Monday, December 11, 2017

Attorney General Files Charges Against Company President For Illegally Storing, Disposing Of Hazardous Waste

Attorney General Josh Shapiro Monday announced felony charges against the president of a Chester County environmental company for illegally storing and disposing of hazardous wastes for decades.
Thomas J. McCaffrey, Jr., 68, of Hibernia Road, Coatesville, is charged with the illegal management of hazardous waste and unlawful conduct related to the illegal storage of hazardous waste at Cedar Grove Environmental.
The company, on Gallagherville Road in Downingtown, tests and analyzes drinking water and waste water samples. McCaffrey is the firm’s president and laboratory manager.
“This defendant illegally stored and disposed of hazardous wastes for many years,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Wastes were illegally poured down the drain on the company’s property. I won’t allow anyone to deliberately harm Pennsylvanians’ rights to clean air and pure water. Our Environmental Protection Section works every day to safeguard the environment in our Commonwealth.”
In December 2016, Office of Attorney General investigators discovered 250 brown and clear glass jugs labeled “TKN Waste and “COD Waste” in the basement of Cedar Grove Environmental.
McCaffrey admitted the hazardous wastes – which were later tested and found to exceed the maximum regulated concentration levels for chromium, silver and mercury – had been stored in the basement for decades.
Employees and former employees of Cedar Grove Environmental said they were instructed by McCaffrey to dispose of wastes by pouring them down the drain on company property. The company had an on-lot septic system, but the system was only designed to treat sewage -- not industrial wastes.
The Department of Environmental Protection, which worked with the Office of Attorney General on this investigation, tested the septic system and ground nearby and discovered elevated levels of mercury and silver.
By not properly disposing of hazardous wastes, McCaffrey and Cedar Grove Environmental avoided paying for their safe and appropriate disposal.
DEP also determined McCaffrey knowingly provided fabricated test results, including drinking water test results. DEP has revoked Cedar Grove Environmental’s accreditation to perform water testing samples, after it had previously suspended the company’s accreditation five times.
Neither McCaffrey nor Cedar Grove Environmental ever obtained the necessary permit or exemption to use the company site as a solid waste processing, storage, treatment or disposal facility.
“These criminal charges are to hold the president of this company accountable for the real environmental harm caused by his illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “I appreciate the collaboration between my office and the Department of Environmental Protection on this investigation.”
McCaffrey’s bail was set at $25,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 12. The case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Brian Coffey of the Environmental Protection Section.
Since being sworn into office in January, Attorney General Shapiro has made protecting Pennsylvania’s environment a top priority. He appointed Steve Santarsiero, an environmental lawyer, as Chief Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection.
Attorney General Shapiro has filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency over ozone levels, standards for emissions from automobiles, and to enforce rules designed to curb greenhouse gases.

Western PA Conservancy Protects Loyalhanna Creek Property With Conservation Easement In Westmoreland

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy recently announced the sale of a 115-acre property in Ligonier Valley, Westmoreland County and its permanent protection through a conservation easement.
Located in Cook Township, the property includes a house, log cabin and a barn. The property also features important wildlife habitat, a mix of forest and farmland and 2,500 feet of frontage along Loyalhanna Creek.
It is also in close proximity to more than 3,000 acres of land in the upper Loyalhanna Creek watershed previously protected through other WPC conservation easements.
The watershed, which drains the heavily forested slopes of Chestnut and Laurel ridges, contains several high-quality streams that support a variety of wildlife habitats.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement that restricts future subdivision and development on land.
Since the 1970s, the Conservancy has permanently protected nearly 27,000 acres of land in the Ligonier Valley, of which more than 10,000 are through conservation easements.
“We are pleased to sell and protect this property that will add to the agrarian heritage, water quality, forests and open space in the Ligonier Valley – an exceptional natural and scenic area in our region,” said Conservancy President and CEO Thomas Saunders.
The Conservancy first acquired the property in late 2015 with financial support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener funds and Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation.
It was listed for sale in March 2016 through the Conservancy’s Conservation Buyer Program.
The Conservancy works with willing landowners to protect land either through outright purchase or donation of land or conservation easements. WPC's Conservation Buyer Program connects potential conservation-minded real estate buyers with sellers of protected properties.
The program offers properties that have conservation and recreational benefits. Interested sellers or landowners should contact WPC's land protection department by sending email to: land@paconserve.org or call 1-866-564-6972 for more information.
More information is available on programs, initiatives and special events at the Western PA Conservancy website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, add them to your Circle on Google+, join them on Instagram, visit the Conservancy’s YouTube Channel or add them to your network on Linkedin.  Click Here to support their work.

