Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BIFMA Standards Unveiled in October

From Environmental Leader - September 19, 2008
Sustainability Guidelines for Office Furniture May Soon Be Finalized

A new national sustainability standard for office furniture makers, developed jointly by NSF and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, may be finalized by early October, Western Michigan Business Review reports.

The guidelines set baselines to determine the sustainability of products and internal business practices. The development of the standard was mainly driven by booming market demands for environmentally friendly products from office furniture makers.

Brian Walker, president and CEO of Herman Miller, told Western Michigan Business Review that the standard allows manufacturers already involved in green efforts to go even further, and encourages smaller companies to begin the journey.

According to a case study by Forrester Research, Herman Miller has reduced landfill waste by 80 percent and hazardous waste by 91 percent. The company has also seen 32 percent return on investment in energy efficiency investments.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Great Lakes Legacy Act ReAuthorized in Congress, still must pass Senate

Buffalo, NY—The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to reauthorize and triple the amount being spent for cleaning up contamination at sites around the Great Lakes. Once approved by the Senate, the reauthorized Great Lakes Legacy Act (H.R. 6460/S.R. 2994) will:

• Provide $150 million annually from 2009-2013
• Fund pilot projects using innovative approaches, techniques or technologies to clean up contaminated sediment; and
• Guarantee public involvement and participation.

The 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified 43 “Areas of Concern” with 26 sites in U.S. waters and five in shared U.S-Canadian waters.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), and Congressman John McHugh (NY-23) championed the Great Lakes Legacy Act in the House. New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton are both original co-sponsors in the Senate. To date, New York’s Great Lakes toxic hot spots have received almost $20 million to help clean up blighted and orphaned coastal contamination sites.

A few of the Great Lakes Legacy Act Areas of Concern in New York (many more in surrounding states)

New York State’s remaining Great Lakes toxic hot spots include:

Niagara River Area of Concern is located in Erie and Niagara counties. Pollution from inactive hazardous waste sites, sewer overflows, shoreline development, heavy metals and toxic chemicals from industrial waste impair the River’s health.

Buffalo River Area of Concern.
Poor water quality, sewer overflows, 45 inactive hazardous waste sites, deformed fish, and contaminated sediments laden with toxic chemicals and heavy metals impair the Buffalo River in the City of Buffalo.

Eighteenmile Creek Area of Concern
is located in the Town of Newfane, Niagara County. Fish and wildlife deformities and reproductive problems are linked to sediments contaminated with heavy metals and toxic chemicals, as well as poor water quality and habitat degradation, impair this Lake Ontario tributary.

Rochester Embayment Area of Concern of Lake Ontario in Monroe County is impaired by heavy metals, sewer overflows, toxic organic substances resulting in health advisories for fish consumption.

St. Lawrence River at Massena Area of Concern begins at the Massena Village drinking water intake and includes portions of the Grasse, Raquette and St. Regis Rivers. PCBs, mercury, DDE, Mirex, nutrients, metals, physical disturbance, natural erosion and invasive species impair the River.

Toxic Chemicals and Heavy Metals in Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin and Mirex are man-made chemicals once used as insecticides and flame retardants. They accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. Exposure impacts the nervous system, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, and reproduction in animals and people.

Dioxins and Furans are persistent chemicals that accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. Released as a by-product of manufacturing and emissions from motor vehicles, municipal waste incinerators, wood fires and trash burning. Exposure is linked to skin, reproductive, and liver problems in people.
PCBs are persistent man-made chemicals, banned in the mid-1970s that continue to accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. PCB exposure is linked to low birth weight, learning disabilities, decreased memory, and reproductive problems.

Mercury is a bioaccumlative toxic heavy metal that poses particular problems for the developing nervous system of children and unborn babies.
Cadmium is a bioaccumaltive toxic metal used in many industrial operations and in consumer products such as paints, plastics and batteries. Long term cadmium exposure adversely impact human’s kidneys, bones, and blood.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eden Environments: Grand Rapids' Sustainable Design Center

Yup, the bear attended opening night of Eden Environments and I was glad to see and meet so many likeminded green folk. Good food, good conversation and great design came together that evening with expectations of great things to come from owner Denise Hopkins.

Denise's vision was to create a store that would offer green alternatives for every aspect of interior design and construction. She is off to a great start. She has a fantastic location on 28th Street in the Design One Plaza - just east of the I-96 offramp near the Cascade Meijer - and her new showroom is filled with creative and inspiring designs.

Hat's off to Denise! Finally a great place to shop for green goods in Grand Rapids!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Ashtabula River Runs Clean Into Lake Erie Once Again

The Ashtabula River Partnership recently hosted a party at the Ashtabula Yacht Club to celebrate the successful removal of nearly 630,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the river. The sediment contained a variety of chemicals including PCBs, heavy metals and uranium, radium and thorium. Dredging began in September 2006 and is finally over.

It cost over $60 million from the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the state of Ohio to remove 25,000 pounds of hazardous PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other contaminants from the river bottom. It is the first cleanup project in Ohio funded by the federal Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the largest of the four Legacy Act projects funded to date. Also, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the dredging north of the Fifth Street lift bridge to Lake Erie at a cost of $15 million.

The true cost of pollution is never pretty... these millions are nothing compared to the disease and the loss of life that this mess has likely created.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Troy Ohio added to SuperFund Priorties List

The East Troy Contaminated Aquifer site in Troy, Ohio, to the Superfund National Priorities List. Three other sites - the Behr Dayton Thermal System VOC Plume site in Dayton, the New Carlisle Landfill in New Carlisle, Ohio, and the U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery in East Chicago, Ind. - were proposed for addition to the priorities list. Sites on the list are eligible for additional study and resources under EPA's Superfund program.

