EPA Finalizes CWA Hazardous Substance Facility Response Plan Rule

EHS Daily Advisor by Lisa Whitley Coleman

Washington, DC – On March 14, 2024, EPA Administrator Michael Regan signed a final rule requiring certain facilities to develop facility response plans (FRP) for a worst-case discharge of Clean Water Act (CWA) hazardous substances or the threat of such a discharge. Worst-case discharges are defined as the largest foreseeable discharge in adverse weather conditions, including extreme weather conditions due to climate change. Facilities subject to the rule are required to prepare response plans in the event of worst-case discharges or the threat of such discharges and submit them to the EPA. The final rule is effective May 28, 2024. Regulated entities must submit FRPs to the EPA within 36 months of this date. For the Final Rule, click here. For full text, click here.

EPA Overstepped its Authority in PFAS Order: Appeals Court

Coastal-Review.org by Jennifer Allen

New Orleans, LA – A federal appeals court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its statutory authority when it ordered a Texas-based company to stop creating long-lasting toxic chemicals while manufacturing plastic containers. The three judges for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans filed their unanimous decision Thursday, vacating the two orders the EPA had issued Dec. 1, 2023. 

The orders under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Section 5, directed Inhance Technologies LLC in Houston not to create per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as a byproduct during production of fluorinated high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, plastic containers. The containers are used to store products such as pesticides, fuel and automotive liquids. For full text, click here.

Buffalo’s Lead Paint Inspection Program is Unsustainable, Commissioner Says

Buffalo News by Diedre Williams

Buffalo, NY – Three years ago when Buffalo launched a Proactive Rental Inspections program, it was the city’s latest attempt to solve a lead poisoning problem that has plagued Buffalo’s old housing stock for decades. Mayor Byron W. Brown said it would help the city identify lead paint contamination and correct the problem “before it can hurt residents.” But Brown’s commissioner of permits and inspection services now says the inspection program lacks the funding to be sustainable and the PRI ordinance should be revised. Click here for the full text.

Testing for Lead in Kids’ Bones Reveals Evidence of Long-Term Damage a Blood Test Might Miss

Indiana Public Radio by Rebecca Thiele

Marion County, IN – When it comes to spotting lead poisoning, blood tests might not be enough. Tests on children at an Indianapolis charter school show evidence of long-term damage from lead could be hiding in kids’ bones. Kids at Genius School were tested for lead. While none of them had blood lead levels high enough to trigger the state to take action, they did have high levels in their bones. Purdue assistant professor Aaron Specht said lead only stays in the blood for a few weeks, but can build up in the bones and remain there for years.  Click here for the full text.

EPA Issues Draft Part 2 of Risk Evaluation for Asbestos for Public Comment

EPA Washington DC

On April 15th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Risk Evaluation for Asbestos, Part 2, inviting public comment. This part focuses on evaluating legacy uses and associated disposals of asbestos, including various fiber types like chrysotile asbestos. Legacy uses refer to instances where manufacturing or distribution has ceased but asbestos may still be present, such as in floor tiles and insulation. EPA has preliminarily found that disturbing asbestos in these contexts poses unreasonable health risks.

A public webinar to discuss the risk evaluation will be held on May 13, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. ET, with an opportunity for participants to share comments. Those interested in providing feedback during the webinar are encouraged to email Chloe Durand (Durand.Chloe@epa.gov) by May 7, 2024.

Environmental Information Association Managing Director, Brent Kynoch, has registered for the webinar and will submit comments on behalf of the Environmental Industry Association.

Click here to register for the webinar. Click here to read the risk evaluation. For the full text of the EPA announcement, click here.

Before Tropicana Drops, Asbestos Will Need to Come Out

KTNV ABC by Brian Horwath

Las Vegas, NV – Before the implosion of the Tropicana can take place, a lot of asbestos will need to be removed from the former resort’s complex. According to a 1,500-page report commissioned by Clark County officials, the series of buildings that make up the now-closed casino resort, and the site of the 2016 Environmental Information Association National Conference & Exhibition, have quite a bit of the stuff. Bally’s Corporation, owner of the Tropicana, plans to implode the complex in October to make way for construction of a $1.5 billion baseball ballpark for the Oakland A’s. For the full text, click here

Victims of Montana Asbestos Pollution Take Warren Buffett’s Railroad to Court

Associated Press by Matthew Brown and Amy Beth Handson

Libby, MT – Almost 25 years after federal authorities responding to news reports of deaths and illnesses descended on Libby, a town of about 3,000 people near the U.S.-Canada border, some asbestos victims and their family members are seeking to hold publicly accountable one of the major corporate players in the tragedy: BNSF Railway. Texas-based BNSF faces accusations of negligence and wrongful death for failing to control clouds of contaminated dust that used to swirl from the rail yard and settle across Libby’s neighborhoods. For the full text, click here.

