Blog

21 Apr
EPA Strategic Plan
EPA’s Strategic Plan for the Future

On March 28, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration submitted to Congress the President’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2023 to support the Administration’s agenda to “build a better America, reduce the deficit, reduce costs for families, and grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out.”

Included in this budget is a historic investment of $11.881 billion to advance key priorities in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan, including targeted objectives and outcomes in the areas of climate change; environmental justice; compliance enforcement; clean land, air, and water; and chemical safety.

Unprecedented Commitments

Every four years, EPA issues a Strategic Plan that communicates the Agency’s vision, priorities, and strategies for accomplishing its mission to protect human health and the environment. Since William Ruckelshaus served as the first Administrator of the EPA from 1970 to 1973, the Strategic Plan has been built on three foundational principles: follow the science, follow the law, be transparent.

The FY 2022-2026 Plan renews EPA’s commitment to these principles and adds a fourth to support Biden’s Justice40 initiative: advance justice and equity. Current EPA Administrator Michael Regan describes the EPA Strategic Plan as “bold and unprecedented in its commitment to advancing environmental justice and civil rights and tackling climate change.”

Roadmap to Protecting Human Health and the Environment

In the new Strategic Plan, EPA has established a roadmap to address climate change and environmental justice, in addition to its five programmatic areas of enforcement and compliance, air quality, water quality, land revitalization, and chemical safety. The Plan outlines the following seven long-term performance goals (LTPGs) and related objectives and quantifiable outcome to achieve by 2026.

Goal 1: Tackle the Climate Crisis

EPA is focused on further reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promulgating rules to reduce pollution from the power sector, setting vehicle emission standards, and partnering with the public and private sectors communities (especially those underserved and disproportionally at risk) to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

In addition, there is $100 million in grants to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency in the nation’s infrastructure and $35 million to implement the American Innovation in Manufacturing Act to continue phasing out GHGs.

Goal 2: Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights

Environmental justice and civil rights will be embedded into EPA’s programs, policies, and activities to reduce disparities in environmental and public health conditions. This includes:

  • Ensuring 80% of significant EPA actions with environmental justice implications clearly demonstrate how the action responds to environmental justice concerns.
  • Identifying and implementing opportunities to integrate environmental justice and achieve civil rights compliance into planning, guidance, policy directives, monitoring, and review activities.
  • Supporting Justice40 commitment to ensure at least 40% of the benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy reach overburdened and underserved communities.
  • Requiring all state recipients of EPA financial assistance to have foundational civil rights programs in place.
  • Strengthening civil rights enforcement in communities with environmental justice concerns through civil rights and compliance reviews, audits, and community outreach.
  • Proposing a new national environmental justice program office to coordinate and maximize the benefits of the Agency’s programs and activities.

Goal 3: Enforce Environmental Laws and Ensure Compliance

EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable. Significant investments are being made to enforce and assure compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts.

The Agency also has plans to improve inspections by sending 75% of EPA inspection reports to facilities within 70 days of inspection and conducting 55% of annual EPA inspections at facilities that affect communities with potential environmental justice concerns.

Goal 4: Ensure Clean and Healthy Air for All Communities

EPA has budgeted $1.1 billion to improve air quality and reduce localized pollution, reduce exposure to radiation, and improve indoor air for communities across the country. This plan includes reducing ozone season emissions of nitrogen oxides, improving measured air quality in counties not meeting the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), reducing U.S. consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and preventing 2,250 lung cancer deaths annually through lower radon exposure.

Goal 5: Ensure Clean and Safe Water for All Communities

Approximately $4 billion is dedicated to upgrading the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on underserved communities. This includes reducing the number of community water systems still in noncompliance with health-based standards; leveraging EPA’s water infrastructure finance programs (CWSRF, DWSRF, WIFIA); providing Tribal, small, rural, or underserved communities with technical, managerial, or financial assistance to improve their drinking water or wastewater systems; and protecting and restoring waterbodies and watersheds. There are 20 new targeted water grant programs available to support EPA’s goal to ensure safe drinking water and reliable water infrastructure.

