Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances collectively referred to as PFAS or “forever chemicals,” are being detected in water and many types of foods. Viraj deSilva of SCS Engineers provides an overview of sources, treatment processes used to remove them from wastewater, and government advisory limits in this recent article in World Water Magazine.
PFAS is extremely persistent in the environment and includes more than 4,500 synthetic chemicals, are organic compounds whose hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine. The bonds between fluorine and carbon are extremely strong and difficult to break.
The two main PFAS compound structures are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured or used in the US, but similar replacement chemicals (such as GenX) remain. Other countries still manufacture PFAS and many consumer products imported to the US from those countries still contain the compounds.
About 610 locations in 43 US states serving an estimated 19 million people have PFAS in the drinking water, according to the Environmental Working Group and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, United States (US). See the full references in the article.
The current US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory limit is 70 parts per trillion. However, as an advisory level, it is not enforced – meaning that the water is not required to be tested for PFAS compounds. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that forever chemicals were detected in many foods. The FDA tested 91 foods, including fresh produce, baked goods, meat, and fish.
Perfluorinated chemicals will continue to be subject to studies, risk assessments, possible regulations, and data collection under several statutes, so product and waste-reduction practices should be considered immediately to reduce potential consequences.
There are solutions to all of these challenges and the new EPA Action Plan; new measures will lead to better protection of potable water from the harmful impacts of forever chemicals.
Forester University recently added a new class entitled “NPDES Industrial Stormwater Compliance and BMP Selection under an Emerging Regulatory Trajectory” with Jonathan Jonathan Meronek, QISP-ToR, ENV SP, CPESC, QSP/D.
Int his 2-day session attendees and groups can expect to learn what they need to know immediately to shape their stormwater management program for the future as regulatory compliance responsibilities increase for owners, managers, and operators of industrial stormwater facilities.
A Tiered Approach for an Increased Regulatory Compliance Trajectory
Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), stormwater regulation is growing, evolving and becoming more robust, with increased compliance standards. For the stormwater managers, consultants and dischargers, the stakes have never been higher. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) regulations are in an iterative cycle, facing increased pressure from Non-government organizations (NGOs) to increase water quality standards.
As stakeholders, the stormwater community has come a long way since the Cuyahoga “River on Fire” in 1969. Now Federal regulations at 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)(i)-(xi) require stormwater discharges associated with eleven (11) specific categories (29 Sectors) of industrial activity to be covered under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.
Recently noted, the Multi-sector General Permit (MSGP) draft for the year 2020 be significantly altered through a large NGO lawsuit, the US EPA entered into a landmark settlement agreement (Waterkeeper Alliance v. US EPA [2d Cir. 15-02091]).
With an escalation of NPDES industrial stormwater compliance, there must be a pronounced emphasis on reducing and eliminating pollutants of concern in Stormwater Discharge. The fundamental concentration starts with Best Management Practices (BMPs). To achieve compliance to these benchmarks, one must prioritize BMPs to meet a “level of control” which includes achieving Best Available Technology and Best Conventional Technology (BAT/BCT) to reduce industrial discharge pollutants of concern.
For many industrial dischargers, it is no longer viable to adhere to status quo BMPs. In many cases, it is more feasible to approach escalating regulatory compliance with an eye to the future, by thoughtfully seeking long term and sustainable solutions. Industrial stormwater BMPs and their associated implementation is the critical path towards regulatory compliance. Data, including internal sampling, matched up with BMP targeted pollutant specifications has to be continually collected and reviewed in light of US EPA Benchmarks.
Increased Water Quality Objectives for 303d and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) can and have increased receiving body benchmarks to Numeric Effluent Limits (NELs). Over the last five years, several states adoptions of State Industrial General Permits (Washington, California, and Oregon) have been comprised of stakeholder input regarding NELs, and in many cases, the outcome was a lesser standard of Numeric Action Limits or NALs. However, based on the recent Waterkeeper Alliance Settlement, studies concerning the viability of NELs are imminent, and therefore NELs are becoming more prevalent.
Never before has BMP selection and implementation been more important.
At Jonathan’s session at StormCon 2019, he will discuss the challenges of the industrial regulations and associated escalation scenarios, and provide a review of compliance numbers for the dischargers seen as “case studies” for the emerging regulatory trends. He will show facilities with advanced BMPs and how they have come to terms with Industrial Stormwater compliance.
