Compliance and Stewardship
Compliance with environmental laws and regulations is the objective of EPA’s enforcement program. Compliance is just a starting point toward the ultimate goal of voluntary engagement that goes beyond the requirements and toward a culture of sustainability and stewardship.
In 2007, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region and its many federal, state, local and tribal partners had notable successes in both respects. EPA enforcement actions in the region secured about $1.5 billion for cleanups and pollution prevention. In this chapter, Hawaii provides examples of enforcement and incentives clearing the way for redevelopment of formerly contaminated properties.
Voluntary stewardship initiatives showcase the creativity and inventiveness of people tackling a broad range of environmental issues. The Lifecycle Building Challenge, organized by EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Waste Division, engaged architects and students all across America in a competition to design buildings for adaptability to avoid landfilling valuable building materials.
California celebrated its success in an ongoing effort to divert more than 50% of its solid waste from landfills. The East Bay Municipal Utility District pioneered a new technique for turning food waste into usable energy. Even nail and hair salons are involved in collaborative efforts to reduce the toxicity of their products.
Brings Record Results Across U.S.
"You can print all the laws you want, but it's just paper without enforcement," says Granta Nakayama, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Nationally, EPA law enforcement efforts resulted in a record $10.6 billion in environmental improvements in fiscal 2007-meaning alleged violators are now legally committed to spend that amount for specific cleanups and pollution prevention projects.
San Diego and Honolulu will invest in infrastructure to prevent sewage spills as a result of EPA enforcement efforts.
EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region last year led the nation in contaminated soil cleanups, with commitments to remove or restore nearly 66 million cubic yards of soil. The region also had the highest total value of supplemental environmental projects, in which a responsible party agrees to go beyond paying penalties and undertakes a project to benefit public health or the environment.
After several years of work, EPA settled two major wastewater cases that commit the cities of San Diego and Honolulu to spend a total of $1.3 billion on improvements to their sewage collection systems to prevent sewage spills. San Diego will spend about $1 billion over the next several years to replace aging and inadequate sewer pipes. The city had experienced hundreds of sewage spills and overflows prior to EPA’s enforcement efforts.
Last May, EPA reached an interim settlement with the city of Honolulu that commits the city to making $300 million worth of improvements to its sewage system. In 2006, Waikiki Beach was closed for a week due to a 50 million-gallon sewage spill into the nearby Ala Wai Canal. The settlement requires Honolulu to make a number of short-term fixes to its sewage collection system. Meanwhile, EPA continues to work with the city to ensure long-term solutions.
Airborne and Underground
In a major Clean Air Act case settlement, the Evergreen Pulp Inc. mill near Eureka, Calif., installed pollution controls on its lime kiln to reduce emissions of particulates and hazardous air pollutants by 340 tons per year. Meanwhile, Nevada Power will reduce emissions at two of its power plants near Las Vegas by about 2,900 tons per year (see story ).
Less visible is the work being done to prevent fuel leaks from 50,000 underground storage tanks from polluting soil and groundwater in the Pacific Southwest. More than 14,000 inspections were carried out by EPA and state, tribal and territorial agencies in fiscal 2007. These tanks, with an estimated combined capacity of more than 250 million gallons, present an “invisible risk” to the environment since releases would occur underground.
Spill and Dump Cleanups
Fuel spills were at issue in a settlement involving the pipeline company Kinder, Morgan, which had three pipeline breaks resulting in serious oil spills in California in 2004 and 2005. EPA estimated the volume of the spills at 124,000 gallons in April 2004 at Suisun Marsh in Solano County, 77,000 gallons in February 2005 at Oakland Inner Harbor in Alameda, and 300 gallons in April 2005 into a creek in the Donner Lake watershed in the Sierra Nevada. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and SFPP LP agreed to pay nearly $5.3 million to resolve their liability under the federal Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, Endangered Species Act, and California laws regulating oil and water pollution.
Not all EPA enforcement cases, however, end in settlements. Operators of the illegal Torlaw dump on the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Reservation chose to ignore EPA and Bureau of Indian Affairs enforcement efforts, forcing the agencies to go to federal court. The court ordered the operators to shut down, vacate the property, and pay up to $42.8 million in cleanup costs, plus more than $2.3 million in penalties (see p. 28).
EPA Spurs Green Building
with Lifecycle Building Challenge, Grants
EPA’s involvement with green building—designing buildings to reduce waste and conserve energy—is nothing new, but now it’s coinciding with an unprecedented wave of interest. “An architect today who designs a high-profile building has to take the environment into account,” says San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King. “Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because other architects and clients are making the effort. If you don’t, you’re behind the times.”