Goal 6: Safeguard and Revitalize Communities

Protecting communities from hazardous waste and environmental damage that can harm communities and that poses a risk to public health and safety continues to be a top priority. $1.15 billion is being allocated to EPA’s Superfund programs and $215 million for Brownfields programs to clean up and restore land to productive use, including:

  • Bringing human exposures under control at an additional 60 Superfund sites.
  • Completing 225 Superfund cleanup projects that address lead as a contaminant.
  • Cleaning up an additional 650 brownfields properties.
  • Making an additional 425 RCRA corrective action cleanups Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use (SWRAU).
  • Conducting an additional 35,000 cleanups at leaking underground storage tank (UST) facilities.
  • Increasing the percentage of updated permits at RCRA facilities to 80%.
  • Ensuring that 40% of annual emergency response and removal exercises that EPA conducts or participates in incorporate environmental justice.

Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment

There is a large focus on strengthening EPA’s commitment and ability to successfully implement the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). $124 million and 449 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff for TSCA efforts will support EPA-initiated chemical risk evaluations and regulations. This includes completing at least eight High Priority Substance TSCA risk evaluations annually and initiating TSCA risk management actions within 45 days of completing the evaluation.

In addition, EPA has set aside $126 million to increase its understanding of human health and ecological effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution, restrict its uses, and remediate PFAS that have been released.

Short-Term Focus

For the short-term, EPA has also identified three FY 2022-2023 Agency Priority Goals (APGs), which are intended to “jumpstart actions and showcase progress toward Administrator Regan’s priorities related to climate change, environmental justice, and civil rights” by September 30, 2023:

  1. Phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 10% to be consistent with the schedule in the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. This would decrease the U.S. consumption limit to less than 273.5 MMTCO2e in 2023.
  2. Deliver tools, guidance, metrics/indicators, and training for EPA and its Tribal, state, local, and community partners to advance environmental justice and external civil rights compliance.
  3. Clean up contaminated sites and invest in water infrastructure to enhance the livability and economic vitality of at least ten overburdened and underserved communities.

Set Your Goals

With EPA focused on more regulations, more enforcement, and improved climate change and environmental justice, environmental management needs to play an integral role in company strategy. Companies must take the time to be informed—particularly in the strategic areas described above—be prepared, and be proactive. Establish companywide priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to ensure programs and systems are in place to achieve regulatory compliance and align with EPA’s Strategic Plan.

If you would like help evaluating your current risk level and assessing your priorities, please contact KTL. 

19 Apr
earth day 2022
Earth Day 2022: Invest in Our Planet

Every year on April 22, Earth Day celebrates the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The very first Earth Day—spearheaded by Senator Gaylord Nelson—led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of new environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. 

In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and bringing environmental issues to the forefront around the world. Today, Earth Day is recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, observed by more than a billion people—in classrooms, businesses, communities, governments across the world—as a day of action to protect our planet.

“A green future is a prosperous future.” ~ EARTHDAY.ORG

This year’s theme, “Invest in Our Planet,” focuses largely on sustainability and the growing climate crisis. According to EARTHDAY.ORG, “Smart companies are discovering that it is no longer a choice between going green and growing long-term profits — sustainability is the path to prosperity. […] it is imperative that companies of all sizes take action and embrace the benefits of a green economy.” 

When businesses grow, they tend to follow a trajectory when it comes to environmental management and sustainability.

Leaders take the steps required to go beyond compliance and best practices to make commitments that embrace sustainability as a way of doing business—whether through efforts involving GHG reductions, beneficial reuse of products, recycling, sustainable materials management, land revitalization, sustainable food management, and more.

What You Can Do

For businesses, think about how you can transition into an environmental leader. KTL helps organizations every day to analyze processes and identify options for incorporating sustainable practices into daily operations—options that will not only work to protect the environment but also enhance reputation and protect the bottom line.

For individuals, Earthday.org shares 52 actions and tips to make a difference every day of the year.

