U.S. EPA Publishes New Toxicity Criteria for Benzo(a)pyrene

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has just completed and published new toxicity criteria for benzo(a)pyrene – specifically an oral reference dose (RfD), an inhalation reference concentration (RfC), an oral slope factor (OSF), and an inhalation unit risk (IUR). Although toxicity criteria were considered for the dermal contact exposure pathway, the U.S. EPA concluded that the methods for dermal evaluation of benzo(a)pyrene required further development. 

The net effect of the new toxicity criteria, except for exposure to air under an industrial scenario, will be to reduce the estimated human health hazard that may be associated with benzo(a)pyrene on contaminated sites. The full benzo(a)pyrene report is available at this EPA website:


Toxicity criteria form the basis of human health risk assessments and the calculation of screening levels and remediation goals.  The U.S. EPA and state environmental regulatory agencies will use the new toxicity criteria to inform environmental risk management decisions on sites where benzo(a)pyrene is identified as a chemical of concern.

What is Benzo(a)pyrene?

Benzo(a)pyrene is often considered to be the most carcinogenic chemical within the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) class of chemicals, and therefore often drives cleanup at PAH contaminated sites.  PAHs are ubiquitous in the environment from natural sources (e.g., coal tars, shale oils, and crude oils, and forest fires) and as a result of anthropogenic activities, including the combustion of fossil fuels in industrial processes and automobiles.  Workers may be exposed to benzo(a)pyrene in the production of aluminum, coke, graphite, and silicon carbide, and in the distillation of coal tar for consumer and medical products.  Cigarette smoke and smoked or barbecued foods are major non-occupational sources of benzo(a)pyrene.  Dermal exposure may occur through contact with materials containing soot, tar, or crude petroleum, including consumer and medical products containing coal tar, such as coal tar-based shampoos and treatments for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.  Environmental exposures that are high enough to be a health concern may occur on sites where PAHs have been produced or released.  There is no known commercial use for benzo(a)pyrene.

How Might Screening Levels Change?

Given the new toxicity criteria, the U.S. EPA’s Regional Screening Levels (RSLs) for benzo(a)pyrene will also change.

RSLs for benzo(a)pyrene were generated, using the U.S. EPA’s on-line RSL calculator, for residential and composite worker receptors for soil, tap water, and air (Table 1).


Based on this evaluation, all RSLs for benzo(a)pyrene will increase (i.e. become less stringent), except the composite worker screening level for air.  With increased screening levels, benzo(a)pyrene will be less likely to trigger further investigation, mitigation, or remediation.

Screening levels published by state regulatory agencies are also likely to change based on the new toxicity criteria for benzo(a)pyrene.


About the Author

Scott Dwyer is Practice Leader, Risk Analysis & Toxicology at Kleinfelder. Kleinfelder is a leading engineering, construction management, design and environmental professional services firm, providing solutions to meet our world’s most complex infrastructure challenges.  Leveraging its integrated, cross-disciplinary team of nearly 2,000 professionals in 70 offices across the U.S., Canada, and Australia, Kleinfelder partners with private and public sector clients to deliver leading-edge solutions on a variety of large-scale projects.  The firm’s reputation for expertise, innovation, and quality, earned since Kleinfelder’s inception in 1961, has solidified our position as a trusted consultant and industry leader.

Global Hazmat Suits Market Report

Market.biz recently released a research report on the Global Hazmat Suits Market – 2017.  The report provides a comprehensive overview of the hazmat suits market including definitions, a wide range of applications, classifications and a complete industry chain structure.  The report’s analysis further consists of competitive landscape of Hazmat Suits market, Hazmat Suits market development history and major development trends presented by Hazmat Suits market.

As the report progresses further, it explains development plans and policies, manufacturing processes, cost structures of hazmat suits market as well as the leading players.  It also focuses on the details like company profile, product images, supply chain relationship, import/export details, market statistics, upcoming development plans, Hazmat Suits Market gains, contact details, and consumption ratio.

In addition to this, the Hazmat Suits Market report also covers gross margin by regions including the U.S., the European Union and China.

Lastly, Hazmat Suits Market report includes an in-depth analysis of sub-segments, market dynamics, feasibility studies, key strategies used by leading players, market share study and growth prospects of the industry. The Hazmat Suits Report also evaluates the growth established by the market during the forecast period and research conclusions are offered.

Record Year for Environmental Enforcement in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division recently released its environmental enforcement report for 2016.  The report shows includes the highest recoveries in environmental enforcement and the highest criminal penalties handed down in an individual vessel pollution case.

The year was highlighted by the completion of a settlement with BP arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico with the final entry in April 2016 of the consent decree in the Department’s settlement.  This saw the United States and the five Gulf Coast states secure payments in excess of $20 billion to resolve their claims against BP.

