Spokane AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

Smoke from wildfires burning to the north is affecting air quality in the Spokane area, prompting officials from Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) to remind residents to take precautions to protect their health.

As of this morning, the air quality monitors in Spokane are reporting levels of fine particulate matter pollution in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” or “Orange” category of the Air Quality Index (AQI).

Spokane Clean Air’s air quality forecaster says winds from the north and northeast are transporting wildfire smoke to our area from the various regional wildfires. A strong high pressure ridge will remain over the region well into next week, bringing generally light winds and continued high temperatures and abundant smoke-filtered sunshine. Air quality will worsen at night as smoke concentrates in valleys and improve slightly in the afternoon with increased wind speeds and mixing of the atmosphere.

The smoke is likely to remain with us into next week. Clearing the smoke from the region will require a change in the weather pattern with winds from the west or southwest. Such a change is not expected for at least the next several days.

“Depending on the wind and wildfire activity, the Air Quality Index may fluctuate between Moderate (yellow) and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange) today and Thursday,” according to Stephanie May, public information specialist for Spokane Clean Air.

See www.spokanecleanair.org/news  for more information.

EPA Declares Outdoor Burn Ban for Yakama Nation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is declaring a ban on all outdoor open burning on the Yakama Reservation due to stagnant air conditions and elevated air pollution, effective noon, August 2, 2017 through Monday August 7, 2017 unless extended.

The burn ban applies to all outdoor and agricultural burning—including camping and recreational fires—in all areas within existing reservation boundaries regardless of ownership or tribal membership. Ceremonial and traditional fires are exempt from the burn ban. For areas outside reservation boundaries, please contact your local clean air agency, fire department, or the Washington State Department of Ecology.  EPA requests that reservation residents reduce all sources of air pollution as much as possible, including excess driving and idling of vehicles.

Air pollution can seriously harm your health. Community-wide cooperation during the ban will help people who are most at risk, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with asthma or difficulty breathing, diabetes, heart problems or whose breathing is otherwise compromised. Those sensitive groups should avoid outdoor exercise and minimize exposure to outdoor pollution as much as possible. Under the most severe pollution levels all residents should restrict their activities.

To check conditions now in your area, go to http://www.airnow.gov/

For current burn ban status, please visit https://waburnbans.net/, the tribal air quality office, or the EPA at 1-800-424-4372, or by email: R10_farrhotline@epa.gov.

Find more information online, go to https://www.epa.gov/farr

Spokane PE Addresses the Ethical Challenges of Autonomous Vehicles and Driver and Pedestrian Safety

Autonomous VehiclesBeth Hodgson, P.E., and her staff at Spring Environmental Inc. in Spokane, Washington, developed a PowerPoint presentation (with embedded sound) to show how an engineer’s ethical obligation is to advise the risk assessment team in ways that maintain public welfare overall. This presentation garnered them a win in the 2017 Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest. (See Winning Entry-2017 with audio.) Hodgson’s team members included Julianne Gehlen, Amy Hooper, John Quinn, E.I.T., Jenelle R. P. Scott, P.E., Gabriel Sedbery, E.I.T., and Elizabeth Speare, E.I.T.

This ethical dilemma was just one of four situations for which NSPE members could test their knowledge of engineering ethics against other experienced PEs and engineering students. The contest was revamped this year to allow for more creative ways for participants to show off their ethics know-how. Contestants could choose one of four different situations dealing with the ethics of engineers, demonstrating their understanding of the facts and the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers through an essay, video, photo essay, poster, or PowerPoint presentation.

Contestants were asked to read the facts of the case, then develop a discussion and conclusion to respond to the included question(s). They were required to provide references, citing specific sections of the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. Hodgson and her team will receive a certificate, recognition in PE magazine, and an award of $1,000.

The entries were judged by the following criteria:

  • Quality of the entry in form and presentation. Clarity, composition, expression, etc. are important. The essay, video, photo essay, poster, or PowerPoint should be a finished piece and “ready to go.”
  • Demonstration of understanding the implications concerning ethical or unethical behavior.
  • Comprehensive analysis of the case and arguments supporting conclusions. This may include new thoughts or other expressions.

SPCC Enforcement at a Hotmix Asphalt Operation

Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard PLLC

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Frank W. Whitcomb Construction Corporation (“Whitcomb”) of Colchester, VT entered into a June 22nd addressing alleged violations of the Clean Water Act Oil Pollution Prevention regulations including:

  • Plan not certified by a professional engineer;
  • No management approval of plan;
  • Plan not maintained on site or not available for review;
  • No evidence of 5 year review of plan by owner/operator;
  • No plan amendments if the facility has had a change in: design, construction, operation, or maintenance which affects the facility’s discharge potential;
  • Plan does not follow sequence of the rule and/or cross reference not provided;
  • Plan has inadequate or no facility diagram;
  • Inadequate or no description of drainage controls;
  • No inspection records available for review;
  • Training records not maintained for 3 years;
  • Dike water is not inspected prior to discharge and/or valves not open and resealed under responsible supervision;
  • Causes of leaks resulting in accumulations of oil in dike areas are not promptly corrected;
  • Vehicle traffic is not warned of aboveground piping or other oil transfer operations.