09 Mar
EPA Inspection
4 Quick Tips as EPA Inspections Continue

For the past several months, KTL has been talking about the significant uptick in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) information surveys and multimedia inspections at regulated facilities—on our website, during webinars, at various conferences. Earlier this month, our team was called in to provide on-the-ground support to another manufacturer undergoing a comprehensive, unannounced multimedia inspection.

On the heels of this surprise inspection, one KTL Senior Consultant reiterates, “I can tell you firsthand based on this and other similar inspections over the past few months that inspectors are being very thorough and that the threat of financial penalty is substantial—particularly if your facility is not prepared.”  

Take Action Now

KTL has been able to have some candid conversations with the EPA inspectors, and we know they plan to continue these unannounced inspections. EPA will be back in force this spring, and they have targets. It is in your best interest to make sure your facility is ready should an inspector show up on your doorstep.  

Based on recent conversations and observations, KTL recommends taking at least the following four actions to prepare your facility: 

  1. Verify your hazardous waste generator status in EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database and, if you are a small quantity generator (SQG), make sure that you have updated your EPA notification. All SQGs are required to update notification to EPA once every four years beginning September 2021. If you have not done this using the Form 8700-12, you are out of compliance and a likely target for an EPA inspection.
  2. Check the EPA EnviroFacts database to make sure you have identified emergency contacts for your facility and that the contacts are current. Inspectors are asking to see Emergency Response Plans and are particularly focused on correct contact information, clear conveyance of risk, and understanding of roles and responsibilities (i.e., training).
  3. Make sure you are appropriately managing your universal waste and hazardous waste. Have you completed a waste characterization for all hazardous waste streams and for solid waste streams that may appear to be hazardous? Are your containers closed, labeled with the nature of the hazard (see 40 CFR 262.16(b)(6)(i)(B), and dated? Are you appropriately managing and labeling any satellite accumulation areas (SAA) and container accumulation areas (CAA)? 
  4. Establish a quick response internal inspection team that can evaluate all areas of risk in your facility to ensure you are in compliance at the time of inspection. Plan to check containers for proper labeling; ensure universal waste containers are closed and labeled properly; and verify that all hazardous waste, universal waste, and used oil management documentation is readily accessible. The inspector will ask to see your documentation. 

KTL strongly encourages you to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about a potential EPA inspection. Our team has been through enough of these inspections with various clients recently to have a good handle on what to expect and what should be done to avoid financial penalty.  

08 Feb
MHEC EPA Inspection Presentation
KTL Presentation on EPA Inspections Featured at Loss Control Workshop

KTL is excited to be joining the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC) as a featured presenter at the 24th Annual Loss Control Workshop live and in-person in St. Louis, Missouri. This workshop is open to all interested institutional representatives participating in MHEC’s Master Property Program.

KTL’s presention is part of the workshop’s technical agenda:

EPA Is Coming: Is Your Facility Prepared for an Inspection?
Thursday, March 3, 2022
3:30-4:30 pm CT

In recent months, regulated facilities have experienced an uptick in U.S. EPA information surveys and multimedia inspections. KTL’s Liz Hillgren, CHMM, CEA, will present guidance on steps you can take to prepare for inspections and minmize your risk of compliance findings and enforcment actions.

07 Jan
EHS Trends 2022
EHS: Top Trends to Watch in 2022

As we’ve seen businesses manage their way through the pandemic over the past two years and a new Administration take hold in office, a number of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) trends are rising to the surface. Some of these may sound familiar, as certain challenges and opportunities in EHS remain ongoing. Some are just gaining traction as we move into the new year.

Here are the top EHS trends KTL’s EHS professionals are keeping watch on in 2022—and some advice on what you can do to prepare…

OSHA Enforcement: Happy 50th Birthday OSHA!

The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) introduced the first amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act in nearly 20 years. This would include increased funding to make significant improvements in workplace safety protection for American workers, as well as significant increases in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) maximum penalties. While the future of the BBBA is uncertain, it provides a good picture of where OSHA is headed by enacting high enough penalties to significantly impact businesses that violate the law and injure or kill workers. While OSHA doesn’t have the resources to audit or fine everyone, the agency will likely make an example of a few major violators to deter others from non-compliance.