Penn State: Citizen Scientists To Help Researchers Gauge Susquehanna River Water Quality

By Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News

Using a network of up to 60 citizen scientists, a team of Penn State researchers will assess the levels of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the Susquehanna River next year, and in turn empower those volunteers to become part of the solution to water-quality problems related to emerging contaminants.
The one-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will address growing public concern about the presence of trace-level unregulated chemicals in the river.
The Susquehanna's problems are well known — a recent analysis conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection indicated that the presence of endocrine-disrupting compounds such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are contributing to the decline of smallmouth bass in the river.
The Susquehanna situation is not unique, according to lead researcher Heather Gall, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, College of Agricultural Sciences.
A significant factor contributing to the presence of these compounds in surface water is that wastewater treatment plants across the country were not designed to remove endocrine-disrupting compounds.
Therefore, the chemicals and their metabolites often persist in the wastewater effluent, which is typically discharged into rivers.
Although the wastewater must be treated to meet permit requirements, most endocrine-disrupting compounds currently are not regulated and therefore the extent to which treatment plants remove them prior to effluent discharge varies widely, she pointed out.
"Given the link between the usage of pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products and the presence of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the environment, citizens can play a major role in the scientific discovery process," Gall said.
"With the lack of current water regulations or standards and the pressing need for research to better understand the chemicals' presence, fate, transport, and impacts, citizen scientists can participate in identifying potential courses of action and desired legislation."
In collaboration with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, researchers will recruit 50-60 volunteer citizen scientists to participate in data generation and focus group meetings to identify ways to reduce endocrine-disrupting compounds in the environment.
In addition, the citizen scientists will be asked to use an online tool recently developed by Gall's research group to help them understand their current consumption of products containing endocrine-disrupting compounds, so they can make informed choices about how best to reduce their inadvertent, undesirable usage of these compounds.
Currently available online, the tool can be used to estimate the mass of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the products that they use in their everyday household activities associated with personal hygiene and household cleaning.
The calculator is divided into sections for each of three major categories: health and beauty products, laundry products, and household cleaners.
The volunteers will be provided with test kits, instructed how to use them and assigned a coordinate within the Susquehanna River watershed at a public location near where they live to sample surface water for endocrine-disrupting compounds this spring.
Then they will participate in focus groups through the summer that will reveal their concerns, future research directions, and potential desired legislation that could lead to reductions of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the environment.
To illustrate the complexity of the dilemma with endocrine-disrupting compounds, researchers offered this list based on a comprehensive study by the Silent Spring Institute: UV filters, highest in sunscreen; cyclosiloxanes, highest in sunscreen and car interior cleaners; glycol ethers, highest in floor and carpet cleaners, polish/wax and sunscreen; fragrances, highest in surface cleaners, car fresheners, dryer sheets, air fresheners and perfume/cologne; and aklylphenols, highest in shower curtains and car interior cleaners.
Also on the list are ethanolamines, highest in glass cleaners and laundry detergent; antimicrobials, highest in hand and bar soaps; bisphenol A (BPA), highest in detergent, soap, shampoo, conditioner, detergent, shaving cream, face lotion, toilet bowl cleaners, bodywash and nail polish; phthalates, highest in makeup foundation, car fresheners and perfume/cologne; and parabens, highest in face lotion, mascara, hair spray and sunscreen.
However, Gall's goal for the project is straightforward.
"By doing this research with citizen scientists, we can help people understand that potentially dangerous compounds in products they use every day ultimately make their way through wastewater treatment plants into their streams. Given the lack of water-quality standards, the quickest way to reduce their presence in the environment is for people to become more informed consumers," she said.
"We are hoping this project gives people a sense of empowerment that they can make a difference in water quality in their local river," Gall added.
Also involved in the research are Lara Fowler, senior lecturer, Penn State Law and assistant director for outreach and engagement, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, whose focus is water-related conflicts and issues; and Bryan Swistock, senior extension associate and water resources coordinator for Penn State Extension.
Penn State Survey Research Center personnel will lead focus group discussions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services will analyze water samples under the direction of Ray Bryant.
For more information, contact Dr. Gall at 814-863-1817 or send email to: heg12@psu.edu.
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House Committee Moves Meeting On Bill To Exempt Steel Slag From Waste Definition To Dec. 12

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has rescheduled its meeting on Senate Bill 497 (Vogel-R-Beaver) exempting steel slag from the definition of waste if it was not produced prior to January 1, 2007 or mixed with other waste (sponsor summary) to Tuesday, December 12 at the Call of the Chair.
The agenda also includes the standard admonition “and any other business that may come before the Committee.”
The meeting is still in Room B-31 Main Capitol at the Call of the Chair, which means at any time after the House convenes.  House Committee meetings are typically webcast on the House Republican Caucus website.
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: jmaher@pahousegop.com.  Rep. Mike Carroll serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: mcarroll@pahouse.net.  

