Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Risk is like a trampoline: Part 2

Risk = Hazard x Probability of the hazard happening.  The higher the hazard (bad thing) and the higher the chance of that bad thing happening, the greater the risk.  Trampolines are good way to illustrate this because the hazard is real and known.

So there you are, confronted by your kids wanting a trampoline to play on in their backyard.

The easiest way out is to choose the NIMBY response and put an end to the discussion.  What's NIMBY you may be wondering?

Not In My Back Yard!

Easy!  Only you underestimate the tenacity of your children and their desire to have a trampoline in their backyard.  The more you shout NIMBY the more they dig their heals in as well.  However, as easy as NIMBY is to end the discussion and prevent the risk, there are other risks that come into play.

It would be nice if the world was black and white, but it's not.  So if you NIMBY, the kids point out, you will also deprive them of: the benefits that come into play as well as the risks.  The kids point out to you, but dad....trampolines are good for our health!:
  • Bouncing on a trampoline will help your children to a brighter athletic future!
  • Recreation, entertainment and fitness right at home.
  • Trampolining can influence child’s academic success.
  • One of the most important benefits of the trampoline is the development of body balance.
  • Another important teaching aspect of the trampoline is rhythm and bilaterally.
  • Trampolining is good for children who are reluctant to begin physical activities.
  • Increases Lymphatic Circulation
  • Increased Bone Density
And if all of those great reasons are not enough, here is my favorite (and I'm not making this up):
  • Bouncing or Jumping on a trampoline is a Cellular Exercise
You see, according to Sundance Trampolines, "your body has about 60 trillion cells. The 2 to 4 G forces (gravitational pull) involved in bouncing squeezes out toxins" just like this:

Cell being squeezed by jumping on a trampoline  forcing out bad stuff
"Then, during the brief weightless period when the body is suspended in the air, the lower pressure in the cell promotes the movement of nutrients into the cells." 

Cell in 'fluffy' state able to take in good stuff
"Thus the flow of materials to and from cells is improved. It is like getting every cell in your body to exercise."

OK, so that last bullet convinced you, didn't it?  C'mon admit it, you are now a little more receptive to the idea, I mean look at the benefits!  But there is still risk if you say "yes".  In fact your Google search shows that pretty succinctly:
531,378 trampoline-related injuries over the study period, an average of 88,563 each year. Further, 95 percent of those injuries occurred on home trampolines.  The most common injuries were soft tissue (256,509), while fractures and dislocations were the next (168,402). The age group with the most injuries was those in the 5-12 year range. The vast majority of the injuries were to the extremities, representing 71 percent of all injuries.
Still, the benefit of exercise plus fact that thing about their cells and toxins and stuff.....well you feel your resolve weakening. "No, you can't have a trampoline," you tell them, "unless you can make it so that there will be little chance for fracture and dislocation injuries."

"Ahhh, but that will take all the fun out of it!" the kids yell.  "No trampoline then!" you boldly state.

Now the kids are no dummies, they've done their homework on this subject and present to you two trampolines that will meet this requirement.

This version uses protective measures to minimize the chance of falling off the sides.  The hazard is minimized through engineering controls.

This version minimizes the damage from falling off by having the impact change from "onto the ground" to "onto the water."  The hazard is minimized through where the activity is to be located..

"Great idea kids," you say.  "But the homeowners association will not allow that protection net to stick up over the fence line.  And that other one requires water, not to mention the possibility of instead of breaking an arm, you drown!"

"Jeepers Dad!" the kids whine, which touches your heart.  "OK," you relent, "you can have a regular trampoline, but you must follow these rules:"

Adult supervision.....

...only one person on the trampoline at a time.  This is what we would refer to as administrative controls.

So there you have it.  The same potential risk handled in different ways.  In all except the NIMBY situation, the activity is allowed to proceed under certain conditions.  The risk is still there, only minimized to a level of acceptance.