To prepare: Make sure you have the processes, programs, and systems in place—and documented—to ensure you are always protecting employees’ safety and health and meeting OSH Act requirements.

EPA Inspections and Enforcement: Focus on Ammonia Refrigeration

With the new Administration, 2021 brought a significant uptick in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multi-media inspections, enforcement actions, and large penalties for violations, particularly related to anhydrous ammonia storage, risk management, and chemical accident prevention planning. Many of these violations have been uncovered as part of a National Compliance Initiative (NCI), which is working to enforce the regulatory aspects of the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Chemical Accident Prevention Program, including Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulations (40 CFR Part 68), General Duty Clause (GDC) (CAA Section 112(r)), Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) (CAA Section 312), Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations (29 CFR 1910.119).

To prepare: If your facility uses anhydrous ammonia and you have not conducted a hazard analysis, you are at significant risk of incurring enforcement actions of fines. It is important you invest the time and resources required to:

  • Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility.
  • Assess the impacts of a potential release.
  • Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases.
  • Coordinate with local emergency responders.
  • Minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

PFAS/PFOA Contamination

Because of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances’ (PFAS) persistence in the environment and widespread use in firefighting foams and products that resist grease, water, and oil, PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue—and concern is mounting over its impacts and how to regulate these chemicals going forward. On October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced EPA’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to tackle PFAS contamination through increasing investments in research, leveraging authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released, and accelerating cleanup of PFAS contamination. More and more facilities are going to be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action.

To prepare: Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.

Resource Constraints and Compliance Efficiency Tools

There are a few trends we see time and again, which generally can be tied back to many EHS “departments” (which often consist of just one person) lacking the resources—financial and personnel—to manage the sheer number of EHS requirements they are required to comply with. Frequently, companies may not understand or have the resources to manage everything that needs to be in place to satisfy compliance requirements. This is an area where EHS compliance efficiency and tracking tools are becoming essential to allow companies to do more with fewer resources.

To prepare: A compliance management system (CMS) brings information technology (IT) and management systems together to coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information in such a way that helps organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A CMS can help provide operational flexibility, generate business improvement, and prepare organizations to address these and other EHS compliance challenges that will continue to surface. 

Hazardous Waste Incineration Backlog

The changing hazardous waste market continues to create a fair amount of uncertainty regarding whether hazardous waste management capacity can actually meet demand. Many Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) and Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) are still experiencing a hazardous waste incineration slowdown, and most of the permitted transport, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) are backlogged. EPA predicts that this backlog may not fully resolve until the end of the first quarter of 2022. EPA has offered multiple existing regulatory options for various regulated entities that generate and manage hazardous waste as temporary solutions to address the backlog.

To prepare: If you are in the situation where you are coming up against your time limits, contact your EPA Regional Administrator and ask for guidance on how to manage the situation. Keep very careful and accurate records of all hazardous waste information to demonstrate appropriate management.

Environmental Justice and Citizen Science

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14008 – Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, amending EO 12898, which directed federal agencies to develop environmental justice (EJ) strategies to help federal agencies address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs on minority and low-income populations. EO 14008 further directs Federal agency actions to support making EJ part of its mission by identifying and addressing the effects of all programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. As part of EPA’s EJ efforts, the Agency is charting a new pathway for the use of citizen science. Citizen science engages the public in identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, and developing technologies and applications to resolve environmental problems. Citizen science provides a resource in times of restricted budgets and to address dispersed or hyperlocal environmental issues.

To prepare: Equipment loan programs are available for anyone who would like to participate. KTL is aware of clients receiving money from the state to make equipment updates. In addition there are a number of EJ grants, funding, and other technical assistance available.    

Sustainability

As developing nations continue to industrialize and increase their material consumption, resource demands and pressures on our supply chains will only increase. The Biden Administration has committed to a net zero economy by 2050, and the number of net zero commitments from local governments and businesses continues to grow and push further down the supply chain. There are more incentives for businesses to find clean/renewable energy solutions and to manage waste more sustainably. As one example, Sustainable Material Management (SMM) considers the entire of a product and/or process to help create a circular economy.

