Obama Proposes New Regulations on Offshore Drilling

Earlier this week, the Obama administration proposed a set of new rules for offshore drilling, nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed regulations come from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and are improvements to rules and notices that were issued immediately following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

“These proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to ensure that offshore operations are safe,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “This rule builds on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers to comprehensively address well design, well control and overall drilling safety.”

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Philadelphia’s Temple University to Receive EPA Brownfields Grant

Temple University in Philadelphia has been awarded funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the cleanup and reuse of brownfield properties in the North Kensington area of Philadelphia. Temple will receive a $200,000 grant to develop the project, which consists of a 161-acre area in the North of Lehigh neighborhood of Kensington. The project aims to plan for health, environmental, and economic improvements for the residents through cleanup and reuse of the area.

Temple’s Center of Sustainable Communities will collaborate with the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) as well as leaders from the community and city organizations to complete the project. These organizations include the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Conrail, and SEPTA Police Department.

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New Study Shows Better Air Quality Helps Lungs Grow

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month found that long-term improvements in air quality are associated with positive effects on lung-function growth in children. The study took place in southern California, where air pollution levels have been on a downward trend over the past several decades due to the implementation of air quality control policies.

The lung function of 2120 children was measured in three separate calendar periods: 1994-1998, 1997-2001, and 2007-2011.  Large improvements were found in the children studied from 2007-2011 as opposed to those children of the same age in the same communities from 1994-1998 and 1997-2001. The results were adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, height, respiratory illness, and other variations and strong evidence was found that improved air quality improves lung-function growth.

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New Disposal Option for Pharmaceutical Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that they are in the process of developing a proposal to establish standards for the management and disposal of hazardous pharmaceutical waste. We can hopefully expect this proposal in 2015.  In the meantime, generators of hazardous pharmaceutical waste must follow the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) standards.  A new process has been developed that utilizes oxidizing agents in a high alkaline environment to treat all forms of pharmaceutical waste.

Traditionally, collected pharmaceutical waste has been for the most part treated through incineration. Additionally, many healthcare facilities do not collect or dispose of the waste properly and it ends up in sewers or landfills.  Increased incineration standards have raised the cost of the process in some areas, due to the need to control air pollution.

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EPA Proposes Updates to Ozone Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to strengthen ground-level ozone, or smog, standards.  The EPA proposed a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) while also taking comments on a level as low as 60 ppb. The last update to these standards was completed in 2008, setting the current standard to 75 ppb.

In order to set the new proposed standard, the EPA examined more than 1,000 new studies that have been completed since the current standard was set in 2008.  The consensus of the studies indicated that exposure to levels of ozone below 75 ppb can pose serious threats to public health, harm the respiratory system, cause or aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and is link to premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes.  Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds “bake” in the sun from sources like vehicles, industries, power plants, and various solvents and paints.

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Exercise Effective Oversight during Construction/Remodeling

This is the final post in our 4-part blog series for the healthcare industry. To view part one, click here, part two, click here, and part three, click here.

Construction and remodeling projects at hospitals and other healthcare facilities open the doors to a wide variety of challenges in maintaining indoor air quality, especially if the project is adjacent to occupied areas. With some additional oversight, you can ensure the quality of the environment for occupants and workers, reduce the likelihood of problems, and meet regulatory requirements. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Use an Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) matrix to determine the Patient Risk Classification of your proposed project.  Based on the classification, design and install appropriate barriers and negative pressure systems prior to the start of construction to block the transmission of contaminants, dust, and odors.

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Effective EPA Compliance for Healthcare

This is the third post in our 4-part blog series for the healthcare industry. To view part one, click here and part two, click here.

We help our clients meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and we also help them implement sustainable practices that not only meet, but exceed EPA compliance. Here are some issues many clients face:

Air Permitting.  Hospitals and continuing care facilities have boilers, emergency generators, sterilization systems, and sometimes incinerators that require construction and operating air permits from state and local environmental agencies.  These permits have complex terms and conditions that require constant vigilence to ensure continuous compliance.  There may be daily, weekly, monthly and annual recordkeeping for fuel usage.  We assist numerous hospitals with their air permit compliance, new air permits and 5-year renewals.  See our recent article on air permitting here.

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Effective Federal OSHA Oversight

This is the second post in our 4-part blog series for the healthcare industry. To view part one, click here.

Health care workers face unique challenges from lifting and transporting patients, needle sticks, handling hazardous waste, chemical and drug exposures, and others. First responders and emergency room personnel are particularly vulnerable since they may be exposed to undiagnosed infections and contaminants. (OSHA has requirements that relate directly to these health care providers). See my blog post Training Hospital First Responders on Hazardous Substance Exposure for more information.

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Discovering Potential Pitfalls in Healthcare Facilities

People enter a hospital or continuing care facility to get well, and every facility does its best to make that happen. Despite the best efforts of medical staff, one in 25 patients contracts a hospital-related infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, medical personnel are exposed to infectious diseases and injuries from medical equipment, poor ergonomic design, and more.

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Mark Your Calendar: Tier II and Air Emissions Inventories Due

January means getting ready to meet the March, April and May federal and state reporting deadlines, and we want help you in your preparation.  Depending on your state, air emissions inventories are due in March, April or May (see below).

Tier II Deadline:  March 1, 2015

If your facility is covered by the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requirements, you must submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and the local fire department by March 1, 2015.

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