Given any situation, understanding the true risk and real benefit will help you make an objective determination as to whether it is worth taking on that risk.  NIMBY stops activities that have real benefits and blind acceptance without any controls increases that risk.  There is a middle ground, and that's where we need to focus our attention on.
"There were 1.2 million new trampoline sales in 2004, indicating that parents continue to purchase this as a form of fun and exercise for children." (1)
They can't all be wrong or right on this activity.

And that's how risk is like a trampoline.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Risk is like a trampoline: Part 1

Peter M. Sandman defines risk as follows:
Risk = Hazard + Outrage.
And from a sociological point of view, that is, the need to move something forward with approval, the understanding of risk is predicated on perception.  But perception has nothing to do with quantifying real risk.  In other words, it is either dangerous or it is not.  What you think does not impact that risk one iota.

Perception can therefore be manipulated but the actual risk is either there or not there.  Perception also plays into how the degree of risk is also determined.  What one person sees as risky, another sees as mundane.  Again, the risk that is actually present has nothing to do with this perception.

So how do we look at risk, that is,how do determine the possibility that something harmful might happen?

One way to look at risk is to define it based on the anticipated outcome and the likelihood of that outcome taking place.  This is complicated, and again gets back to perception but also includes a healthy heaping of statistics.

So we're stuck with perception in the determination of risk.  So maybe the key is to try and look at it risk a bit more objectively while understanding our own bias towards that event.

I have spent my working life managing hazardous waste.  Hazardous waste is regulated more severely than almost any other hazardous material out there.  Hazardous waste is assumed to present an elevated risk to human health and the environment.  In fact, the regulations are such that it is regulated as more hazardous than when it is made, transported, stored, and utilized.

My perception of hazardous waste is based on my understanding of the material.  I look at it differently than most, especially John Q. Citizen.  With my newly minted MSPH, I now look at it entirely different than I used to.  Same hazardous waste, different perspective of its hazard.

Is there a risk?  Maybe...maybe not.  Depends on what your tolerance is for the possible outcome it presents.

Look at how Congress defined  "hazardous waste" in RCRA §1004(5):
(a) Cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or
(b) Pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.
How does one tell another person what significantly means?  What about substantial or potential?  What is a serious illness?

These words are not unique to hazardous waste, they are used all the time in defining why the need for a particular course of action (i.e. law/regulation).  What these words lead to is a perpetual state of  misunderstanding and misidentifying situations that require either our concern or tolerance.

This why I am an advocate for teaching risk analysis from elementary school all the way through college.  Not just the statistics part - the probability an outcome may occur - but the ability to look at it from all angles and make a reasonable determination of what the level of concern one should have based on sound science, logic, research, and analysis.

Everything, and I mean everything presents a risk.  Sometimes not doing something presents a greater risk than had you done it.  Sometimes the risk is acute, sometimes chronic.  Sometimes it impacts some but not others equally exposed.  Its complicated.

So where to start?  First lets look at three basics involving our understanding of risk that are always in play:
  1. There is real risk
  2. There is regulations based on a perceived risk
  3. There is hype
Number 1 is where all the time and effort needs to be spent.  Number 2 demands nothing more than an attitude to do it like they say.  Number 3 should be ignored.  Unfortunately, telling fact from fiction is difficult, especially when agenda driven "turthisms" are plopped out there like cow pies.

So onward down the trail towards understanding how to evaluate real risk.  First though, lets make it easy on ourselves by accepting two premises.  These will help move you from apprehension towards acceptance even if your spider-senses are tingling. We can reduce any hazard, thereby reducing the risk through:
  1. Sound Management
  2. Engineering Controls
And now, without further blabbering...I mean introduction, why risk is like a trampoline, well actually the evaluation of risk using a trampoline as an example is where I'm heading.
Risk = Hazard x Probability of the hazard happening.
The higher the hazard (bad thing) and the higher the chance of that bad thing happening, the greater the risk.