To prepare: Consider the following sustainability activities as part of your company’s business strategy:

  • Conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to identify and quantify the inputs and outputs in a process and use data to assess the potential environmental impacts across the lifecycle.
  • Check with your local utility to have an energy audit completed of your facilities.
  • Get input from employees on what initiatives are important to them by enacting a sustainability committee or adding sustainability to your EHS agenda.

Set Your Goals for 2022

With these trends toward more regulations, more enforcement, and more focus on sustainability, EHS management needs to play a more integral role in company strategy. Companies must take the time to be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish company-wide EHS priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to ensure the required programs and systems are in place for 2022 and beyond.

If you would like help evaluating your current EHS risk level and assessing your priorities for 2022, please contact KTL. 

01 Dec
bioforward member blog
BioForward Member Blog: KTL Building Scalable Systems to Help Businesses

BioForward Wisconsin closely follows news stories about its members and invites them to contribute blogs and profiles to inform and advance the Wisconsin biohealth community. Read the recent BioForward Wisconsin member blog on KTL’s scalable systems for helping companies manage compliance business processes more efficiently and effectively.

26 Oct
PFAS
Paying Attention to PFAS

There are currently more than 4,700 known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—more commonly known as PFAS—and these numbers are growing as industry continues to invent new PFAS chemicals.

Because of their persistence in the environment, persistent nature, and widespread use in firefighting foams and products that resist grease, water, and oil, PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. In fact, a 2011-2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans tested.

As of August 2021, 2,854 locations in 50 states and two territories are known to be contaminated with PFAS (Environmental Working Group (EWG)). Because of the sheer magnitude of chemicals that fall into this category and its persistence in the environment, PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue to regulate and manage—one that no single agency will be able to address alone. And one that industry must pay attention to, because it is not going away.  

Preparing for the Perfect PFAS Storm

All the various impact studies, regulatory actions, and legislative efforts are coming together to form a perfect PFAS storm, and industry must be ready to respond. Consider the following questions and best management practices (BMPs):

  • Have you considered the risk(s) of introducing PFAS to your site—or do you know what PFAS you currently have on your site (either in current use or due to historical contamination)?
  • Do you have an environmental management system (EMS) to help identify, manage, and prevent the risks associated with PFAS? Is PFAS included as part of your aspects and impacts analysis?
  • Do you have the appropriate operational controls and training in place to prevent or minimize a fire at your facility?
  • Do you have an Emergency Response Plan?
    • Have you contacted your local emergency responders to discuss the potential for using PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) at your facility in the event of a fire?
    • Do you have an emergency response checklist? Does it include inquiring about the foam being used to fight a fire?
    • Have you evaluated when and how to use PFAS-containing foams considering likely fire hazards; properties of the foam; nature of the emergency; risks to life, public safety, and property; and potential environmental, public health, and financial liabilities?
    • Do you conduct any emergency response testing that includes the use of AFFF?
    • Do you have controls in place (e.g., floor drain covers) and adequate supplies to keep foam runoff from leaving your site in the event of a fire?

PFAS Primer

PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil/water
  • Commercial household products (e.g., stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products)
  • Firefighting foams (i.e., aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF))
  • Industries such as chrome plating, electronics manufacturing, oil recovery, automotive
  • Drinking water, typically associated with a manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), firefighter training facility, etc.

PFAS are made of chains of carbon and fluorine linked together. This carbon-fluorine bond is one of the shortest and strongest bonds in nature. It does not easily break down under natural conditions—hence the reason PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals”. Correspondingly, PFAS are very persistent in the environment and the human body, where they bioaccumulate in blood and organs over time.

Scientific studies have begun to show that exposure to some PFAS may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals, including developmental delays, reproductive health issues, neuroendocrine issues affecting the kidneys and liver, cancer, thyroid imbalances, and cardiovascular concerns.