Nationally, six new sites were added to the NPL, bringing the total to 1,258, and 11 sites were proposed for addition to the list. Under the NPL process, sites are first proposed and public comments considered before a determination is made to formally add a site to the list. The NPL is updated twice each year.

The East Troy site is an area where volatile organic compounds, including the common industrial chemicals PCE and TCE, have contaminated ground water, soil and the indoor air in basements. EPA addressed the indoor air health risk by installing vapor abatement systems in 16 homes and St. Patrick Elementary School in the summer of 2007. EPA and Ohio EPA data also shows that VOCs have contaminated ground water below the city of Troy, as well as a local drinking water well field. To address this, Ohio EPA and Troy have taken steps to contain one potential source of the
contamination, and are treating contaminated ground water prior to use. Adding the site to the NPL enables EPA to study site conditions further, identify possible sources of the contamination, and develop a comprehensive strategy to address all locations and sources of the VOC contamination.

The proposed Behr Dayton site also involves TCE contamination in ground water. In 2003 and 2006, volatile organic compounds were detected in ground water beneath the Behr Dayton Thermal System auto parts manufacturing facility at 1600 Webster St. To address potential health risks associated with the pollution, EPA has installed vapor mitigation systems in 180 homes in the neighborhood south of the plant since late 2006. EPA will soon announce an October open house session to discuss the project.

The New Carlisle Landfill, at 715 N. Dayton-Lakeview Road in New Carlisle, operated from the mid-1950s until the early 1970s. It is now covered with two to four feet of clay, but was not designed with a protective liner in the manner of modern landfills. Ohio EPA data indicates that water from two public wells and two residential wells in the nearby area contain vinyl chloride above the safe drinking water level. In 2005, EPA extended the water line from the New Carlisle public water system to two homes and a plant nursery business. EPA remains concerned about potential migration of the vinyl chloride toward residential wells within one-half mile of the site.

The U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery site, 5300 Kennedy Ave., East Chicago, Ind., was also proposed for addition to the NPL today. The company operated from 1920 to 1985. Lead, most likely dispersed from long-removed smokestacks, has been detected in residential soil north of the property. The company also discharged process water to wetlands on the property that flow toward the Grand Calumet River Corridor. In July 2008, EPA began removing lead-contaminated soil from 15 nearby homes. Adding the site to the NPL will enable EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to complete a comprehensive approach to address the contamination.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


1) An agreement has been reached with Republic Engineered Products Inc. on alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's steel mill at 1807 E. 28th St., Lorain, Ohio. Republic has agreed to pay a $210,000 penalty.

2) EPA proposed a $114,740 penalty and filed an administrative complaint against Wolf Paving Co. Inc., 612 N. Sawyer Road, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin., for alleged Clean Air Act violations at an asphalt plant the company owned and operated until January 2007 at Highway 18 and County Road C in Genesee, Wisconsin.

3) The EPA and U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a $2,055,373 settlement for cleanup costs at the former IWI site, 7738 W. 61st Place, in Summit, Ill. A group of 23 companies will reimburse the government for cleanup work completed in October 2003. The late Glenn Wellman operated four companies at the 1.7-acre site from the late 1960s until the late 1990s: IWI Inc., IWI Industries, Itasco and Wellco. The business manufactured, cleaned and repaired stainless steel totes designed to store up to 600 gallons of liquid - typically flammable or corrosive materials such as adhesives, inks, oil and paint. The property was abandoned following Wellman's death in 1999. Oddly enough, a fire destroyed the former administrative offices in May 2002. A nine-month cleanup effort by a Chicago-based EPA Superfund team resulted in the safe disposal of 683 tons of contaminated soil, 568 tons of hazardous sludges, 568 drums and 52,300 gallons of hazardous liquids from a railroad tank car, sumps and totes at the site. The remaining structures on the property were razed.

4) Hercules Inc. had alleged clean-air violations at the company's chemical plant at 5228 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee. A $22,500 penalty resolves EPA allegations that Hercules failed to comply with regulations requiring the facility to control leaks of hazardous air pollutants from its equipment.

EPA said Hercules had an uncapped open-ended line, had delayed repair of another line and had not tagged relevant equipment. The company has since demonstrated compliance with these requirements and improved its leak-management system.

5) Another agreement with Perham Resource Recovery Facility, a small municipal waste combustor in Perham, Minn., on alleged clean-air violations. This agreement, which includes a $15,950 penalty and a $110,760 environmental project, resolves EPA allegations that the facility exceeded emission standards for hydrogen chloride and mercury. The alleged violations were discovered through performance test reports submitted by the facility. The facility's environmental project consists of two improvements to its air pollution control system that will reduce emissions of hydrogen chloride and mercury. Hydrogen chloride, or hydrochloric acid, is corrosive to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure can cause chronic bronchitis and skin problems.

6) Bristol-Myers Squibb, an international pharmaceutical manufacturer, has agreed to reduce the output of ozone-depleting refrigerants at multiple industrial facilities around the country at a combined cost of $3.65 million to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice announced in early July. Under an agreement filed in federal court in Evansville, Ind., New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb will be required to retire or retrofit 17 industrial refrigeration units by July 2009 at facilities in Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Ind.; Hopewell, N.J.; and Humacao and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The units are used in the facilities' industrial process or as air conditioners and currently use hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, as refrigerants.

I could keep going there are so many more to list...