So your kids:

Want a trampoline

You're response is:
  1. No! Never!
  2. No, unless these conditions are met first.
  3. Yes, but under these conditions.
  4. Yes.
Same trampoline, different response. Why?  Because the response is based on the perception of the negative and/or positive outcomes associated with what could happen if the trampoline is brought into the backyard.

Next post: Risk is like a trampoline: Part 2


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Committee Democrats Release New Report Detailing Hydraulic Fracturing Products

Lets file this post under "Factoids that are true but nonetheless misleading because they loom larger in people’s minds and emotions than they merit." (1)

April 16: Committee Democrats Release New Report Detailing Hydraulic Fracturing Products (2)
“Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, but we must ensure that these new resources don’t come at the expense of public health,” said Rep. Waxman. “This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, including known carcinogens.  I urge EPA and DOE to make certain that we have strong protections in place to prevent these chemicals from entering drinking water supplies.”
Fair enough.  We do a lot of Hydraulic Fracturing, especially in Texas, so looking at the potential for public health and environmental impacts as we increase the number of wells is prudent.  We have a lot of data, we have a lot of wells established already.  This is how we should be looking at the impact.  What do we see now?  What can we do to minimize the possibility of an impact?  Does hydraulic fracturing increase the risk of impact to an extent that warrants an increase in concern?

Bottom line: There is always a risk whenever you do anything.  Does Hydraulic Fracturing put forth risks that are unreasonable when compared to other activities we encounter and participate in?

Now if you have read any of my posts on the Barnett Shale, you will know I do not like presenting information in a way that it is truthful but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  So when I read Rep. DeGette's statement regarding this report:
“Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year period studied, over one and a half million gallons of carcinogens were injected into the ground in Colorado." 
My "not again" alarm started dinging, sending me to the Bat Cave...err, I mean to the Blog-o-Sphere, so that I can add a bit of clarity to these waters clouded by misinformation and a lack of how toxicity, especially carcinogens, in the environment works.

Yes...yes I know, there is no safe threshold for a carcinogen, so if benzene is present, then the whole fluid must be considered a carcinogen.  But that's not how it works.

But let's say she's right, that all the water - a half million gallons - is a carcinogen.  If that premise is true, then gasoline, which contains up to 2 percent benzene (20,000 ppm), is a carcinogen too.  Which means you would need to be equally outraged at the fact that we are burning 378 million gallons a day in the US.  In four years, that equates to 551,880,000,000 gallons!  And from an exposure point of view, inhalation exceeds ingestion considerably.

Why is the benzene in the frac water that's injected more of a concern than the benzene in the gasoline that's burned? Benzene is benzene.  Why no concern over 552 billion gallons of carcinogens being put into the air?

Why?  Because we are not putting 552 billion gallons of carcinogens in the air, just like we are not injecting 1.5 million gallons of carcinogens into the ground in Colorado.

Lets look at this a bit more objectively.  Just because a carcinogen is present in the mix does not make the mix a carcinogen.  On top of that, you need to have uptake of that carcinogen in order to even have a chance of getting cancer.

So the fact that frac'ing (no "K") uses fluids that contain constituents that are carcinogens, those carcinogens must be released into the environment at a concentration high enough so that the receptor uptake would be at a dose shown to cause an adverse health effect.

It's the Donnelly Risk Paradigm in play.
It's dose/response in play
It's Pharmacokinetics in play
It's the cancer slope factor in play

Look at  Rep. DeGette's statement one more time:
“Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year period studied, over one and a half million gallons of carcinogens were injected into the ground in Colorado." 
Now lets look at what the report says:
Overall, these companies injected 10.2 million gallons of fracturing products (Colorado = 1.5 million) containing at least one carcinogen.
Now maybe I'm slitting hairs here, but I see a big difference in 1.5 million gallons of carcinogens and 1.5 million gallons that contain a carcinogen.

