08 Nov Get with the Program: Part 2 – Federal Programs
As discussed in the last BLOG entry, a little knowledge of government environmental programs can keep you out of trouble. Federal programs are those administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Not all the programs will impact you directly; however, the may be factor in other programs. So… let’s look at some of them:
The Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Under this act, the EPA established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and set dates to achieve these standards. The act also required States to implement air permitting programs to reduce contaminants discharged to the air. Some operations that require permits include: boilers; stationary internal combustion engines such as diesels and turbines; incinerators; rock crushing operations; chemical reactors and mixers; paint spray booths; metal degreasers; metal plating and surface treatment operations; printing operations; volatile liquid storage tanks; and many other manufacturing or processing operations. Documentation from the program may also offer valuable historical insight into the operations performed and chemical used on a property.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 was designed to reduce pollution of waters such as rivers, oceans, and groundwater. Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. It also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained. EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Like CAA, the CWA may offer valuable historical insight into the operations performed and chemical used on a particular property.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 was designed to reduce pollution of waters such as rivers, oceans, and groundwater. Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. It also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained. EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Like CAA, the CWA may not directly apply to a particular property but may offer valuable historical insight into the operations performed and chemical used on a particular property.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates solid waste and hazardous waste to prevent contamination of the environment. The act requires control of waste from the time of generation through their storage, transport, and disposal. Known as “cradle to grave”, RCRA classifies waste generators by the quantities of waste they generate. Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs) generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste or one kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste. Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) generate more than 100 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month. Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste or more than one kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste. The 100 kg (220 pound) quantity of waste is approximately equal to one 55-gallon drum. A waste manifest, which describes the amount and nature of the waste, is required for the transport and disposal of the waste. Transporters and disposal facilities must be licensed. Copies of the manifest are submitted to USEPA, the State in which the waste was generated, the disposal facility, the transporter, and the generator. This ensures the waste material is safely handled and is not released to the environment. RCRA also has requirements for management of waste, spill cleanup and reporting, and close-out of waste storage areas. The latter may include investigation and remediation of storage areas.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980. This law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Under CERCLA, the National Contingency Plan (NCP) was revised to provide guidelines and procedures needed to respond to releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. The USEPA remediated (and continues to remediate) many abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites which posed an immediate threat to human health and the environment. These include, for example: Raybestos in Stratford, Connecticut; Love Canal in Niagra Falls, New York; the Valley of the Drums in Bullitt County, Kentucky; the Woburn Massachusetts Superfund Site; and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the State of Washington. CERCLA provided the United States government an avenue to assign liability to those responsible for the contamination and, to prosecute the responsible parties, and to hold them financially responsible for such clean-up.
The Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. A Brownfield property is one which is abandoned or underutilized because of the presence or perceived presence of contamination. The goal of the Brownfields program is to remediate the properties and return them to a usable state. The benefits of a successful Brownfields remediation include: revitalizing the community, creating jobs, and increasing the tax revenues to the local communities, in addition to protecting human health and the environment. This program involves a coordinate effort by Federal, State, and Local governments, developers and/or local development agencies, and the public. This program is unique and increasingly important and, as such, will be discussed in greater detail in a later BLOG.
In Connecticut, many of these programs are administered or overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Environmental evaluation of commercial and industrial properties is prudent to determine which, if any, of these programs apply.