Most PFAS exposure comes through ingesting food and water that becomes contaminated with PFAS when it migrates into soil, water, and air during use and/or disposal. Disposal of PFAS-containing items into municipal solid waste landfills can be a significant source of PFAS transport and contamination since PFAS can migrate into the leachate collection system. Since wastewater treatment does not remove PFAS, the subsequent use of wastewater biosolids as fertilizer, etc. may further distribute PFAS into the soil, surface water, and groundwater.

Focus on Firefighting Foam

Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is highly effective foam for fighting high-hazard flammable liquid fires that has garnered a lot of attention for its role in contributing to PFAS contamination. AFFF are Class B commercial firefighting foams historically produced with PFOS or polyfluorinated precursors that break down to PFOA—the two most extensively produced and studied PFAS chemicals. Long-chain PFAS like PFOS and PFOA are of particular concern because they are recognized as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT).

When used, AFFF has the potential to create adverse environmental impacts, particularly if the foam is uncontrolled and reaches drinking water sources, groundwater, or surface waters. Many states and companies have been forced to deal with the aftermath of PFAS used to extinguish fires. State legislatures are considering not only how to remediate the chemicals found on these sites, but also who is responsible for the associated cleanup.

Regulatory Actions

Federal regulatory action related to the management of PFAS contamination thus far has been limited. However, on October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced EPA’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to tackle PFAS contamination. According to the EPA press release, the Roadmap is centered on three guiding strategies:

  1. Increase investments in research.
  2. Leverage authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment.
  3. Accelerate cleanup of PFAS contamination.

Strategies are intended to advance more concrete actions that will address the entire lifecycle of PFAS chemicals. Per EPA, this specifically includes:

  • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
  • A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
  • Timelines for action on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for nine industrial categories.
  • A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Increased monitoring, data collection, and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
  • A final toxicity assessment for GenX, which can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
  • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  

Along with the Roadmap, EPA has also announced a new testing strategy requiring PFAS manufacturers to provide EPA with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals.

Congress has also been working to develop legislation in absence of federal regulations, with more than 80 pieces of legislation introduced within the 116th Congress. The fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations bill included nearly $300 million to address the regulation and cleanup of PFAS split among several federal agencies, including Department of Defense (DOD) – remediation efforts; EPA – scientific, regulatory, and cleanup work; and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – safety of PFAS in food packaging.

In addition, states are taking their own measures. In 2020, state legislatures considered over 180 bills related to PFAS, many of which have focused on efforts such as restricting PFAS in firefighting foam and consumer products, regulating PFAS in drinking water, and appropriating funds for remediation activities. For more information on state actions, visit:

Seeking Assistance

KTL does not see the challenges associated with PFAS going away any time soon. If anything, we anticipate more and more facilities will be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive EMS, and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.

If you are facing challenges related to PFAS or would just like a fresh set of eyes to evaluate your current environmental risk level, please contact KTL. Our staff has hands-on experience assessing environmental risks and developing strategies to minimize them to the extent possible. Our team writes Emergency Response Plans and routinely works with LEPCs to coordinate emergency response efforts and exercises to keep communities informed and safe. In addition, we have a strong network of partners that can assist with testing and remediation strategies, when necessary.

Read the entire October 18, 2021 EPA press release: EPA Administrator Regan Announces Comprehensive National Strategy to Confront PFAS Contamination.

27 Sep
MECC KTL
MECC 2021: KTL Presentation on EPA Inspections

KTL will once again be sponsoring the Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC) held by live streaming video October 26-27. MECC takes a fresh, regional approach to the increasingly difficult task of environmental compliance, permitting, enforcement, and other critical environmental issues that impact Midwest facilities and institutions. KTL will a featured presenter as part of the technical agenda:

Preparing for U.S. EPA Inspections in Region 7
Tuesday, October 26
2:00 pm – 2:40 pm CT

In recent months, regulated facilities have experienced an uptick in U.S. EPA information surveys and multimedia inspections. KTL’s Becky Andersen will present guidance on steps you can take to prepare for inspections and minmize your risk of compliance findings and enforcment actions.