This settlement is the largest in the history of federal law enforcement for a single defendant, and it includes the largest-ever Clean Water Act civil penalty and the largest-ever recovery of damages for injuries to natural resources.

In addition to the BP litigation, the division continued its program of prosecuting shipping companies and crew for the intentional discharges of pollutants from ocean-going vessels in U.S. waters.  t the end of fiscal year 2016, criminal penalties imposed in these cases totaled more than $363 million in fines and more than 32 years of confinement.

In December 2016, the division obtained the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution when it concluded the prosecution of Princess Cruise Lines.  The company pleaded guilty to seven felony charges and will pay a $40 million penalty.



Brownfields Redevelopment Legislation in Michigan

Legislators in Michigan recently re-introduced unique legislation in the State Senate meant to spur brownfield development in the state.  If passed, the legislation would allow municipalities to choose one project per year to be eligible for a transformational brownfield.  The transformation brownfield redevelopment would be eligible for tax relief on state income taxes.

Under the proposed legislation, no taxpayer money would put at risk in the redevelopment of a brownfield site.  Instead, the eligible developer of a brownfield site would be not pay state income tax or sales tax from construction activities on the site and also receive a discount of up to 50 percent of state income taxes generated from new jobs and residents for up to 20 years.

Under the proposed legislation, a brownfield redevelopment project would need to be nominated by a municipality and approved by the State. Prior to the project being approved, the state would conduct financial analysis to validate the financial need of the company and ensure the gap does exist between what they can afford to build versus what they need to spend in order to clean up the contamination.  Only the amount of money needed to fill the redevelopment gap will be approved for tax capture.  The state will also conduct a fiscal impact analysis to determine if the project will have a net fiscal benefit to the state.

Any proposed brownfield redevelopment project that would include $1.5 million or more annually captured in tax relief, would need to be reviewed by an independent third party.  The legislation is being supported by a coalition of 40 municipalities and chambers throughout the state.

The legislation is currently in committee.  An earlier version of the legislation passed last time with bipartisan support, and that a coalition is working with lawmakers and members of the House committee to attempt to get it into law.

Clean-up of Mercury at Grassy Narrows First Nation Reserve

The Ontario government recently committed to cleaning up mercury contamination at this is effecting the residents of the Grassy Narrows First Nation Reserve.  The residents have been plagued with mercury poisoning for the past 50 years.

The source of the mercury contamination is a paper mill near Dryden, Ontario.  The mill dumped approximately 9,000 kilograms of mercury in the Wabigoon and English Rivers in the 1960’s.  The site of the paper mill, now under the ownership of Domtar, is about 100 kilometres upstream from the Grassy Narrows Reserve.

Recent testing of fish and river sediments have found that the concentration of mercury in the ecosystem has not decreased in the past 30 years and are still at dangerous levels.  According to researchers, more than 90 percent of the residents of the Grassy Narrows Reserve and the nearby Wabaseemoong First Nation Reserve show signs of mercury poisoning.

“We are completely committed to working with all partners to identify all potentially contaminated sites, and to creating and implementing a comprehensive remediation action plan for the English Wabigoon River,” Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister David Zimmer said in a statement. “We need to be sure unequivocally if the site is an ongoing source of mercury, and if it is, then we need to work with partners to take all measures to stop further mercury from entering the river.”

Judy Da Silva, the environmental health co-ordinator for Grassy Narrows and a member of its mercury working group, was skeptical but hopeful that the new commitment would lead to action. “To me, when I hear full assessment of the entire mill site and committing to identify and remediation plans, to me it all sounds like words…I’m hoping I’ll live to see the day it is cleaned up”, she said.

As far back as 1984 there was talk by the Ontario government to clean up the mercury contamination in the River System upstream of Grassy Narrows.  However, it was decided to allow for natural attenuation of the mercury contamination.

The cost of cleaning up the mercury contamination from the river system is unknown.  Rough estimates by some put it at $7 million per year for several years.  Part of the remediation plan would be fully assess the extent of the contamination, develop a remediation plan, and implement it.

John Rudd, an expert in mercury is leading the scientific investigation on the extent of mercury contamination.  He is hopeful that the extent of the contamination can be determined over the spring and summer and that remediation can begin in 2018.

Is Alberta Under-reporting Oil Spills?

As reported in The Tyee, a recent study commissioned at the request of a First Nation based in Alberta, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has been inaccurate in reporting on the scale and impact of daily crude oil and salt water spills in the Province.

Kevin Timoney, author of the report and an independent ecologist based in Alberta, reviewed the AER’s spill database and found spills that were not recorded in the database at all, or didn’t include information on volume spilled.

Mr. Timoney also drew his conclusions in the report based on information he found in which the AER routinely reported that 100 per cent of the spilled contaminants had been recovered after pollution events.  Scientific studies he examined had found clean-up rates for spills on land typically recover less than half the oil.

