Sunday, January 30, 2011

EPA & GE Agree On Next Phase of Hudson River PCB Cleanup


Dredging on Buriganga River BangladeshImage via Wikipedia
Dredging Boat in Bangladesh
On December 17, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented General Electric (GE) with the requirements for the next phase of the cleanup of the Hudson River.  The second phase of the cleanup should begin in May 2011.  This second phase would require GE to remove far more contaminated sediment from the river before sealing or "capping" any remaining polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  On December 23, 2010, EPA commended GE for agreeing to conduct the second and final phase of the Hudson River cleanup .
In the first phase of the cleanup, nearly 37% of the area was capped due to the continued presence of contamination, despite multiple dredging passes that removed the great majority of the PCBs.  Capping in 15% percent of the area was unavoidable because of physical barriers in the river, leaving 22% percent capped in areas without these barriers.  While fish and other aquatic life are not exposed to the contamination in the capped areas, the EPA has determined that it is necessary in Phase 2 to set a stringent limit on what percentage of the total project area can be capped if dredging does not meet the cleanup goals.  This limit will be set at 11% of the total project area, not counting those areas where capping is unavoidable.  This limit represents a significant improvement from Phase 1 and will require GE to employ considerably more rigorous dredging procedures.

Dredging during the second phase will go deeper into the sediment and, by relying on better information and lessons learned during the first phase, will remove more contaminated sediment in fewer passes.  Phase two will require GE to remove an estimated 95 percent or more of PCBs from the areas designated for dredging.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Big Businesses Causing More Problems For The Economy.



Like water flows, a business' cash must also flow steady & strong
 The New York Times article "Big-Business Deadbeats" highlights one of the biggest problems with the economy that, as far as I am concerned, is not reported about enough.
The article discusses how Cisco Systems announced..."effective March 31, 2010, Cisco announced to its small business suppliers that as a rule Cisco would wait sixty days after receipt of an invoice — or net 60, in business jargon — before cutting a check. The reason Cisco gave for this new policy was not that it was hard up: the company has nearly $39 billion of cash on its balance sheet, and in the third quarter of 2010 alone it spent $2.7 billion to repurchase its own shares. Rather, the corporation explained that it had been “benchmarking against our technology peers” and found a precedent for “new payment terms.” In other words: Everyone is doing it, so we are too."
As a small business owner myself, the issue of payment terms and how it efffects our cash flow cannot be emphasized enough.  In the consulting business the time it takes to get paid is the hardest part of being in business.  You perform a service and then have to wait 45 to 60 to 120 days to be paid for that service.  During that period of time you had to pay your employees, if you got good terms you may have had to pay your suppliers and the overhead (phones, office space, etc.) is owed every month on the dot.  How do you pay for all of these things without payment from the client?  Which brings me to the second biggest problem with the economy - the lack of small business loans to handle this cash flow crunch.  The big banks got a bail-out but they were not forced to maintain the credit lines to the small business owners that were running their business on these credit lines.  Many of these credit lines were closed and shut down forcing businesses to use non-traditional sources as their credit lines (credit cards with high interest rates, etc.).  I am not an economist, but in running my business if I don't have the flexibility to smoothen out the cash flow problems I face, then I can not hire someone even if I need to hire someone.  If the government wants small businesses to start hiring again, then they need to address the lack of small business loans that are available for small businesses.  They need to force banks to reduce the standards they are setting to get a loan.  In addition, the government wherever possible should reduce the time period it takes to pay their suppliers, consultants, providers, etc.  Reducing this time period would increase the cash flow to small businesses helping these businesses better handle the current economy and possibly allow them to start hiring.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