Presenter at StormCon 2019: Jonathan J. Meronek, QISP, IGP-ToR, CPESC, CISEC, QSP/D
Bill Lape discusses the most frequently asked questions about designing a training program that is part of your facility’s PSM and RMP programs and provides a defensible position during inspections while ensuring that your facility operators and maintainers perform their jobs safely.
Bill tackles all your questions in this article. Set-PSM-RMP-Hut-Hut
Comments were submitted to the EPA from NWRA/ SWANA regarding the EPA’s Advance Notice of Public Rule Making (ANPRM) for revisions to Subtitle D, and in particular potential revisions regarding the bulk liquids addition. Subtitle D prohibits bulk liquids additions with the exception of leachate recirculation, and the RD&D permit process allows bulk liquids. Bob Gardner of SCS Engineers was involved in the development of the joint NWRA/SWANA comment letter.
EPA has indicated that they are considering adding a “wet landfill” definition to Subtitle D; however, the Industry strongly advised against doing so. The letter addresses this issue and the reasons for recommending against a separate “wet landfill” definition.
SCS Engineers is looking forward to seeing you at the 2019 Missouri Environmental Conference, July 14-16, at the Margaritaville Lake Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri.
This year the conference includes a full Brownfields track, sessions on Tanks, Land Development, Legal, Solid Waste and Environmental Services. Four SCS professionals will be presenting on the following topics:
MONDAY JULY 15, 10:30 AM
A Balancing Act – The Many Requirements at a Modern Landfill – Doug Doerr, P.E., SCS Engineers As landfills have become more complex, they have also become subject to more rules, regulations, and requirements. Many times the involvement of different groups with different requirements and end goals lead to a well-run facility that is very environmentally protective. However, many times owners and operators find themselves trying to balance different, and sometimes competing, requirements. This presentation will discuss some of the instances when conflicts exist and provide insights on how to find balance.
TUESDAY JULY 16, 8:30 AM
Injection Wells for Responsible Liquids Management – Stephanie Hill, SCS Engineers This presentation will highlight two case studies where deep well injection is being used to manage non-hazardous industrial wastewater at (1) an underground coal mine and (2) leachate from a landfill. This side-by-side comparison of each of these industry’s differing approaches will walk through their unique wastewater type and how they manage chemical compatibility of their injected wastewater and downhole reservoir fluids to ensure the longevity of this capital asset.
Also at 8:30 AM
PFAs in Landfill Leachates – Overview and Handling Options – Viraj deSilva, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, SCS Engineers With the EPA positioned to take serious action on PFAS in late 2019, regulators in many states have already begun implementing measures of their own, while state and federal courts are beginning to address legal issues surrounding this emerging contaminant. These changes mean new potential liabilities and consequences for organizations that manufacture, use, or sell PFAS or PFAS-containing products, and the time to take action to protect your operations is now. A number of established treatment options to remove PFAS from landfill leachate are available, including activated carbon, ion exchange or high-pressure membrane systems.
10:30 AM EDUCATIONAL SESSION
Design and Construction of a ClosureTurf® Final Cover System – Dillon Baird, P.E., SCS Engineers As onsite borrow sources become depleted and Subtitle D landfills reach capacity and close, synthetic final cover systems such as ClosureTurf® are now being utilized as an alternative to a prescriptive final cover system. The construction and long term postclosure maintenance costs of final cover systems are crucial factors when selecting which cover system is best for a site. Mr. Baird’s presentation will provide a recap of the value engineering process that led to the construction of a ClosureTurf® final cover system. Additionally, he will share some of the lessons learned during each phase of the project.
Wendell, a Senior Project Professional in the SCS Engineers Sacramento office became interested in photography 35 years ago. He had broken his ankle and needed something to do because he felt grumpy not being able to play tennis. His tennis partner loaned him a camera, some film, and his dark room.
Wendell was hooked.
Wendell’s beautiful photos capture the reason we work with our clients to protect our environment. See a few pieces of his organic work, and look for more soon.
Mr. Minshew has over 30 years of engineering experience. He specializes in civil engineering services in the planning, design, permitting, and construction management of solid and hazardous waste facilities. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in California and Nevada.
Thank you for sharing, Wendell.
For many oil and gas waste processing and disposal facilities, and water midstream facilities, groundwater monitoring is mandatory. The ongoing quarterly monitoring well sampling is a long-term operating expense that presents opportunities for cost reduction by employing new sampling technologies that reduce labor time and cost.