The concern over what is in these fluids should be addressed.  Removal of the bad actors - carcinogens - should be addressed.  These are important issues to exam as we perform hydraulic fracturing more and more.

But in presenting these fluids used and the waste generated as containing "products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants," we elevate the concern to a level that is greater than the actual harm.

It's the perception I'm concerned with being presented in this report.  Every time we scare people with a factoid that is true but nonetheless misleading because they loom larger in people’s minds and emotions than they merit, we hurt the goal of sound policy regarding protecting public health and the environment.

Presenting to the public information that is not properly explained does nothing to help us protect ourselves or make rules and regulation under which to live by.

Lets look at this statement from the Waxman report and take it to its conclusion.
The absence of a minimum national baseline for disclosure of fluids injected during the hydraulic fracturing process and the exemption of most hydraulic fracturing injections from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act has left an informational void concerning the contents, chemical concentrations, and volumes of fluids that go into the ground during fracturing operations and return to the surface in the form of wastewater.  As a result, regulators and the public are unable effectively to assess any impact the use of these fluids may have on the environment or public health. 
Will filling up this void with information positively impact the environment or public health?  It's looking for a boogyman when there is a real man waiting in the shadows. There are three bigger issues to focus on that would greatly reduce the potential for a negative impact to the public and the environment:
  1. Fracturing operations should follow an industry agreed upon standard, preferably green drilling
  2. Frac water should be treated to enable continuous reuse and/or discharge at drinking water levels
  3. Oil and Gas Operations should be adequately maintained for the life of the operation
Based on what I have seen and the research I have been doing, I am pretty confident that the amount of carcinogens in fracturing fluids is unlikely to present an impact on public health or the environment that is more significant than similar operations where these chemicals are used.

We can always do better by substituting a less hazardous material for more hazardous one.  We have been doing that since Pollution Prevention (P2) came into existence and it has worked.  Remember 111-trichloroethane?  Greatest degreaser ever!  Hardly used anymore. Win-win for employee and public health as well as the environment.  This is the direction to move Hydraulic Fracturing Products.

Work with industry to develop standards and level the field, support research on safer fluids and frac water treatment, and use science properly to explain risk.

The EPA also looked at the constituents of Hydraulic Fracturing Products in 2004.

For those of you who do not understand the Hydraulic Fracturing Products the following video on YouTube may help.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Universal Waste: Off-Site Shipments - Sending to a Destination Facility

Basically, it boils down to this:
A Universal Waste Handler may ship their universal waste off-site to: (1)
  • another universal waste handler
  • a destination facility, or
  • a foreign destination.
In my last post I discussed the requirements for sending Universal Waste to an "off-site Handler."  This post will cover the requirements for sending Universal Waste to a "Destination Facility."

First, let's get the term "Universal Waste Handler" defined as either:
  • A generator of universal waste; or 
  • The owner or operator of a facility, including all contiguous property, that receives universal waste from other universal waste handlers, accumulates universal waste, and sends universal waste to another universal waste handler, to a destination facility, or to a foreign destination.
Second, let's get the term "off-site" defined.  Except it isn't.  What is defined is the term "on-site."
  • On-site means the same or geographically contiguous property which may be divided by public or private right-of-way, provided that the entrance and exit between the properties is at a cross-roads intersection, and access is by crossing as opposed to going along the right of way. Non-contiguous properties owned by the same person but connected by a right-of-way which he controls and to which the public does not have access, are also considered on-site property. 
Now we can concentrate on the term "Destination Facility.  Here is how it is defined in 273.9 and described in 273.60.
  1. A "destination facility" means a facility that treats, disposes of, or recycles a particular category of universal waste
    • Except batteries and mercury containing equipment managed in a similar manner as allowed for a Handler.  
  2. Destination facilities are subject to all applicable requirements for a fully permitted TSDF.
    • Except if the facility recycles a particular Universal Waste provided:
      • No storage/accumulation prior to recycling takes place 
      • The facility obtains an EPA ID Number
      • A hazardous waste manifest is used.
Let's look at Number 1: 
A "destination facility" means a facility that treats, disposes of, or recycles a particular category of universal waste, except batteries and mercury containing equipment managed in a similar manner as allowed for a Handler.
What this means is that you are not a destination facility when you manage batteries as follows:
  • Do not perform any activities that would breach the battery casing.
  • Contain all leakage, spillage, or damage in containers that:
    • Must be structurally sound
    • Compatible with the contents of the battery
    • Kept closed
    • Must not show signs of leakage, spillage, or damage.
Basically this is designed for battery operations that will  sort batteries by type, consolidate compatible batteries together, discharge batteries, regenerate used batteries, disassemble batteries into individual batteries or cells, remove batteries from consumer products, or remove electrolyte.  All of these activities are permissible as long as the battery casing is not breached.  Additionally, these activities may generate other waste streams for which a hazardous waste determination must be made (e.g. electrolyte)