01 Sep
Lithium-ion batteries
Preventing Lithium-ion Battery Fires

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are powerful, relatively inexpensive, and lightweight energy sources that are used to power a vast assortment of electronics and portable tools. Given this, it is not surprising that the number of LIBs in circulation is continuing to increase at a near exponential rate with technology advances. Subsequently, the number of fires caused by LIBs in the waste management process is also on the rise.

The Risks of LIBs

Many in industry know firsthand the risks associated with LIBs in waste/recycling. LIBs have high energy density and are made from materials that make them more prone to combustion or explosion when they are damaged. This is attributed to “thermal runaway”, a reaction in which the battery unexpectedly releases its energy and begins self-heating. This reaction can produce enough heat to ignite materials near the battery, even if the battery itself does not ignite.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is really taking notice. In a recent report, An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling, EPA provides an evaluation of areas of risk associated with LIBs, as well as some excellent data and case studies of events that have occurred. The report discusses that physical damage to the LIB is one of the most common causes of thermal reaction and that much damage can occur at many different steps of the waste management system.

This information serves as a good reminder of just how risky and prevalent these batteries are—and how important it is to manage them appropriately. 

Mitigating Risk

While the EPA information is very good, the report doesn’t offer suggestions in how to improve operations and mitigate this type of risk—and it can be a very challenging risk to try to address.

KTL has staff with strong backgrounds working in recycling facility operations with hands-on experience developing strategies to minimize this risk. Solutions may be as simple as identifying and using special storage containers in designated areas, to as comprehensive as conducting onsite process evaluations to determine the best ways to segregate batteries and safely transfer them for further processing. 

KTL does not see this problem with LIB management going away any time soon—nor does EPA. We continue to explore alternatives and work with companies to mitigate risk to the extent possible. Please contact us if you are facing challenges with LIB recycling and management or would just like a fresh set of eyes to evaluate your current risk level. We can work together to make your company operations safer.

23 Aug
EPA Enforcement: Ammonia Refrigeration

Over the past several months, we have seen an uptick in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement actions and large penalties for violations related to anhydrous ammonia storage, risk management, and chemical accident prevention planning. These include the following recent penalties:

Many of these violations have been uncovered as part of a National Compliance Initiative (NCI), which focuses on reducing risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases at facilities. According to EPA, there are approximately 150 catastrophic accidents each year at facilities that make, use, or store extremely hazardous substances (EHS). With ammonia refrigeration making up approximately 40% of the facilities with EHS regulated under the EPA’s Risk Management Program, these facilities have become a clear target for EPA.

Chemical Accident Prevention Program

Anhydrous ammonia is classified as an EHS that presents a significant health hazard if accidentally released. Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs. Exposure to 300 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health. It is also flammable at concentrations of about 15-28% by volume in air.

To help refrigeration facilities comply with Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements and prevent accidents that could result in these significant hazards, EPA’s NCI is working to enforce the following regulatory aspects of the CAA’s Chemical Accident Prevention Program:

  • Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulations (40 CFR Part 68)
  • General Duty Clause (GDC) (CAA Section 112(r))
  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) (CAA Section 312)
  • Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations (29 CFR 1910.119)

Risk Management Plan (RMP)

EPA’s RMP regulations require facilities that have more than a threshold quantity of certain regulated chemicals in a process (e.g., use or storage) to develop a Risk Management Program. CAA designates anhydrous ammonia as a regulated substance under RMP with a threshold quantity of 10,000 lbs.

Recent cases have demonstrated that refrigeration facilities may not be fully implementing RMPs, despite requirements. Facilities subject to RMP must:

  • Analyze the worst-case release scenario to determine the potential effects of a release.
  • Implement a prevention program that includes safety precautions, as well as maintenance, monitoring, and employee training.
  • Complete a five-year accident history.
  • Coordinate response actions with the local emergency response agencies through an Emergency Response Program.
  • Submit to EPA a written RMP that summarizes the Risk Management Program.