In 2007, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office spurred innovation in this growing sector by launching the Lifecycle Building Challenge, a nationwide competition for architects, builders and students that pushed the envelope of Green Building to include designing buildings for deconstruction and reuse.
The Lifecycle Building Challenge asked participants to design a building to reduce its environmental impacts over its entire lifecycle.
The event generated interest all across the U.S., garnering coverage in 30 trade publications, including a top story in the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) newsletter, more than 2.5 million hits on the competition’s Web site, and lots of attention on other Web sites, online publications, and blogs. EPA collaborated with three strategic partners: The 80,000-member AIA, the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA), and West Coast Green, the nation’s largest residential green building conference.
The competition asked participants to reduce a building’s environmental impacts over its entire lifecycle, from the manufacture of building materials to the reuse or transportation of demolition waste. Potential savings of materials and energy are huge. Each year more than 100 million tons of construction and demolition debris are landfilled in the U.S.—equivalent to a ton of waste for every person in the U.S. every three years! Buildings account for 60% of the nation’s raw materials consumption (not counting food and fuel), 40% of electricity use, and 25% of all energy consumption. And beyond that, manufacturing materials like steel and concrete is energy intensive. Reuse also cuts greenhouse gas emissions.
The best way to “green” a building over its entire lifecycle is to design it from the start to promote adaptability, local building materials reuse, and recycling. For example, entries in the contest included open source modular buildings that can be changed over time as family space needs change, and a multi-family project that can easily be converted from one-bedroom units to two-bedroom units to commercial office space.
Inspiration for the event came from a 2005 EPA grant to the Chartwell School in Seaside, Calif., to design the school’s deconstruction strategies. There, EHDD Architects created techniques that allow building components to be easily disassembled and reused. Adaptations can be made easily. Exposed utility raceways facilitate updates to wiring and technology. Concrete blocks are bonded so each can be lifted out and reused. Nail-free paneling can be easily removed and reused. The design preserves the parts of the building with the most embodied energy, such as concrete and steel components.
If one architecture firm could come up with so many green innovations, imagine what a nationwide competition could do, reasoned EPA’s Lifecycle Building Challenge Team leaders Timonie Hood and Eileen Sheehan. Together with team members Saskia van Gendt and Pamela Swingle, they devised the criteria and guidelines, recruited a distinguished judging panel, helped develop the Web site, and worked with a wide range of organizations to promote the competition.
In all, 90 entries were submitted from across the nation. On September 20, 2007, EPA Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine joined Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri, AIA President RK Stewart, and BMRA President Brad Guy to announce the nine winners, who hailed from nine of EPA’s 10 regions.
The Lifecycle Building Challenge was such a success that EPA and its partners are sponsoring it again this year.
Energy-Saving New Homes, Healthier Hospitals
The watchword of the green building industry is LEED—the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office has partnered with a local council affiliate to test the workability of its draft LEED-H standard for home building combined with EPA’s new Indoor Air Package, a series of recommendations for indoor air quality. In 2007, an EPA grant provided technical assistance to large-scale builders who constructed 53 new homes meeting both standards. EPA is expanding the project with the goal of adding 500 new green homes by 2010.
Another 2007 EPA grant helped the city of Fresno, Calif., collaborate with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to incorporate Green Building in an affordable housing project of eight new homes. Green features include pervious concrete outdoors, photovoltaic panels, cool roofs, passive solar, and high-efficiency windows. In just the first two homes, builders reduced construction waste by six tons.
Many California hospitals will soon be getting upgrades to meet new state seismic standards, so in 2007 EPA’s Wendi Shafir led a collaborative effort among healthcare organizations, hospitals, and Green Building experts to create a series of fact sheets on the “Top 5 Green Building Strategies for Hospitals.” The strategies reduce heating and cooling energy use by up to 50%, conserve water, and improve indoor environmental conditions for patients and hospital workers.
Land Revitalization in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands
Cleaning up contaminated land for redevelopment is a priority for all of EPA’s cleanup programs. In Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, where land is at a premium, land revitalization is even more crucial. Several projects in Hawaii and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) illustrate how EPA works with state and local governments to clean up and reuse contaminated land.
In Hilo on the island of Hawaii, contaminated soil was found in a portion of the city’s Bayfront Recreation Area that had earlier been an oil gasification plant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excavated the soil and wrapped it in a huge plastic liner resembling a burrito. But this was only a temporary solution. In 2004, EPA worked with the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH), the Corps, and the County of Hawaii to remove 7,900 tons of soil to a hazardous waste landfill. The site is again part of the park, with two new soccer fields.
In Honolulu, the former site of a bakery was found to be contaminated by oil, diesel and gasoline from abandoned underground storage tanks (USTs). EPA and HDOH oversaw the removal of three USTs, on-site treatment of 2,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and 1,200 cubic yards of coral (used as fill), and contaminated groundwater. Today, the site is being redeveloped as a Safeway Shopping Center with a grocery store and shops.
From pesticide spills to abandoned artillery shells, health hazards are being cleaned up so that island lands can be returned to productive use.
Elsewhere on Oahu, part of the 400-acre East Kapolei Redevelopment Area had been used to load, mix and store pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which contaminated the soil. EPA Brownfields grants funded environmental assessments which pinpointed the contaminated areas and allowed cleanup costs to be determined. State agencies and community groups are evaluating cleanup alternatives, and plan to redevelop the site with 2,500 units of affordable housing for native Hawaiians.
At the Del Monte Superfund site, a former pineapple farm in Kunia, West Oahu, soil and groundwater are polluted with the pesticides EDB and DBCP from spills. In 2005, EPA negotiated a consent decree requiring Del Monte to clean up the soil and groundwater, at a cost of about $13 million. Deep groundwater is now being treated with air stripping (which evaporates pollutants) and carbon filtration. Contaminated soil will be treated with soil vapor extraction, then capped. Redevelopment plans are being analyzed by the local government.
In CNMI, World War II left piles of unused bombs, bullets and artillery shells abandoned throughout the islands, as well as randomly buried “duds” that failed to explode—all known as “UXO,” for “unexploded ordnance.” The trouble is, sometimes UXO does explode when disturbed, so areas with UXO are off-limits for redevelopment.
In 2007, EPA and the CNMI Department of Public Safety finalized a unique agreement that gives CNMI authority to safely store and dispose of this hazardous waste on a routine basis at the Marpi Point Open Detonation Area. EPA also awarded two Brownfields assessment grants to CNMI to speed the removal of UXO at sites such as the Marpi Village Homestead, where 500 new homes are planned for indigenous families.
California Surpasses 50% Waste Diversion Goal
California’s Integrated Waste Management Board received an award from EPA last year for an amazing achievement: The nation’s most populous state surpassed its own goal of diverting 50% of the state’s waste from landfills. Some local jurisdictions even surpassed 70%.
That’s good news, because a high diversion rate does more than save trees and reduce the size and number of landfills. Most of the diversion comes from recycling, which replaces virgin material production and reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
"We at EPA want to thank the cities, counties, businesses, nonprofits, and all Californians," said Jeff Scott, director of EPA's regional Waste Division, upon presenting the award. "Their continuing efforts have made this notable achievement possible."
The latest numbers show that California is diverting more than a ton of waste per person each year. California diverts 46 million tons of municipal solid waste per year, and with 35 million people, the state is diverting 52% of the 88 million tons of waste generated.
This success was no accident. The effort started back in 1989, when then-State Senator Byron Sher of Palo Alto sponsored the Integrated Waste Management Act, requiring all local governments to divert 50% of their trash by 2000. The bill took effect in 1990. It set an ambitious goal. At that time, only 10% of the state’s waste was being recycled.
Over the next decade, the law spurred most of the state’s local governments to start curbside recycling and other programs to recycle their garden and landscaping waste; construction and demolition waste; and food waste. EPA assisted with voluntary partnerships like WasteWise, which has more than 200 industry and government partners in California—more than double the number in the next leading state.
Municipalities that failed to make the 2000 deadline but were making a good-faith effort were given an extension until 2005. Nearly all succeeded. Those that didn’t had to start paying fines, as required by the 1989 law.
Today, the state is working toward a goal of zero waste by promoting markets for recycled materials, supporting recycled product procurement and purchasing, continuing to look for new recycling opportunities, and reducing household hazardous waste going to municipal landfills. For example, the state has banned discarded Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) from landfills because they contain small amounts of mercury, which could be released into the environment. The state now treats CFLs from businesses and residents as hazardous waste.
Because California measures diversion rather than just recycling, it’s not clear whether Californians are the nation’s number one recyclers. However, California has clearly been an innovator in reducing the environmental impacts of trash.
East Bay MUD Hits “Environmental
Home Run” With Food Waste
California’s East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has won many environmental awards over the years for forward-thinking operation of its huge wastewater treatment plant in Oakland. So it’s not surprising that they’ve come up with an innovation that has quadruple environmental benefits: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, generating renewable electric power, producing compost, and diverting and recycling the largest single component of urban trash: food waste.
How do they do it? By processing 40 tons of food waste per day in anaerobic digesters that were built to break down sewage sludge. Last year, EPA issued a $50,000 grant to EBMUD for a small-scale controlled test of the system using different types of organic waste, varying time periods and other parameters. Results are now being used to encourage other cities to follow EBMUD’s lead.
EBMUD is planning to scale up its food waste inputs in the future using food waste from San Francisco restaurants and grocery stores. San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom has committed the city to an ultimate goal of reducing waste and recycling all remaining waste—a big step beyond the state standard of diverting 50% of its waste from landfills, which San Francisco reached eight years ago.
Here’s how the process has been working in Oakland: EBMUD’s wastewater treatment plant has several anaerobic digesters, more than needed to treat all the sludge, or “biosolids,” removed from wastewater. They’ve installed a food waste grinder and storage tank next to one of the digesters, to feed it food waste in addition to biosolids.
Every day, 40 tons of food waste are being turned to energy.
Anaerobic bacteria flourish in the digesters, generating methane gas which is captured and burned to generate electricity that runs the wastewater treatment plant. This reduces greenhouse gases, because the food waste would otherwise have gone into a landfill, where its decomposition would have generated methane that would be emitted into the atmosphere.
Methane emitted into the air also adds to smog, so keeping it in the digesters and burning it to generate electricity also benefits air quality. After the food waste is processed in the digesters, the end product has less weight and volume. It’s sent to a composting facility to be mixed with other organic materials such as yard waste for further decomposition. The resulting compost is a high-quality fertilizer used to grow organic crops, such as wine grapes in Sonoma and Napa Counties’ famous wine country.
The system does all this at minimal cost, because its most expensive infrastructure—the digesters—are already paid for, and 32% of digester capacity at wastewater treatment plants, on average, is unused. Dave Jones and Cara Peck of the EPA Pacific Southwest Waste Division recently received the results of the EPA grant-funded project at EBMUD, and they’re spreading the good news: Food waste processing can be an environmental home run for any city.
Protecting Health in Unlikely Places
Jessica Counts has worked in several federal agencies in the past 23 years. In 1997 she came to EPA’s regional office in San Francisco looking for “a more challenging career.” She got it. Since 2003, Jessica has been a pollution prevention specialist in the regional Waste Division, where she now works to reduce exposure to toxics in nail and hair salons, and helps tribal casinos adopt greener, healthier practices.
There are more than 80 tribal gambling casinos in the Pacific Southwest, and more on the way, since California voters in February 2008 approved statewide propositions allowing four tribes to open bigger, Las Vegas-style casinos. There are hundreds of nail and hair salons using chemicals that may endanger the health of thousands of workers, their children, and customers. Salon workers often report respiratory problems and headaches, and their risk of cancer, birth defects and asthma is similar to that of industrial workers.
Last year, Jessica helped organize the Greening Tribal Casinos Conference in Sacramento, where casino managers learned about conserving energy and water, composting and recycling, and even using biodiesel made from grease in their restaurants to fuel their vehicles. Jessica worked with a contractor to develop a pollution prevention checklist for casinos that includes best management practices like replacing slot machine lights with energy-saving LEDs. Jessica is currently working with tribal casinos to identify pollution prevention opportunities in their operations to reduce their environmental footprint.
Toxics in Nail and Hair Salons
Jessica also works with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, a coalition of nail salon businesses, workers, health activists, and nonprofits working to address health issues in nail salons, which typically use nail polish and polish remover that contain volatile organic compounds, and toxic chemicals that bond artificial nails to real nails. In this capacity, Jessica oversaw the translation and publication of a revised EPA brochure on nail salon chemicals into Vietnamese and Korean.
Also last year, Jessica convened an African American Hair Salon Roundtable in Oakland, Calif., where participants listened to speakers presenting studies on the health impacts of products used in African-American hair salons. Studies indicate that some hair products used by African-Americans contain estrogenic chemicals that can cause premature puberty in girls and may also be linked to breast cancer. Even when products list ingredients, Jessica says, other toxic chemicals may be hidden under the term “fragrance.”
So what can be done? In the long term, products should be reformulated without the problematic chemicals. Jessica says that more research is needed to address the full scope of environmental health issues related to the use of chemicals in personal-care products. Meanwhile, salon owners and workers can lower their risk by learning more about the content of the products they use.