Conventional monitoring well sampling traditionally requires bulky and expensive pumps and support equipment. Time-consuming to use, these also require specialized training and are prone to mechanical failure in oil basin extreme weather conditions. Straightforward, lower-tech methods are available that can substantially lower field costs; in some cases, by up to 50 percent.
If your sampling results indicate potential problems, we recommend bringing in groundwater analytic expertise; this is where you want to concentrate your environmental compliance resources.
It is essential to conduct one or more background sampling events before a facility opening to interpret sampling results that may reveal facility issues. At SCS, we’ve seen many documented cases of facilities that unknowingly were operating over groundwater already contaminated by other nearby facilities or tainted by naturally occurring petroleum in the subsurface.
Another cost-reduction best practice is the application of statistical analysis to the lab results. While not always required by regulators, there are well-proven analytical tools that can answer questions about the source of apparent anomalies in the data. Ongoing application of these tools—even if only done internally—can reveal problems early and solve others before they become a liability.
About the Author: James Lawrence of SCS Engineers is a hydrogeologist with 25 years of experience in all aspects of the distribution and movement of groundwater in the southwestern and central portions of the U.S. Jim leads the groundwater monitoring program for SCS in the Permian Basin area. He works to resolve problems that arise with groundwater monitoring, including assessment monitoring, corrective action, landfill and natural gases, and alternate source demonstration issues.
His responsibilities include supervising the sampling, data reporting, and statistical analysis. His job experience includes extensive permitting-related hydrogeological characterizations, the design and implementation of groundwater monitoring systems, assessing groundwater geochemistry, soil and groundwater assessment investigations, risk reduction rules, groundwater modeling, design and implementation of numerous large dewatering systems, design of water supply wells, managing waste injection wells, managing CERCLA and RCRA investigations, and waste analysis/characterization programs.
Mr. Lefebvre, a Professional Engineer in nine states recently joined the SCS Environmental Services team. He brings over three decades of experience as an environmental engineer and consultant specializing in soil and water remediation services for both government and business sectors.
Mr. Lefebvre manages remedial action plans, multi-media contamination assessments, industrial wastewater treatability studies and treatment system designs for SCS’s clients. He serves as an expert witness as well. He has designed and managed industrial wastewater treatment systems for the pharmaceutical industry; successfully remediated groundwater at petroleum Superfund sites; restored soil and groundwater at several RCRA sites; and was the Engineer of Record for a South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) project to protect the Everglades National Park.
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An environmental insurance claim is simply the response and mitigation of an environmental issue or event paid for by an environmental insurance policy. Similar to an auto or home insurance claim, a company or individual purchases this type of policy to protect them in case a matter arises about their facility, operations, or property resulting in a regulatory requirement for investigation and remediation; forming the basis for a submitted claim. Such responses cost money, often a lot of it, and the environmental insurance policy is there to pay for the costs associated with the investigation and remediation of any environmental issues.
Any environmental issue can result in an environmental claim, so it is essential that you have the right policy in place to cover a particular claim. Typical issues or events include:
Insurance clients submit notice to the insurance company that an environmental issue occurred or was discovered which requires investigation and corrective action. The onus is on the client to provide sufficient information to substantiate a claim submittal. The insurance company reviews this information in their evaluation of coverage for the issue under the policy.
When a new claim is submitted to the insurance company, the client must provide information that substantiates that an issue exists and that further investigation and corrective action is required. Often their substantiation consists of the initial technical details about the nature and extent of the environmental problem. Claims analysts generally have a strong legal background but may lack technical environmental expertise; this is when insurance support services become valuable. The following paragraphs summarize each step in the process and how SCS insurance support assists claims analysts through the process.
Once the insurance company receives a notice of claim, they determine whether the client’s policy provides coverage for the specific issue or event that constitutes the claim. A claims analyst evaluates the specifics of the claim to determine if the associated details and circumstances fall within the specifics of the client’s policy. If so, coverage is usually accepted. If not, coverage is generally denied.
SCS’s role is to provide an evaluation of the technical aspects of the claim so that the claims analyst can take the distilled facts and compare them against the specifics of the policy; often called a “Source and Timing” evaluation. Take, for example, an underground storage tank (UST) release at a gasoline station. In this example, free product (gasoline) is observed in an on-site monitoring well where no free product has previously or recently been identified.