OSHA Website Focuses On Green Job Hazards

Wind Farm in California
The Occupational Safety and Health Adminisitration (OSHA) standards cover many of the hazards in green industries and employers must use the necessary controls to protect workers.  The green industry is being defined broadly as an industry that helps to improve the environment.  The jobs created by this green industry (typically called green jobs) also create opportunities to help revitalize the economy and get people back to work.  Examples of the different green industries include:
Green jobs do not necessarily mean that they are safe jobs. Workers in the green industries may face hazards that are commonly known in workplaces -- such as falls, confined spaces, electrical, fire, and other similar hazards.  These hazards may be new to many workers who are moving into the fast-growing green industries.  Additionally, workers may be exposed to new hazards which may not have been previously identified.  An example of this are workers in the solar energy industry may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if adequate controls are not implemented.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to comply with safety and health regulations promulgated by OSHA.  In addition, the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.  In the absence of an OSHA standard, OSHA can enforce the General Duty Clause. 
One of the key concept for all industries, but especially those that are just beginning to grow, is "Prevention through Design (PtD)" – designing the process/equipment in a way that eliminates hazards to the workers who use them.  The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a web page discussing this concept, visit it at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/PTD/.  The basic premise of this is to address occupational safety and health needs in the design process (having occupational safety and health professionals working with design engineers) to prevent or minimize the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal of facilities, materials, and equipment.  If the design eliminates the hazard before what is being designed is built, then the hazards may never be created.  Visit OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/dep/greenjobs/index.html to better understand the job hazards in each of the different green industries.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSHA Log Form 300A Posting Due February 1, 2011.

OSHA 300A Log Form
Section 1904 of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations requires certain employers to comply with the OSHA recordkeeping guidelines (this includes most employers, see http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/ppt1/RK1exempttable.html for a list of partially exempt industries).  This regulation requires OSHA form 301 to be completed for each work related injury/illness.  The information  from the 301 form is logged onto the OSHA 300 form.  At the end of calendar year 2010, the totals from OSHA 300 form is entered onto the OSHA 300A form.  The 300A form is the total number of cases (injuries/illnesses), total number of work days lost (due to injuries/illnesses), and total number of injury/illness types from the calendar year 2010 for each facility/work site/employer.  The OSHA 300A form must be posted from February 1, 2011 thru April 30, 2011.  The 300A form should be posted in a conspicuous place where you normally post employee information. Failure to post can result in citations and penalties.  You are required to maintain the OSHA 300 and 300A forms for 5 years following the year they pertain and make them available to employees upon request.  To get the forms mentioned above and instructions on how to complete then visit OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/new-osha300form1-1-04.pdf.  For more information on recordkeeping requirements visit OSHA's website on recordkeeping at http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/index.html.  If you need assistance or training on completing these forms you can also contact us at angelo3@futureenv.com

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

OSHA Reminds Employers Of The Hazards Associated With Ice And Snow Cleanup

Snow removalImage via WikipediaThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Region 4 (Georgia) is warning employers of the hazards associated with ice and snow removal.  However, with the Northeast being hit by more snow just this week it is important to remember these hazards ourselves.

Common hazards can include:
  • Electric shock from contact with downed power lines or the use of ungrounded electrical equipment.
  • Falls from clearing ice jams in gutters, snow removal on roofs or while working in aerial lifts or on ladders.
  • Being struck or crushed by trees, branches or structures that collapse under the weight of accumulated ice.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from gasoline-powered generators in inadequately ventilated areas or idling vehicles.
  • Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chain saws and power tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers.
  • Slips or falls on icy or snow-covered walking surfaces.
  • Being struck by motor vehicles while working in roadways.
  • Hypothermia or frostbite from exposure to cold temperatures.
Means of addressing these hazards can include:
  • Assuming all power lines are energized, keeping a distance and coordinating with utility companies.
  • Making certain that all electrically powered equipment is grounded.
  • Providing and ensuring the use of effective fall protection.
  • Properly using and maintaining ladders.
  • Using caution around surfaces weighed down by large amounts of ice.
  • Making certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance.
  • Using and wearing eye, face and body protection.
  • Clearing walking surfaces of snow and ice, and using salt or its equivalent where appropriate.
  • Establishing and clearly marking work zones.
  • Wearing reflective clothing.
  • Using engineering controls, personal protective equipment and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold.
Information on hazards and safeguards associated with cleanup and recovery activities after a storm or other major weather events is available online in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/hurricaneRecovery.html.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