You are also not a destination facility when you manage mercury containing materials as follows:
  • Manage in a way to prevent spills, leaks, damage
  • Containerize non-contained metallic mercury or damaged equipment.
  • Only allowed to remove mercury containing ampules provided they do not break and other requirements are met.
Now let's look at Number 2:
Destination facilities are subject to all applicable requirements for a fully permitted TSDF. 
What this is saying is that an off-site facility that is not another Handler, or will not manage batteries or mercury containing material like a handler, must be a fully permitted RCRA TSDF under 40 CFR 264.

You recycle a particular universal waste without storing and comply with 261.6(c)(2) - EPA ID number and the use of a manifest is required as well as certain recycling unit requirements under 261.6(d).
  • Storage means holding hazardous waste for a temporary period, at the end of which the hazardous waste is treated, disposed of, or stored elsewhere.  Again, this definition is made intentionally broad to include any situation in which hazardous waste is held for any period of  time.(1)
What this all boils down to is this:
  • If you ONLY perform the battery activities identified in 273.13(a) and (c) and 273.33(a) and (c) you are a Universal Waste Handler, including the off-site facility that only performs those operations.
  • If you ONLY accumulate Universal Waste and DO NOT treat, recycle, or dispose, you are a Universal Waste Handler.
  • If you recycle a particular Universal Waste and you DO NOT store the waste, obtain an EPA ID Number, use a manifest, and comply with the recycling unit requirement in 262.6(d) you are a Recycler.
  • If you do anything else with the Universal Waste, you require a 264 Part B permit and are a TSDF.
And, if you transport any quantity of universal waste, you must meet the universal waste transporter requirements (there is no de minimis exemption like the one in the Used Oil program) and if the UW meets the definition of a DOT hazardous material, it must be packaged, labeled, marked, placarded and a shipped with a shipping paper.  In Texas, the TCEQ does not require transporters of universal waste to be registered so a common carrier may be used.

Storm Water and Texas Oil and Gas Production Facilities

A question came up from a student who had recently sat through my Storm Water Management class.
Are oil & gas facilities with SIC 1389 covered?  That SIC is identified under Section V in Sector I of the MSGP (TXR050000) as "Oil and Gas Field Services" but it indicates it is only applicable if the site had a Reportable Quantity (RQ) release since 1987? (see page 68 of the MSGP)
Interesting.....Here is what I found out.

According to the EPA:
Operators of oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities, that [were] not required to submit a permit [but had] a discharge of a reportable quantity of oil or a hazardous substance (in a storm water discharge) for which notification [to the NRC was] must apply for a [storm water] permit.
 Somehow it is the RQ that triggers EPA jurisdiction over Oil & Gas operations, but not just an RQ, an RQ "in storm water".

