Policies January 2016

GPCB unearths illegal dumping of chemicals

In an overnight operation, a team of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) unearthed an illegal pipeline built by a chemical unit in Vatva Phase I GIDC to dump hazardous untreated effluents into the Kharicut canal. The pipeline was nearly 500 meter long with its opening into the canal. Sources said, that the unit has a history of similar offences and show-cause notices have been issued several times for violating environmental norms. The company, Jinadal Texfab, owned by V A Agarwal, processes textiles in Vatva GIDC. It was issued a closure notice in 2013 for similar offence of dumping untreated chemical waste in the canal. However, after the company complied to the GPCB norms it was allowed to operate. The company is likely to be issued a closure notice by the GPCB for violating the environment norms for illegal dumping of hazardous chemicals in Kharicut canal.

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Judgement of the National Green Tribunal regarding emission and deposition of lead particles in air, water and soil by M/s. Perfect Alloys, Chengannoor village, Alapuzha District, Kerala, 17/12/2015

Judgement of the National Green Tribunal (Southern Zonal Bench, Chennai) in the matter of Kunjoonjamma Jose Vs Kerala Sate Pollution Control Board & Others dated 17/12/2015 regarding emission and deposition of lead particles in air, water and soil alleged to have been effected by the M/s. Perfect Alloys. M/s. Perfect Alloys is stated to be having an industrial unit engaged in recycling of lead from used acid batteries after their service life to produce lead ingots mainly for reuse in the manufacture of new lead acid batteries. The unit is stated to be situated adjacent to the residence of the applicant who is living in Block No .8 Survey No. 30/4 of Chengannoor village, Alapuzha District. The industrial activities of M/s. Perfect Alloys shall be closed forthwith till the SPCB grants renewal of Consent to operate beyond 30-09-2015 which shall be done by the SPCB strictly in accordance with law, after satisfying that all directions, suggestions of the SPCB in its Status Report filed dated 22-04-2015 and 07-05-2015 are fully and effectively complied with. The polluting industry shall deposit an amount of equal to 10% of annual income from the financial year 2002-03 to 2013-14 for 12 years which shall be deposited with SPCB to be maintained in a separate fund, “Environment Protection Fund, Chenagannoor” and shall be used for the purpose of further remediation as decided by the SPCB.

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Judgement of the National Green Tribunal regarding industries involved in the illegal sale of hazardous waste materials to the public, Karur, Tamil Nadu, 15/12/2015

Judgement of the National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone, Chennai) in the matter of M/s. Tamil Nadu HDPE Knitted Fabrics Manufacturers Association Vs Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee & Others dated 15/12/2015 regarding certain industries involved in the illegal sale of hazardous waste materials to the public by misusing the export quota.
The applicant states that, against the guidelines and rules several units have illegally mushroomed in the area of Karur and started manufacturing Long Lasting Insecticide Impregnated Mosquito Net (LLIN) products using the insecticide alpha-cypermethrin, which is a highly toxic and hazardous material, under the guise of export which again is a prohibited activity as per the norms of the 1st respondent (Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee, Ministry of Agriculture).
Application stands dismissed as it is devoid of merits both on facts and in law. The applicant has not produced any evidence of misuse of the permission granted to the LLIN manufacturing units to prove that they are selling the products in the domestic market and causing pollution and health hazard to the public.

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National Green Tribunal seeks stricter norms for waste discharge by industries

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench has directed the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to jointly identify industries in the state that discharge effluents with higher fluoride content into treated waste water. The court also asked the two government bodies to adopt stricter standards to curb discharge of such effluents.The identified industries/infrastructure projects will have to secure no objection certificate (NOC)/permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) or face closure in case of failure to secure such NOC/permission, the tribunal ruled recently while disposing of a plea by a group of lawyers from western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada. The applicants had highlighted the harmful effects of high content of fluoride in groundwater at 12 districts in these regions on the health of people, especially those living in rural areas.

The applicants cited rising cases of fluorosis among people, particularly children owing to consumption of contaminated water and argued that the contamination was caused by over exploitation of groundwater in the 12 districts for industrial, infrastructural and agricultural activities. Fluorosis refers to a health condition that leads to disturbance of dental enamel due to excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. In certain cases, referred as skeletal fluorosis, an excessive accumulation of fluorides in body results in bone-related diseases. Through an affidavit, the MPCB informed the bench that it was conducting the groundwater quality monitoring in the state under two separate programmes viz. the National Water Monitoring Programme (NWMP) and the State Water Monitoring Programme (SWMP). Partly allowing the plea, the bench of Justice V R Kingaonkar and Ajay A Deshpande passed a series of directions and recommended that the state government may consider adopting a policy decision to disallow crops like paddy, sugarcane etc. in areas where the groundwater level has gone deep and fluoride contents are 0.5 mg/l in excess of limits prescribed, to avoid fluoride to children in early age. The bench gave four weeks time to the CGWB and MPCB to identify the industries/infrastructure projects that require an NOC/permission from the CGWA and publish such list on their websites directing the industries to apply for necessary permission in the next four weeks. The bench directed the district collectors of the 12 districts - Nanded, Chandrapur, Beed, Yavatmal, Latur, Washim, Parbhani, Hingoli, Jalna, Jalgaon, Nagpur and Bhandara - to regularly monitor quality of water and publish district-wise information on a yearly basis. The collectors have been directed to discontinue all in-use groundwater sources having higher content of fluoride and identify alternate source of water in six months.