EPA Removes Saccharin As A Hazardous Waste

2D structure of artificial sweetener saccharin
Saccharin 2-D Formula
In December, 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended its regulations regarding saccharin as a hazardous waste.  Saccharin, an artificial sweetener in the form of a white crystalline powder, is 300 times sweeter than sucrose or sugar.  It is typically an ingredient in diet soft drinks, juices, sweets, and chewing gum.  Saccharin can also be found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
EPA amended its regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to remove saccharin and its salts from the lists of hazardous constituents and commercial chemical products which are hazardous wastes when discarded or intended to be discarded.  In addition, EPA amended the regulations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to remove saccharin and its salts from the list of hazardous substances.  EPA responded to a petition submitted by the Calorie Control Council (CCC) to remove saccharin and its salts from RCRA and CERCLA, EPA will no longer list these substances as hazardous on the above mentioned lists.  EPA granted CCC’s petition based on a review of the evaluations conducted by key public health agencies concerning the carcinogenic and other potential toxicological effects of saccharin and its salts.  In addition, EPA assessed the waste generation and management information for saccharin and its salts, concluding that the wastes do not meet the criteria for hazardous waste regulations.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

OSHA Acts To Protect Residential Roofing Workers

Fall Protection established for this roof project.
On December 22, 2010, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new directive withdrawing a former one that allowed residential builders to bypass fall protection requirements.  The directive being replaced, issued in 1995, initially was intended as a temporary policy and was the result of concerns about the feasibility of fall protection in residential building construction.  However, there continues to be a high number of fall-related deaths in construction, and industry experts now feel that feasibility is no longer an issue or concern.
"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction.  We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.  "Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof.  We can stop these fatalities, and we must."
The National Association of Home Builders recommended rescinding the 1995 directive, as did OSHA's labor-management Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health; the AFL-CIO; and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, which represents the 27 states and territories that run their own occupational safety and health programs.
According to data from the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs.  One-third of those deaths represent Latino workers, who often lack sufficient access to safety information and protections.  Latino workers comprise more than one-third of all construction employees.
OSHA's action rescinds the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, Standard 03-00-001.  Prior to the issuance of this new directive, Standard 03-00-001 allowed employers engaged in certain residential construction activities to use specified alternative methods of fall protection rather than the conventional fall protection required by the residential construction fall protection standard. With the issuance of today's new directive, all residential construction employers must comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13).  Where residential builders find that traditional fall protection is not feasible in residential environments, 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) still allows for alternative means of providing protection.
Construction and roofing companies will have up to six months to comply with the new directive.  OSHA has developed training and compliance assistance materials for small employers and will host a webinar for parties interested in learning more about complying with the standard. To view the directive and for more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection.html.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

EPA Revises Lead Ambient Air Monitoring Requirements


Air Quality Testing for several parameters.
On December 14, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final lead (Pb) ambient air monitoring requirements.  The purpose of this revision was to expand the nation’s lead monitoring network to better assess compliance with the revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead issued in 2008.  In 2008, EPA substantially strengthened the lead NAAQS by revising the level of the primary (health-based) standard from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) to 0.15 μg/m3, measured as total suspended particles (TSP).  The agency revised the secondary (welfare-based) standard to be identical to the primary standard.  EPA in this final rule (Dec. 2010) also changed the emission threshold that state monitoring agencies (such as New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [NYS DEC]) must use to determine if an air quality monitor should be placed near an industrial facility that emits lead. The new emission threshold is 0.5 tons per year (tpy), reduced from the previous threshold of 1.0 tpy. Any new monitors located near an emissions source must be operational no later than one year after this rule is published in the Federal RegisterEPA maintained a 1.0 tpy lead emission threshold for airports.  However, EPA is requiring a 1-year monitoring study of 15 additional airports (beyond those currently required to monitor at the existing 1.0 tpy emission threshold) for the New York area this includes Brookhaven and Republic airports. The study will help EPA determine whether airports that emit less than 1.0 tpy have the potential to cause the surrounding areas to exceed the lead NAAQS of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3).  The monitors participating in the study must be operational no later than one year after this rule is published in the Federal Register.
EPA is also requiring lead monitoring in large urban areas (Core Based Statistical Areas, or CBSAs, with a population of 500,000 people or more).  Monitors will be located along with multi-pollutant ambient monitoring sites (known as the “NCore network”).  Lead monitoring at these sites will begin January 1, 2012.
  • The NCore network will consist of approximately 80 monitoring sites, of which 63 will be in large urban areas.  The requirement to add these monitors replaces an existing requirement to place lead monitors in each CBSA with a population of 500,000 or more people.
The above revisions were made based on comments received on EPA’s proposed revisions.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Asbestos Controversy in Troy New York.