Thirdly, Mr. Timoney questioned the scientific credibility of the AER reporting because it suggested there had been almost no damage to wildlife and animals in Alberta.

As part of his research, Mr. Timoney examined Alberta’s spill database over a 38-year period between 1975 and 2013 and visited major spill sites to gauge the impacts on water, land and plants. In that time period, the oil industry spilled at least 1.6 million barrels  of crude oil and more than five million barrels of salt water onto the land and waterways, according to Mr. Timoney’s analysis of the AER database.

Mr. Timoney found that the AER’s spillage statistics did not reflect the real scale of the problem because of missing data and other issues.  “There are a lot of spills unaccounted for with no volume specified,” said Mr. Timoney.  For example, he found many documented spills that appeared in newspapers aren’t in the database.

The AER database also does not include thousands of spills prior to 1975; spills from federally regulated pipelines; spills reported to Alberta’s environment ministry; or spills that classify oil or salt water as the second or third contaminant.

In addition, the regulator has often reported perfect recovery rates from most spills even though Mr. Timoney could find “no scientific studies” that documented total recovery of spilled oil or saline water on land. Saline spills can be more damaging to plants and vegetation because salts don’t degrade over time.

U.S. Government Environmental Liabilities in excess of $447 Billion

As reported in the District Sentinel, the chief United States federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently warned that the United States government’s environmental liabilities have grown by hundreds of billions of dollars over the past two decades.

In a biannual report about “high risk” problems facing federal agencies, the GAO said that taxpayers were on the hook last year for $447 billion in environmental cleanup costs—up from $217 billion in 1997.

The doubling roughly mirrors the rate of economic growth over the same time frame, but GAO warned that federal environmental liabilities might be much larger than reported.

Their estimate “does not reflect all of the future cleanup responsibilities federal agencies may face,” the report stated.

The U.S. Department of Energy liabilities alone ($372 billion) accounted for 80 percent of the total, and the obligations are “mostly related to nuclear waste cleanup.”  Half of the department’s environmental liabilities themselves come from just two nuclear cleanup sites—one in Washington State and another in South Carolina.

GAO auditors noted they believe that the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have proper “inventory of contaminated and potentially contaminated sites.”

“[I]n particular, [information on] abandoned mines, primarily on Forest Service land — is insufficient for effectively managing U.S. Department of Agriculture’s overall cleanup program,” the GAO paper stated.

The GAO report also stated that the Pentagon is inaccurately “estimating and reporting environmental liabilities,” and that GAO has been asking them to rectify the problem since 2006. “This recommendation has not been implemented,” the report stated.

The federal government is responsible for cleanup in places “where federal activities have contaminated the environment,” as GAO noted.

“Various federal laws, agreements with states, and court decisions require the federal government to clean up environmental hazards at federal sites and facilities — such as nuclear weapons production facilities and military installations,” the report said.  “Such sites are contaminated by many types of waste.”

Shore and Underwater Contaminated Sites Workshop – June 6th to 7th

The Real Property Institute of Canada (RPIC) is hosting a workshop on June 6th and 7th in Richmond, British Columbia dealing with contaminated sites.  The workshop will provide a forum for the contaminated sites community to learn about technical, scientific and organizational innovations, and best practices for the management of shore and underwater contaminated sites.  It will offer a unique opportunity for the public, private, and academic sectors to meet and exchange new ideas and information with colleagues and industry representatives from across the country and abroad.

For more information and to register, visit the RPIC website.

Risk Solutions for Contaminated Sites Exposition – May 31st

GeoEnviro Training Professionals Inc. is hosting an exposition on risk-based solutions for contaminated sites.   The event is designed for site owners, project managers, regulators, and service providers.  It will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 31st 2017.

For more information on the event and to register, visit the GeoEnviro website.

U.S. EPA Issues Guidance for Characterization and Remediation of Contaminated Sediment Sites

As reported in in the National Law Review, the U.S. EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management recently issued a Directive to Regional Administrators on the development, evaluation, selection, and implementation of response actions at contaminated sediment sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).

There are eleven recommendations in the Directive that supplement, but do not supersede, previous sediment site guidance documents issued by the U.S. EPA in 2002 and 2005.  The Directive draws upon the U.S. EPA’s experience at contaminated sediment sites to highlight the importance of risk reduction and adaptive management strategies in achieving remedial goals.  The U.S. EPA stresses its importance at sites with bioaccumulative contaminants where a response action is warranted in part because of risk to human health from consumption of fish or shellfish (i.e., PCBs, dioxins and furans, or methyl mercury).

Although the Directive is not legally binding, some of its recommendations may help achieve the dual goals of remedy effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, and consequently stakeholders at sediment sites should consider the Directive’s recommendations when preparing Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Studies or otherwise interacting with U.S. EPA.