General Duty Clause (GDC)

The GDC requires that owners and operators of facilities with regulated substances and other EHS in any quantity ensure those chemicals are managed safely. Unlike RMP, GDC applies to many chemicals and applies facility-wide, regardless of the amount of chemical stored. Facilities are responsible for:

  • Identifying the hazards posed by chemicals and assessing impacts of possible releases.
  • Designing and maintaining a safe facility to prevent accidental release.
  • Minimizing the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

The EPA NCI focuses specifically on the “identifying hazards” component of GDC, particularly at ammonia refrigeration facilities using 1,000 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia (i.e., those that fall below the RMP threshold).

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA)

Section 312 of EPCRA requires facilities to report the presence of certain chemicals, including anhydrous ammonia, to Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and response agencies. The purpose is to ensure emergency responders know what chemicals are onsite should they need to respond to an incident.

Any facility that is required to maintain Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for hazardous chemicals stored or used onsite must submit an annual Tier II inventory report for those chemicals. Tier II forms require basic facility identification information, employee contact information (emergency and non-emergency), information about chemicals stored/used at the facility, and additional data elements that would be useful to LEPCs and first responders.

Process Safety Management (PSM)

PSM regulations require facilities to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. While PSM is not an EPA regulation, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) program is closely related to EPA’s RMP program. RMP is intended to protect the environment and the community; PSM is an occupational health program intended to protect workers. Applicability thresholds differ for RMP and PSM for some chemicals; however, the PSM and RMP thresholds for anhydrous ammonia are the same—10,000 lbs.

PSM establishes a comprehensive management program made up of 14 elements. The process hazard analysis is the key provision of the standard, as it is intended to identify, evaluate, and control the hazards involved in the process.

Additional Enforcement Focused on Process Startup

In February 2021, EPA issued a new Enforcement Alert, “Risk of Chemical Accidents During Process Startup.” According to the alert, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has noted that a disproportionate number of accidents occur during startup or other nonroutine operations.

Given this recent Alert, EPA cites that the following provisions of the RMP regulations are particularly important to prevent accidents during process startup:

  • Operating procedures that provide clear instructions for safely conducting activities involved in each covered process.
  • Training so each employee involved in operating a process is familiar with operating procedures, safety and health hazards, emergency operations, and safe work practices.
  • Pre-startup review to ensure construction and equipment is functioning according to design specifications and that safety, operating, maintenance, and emergency procedures are in and place and adequate.

Avoiding Enforcement: Hazard Analysis

As part of the NCI, EPA has been sending Information Requests to select facilities that it believes may be out of compliance with GDC. Again, the primary focus of those Information Requests includes those facilities with 1,000 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia onsite. Facilities are required to answer four questions about their ammonia refrigeration systems, including whether they have performed a process hazard review.

EPA is focusing heavily on the first duty of the GDC (i.e., hazard review) as it evaluates facilities for violations. An EPA Enforcement Alert on anhydrous ammonia at refrigeration facilities from February 2015 reinforces that identifying the hazards of a facility’s refrigeration systems is crucial to accident prevention and compliance. This involves identifying and inventorying every chemical onsite, understanding the associated hazards of each chemical, and making sure employees and local responders know what to do in case of an accident. Part of this analysis should also include addressing potential gaps between new industry codes and standards and the standards to which the facility was built (e.g., facility upgrades).

If your facility uses anhydrous ammonia and you have not conducted a hazard analysis, you are at significant risk of incurring enforcement actions of fines. It is important you invest the time and resources required to:

  • Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility.
  • Assess the impacts of a potential release.
  • Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases.
  • Coordinate with local emergency responders.
  • Minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

KTL has experience working with a broad cross-section of industries impacted by PSM, RMP, GDC, and EPCRA, particularly chemical and food processing companies. We have created RMP and GDC audit protocols, conducted audits, and implemented investigation/improvement programs following significant release events. In addition, our team provides Tier II and TRI reporting, writes plans for OSHA and Emergency Response, and routinely works with LEPCs to coordinate emergency response efforts and exercises to keep communities informed and safe. Our team has helped many companies keep operations safe and compliant—and avoid EPA enforcement.

 

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