Demolition of the Old Troy City Hall in Troy, New York has caused controversy regarding the asbestos discovered in the building.  It seems based on the news report it seems like they got caught doing demolition before removal.  The City Engineer says he is doing exploratory demolition and New York State Department of Labor approved it.  Is he looking for more asbestos?  When was this building built?  Have they sampled all 46 of the presumed and suspect asbestos materials that is on the New York State Industrial Code Rule 56 list?  These are just some of the questions I have regarding this demolition.  Additional reports have mentioned a limited asbestos survey.  Why is it limited?  What hasn't been sampled?
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NIOSH Science Blog Discusses Helical CT Scans and Lung Cancer Screening

This is an x-ray image of a chest. Both sides ...Image via WikipediaThe National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) Science blog recently discussed the reported findings regarding the use of helical CT scans for lung cancer screening.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) in 2002 to compare the effects of two screening procedures, low-dose helical computerized tomography (CT) and chest x-ray, in reducing lung cancer mortality in current and former heavy smokers aged 55 to 74.   The preliminary results from this study indicated this relatively new form of screening using helical CT demonstrated fewer lung cancer deaths among individuals at high risk of lung cancer who received this screening than among a similar group screened with chest radiography (chest x-rays or CXRs).  NIOSH has great interest in this finding, and there is hope that this might provide new approaches to cancer screening among workers with increased risk for lung cancer because of past occupational exposures.


Related articles
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CDC Website Has Indoor Safety Tips Regarding Winter Weather

Snow at Brewery Ommegang
With another winter storm on the way for Long Island, it is important to remember these safety tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for staying safe inside:
  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.
Visit the CDC website linked to the title of this post for more information.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mold Complaint Dismissed

Water-damaged ceiling tiles is an indication of a moisture control problem
An article published December 23, 2010 in the Suffolk-News Herald (VA) said a lawsuit filed by a former teacher (claiming mold in her classroom made her sick) against the School Board was dismissed by a United States District Court judge last week.  The former teacher, Christina Hood, had claimed that she began suffering medical problems after beginning her job as a teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in 2007. She said itchy and irritated eyes, a rash, sinusitis and bronchitis were caused by mold in the school.  She had requested damages of $1.5 million.  Hood’s complaint accused the School Board of deliberately exposing her to dangerous conditions at the school, claiming that the board knew of the mold and bacteria growths before she was hired.  She also alleged that the School Board was deliberately indifferent to her health and safety.
In a motion for dismissal, however, School Board attorney Wendell Waller noted that the school system had not been indifferent to Hood’s medical condition.  The response states that the school’s management had allowed Hood to put a dehumidifier in her classroom and frequently inquired as to her condition.  The School Board also retained a professional company to inspect Hood’s classroom for mold.  The assistant director for facilities and planning also inquired about Hood’s past medical condition and her symptoms, inspected the classroom for mold and took air samples.
The school division also had Hood’s classroom cleaned thoroughly several times and was willing to transfer her to a middle-school position teaching seventh-grade math, but Hood was licensed only up to sixth grade.
“The facts alleged … fail to meet the strict ‘shock the conscience’ standard because the defendants did not ignore Hood’s complaints but did in fact take steps to remedy conditions in Hood’s classroom,” the motion for dismissal stated.
This case shows it is important for facility directors to take the concerns of individuals complaining about indoor air quality seriously.   Facility directors should implement an indoor air quality management program to ensure you document all that was done to resolve the indoor air quality complaint.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

