September 2007 Meeting PCB Workgroup
- Pollution Prevention and Toxics Reduction
- Great Lakes Binational Toxic Strategy
- About GLBTS
- Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic Chemicals
- Order the GLBTS Compact Disk
September 20, 2007
PCB WORKGROUP – US PROGRESS
Investigations of 4 PCB release incidents
- Almost immediately (within 2 weeks) after the May Stakeholder/Workgroup meeting, two incidents involving known or potential release of PCBs were reported to the EPA/Region 5 PCB program. Two more incidents were reported a couple weeks after the initial two incidents were reported.
- The incidents consumed almost all of the Regions PCB regulatory program resources, including those devoted to the PCB workgroup, and are too involved to go into detail here. Below is a summary of each. If you would like more information on any of these incidents, contact Tony Martig directly at 312-353-2291.
Releases from PCB transformer facility
- GLNPO discovered PCBs in a storm sewer at Clean Harbors in Ashtabula, Ohio, and a creek that the storm sewer led to. The creek feeds into the Ashtabula River. Clean Harbors commercially stores transformers and capacitors for disposal, and dismantles and disposes PCB transformers. GLNPO discovered the PCBs as part of a final investigation related to dredging of PCB contaminated sediments from the Ashtabula River.
- The discovery lead to an extensive investigation of the contamination at the creek, of the entire sewer line from the facility to the creek, and at and around the facility. The sewer lines at the facility were flushed (flushing towards the facility) and blocked, preventing any additional releases until the facility itself was remediated. All storm water was collected, stored, and sampled, and shipped off site to a treatment facility until the City of Ashtabula accepted a plan for sampling storm water for discharge into the process water drain system for treatment by the City. The remediation of the sewer from the facility to the creek and the creek was completed, enabling the dredging near the creek to be conducted this dredging season. The remediation of and around the facility has been ongoing and is almost complete.
PCBs in natural gas distribution systems (2 incidents)
- A natural gas distribution company reported that they found liquid condensate in the gas meters of 4 homes, located within blocks of each other, within their distribution system. The liquids had around 5000 ppm PCBs. At two of the homes, the condensate with PCBs were found in condensate collection points in the pipes within the homes. The gas company removed and replaced the gas meters and replaced the affected gas lines and the gas-fired furnaces and water heaters at the 2 homes where the liquids with PCBs were found within the pipes in the homes.
- An investigation was conducted, including sampling and replacement of gas meters and regulators at about 140 homes and currently 8 institutional (schools/church) buildings within the city where the liquids with PCBs were found. Fortunately, no PCBs were found in air or surface samples at levels which presented a risk to the occupants although low levels of PCBs were detected in air and wipe samples at the church and some of the schools.
- The PCB aroclors detected in the air and surface samples (aroclors 1016 and 1254) were different from the aroclors detected in the condensate within the gas equipment and line (aroclor 1260). This has led to an investigation of the potential contribution of PCBs within those buildings from other sources, such as light ballasts, paints, or caulks, or other oils.
- In July, in response to an inquiry from EPA to all of the gas distribution companies in the same state in which the gas company above was located, a second gas company reported that they found PCBs up to 200 ppm in their gas line. EPA began a similar investigation of this company’s gas system, including investigating additional homes and larger gas users.
- The investigation of both companies is still ongoing. EPA is also working with the initial company to develop a best practices guidance for the gas companies to look for and manage PCBs within their system. EPA has also contacted the national association representing the gas companies to evaluate if a similar situation may exist elsewhere in the country.
- How did the PCBs get into the gas lines? Lubricating oils with PCBs were used in compressors by some gas transmission companies prior to the 70s. Some of the oils with PCBs from the compressors leaked into the transmission lines and were moved downline through the gas line. Although many of the transmission companies cleaned their systems or implemented programs for look for PCBs, any condensate with PCBs which was not removed, remains and continues to move in the gas lines.
- The US Federal PCB regulations allow the use of PCBs inside a gas line if there is no release and no known source of PCBs in that portion of the gas line. At this time, no source has been identified at either of the distribution companies.
PCB contaminated fertilizer
- The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District reported that they unknowingly received PCB contaminated material from Milwaukee’s sewer system, processed it into fertilizer, and applied it to lawns in the city. Samples of the material taken before but analyzed after the material was applied showed that the material received had about 200 ppm PCBs and the material applied as fertilizer had up to 80 ppm PCBs.
- EPA, Wisconsin, and the City conducted an extensive investigation and sampling of the areas were the fertilizer was applied, found only a few areas where there was over .3 ppm PCBs, a level that agency risk assessors determined acceptable when combined with the sampling plan. Those areas were remediated.
- An investigation of the sewer and the process and remaining contamination at the facility is ongoing to assure such an incident does not happen again. The Sewerage District has since asked all facilities that discharge to it to sample their discharge for PCBs.
PCB workgroup update since May
- As a result of the above incidents, there is no new information on the reduction of PCB transformers and capacitors since the May Stakeholder/Workgroup meeting.
- The PCB Reassessment Report is complete. A final review to clean up typos is needed. Several of the above incidents are representative of possible sources of PCBs, other than electrical equipment, that may be contributing to the environmental loading of PCBs, one of the recommendations for further evaluation identified in the reassessment report.