The Agreement assesses a civil penalty of $3,100.

EPA and USACE Rescinds WOTUS Rule

EPA and USACE Rescinds WOTUS Rule

Foley & Lardner LLP

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced a proposal to strike the 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulation, which had expanded the number of U.S. waterways subject to federal review for pollution control purposes.

Before the 2015 WOTUS regulation, the 1972 Clean Water Act applied primarily to “navigable” bodies of water. With the 2015 WOTUS rulemaking, the Obama administration expanded the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act to ditches, streams, and many additional non-navigable waters, outside the original scope of the Clean Water Act.

A formal notice and comment rulemaking is required for the administration to revise the definition of waters of the United States.

EPA Selects 3 Sites in Spokane for Brownsfields Grants

EPA has selected communities in Alaska, Oregon and Washington for Brownfields environmental site assessment and cleanup grants. The grants, ranging from nearly $200,000 up to $600,000, will be used to conduct brownfield site assessments and cleanups to help redevelop vacant and underutilized properties, transforming them into an asset for both the community and the local economy while protecting public health and the environment. 

City of Spokane was selected for three brownfields cleanup grants totaling $600,000. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/municipality-spokane-selected-600000-brownfields-cleanup-grants

 “EPA is committed to working with communities to redevelop Brownfields sites which have plagued their neighborhoods. EPA’s Assessment and Cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and include places where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These grants leverage considerable infrastructure and other investments, improving local economies and creating an environment where jobs can grow. I am very pleased the President’s budget recognizes the importance of these grants by providing continued funding for this important program.”

Brownfields assessment and cleanup grants target communities with significant distress. These communities are economically disadvantaged — neighborhoods where environmental assessment, cleanup and new jobs are most needed for residents that have historically been left behind. EPA selected 172 communities nationally for new brownfields assessment and cleanup funding in 2017.  Across the country, $56.8 million in funding will be granted. 

For more information about Brownfields Cleanup and Assessment Grants: www.epa.gov/brownfields

To view fact sheets about the 2017 grant recipients: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-list-fy17-grants-selected-funding

Ecology Recruiting for Air Quality Section Manager at the Central Regional Office

Ecology is recruiting for an air quality section manager at the Central Regional Office Union Gap, Washington to replace Sue Billings.   First Sean Hopkins and now Jay Carmony have served as Acting Section Manager.  Jay Carmony will continue to serve in his Acting role until the recruitment process is complete.  The closing date for applications is May 16, 2017.  For more information on the job opportunity, see https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/washington/jobs/1729903/air-quality-section-manager-wms-band-2?department[0]=Dept.%20of%20Ecology&sort=PositionTitle%7CAscending&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs

CSB Releases Final Report into Nitrous Oxide Explosion

On April 20, 2017, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into the August 28, 2016, nitrous oxide explosion at the Airgas manufacturing facility in Cantonment, Florida. The blast killed the only Airgas employee working at the facility that day and heavily damaged the plant, halting its manufacturing of nitrous oxide indefinitely.

The CSB investigation found that federal regulations require some chemical facilities that manufacture hazardous substances to have process safety management systems in place to protect their workforce and the public.  The CSB discovered, however, that a majority of these specialized rules are not required for nitrous oxide facilities.

In its final report, the CSB notes that the contributing causes of the explosion all stemmed from the lack of an effective process safety management system. For example:

–       Even though heat from the pump was a known hazard, Airgas did not evaluate safer design options that could have eliminated the need for the pump altogether;

–       The company did not perform a management of change review or hazard analysis before installing the pump to identify and control hazards; and

–       Safeguards installed by the company, including the safety interlock to automatically shut down the pump, and flame arrestors were likely ineffective, and failed to prevent the incident.

OSHA Delays Enforcement of Silica Standard in Construction

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Monday a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers. The Agency has determined that additional guidance is necessary because of the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017. – See more at: http://ehsdailyadvisor.blr.com

Ecology adopts new Hazardous Waste Fee Regulatory Language

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted amendments to Chapter 173-305 Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Hazardous Waste Fee Regulation on April 5, 2017.  To see the rulemaking documents visit Ecology’s website at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/laws_rules/HWFee/1606docs.html.  The rule includes the following changes:

  • Exempts
    • Dangerous waste treated on-site by Generator
    • Non-recurrent (e.g. spill clean-up) dangerous waste
  • Modifies the definition of Price Deflator which affects the maximum total fees collected. The language was updated to clarify how the fee is adjusted annually for inflation; the language is now consistent with actual practice.

The rulemaking is not expected to change fee practices but to codify current practices.  It will not require businesses to change how they report dangerous waste.  The rule is effective May 6, 2017.