NYS Toxic Mold Task Force Completes Final Report

Section 1384 of the New York State (NYS) Public Health Law established the NYS Toxic Mold Task Force.  The goals of the NYS Toxic Mold Task Force was to:
  • assess and measure, based on scientific evidence, the adverse environmental and health effects of mold exposure, including specific effects on population subgroups at greater risk of adverse effects;
  • assess the latest scientific data on mold exposure limits;
  • identify actions taken by state and local government and other entities;
  • determine methods to control and mitigate mold;
  • and prepare a report to the Governor and Legislature.
To achieve these goals the NYS Toxic Mold Task Force activities were organized into four main areas of inquiry:
  • health effects of molds in indoor environments;
  • exposure limits and assessment of mold in buildings;
  • approaches to mold mitigation and remediation;
  • building codes, regulations and other actions taken by other governments and private-sector organizations that relate to building mold problems.
In reading the executive summary it is clear that the NYS Toxic Mold Task Force came to the usual conclusions regarding mold that the many in the industry already know.  For example:
  • Since mold problems in buildings are preventable with proper building construction, maintenance, and housekeeping aimed at preventing excess building dampness, mold exposure is preventable.
  • Overabundant growth of any mold or other dampness-related organisms is undesirable and can be addressed by removing contaminants and correcting water problems.  Whether or not exposure to mold toxins is likely when mold growth occurs in a damp building does not substantially change the need for mitigation of the water and mold problem.
  • Continue to improve building code requirements that address building design, construction techniques, and property maintenance so that they prevent or minimize the potential for water problems to occur.
  • The presence and power of the code enforcement official (CEO) can also help minimize the potential mold problems in buildings when approving construction documents, during construction inspections of new buildings, and when issuing property-maintenance violations related to moisture conditions in existing buildings during required inspections.
  • Regulating the mold assessment and remediation service industry is dependent upon how desirable it is to have persons poperly trained and following acceptable protocols.  The main public health goal of any regulation or additional guidance to the mold industry will be to reduce the potential for mold exposures and the risk of health effects in damp buildings.  Costs for such a program can range from $150,000 for using already developed general recommended work practices and certification programs to $4.5 million per year for a full regulatory program like the NYS asbestos program.
  • The development of reliable, health-based quantitative mold exposure limits is not currently feasible.
  • Their is limited evidence of the benefits of chemical disinfectants or encapsulant treatments for mitigating or preventing mold growth on building materials.
  • The main approach to mold control and mitigation should be focused on identifying and repairing water damage in buildings and removing mold source materials.  This method of mitigation is less complicated to implement than mitigation based on attaining a numerical clearance critertion, because the main goal is to return the building to a clean and dry condition.
The document is 150 pages including tables and exhibits.  It will be interesting to see if this document actually goes anywhere in regulating the mold assessment and remediation industry.


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Thursday, January 06, 2011

New York Times Lists the Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...Image via WikipediaNew York Times posted an excellent article regarding the top 10 reasons small businesses fail.  As a small business owner myself I can say that all of these are definitely issues that make it hard to run a business over a long period of time.  Poor accounting, lack of a cash cushion, and operational inefficiencies have all played a part at one time or another for causing me problems with running my business.  However, though at times I have looked back and said what was I thinking going into business for myself, I feel it has been one of the best decisions in my life.  I highly recommend that if you have this dream you go out and just do it!
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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year One & All

Angelo Garcia III at a Metro NY AIHA meeting 
I would like to thank all of you for making 2010 a very good year.  I look forward to continuing to provide you with information, assistance, and services that help you with your business in 2011.  I promise to continue to improve Future Environment Designs, this blog, and all the services we provide to keep it up-to-date and as fresh as it can be. 
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