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Japan’s waste policies show way for developing nations, UNEP says

Japan’s shift from reactive to preventive approaches provides a lesson for today’s rapidly developing economies in how to deal with industrial wastes, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme. In the 1960s, Japan suffered environmental and public health crises from vast amounts of industrial and hazardous wastes, illegal dumping, air pollution and water contamination, UNEP says. Since then, the country has made many environmental improvements. Japan created policies to hold industries responsible for waste treatment and disposal, which created a waste market and fostered businesses in the waste sector. Market-based instruments helped communities to create city-level approaches to industrial waste management. The “three Rs” concept of reducing, reusing and recycling was also crucial to Japan’s efforts, as were awareness-raising programs, according to the report. Some of Japan’s clean-up approaches are already being used in other countries, the report says. Takeaway: A UNEP report says that Japan’s approach to dealing with its industrial waste problem, in decades past, shows the way for today’s rapidly industrializing nations.

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EPA sets coal ash rules

The EPA set the first national standards for disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants, classifying coal ash as solid waste instead of a hazardous material. The agency says the final rule establishes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and establishes safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal. The coal industry welcomed the rules regulating coal ash as non-hazardous. The regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade has finally come to an end. EPA’s final decision to regulate coal ash as a ‘non-hazardous’ material puts science ahead and clears the way for beneficial use of ash to begin growing again — thereby keeping ash out of landfills and disposal ponds in the first place. According to the EPA, in response to comments received on the proposal, the final rule makes a number of changes by providing greater clarity on technical requirements for coal ash landfills and surface impoundments under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste.

Implementation of these technical requirements will be reported through comprehensive and regular disclosure to states, and communities to enable them to monitor and oversee these requirements. The rule requires that power plant owners and operators provide detailed information to citizens and states to fully understand how their communities may be impacted. The rule sets out new transparency requirements, including recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as the requirement for each facility to post specific information to a publicly-accessible website. This will provide the public with information such as annual groundwater monitoring results, and corrective action reports, coal ash fugitive dust control plans, and closure completion notifications. This final rule also supports the responsible recycling of coal ash by distinguishing safe, beneficial use from disposal. In 2012, almost 40 percent of all coal ash produced was recycled (beneficially used), rather than disposed.

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Hazardous materials recycling rule finalized

The EPA has finalized a hazardous materials recycling rule that requires, among other things, off-site recycling at a facility with a RCRA permit or verified recycler variance. The agency says this will allow it and individual states to verify that a facility has the equipment and trained personnel to safely manage the material, adequate financial assurance, is prepared to respond in case of an emergency, and can demonstrate that the recycling is not disposal in the guise of recycling. The new verified recycler exclusion also includes a public participation requirement for recyclers seeking variances, so that communities are notified prior to the start of recycling operations. The Definition of Solid Waste final rule modifies the EPA’s 2008 DSW rule to protect human health and the environment from the mismanagement of hazardous secondary material, while promoting sustainability through the encouragement of safe and environmentally responsible recycling of such materials. It includes several provisions that the EPA says result in both resource conservation and economic benefits by encouraging certain types of in-process recycling and remanufacturing.

The rule affirms the legitimacy of the pre-2008 DSW exclusions, such as the scrap metal exclusion, and does not change the regulatory status of material legitimately recycled under these long-standing exclusions. The final rule includes a revised definition of legitimate recycling that re-affirms the legitimacy of in-process recycling and of commodity-grade recycled products, such as metal commodities. The rule retains the exclusion for recycling under the control of the generator, including recycling onsite, within the same company and through certain types of toll manufacturing agreements, which recognizes those generators who follow good business practices by taking responsibility for their recycling and maintaining control of their hazardous secondary materials. Finally, the final rule includes a targeted remanufacturing exclusion for certain higher-value hazardous spent solvents, which are being remanufactured into commercial-grade products. This allows manufacturers to reduce the use of virgin solvents, resulting in both economic and environmental benefits, including energy conservation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

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Pharmaceutical hazardous waste regulations bring compliance challenges

Complying with the complex array of hazardous waste handling and disposal requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and its state analogues is a substantial undertaking for retail pharmacies and other “healthcare facilities.” Increased federal and state enforcement against these facilities regarding, among other things, pharmaceutical waste disposal practices has prompted discussion between regulatory agencies and the regulated community about the appropriateness of applying these hazardous waste requirements to the healthcare and retail contexts. Since 2007, the EPA has issued several guidance documents clarifying various regulatory issues related to the management and disposal of pharmaceuticals that are considered hazardous waste when discarded. Alongside these guidance documents, the EPA continues the formal rule-making process to more fundamentally reshape the regulatory regime for such waste pharmaceuticals when handled and/or disposed of by retail pharmacies, other healthcare facilities, and reverse distributors. The EPA continues to divulge few details about the pending proposed rule, but it has signaled that the rule will address three broad problem areas: reverse distribution of pharmaceuticals; compliance difficulties caused by RCRA’s “manufacturing-oriented framework;” and problems caused by flushing of waste pharmaceuticals. In the meantime, however, a patchwork of pharmaceutical waste regulatory regimes exist among the states, and several states have recently undertaken additional pharmaceutical waste regulatory reform efforts, further complicating compliance efforts by the regulated community, particularly for entities with operations in multiple states.

For example, Rhode Island has recently adopted changes to its rules applicable to hazardous waste generators, exempting “household hazardous waste pharmaceuticals” when such waste is collected in the course of consumer take-back programs. As Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management has noted in summarizing the state’s recent changes to rules governing hazardous waste management by generators, Rhode Island has implemented the aforementioned exemption to avoid “creating confusing jurisdictional issues between DEA controlled substance requirements and hazardous waste rules for household waste.” Not every state is taking this “jurisdictional issue” into account necessarily, however. New York recently enacted legislation endorsing pharmaceutical take-back events and is prompting further legislation that would establish a prescription drug disposal program in which pharmacies accept and dispose of unused drugs prescribed to residents of the state. Illinois and Pennsylvania both have pending legislation pertaining to pharmaceutical take-back events. Even though it is clear that legislated take-back events are on the rise, the legislation itself varies and seemingly further complicates the management of pharmaceutical waste. For example, while Illinois’ pending legislation does not provide for compulsory take-back events, it seemingly fails at the same time to provide clear guidance to pharmacies should they decide to provide a receptacle for pharmaceutical take-backs. Pennsylvania’s pending legislation, on the other hand, requires retailers of pharmaceutical drugs (which includes over-the counter products) to have in place a system for the acceptance and collection of such drugs for proper disposal. And were a retailer to not comply with Pennsylvania’s pending legislation, that retailer “may not make a retail sale.” Thus, while retail pharmacies operating in multiple states should anticipate state-mandated and/or regulated pharmaceutical take-back programs, states are not implementing one-size-fits-all systems for these programs that could have potentially draconian impacts should compliance become a problem.

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Demystifying new EPA rules for recycling selected hazardous wastes

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and its state counterparts provide requirements to govern hazardous wastes during every step of their management, from “cradle to grave.” Although these rules are intended to improve management and provide incentives for recycling and other beneficial uses of hazardous wastes, many organizations find many of the rules unnecessarily onerous – and therefore potentially counterproductive if they actually discourage beneficial activities. In addition, over time changes in technologies, commercial activities and regulatory priorities reveal gaps in existing rules. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised its “Definition of Solid Waste” rules governing a number of potentially hazardous wastes that it instead considers to be “hazardous secondary materials,” and the range of recycling and recovery activities eligible for special regulatory considerations. The revisions became effective on July 13, 2015.

What are ‘Hazardous Secondary Materials?

EPA has revised exclusions from the category of (potential) hazardous wastes defined as hazardous secondary materials. The general definition remains the same: Hazardous secondary material means a secondary material (e.g., spent material, by-product, or sludge) that, when discarded, would be identified as hazardous waste under part 261 of this chapter. EPA’s use of the subjunctive “would be discarded” tells us how EPA considers spent materials, by-products and sludges that are managed in some way other than being discarded. The most recent changes revise the lists of materials being addressed, and the non-discard activities that qualify for special regulatory consideration. Most importantly, reclamation of a hazardous secondary material may qualify for one of two dozen exclusions—a specified material managed in a specified way is not a solid waste (i.e., is excluded from the definition, and therefore from all associated regulatory requirements).

Which general revisions apply to hazardous secondary materials handling?

EPA is revising the following generally-applicable requirements: the definition of “legitimate recycling” to focus on whether the products make a “useful contribution” to an economic process, confirming that in-process recycling and transfers to other processes can both be legitimate; rules for transfers to third parties, to require that the recipient be a “verified” recycler or reclamation facility (i.e, with appropriate permit or variance to conduct the activity); onsite management requirements, including container labeling.

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