Asbestos is a Global Waste Problem – Here’s How We Might Get Rid of It

BBC by Katharine Quarmby

Netherlands – In 2019, it was estimated that around 200 million tonnes of asbestos had been produced globally (not counting production in the previous decade), for use in items such as water pipes. When disturbed, the fibres become airborne and, when breathed in, can damage the lungs and airways, potentially leading to cancer. Most ends up in landfill buried with other rubbish in the hope it remains trapped. But there are concerns that the fibres can escape into the environment and get into water supplies, even becoming airborne. So there is need for a more permanent solution. Enter companies such as Asbeter in the Netherlands, who are at the forefront of developing ways of breaking down harmful asbestos fibres permanently, or so they hope. For the full text, click here

ADAO Applauds Senators Tester and Daines for Introducing the 19th Resolution Designating April 1-7, 2024 National Asbestos Awareness Week


Washington, DC – The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure through education, advocacy, and community work, applauds Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), for introducing the 19th National Asbestos Awareness Week Resolution. The Resolution declares April 1 – 7 as a week of awareness and directs the U.S. Surgeon General to issue a warning to all Americans about the dangers of asbestos exposure. For the full text of the release, click here. For the full text of Tester and Daines’ resolution, click here.

U.S. Fully Bans Asbestos

by Anna Phillips, The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finalized a ban on chrysotile asbestos, part of a family of toxic minerals linked to lung cancer and other illnesses that the agency estimates is responsible for about 40,000 U.S. deaths each year.

The federal ban comes more than 30 years after the EPA first tried to rid the nation of asbestos but was blocked by a federal judge. While the use of asbestos in manufacturing and construction has declined since, it remains a significant health threat.

“Folks, it’s been a long road. But with today’s ban, EPA is finally slamming the door on a chemical so dangerous that it has been banned in more than 50 countries,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

The agency’s ban targets chrysotile asbestos, also known as “white asbestos,” the only one of the six forms of the mineral still being used in the United States. Resistant to heat and fire, the mineral is used by companies that make vehicle braking systems and sheet gaskets. Chemical manufacturers have also defended its continued use in making chlorine, which utilities use to purify drinking water, as well as in pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Michal Freedhoff, who heads chemical safety and pollution prevention for the EPA, called the ban historic, saying it is the first time the nation’s updated chemical safety law has been used to outlaw a dangerous substance. That law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, was so weakened by the federal courts’ decision in 1991 allowing continued asbestos imports and use that “it was rendered almost powerless to protect the people who needed protecting the most,” Freedhoff said.

In 2016, America’s long delay in confronting asbestos prompted bipartisan concern among members of Congress, who voted to overhaul the law, giving the EPA sweeping new authority to protect people from toxins.

Yet years passed with little action. When the Trump administration came to power, it shrank the agency’s staff, leaving the chemical safety office too small, underfunded and demoralized to accomplish its mission.

Finally banning asbestos was at the top of Freedhoff’s to-do list when she became the agency’s top chemical regulator in 2021. As a congressional staffer, she had helped write the 2016 legislation. On a call with reporters Monday, she described the new rule as “a symbol of how the new law can and must be used to protect people.”

The trade group representing the chlorine industry, the American Chemistry Council, has staunchly opposed the administration’s proposed ban since it was announced two years ago, on the grounds that chrysotile asbestos is still used by about a third of U.S. chlor-alkali plants that produce chlorine. The industry group warned that banning this form of asbestos would make it difficult for water utilities to buy chlorine, threatening the safety of the nation’s drinking water.

Freedhoff said that once the EPA decided some of those concerns were valid, it changed its original enforcement timeline. Instead of having two years to phase out the asbestos diaphragms used to make chlorine and sodium hydroxide, the eight American companies that still use this technology will have five years, or in some cases more, to switch to alternatives. Yet imports of new asbestos diaphragms will be prohibited immediately once the rule takes effect, 60 days after it appears in the Federal Register.

Imports of asbestos-containing brake blocks, which have exposed car mechanics to the deadly airborne fibers, will be phased out after six months. And asbestos gaskets will be banned after two years.

While the change in compliance dates was a concession to chlorine manufacturers, most of which have already transitioned away from asbestos-based technology, the chemical industry did not greet it with enthusiasm.

In a statement, Steve Risotto, the American Chemistry Council’s senior director of chemical protects and technology, said supply chain bottlenecks and contractor shortages meant the industry needed more time to comply. “ACC has consistently advocated that a 15-year transition period is needed to support an orderly transition and to avoid a significant disruption of chlorine and sodium hydroxide supplies,” he said.

Environmental and public health advocates praised the new rule and urged the Biden administration to go further by addressing the other types of asbestos, arguing that anything less than a full ban doesn’t protect public health.

“I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but we’re not done,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. In 2006, her husband died of mesothelioma, a cancer closely tied to asbestos exposure.

Wary of federal rules that can be overturned by courts or weakened by future administrations, Reinstein is advocating for legislation that would outlaw all asbestos fibers — and all uses. She’s skeptical of the EPA’s claim that chrysotile asbestos is the only form in use in the United States today.

“If you haven’t done product testing, if you haven’t searched for asbestos in consumer products, then you don’t know if it’s not being used,” she said, adding that, over a decade ago, laboratory testing conducted at her group’s behest identified five products with different combinations of asbestos fibers, including a children’s toy.

Although the use of asbestos has declined, in large part because of liability fears, construction workers, firefighters, paramedics and others who spend time in old buildings are still being exposed. Once building materials containing asbestos are demolished or otherwise disturbed, the mineral’s fibers can stick to skin and clothing, ultimately finding their way into people’s lungs. There is even a name, “asbestosis,” for a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos.