007 to 2009 air quality monitoring data showed that they did not meet the agency’s health-based standards. Exposure to lead may impair a child’s IQ, learning capabilities and behavior and cause additional health problems.

Areas designated today as not meeting the standard will need to develop and implement plans to reduce pollution to meet EPA’s lead standards. Non-attainment areas must meet the standards by Dec. 31, 2015. No areas in Indian Country have been designated as non-attainment.

EPA will designate the areas meeting or not meeting the standards in two rounds. In the first round announced yesterday, EPA is designating areas that do not meet the standards based on air quality monitoring data from the existing lead monitoring network. In October 2011, EPA will use data from new monitors to complete a second round of designations that will classify the remaining areas in attainment, unclassifiable or non-attainment.

In October 2008, EPA strengthened the nation’s air quality standards for lead tenfold to 0.15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air. The agency also finalized requirements for new monitors to be located near large sources of lead emissions. EPA has data from existing monitors indicating violations of the standards, and is currently collecting data from new monitors that began operation in January 2010.

Lead emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles. Ingestion is the primary route of human exposure. Children are the most susceptible because they are more likely to ingest lead and their bodies are developing rapidly. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.

National average concentrations of lead in the air have dropped almost 92 percent nationwide since 1980, largely resulting from the agency’s phase-out of lead in gasoline. Lead in the air comes from a variety of sources, including smelters, iron and steel foundries and general aviation gasoline.

EPA Orders CalTrans to Improve Storm Water Management

 The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to upgrade its statewide storm water management program, and exert stronger controls over storm water discharges from its road construction and maintenance sites.

This Clean Water Act enforcement action follows a series of EPA field audits of four Northern California CalTrans districts. Accompanied by State and Regional Water Board representatives, EPA inspected numerous CalTrans construction and maintenance sites, and found violations of the California-issued storm water permit designed to protect the State’s water resources from polluted storm water runoff.

“The protection of our waters is one of EPA’s major priorities, and limiting the damage done by storm water from construction sites is a key goal,” Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA Pacific Southwest said in a prepared release. “We urge CalTrans to join us in the fight for improved water quality by controlling its storm water runoff.”

CalTrans manages approximately 50,000 miles of California highway and freeway lanes across its 12 districts. Storm water runoff from CalTrans roads and facilities contain pollutants such as metals, sediment, oil, grease, pesticides and trash.  

“Our action compels CalTrans to strengthen its storm water program at all levels of the organization if it is to successfully protect California’s rivers and streams,” Alexis Strauss, Water Division Director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region said in a press release. “We will ensure full compliance with this enforcement action, and continue to evaluate CalTrans implementation statewide under the current and forthcoming storm water permit.”  

According to EPA, since 2001, Region 9 has conducted over 50 audits of municipal storm water programs, including state Departments of Transportation.

EPA audits found storm water discharges of metals, sediment, oil, grease, pesticides and trash from numerous Caltrans construction sites along 50,000 miles of California roadways.

In one inspection, EPA auditors visited a Caltrans site in San Leandro where waste picked up by street-sweepers and other trucks is stored before heading off the landfill, the Bay Citizen reports. What they found was “fugitive trash and other debris … had been strewn across the site,” according to the report. A Caltrans staffer reportedly protested, saying that once rainy season started “straw wattles would be placed around the waste stockpiles” following Caltrans guidelines.

But the EPA was unimpressed, writing that “road sweepings and debris contain fine pollutant particles and non-visible pollutants,” and that Caltrans’ own guidelines aren’t sufficient to protect the water. The agency found similar scenarios at construction sites and other maintenance yards as well.

CalTrans does not intend to fight the order.  “The audit findings present Caltrans with an opportunity to improve water quality throughout the state,” Matt Rocco, a spokesman for Caltrans, wrote in an e-mail to the Bay Citizen.

Public Meeting On Fox River Superfund Site Set For Thursday In Green Bay, Wis.

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, along with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Justice, will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 18, to provide information and answer questions about a recent legal agreement concerning the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund site. A consent decree with Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP was announced in October.

In the proposed settlement, Georgia-Pacific would agree that it is liable for cleanup work at the site and pay $7 million to reimburse a portion of the government’s unpaid past and future costs. The cleanup area is in the vicinity of Georgia-Pacific’s paper mill in Green Bay.

Georgia-Pacific is one of several companies EPA is holding responsible for contaminating the river with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A large amount of cleanup and natural resource restoration already has been done in the area under a set of partial legal settlements and an EPA administrative order. The government filed a lawsuit in October against a dozen Fox River polluters, including Georgia-Pacific, to seek more cleanup funding and payment for damage to natural resources.

The meeting will begin with a short presentation, followed by a question and answer session.

Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, Nov. 18
Place: Brown County Library Meeting Room, 515 Pine St., Green Bay, Wisconsin.

People who need special accommodations at the meeting should contact EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Susan Pastor, 800-621-8431, Ext. 31325, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, or email pastor.susan@epa.gov.

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