The station owner or their environmental consultant reports the apparent new release to the regulator, and a confirmed discharge is recorded. The property owner than notifies the insurance company of a gasoline release to the environment.
As part of the “Source and Timing” evaluation, SCS’s insurance support reviews tank system leak detection and inventory records, tank system tightness testing records, previous groundwater monitoring data, reports of any earlier releases at the facility, and any other information or data about the facility and the subject release. The goal is to identify:
If enough information is available to make these determinations, then the claims analyst compares the SCS report to the coverage specifics and exclusions included in the policy; determining if the event is covered. The claims analyst will usually try to make a coverage determination on their own if the facts are relatively straightforward, but often that is not the case, and the assistance of insurance support services is necessary.
This process can be straightforward, such as in the case of a tanker truck rollover or industrial facility chemical spill, but is often more complicated when insufficient information is available to make a source and timing determination. In the latter case, the claims analyst issues a Reservation of Rights letter, stating that the insurer is not accepting or denying coverage at this time as the circumstances of the claim are still under evaluation and investigation.
Claims can be denied if the incident occurs before or after the policy period; if the source or type of incident are not included or are specifically excluded under the policy; or if the incident occurred because of the client’s negligence. If coverage is denied no further actions are generally necessary on the part of the insurance company. Whether a claim is accepted or denied is often more complicated than what we’ve discussed here.
The claim is accepted; undoubtedly good news for the client. What happens now is that the claim becomes “Active,” requiring among other things for the claims analyst to set reserves. A reserve is an estimate of what the claim is going to cost the insurance company. Your insurance support consultant can provide a rough approximation of the estimated costs to achieve regulatory closure, which includes all expenses incurred from investigation through remediation, post-remediation monitoring and reporting.
Early in the life of a claim, these are preliminary estimates that are refined as a project progresses, often requiring the claims analyst to adjust their reserves; important to the insurance company as future reserves impact financial forecasts. Insurance support services will develop the cost-to-closure estimate based on all available information and data, as well as their professional experience on similar projects. The insurer wants the most experienced environmental consultants and engineers on the case because their estimates are more likely to be on target and identify potential regulatory issues or risks.
From the insurer’s standpoint, the primary goal is to maintain a high level of responsiveness to their clients and process requests for reimbursement against the claim. The role of your insurance support team can continue by managing quality control and evaluation of site-specific activities; ensuring that the investigation and cleanup are reasonable and appropriate given the environmental conditions at the site, all applicable regulatory requirements, and costs consistent with industry standards for recovery. The client and their environmental consultant are required to provide the insurer and the insurance support consultant documentation of the work as follows:
Over the life of a claim, insurance support may correspond with the project consultant on behalf of the insurer, conduct site visits, and be asked to participate in meetings, conference calls, and mediations. The overall goal of your insurance support consultant is to assist claims analysts in closing a claim in the most time-efficient, cost-effective manner possible within all regulatory rules and guidelines.
Once an active claim−environmental project has achieved regulatory closure, the claims analyst begins the administrative process of closing the claim. From SCS’s insurance support standpoint, all that remains is to obtain the appropriate documentation from the regulator confirming that the subject project is approved for closure and that no further actions are required.
There are other circumstances which may result in closing a claim, such as exceeding the maximum total cost that can be paid out by the policy, non-compliance with policy requirements, or new information coming to light which results in a change in coverage position by the insurer. In some cases, such as when there is a change in coverage position or the cause of the issue can be attributed to a third party equipment failure, the insurer may seek to recover costs expended from the client and third-party policies. That process, called subrogation, may require the expertise of your insurance support specialist and at times their testimony as an expert witness.
There are several ways that SCS helps our insurance clients and other clients. The involvement of insurance companies is becoming more pervasive throughout environmental consulting and engineering in all business sectors. The combination of SCS’s industry expertise, contacts associated with our insurance support services, and our Federal, State, and local level regulatory expertise brings more knowledge and efficiency to each project. SCS offers a wide range of engineering and environmental services, a national presence, and a positive established industry reputation.
Our clients appreciate being able to draw upon our insurance-related expertise to assist them with their submittals, interpreting insurance requirements, and liaising with insurance companies as part of our core capabilities.
Mr. Michael Schmidt is an accomplished industry leader with nearly 30 years of progressively responsible experience in the environmental consulting and environmental insurance industries. He has specific expertise focusing on the evaluation of environmental risks and liabilities associated with insurance claims and underwriting, site investigation and remediation, due diligence, and project management.
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