So are oil and gas facilities with SIC 1389 covered under the MSGP?  It depends.  Here is what the TCEQ states in the permit:
General permit coverage for oil and gas field service companies is limited to the industrial activities that occur at the service company headquarters, permanent offices, or similar base of operations.
Which means only SIC 1389 field operations do not have to apply for permit coverage.  So does this mean that oil & gas field service operations can ignore storm water and pollute it as they see fit?

No.  Instead of the MSGP, these operations must obtain an NPDES permit from the EPA if they discharge industrial storm water and be authorized by the Texas Rail Road Commission (RRC) if applicable.

Why the RRC?  According to a memorandum of understanding between the TCEQ and the RRC, it has a lot to do not just with turf, but also with the field operations themselves.
Where required by federal law, discharges of storm water associated with facilities and activities under the RRC's jurisdiction must be authorized by the EPA and the RRC, as applicable. Under 33 U.S.C. §1342(l)(2) and §1362(24), EPA cannot require a permit for discharges of storm water from "field activities or operations associated with {oil and gas} exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities" unless the discharge is contaminated by contact with any overburden, raw material, intermediate product, finished product, byproduct, or waste product located on the site of the facility.
The RRC prohibits operators from causing or allowing pollution of surface or subsurface water. Operators are encouraged to implement and maintain Best Management Practices (BMPs) to minimize discharges of pollutants, including sediment, in storm water to help ensure protection of surface water quality during storm events.
What this says is this.  Because the operator is prohibited from causing pollution to the waters of the State, a permit to discharge is not required since the water being discharged has not become contaminated by the industrial operation.  If it has, it is industrial storm water and requires an NPDES permit from the EPA.  This makes sense, since the MSGP is a permit to discharge based on the assumption that the storm water has been impacted by the industrial operation and marginally cleaned using BMPs.

OK, thats industrial, what about construction activities?

Similar logic here as well.  The memo states:
Activities under RRC jurisdiction include construction of a facility that, when completed, would be associated with the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas or geothermal resources, such as a well site; treatment or storage facility; underground hydrocarbon or natural gas storage facility; reclamation plant; gas processing facility; compressor station; terminal facility where crude oil is stored prior to refining and at which refined products are stored solely for use at the facility; a carbon dioxide geologic storage facility under the jurisdiction of the RRC; and a gathering, transmission, or distribution pipeline that will transport crude oil or natural gas, including natural gas liquids, prior to refining of such oil or the use of the natural gas in any manufacturing process or as a residential or industrial fuel.  The RRC also has jurisdiction over storm water from land disturbance associated with a site survey that is conducted prior to construction of a facility that would be regulated by the RRC.
Under 33 U.S.C. §1342(l)(2) and §1362(24), EPA cannot require a permit for discharges of storm water from "field activities or operations associated with {oil and gas} exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities, including activities necessary to prepare a site for drilling and for the movement and placement of drilling equipment, whether or not such field activities or operations may be considered to be "construction activities" unless the discharge is contaminated by contact with any overburden, raw material, intermediate product, finished product, byproduct, or waste product located on the site of the facility.  The RRC prohibits operators from causing or allowing pollution of surface or subsurface water. 
Now this has not gone on unchallenged.  In the RRC's 2009 Self-Evaluation Report they write:
In 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice filed a petition seeking rehearing of the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Natural Resource Defense Council v. US E.P.A., 526 F.3d 591 (9th Cir. 2008) which vacated the U.S. EPA’s 2006 oil and gas construction storm water regulation. 
In its petition, the Government contends that the Court erred by overturning EPA’s final rule solely because the Court found it inconsistent with EPA’s prior interpretation of a provision of the Clean Water Act. The regulation effectively exempted from Clean Water Act permit requirements storm water discharges of sediment from construction activities associated with oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities unless the relevant facility had a discharge of storm water resulting in a discharge of a reportable quantity of oil or hazardous substances.
This action also encouraged voluntary application of best management practices for construction activities associated with oil and gas field activities and operations to minimize erosion and control sediment to protect surface water quality. It is unknown at this time what affect, if any, a new decision may have on RRC regulated industries.
Another one to add to "wait n' see."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Universal Waste: Off-Site Shipments - Sending to another UW-Handler

Talk about a confusing regulation...

The question was posed in class recently: Can I send my Universal Waste to another one of my facilities so that it can be consolidated?

My first response was to say "yes" since that is what it states in 40 CFR 273:

  • 40 CFR 273.18(a): A small quantity handler of universal waste is prohibited from sending or taking universal waste to a place other than another universal waste handler, a destination facility, or a foreign destination.
  • 40 CFR 273.38(a): A small quantity handler of universal waste is prohibited from sending or taking universal waste to a place other than another universal waste handler, a destination facility, or a foreign destination.
But I've been doing this long enough to know not to ever think it could be that easy, so I went digging into 273.  Here is what I found:
If you transport the Universal Waste yourself (self-transport) you become a Universal Waste Transporter and must comply with Subpart D.  Which includes the following additional requirements:
    • You must comply with DOT Hazardous Material Transportation requirements if the Universal Waste is Class 1 - 9.
So basically, if you want to transport your own Universal Waste you need to comply with DOT's transporter requirements if that Universal Waste is classified as a Hazardous Material by DOT under CFR 49, Part 172.101 or 173.

What if you don't want to transport it yourself?  Well the DOT requirements will also apply to the Handler if off-site shipment is to take place.  The Handler must determine if the Universal Waste to be shipped is classified as a Hazardous Material by DOT under CFR 49, Part 172.101 or 173.  If "yes" then a shipping paper must be used, the certainer must meet DOT specifications, and DOT's labeling and marking requirements must be applied.

Okay, so far, nothing out of the ordinary.  We have to do that with anything we ship off-site.  What's next?
Prior to sending a shipment of universal waste to another universal waste handler, the originating handler must ensure that the receiving handler agrees to receive the shipment.
Okay...easy to meet that one.
If it is rejected - in part or in whole, it must either be received back or sent to another agreed upon destination.
Not a problem there.
If a handler of universal waste receives a shipment containing hazardous waste that is not a universal waste, the handler must immediately notify the appropriate regional EPA office of the illegal shipment, and provide the name, address, and phone number of the originating shipper. The EPA regional office will provide instructions for managing the hazardous waste. 
Yikes!  The burden to report is on the receiving handler.  Now one should not be shipping hazardous waste to a Universal Waste Handler in the first place, but there are some situations where a Universal Waste is unintentional misidentified, such as a lead acid battery in which the case has been breached or mercury debris that may not meet the definition of "equipment" (see 273.4).

Still, nothing that can't be worked through.  In fact, that requirement is in place no matter where the Universal Waste is sent.
If a Handler of universal waste receives a shipment of non-hazardous, non-universal waste, the handler may manage the waste in any way that is in compliance with applicable federal, state or local solid waste regulations. 
Okay...that's not a big deal either.

That's it?  Yes.  So as long as the handler you are sending the Universal Waste to will not perform disposal, treatment or dilution, you may ship one facilities Universal Waste to another Handler.

What about if I want to consolidate or commingle the waste from one Handler with another?  Well, now it gets a bit tricky.  It does not specifically prohibit commingling, however, if dilution took place that would be prohibited.  The only reference to commingling is in 273.8 which allows Household Waste and CESQG Waste that are similar to Universal Waste may be commingled with other Universal Wastes and managed as such.

Next Post: Universal Waste: Off-Site Shipments - Sending to a Destination Facility


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Do We Really Need Regulators?