Underwater Insects Aid DEP in Water Quality Checks, Sampling Results Available Online

They’re creepy. They’re crawly. They’re also an excellent indicator of water quality– they’re the aquatic insects and animals that live in Pennsylvania’s rivers, lakes, and streams.
The Department of Environmental Protection is for the first time visualizing benthic macroinvertebrate sampling results from across the state. The data is now publicly available in a GIS viewer with downloadable data sets for the first time as well.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are the insects and animals that spend most, if not all, of their lives underwater. They can be mayflies or midges, crayfish or clams, or one of many other underwater species, and are one of the most important parts of the food chain that fish, birds, and other animals depend on.
“Because they spend almost their entire lives in the water, benthic macroinvertebrates are especially attuned to water quality,” said Dustin Shull, Water Program Specialist for DEP. “They are an excellent way to gauge how healthy a particular section of stream or river is, and help DEP meet our obligations for monitoring water quality. This kind of biological assessment helps DEP see and assess long-term, cumulative effects of stressing factors on an ecosystem.”
Not all streams and rivers are created equal, and DEP has developed unique macroinvertebrate collection methods for freestone streams, limestone streams, and low-gradient streams.
DEP uses these differing methods to get a complete picture of how many, what type, and how healthy the invertebrates are in any given habitat.
“DEP and partners have collected thousands of samples, and collect hundreds more every year to continue to deepen our knowledge base on the health of Pennsylvania’s waters,” said Shull.
See examples of the different streams types, the methods used to sample them, and results of the sampling by visiting Looking Below the Surface, DEP’s interactive story map on benthic macroinvertebrates.
“This type of research is vital to decision-making that goes on at DEP,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We use the data collected and analyzed by program staff when we’re looking at how to clean up watersheds and improve water quality in backyards and communities across Pennsylvania. And we want to make sure that Pennsylvania residents can see the data we’re collecting, so they can know more about what is happening in their own area.”
To learn more about benthic macroinvertebrates, sampling, and water quality, please visit DEP’s Looking Below the Surface website.
To retrieve sampling data, please visit DEP’s Macro Viewer webpage.
For more information on environmental programs in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s website, Click Here to sign up for DEP’s monthly newsletter, visit DEP’s Blog,  Like DEP on Facebook, Follow DEP on Twitter and visit DEP’s YouTube Channel.

Delaware Highlands Conservancy Winter Eagle-Watching Events In Jan., Feb.

Join the Delaware Highlands Conservancy and our partners for a series of eagle-watching events all winter long, including guided bus tours starting at Upper Delaware Visitor Center in Lackawaxen, Pike County and Eagle Day at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center, 126 PPL Drive, Hawley, Wayne County.
Bus Tours
Learn from an expert guide and take a scenic drive on a heated bus throughout the Upper Delaware River region to look for and learn about bald eagles and their habitat.
The trips are scheduled for January 13 and 27 and February 10 and 17.
The trips start at the Upper Delaware Visitor Center in Lackawaxen, Pike County and run from 10:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. Be sure to dress warmly in layers and wear waterproof boots. Bring binoculars, camera, and snacks. Snow dates for the trips are the Sundays immediately following.
Click Here for more information and the most up-to-date information and any additional trips. Refunds are not given in the event of cancelled reservations.
Eagle Day January 6
On January 6, join the Conservancy, Brookfield Renewable, and other local environmental organizations for Eagle Day, a free afternoon of fun for the whole family at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center in Hawley in Pike County.
Enjoy a “Live Birds of Prey” presentation with Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center and hands-on activities provided by Lacawac Sanctuary for all ages to learn about eagles and other native birds.  
Note - you do not need to register in advance for this program, but it is very popular and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Eagle Watching On Your Own
The Upper Delaware Visitor Center at 176 Scenic Drive in Lackawaxen, Pike County is generously provided by the National Park Service and is a center of information for visitors looking to learn more about viewing and protecting eagles.
Visitors can pick up information about the bald eagle in the Upper Delaware River region, get maps and directions to eagle viewing locations, watch a short film, and view new interpretative exhibits.
The Visitor Center is staffed on Saturdays and Sundays in January and February, beginning January 6, and open to visitors from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
The Delaware Highlands Conservancy has also partnered with the National Park Service and the New York State Department of Conservation to maintain well-marked Eagle Observation Areas open to the public.
These viewing blinds are also staffed by Conservancy volunteers on weekends through the winter season, and visitors can look through binoculars and spotting scopes to see bald eagles in the wild. Click Here for directions and information about eagle viewing on your own.
The Upper Delaware River region is one of the largest wintering habitats for eagles in the northeast United States because of abundant clean water and large, undisturbed stands of trees. Protected lands in Sullivan County, NY and Pike and Wayne Counties in PA provide a safe haven for these migratory birds, as well as breeding eagles that live here year-round.
The Conservancy’s Eagle Watch program is supported in part by grant funding from the American Eagle Foundation; Orange and Rockland; Sullivan County; and The Philadelphia Foundation. The February 10 bus trip is donated by the Estate of Becky Finch.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Delaware Highlands Conservancy website or call 570-226-3164 or 845-583-1010..  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like on Facebook and Follow on Twitter.   Click Here to support their work.
(Photo by Stephen Davis.)

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