Tag Archives: EPA

EPA: US needs $300B in sewer, water work

A federal study shows municipalities nationwide need more than $300 billion worth of essential upgrades to long overlooked water and sewer systems over the next 20 years.

The need is acute in Northeastern states with older systems like New York, which needs $29.7 billion worth of improvements, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday. But he said that price is a “just a drop in the bucket” compared to the higher cost of continuing to upgrade parts of sewer and water systems when emergencies strike. He is pushing a bill that would counter planned funding cuts in the federal transportation bill now being negotiated in Washington.

“EPA found that the nation’s 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit, non-community water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027,” stated the federal Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, which is updated every four years.

The National Association of Counties’ 2008 report estimated the need for water and sewer upgrades at $300 billion to $450 billion nationwide and the federal stimulus project provided just a fraction of that as the recession reduced local governments’ revenues.

“This is a very serious concern,” said Carolyn Berndt of the National League of Cities. “Many communities have a long-term plan to replace all their underground water infrastructure, but even if they do a couple percentages of pipes a year, it’s still going to take over 100 years for some of them to replace it all.”

She said local governments have been paying more than 95 percent of the cost of water and sewer upgrades since the 1990s as federal aid has declined. Schumer said federal aid covered 75 percent of local costs in the 1980s and 1970s.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Berndt said. “Some of these pipes are 100 years old. That’s why they continue to see water main breaks.”

The group supports Schumer’s effort, which comes as Congress works to cut spending.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP219f0f0323df453694748991f44b896d.html

Montana spill pipeline may have carried oil sands crude

An Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have sometimes carried a heavier and more toxic form of crude than initially thought, federal regulators said on Thursday.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said her office had learned that the pipeline may have been used to carry heavier crude.

“I just found out that apparently, and the regional folks just found out, there is an interconnect on the pipeline that possibly does carry some oil out of Canada,” she said in response to a question about tar sands crude in the pipeline.

That a pipeline thought to transport only “sweet,” low sulfur crude could have carried so-called tar sands crude from Canada raised concerns by health and environmental officials, even as Exxon officials said the heavier oil was not flowing through the Silvertip pipeline when it broke on July 1.

“The actual crude in the line at the point of the incident was a blend of crudes from Wyoming,” Exxon spokesman George Pietrogallo told Reuters in an email on Thursday.

Exxon was responding to a question about whether tar sands crude had ever flowed in the pipeline. Almost all the oil produced in Canada’s Alberta fields is from tar sands.

The chemistry of tar sands oil, derived from tar sands or bitumen and sweet crude is significantly different, said Ronald Kendall, head of the environmental toxicology department at Texas Tech University.

“Tar sands oil is in itself heavier oil and it contains more compounds that are toxic and may contain heavy metals like lead,” Kendall said.

In a July 6 email to Reuters, Exxon spokesman Kevin Allexon said the crude carried by the pipeline “does not originate from Alberta” but from fields on the Montana-Wyoming border. On Thursday, Exxon revised that.

“The pipeline carries a variety of different production fields in the U.S. and Canada,” Pietrogallo said in the email.


Tar sands crude may cause more wear and tear on pipes because of its chemical makeup, including corrosive and abrasive agents, said Tom Finch, the pipeline administration’s technical services director for the western regional office.

Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of tar sands crude could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture, he said.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer faulted Exxon for failing to tell the state exactly what kinds of crude ran in the pipeline or spell out what hazardous chemicals were in the mix now contaminating riverside properties.

“Since they dumped that oil into the river that the state owns and manages, since they have spread oil in a film across 150 separate properties, since the film is over fishing access sites and state parks, we thought it would be appropriate to know what it is,” Schweitzer said.

Richard Opper, head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said he was surprised to learn the pipeline buried in the streambed of the Yellowstone may sometimes have moved tar sands crude from Canada.

“If the question is, did we know it was carrying tar sands oil? Hell, no,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “If companies are changing the kinds of materials in pipelines to mixes that make them more likely they will leak or rupture, that raises huge concerns.”

Exxon has apologized for the spill, which it estimates at 42,000 gallons, and pledged to restore a river prized for its near pristine waters, scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife.

EPA officials are analyzing the chemical fingerprint of the oil which, depending on its source, could contain anything from benzene, a known carcinogen, to hexane, a toxin that can damage the human nervous system.

Preliminary testing by the EPA has shown no detectable levels of some hazardous compounds harmful to humans. But at least five residents were treated in hospital emergency rooms for symptoms like dizziness, nausea and respiratory distress, according to state environmental officials.

Environmentalists said on Thursday that questions about the grades of crude in the Silvertip should prompt a call by regulators for new pipeline standards and guidelines.

“The industry likes to say, ‘oil is oil’; it’s pithy but untrue,” said Anthony Swift, energy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council. “Some grades of tar sands oil are fundamentally more corrosive and dangerous.”

SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-oil-spill-montana-idUSTRE76E0OJ20110715

Klamath Falls Mini Marts pay $30,000 penalty for failing to check tanks for leaks

The owners and operators of three AMA Mini Mart gas stations in Klamath Falls, Oregon, have agreed to pay $30,000 for failing to properly monitor seven underground petroleum storage tanks (USTs) for leaks for over two years.

Under federal and state rules, owners and operators of USTs are required to test tanks for leaks on a monthly basis in order to protect groundwater from pollution.

According to Edward Kowalski, EPA’s Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, leaking tanks can also endanger drinking water.

“Out of sight should not mean out of mind when it comes to underground fuel storage tanks,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “Groundwater is often a community’s only source of drinking water. Owners of tanks must do their part to prevent oil and gas leaks and help protect people from polluted water.”

EPA inspected the AMA Mini Marts in October 2009 and found that all of the USTs at the three sites lacked the required monthly release detection for the tanks and annual testing required for the associated piping, a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

EPA alleges that AMA Mini Mart owner Anesti Audeh was in violation from at least October 2008 through March 2011. The owner has since taken action to bring the three AMA Mini Mart facilities into compliance and has agreed to submit compliance documentation to EPA for the next six months.

SOURCE: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/22ec8716534b5e36852578b80064646a?OpenDocument