In the news recently:
The [EPA] will lose $1.6 billion as part of a deal between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to produce $38 billion in spending cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, according to legislation made public today. (1)
That, by the way, is a 16 percent cut to the EPA's overall budget.  And if you don't think that will not seriously impact what the EPA does, well you are living in a land of denial.  For starters, a lot of money goes out in the form of grants and loans to States to pay for things like drinking-water projects and sewer projects. (2)

But maybe Representative Mike Simpson is right when he states: “The Obama administration has dumped money into the EPA over the past two years, and what the American people have seen as a result is a slew of new regulations pouring out of the agency,” (1)

But has 1.6 billion been wasted?  Has there been a "slew" of new regulations that are inappropriate?  Make no mistake, The EPA under President Obama takes a much different tone than what was set under President Bush (see my post for one example).  But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Actions are predicated on perception, and perception can be easily manipulated.  That's one of my goals for this blog, to force perception to base itself on the data, not the dogma, the rhetoric, or the agenda.

Agendas are set based on the dominant thought of those pushing it.  Right now, that thought takes one of two predominant tracks that are equally detrimental to the common good - public health and protecting the environmental.  Business is not the problem, neither is regulation.  The problem is lack of empathy regarding each other's concerns and needs.

This is not a Democrat/Republican battle, but a battle between those who dominate the conversation within each.  Each side uses Saul Alinsky's tactic number 11, as described in his book, "Rules for Radicals."
"If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside"
The EPA is not the bad guy, neither are the factories, refineries, constructions sites, and industries that give us the products we use and employment we need.  Stop painting them with the brush of "job killer" or "polluter,"

Now I can say this emphatically: My EHS cohorts, my profession, the people I teach, and the businesses that employee them, take the topic of environmental health and safety seriously.  They are not afraid of OSHA, EPA, DOT, or any other agency coming to visit.  They do what is necessary to keep their people safe, protect public health, and minimize their Impact on the environment.

We're not talking just a handful here.  My fellow EHS professionals that I know, meet, and teach, work for all the major corporations, as well as government.  I know them and I know what effort they and their employers put into not just compliance, but into making EHS work.

Now that's not to say that when a regulator comes to visit, they are all giddy with excitement that they are there to inspect them.  There is a reason why I call this blog the "Wacky World of Waste."  Compliance is often difficult and puts the EHS professional between a rock and a hard place.  Sometimes it is outright impossible to comply.  Most investigators understand this, but they cannot look the other way by ignoring it.  Making sound law and regulations is an art and one I champion for constantly.

So are the rules enforced and promoted by the EPA as bad as Representative Mike Simpson makes them out to be?  Are they really inappropriate?  Do they impact business to such a degree that we should de-fund the EPA by 16 percent?

Lets look at air pollution, since this seems to be the driver for this perception: (3)
  • In 1970 we got the Clean Air Act, signed into law by Richard Nixon, a Republican (and not what one would call a moderate).  This law regulates six six air pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  In 1971 the EPA is created to administer this.
  • In 1977 we get the Clean Air Act Amendments which brings forth Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD). Signed into law by President Carter (a Democrat) 
  • In 1990 we get another amendment to the CAA which requires a program to control 189 toxic pollutants (called Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs).  Signed into law by the first President Bush (a Republican)
Now lets look at the history for two of those pollutants of concern, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. (4)

Now ask yourself the question: Has obtaining cleaner air negatively impacted US business?  Yeah, I know, the air is cleaner because we lost a lot of heavy industry (e.g. steel, metal plating) to foreign destinations. But our population has increased significantly and many of the industries in existence in 1970 are still with us today.

The Clean Air Act worked.  The air in Los Angeles, for example, is much cleaner then when I lived there.  This was brought about by a Law and then industry's compliance with that Law.  Did it cost business?  Yes.  Did it hurt some business? Yes.  Is the air healthier? Yes.  Did our GDP increase in spite of it?  Yes.

So now the question that needs to be asked is this:  Will reducing the EPA's budget by 16% help the cause of EHS?  I say no.  Without a strong watchdog, the predominant business model will always swing towards the lowest common denominator.

That's going to make it more difficult for the EHS profession and the corporate attitude that is needed to support what we do and the costs associated.

Time will tell.