The Standard – December 2017

THE STANDARD –  December 2017

In This Issue:


 

Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York Approve Resolution to Ban Fracking in Delaware River Basin

In a September 13, 2017 news release by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, it was reported that the Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York announced that they had voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin. The resolution is designed to promulgate regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York comprise a majority of the DRBC. The other two members of the DRBC are the Governor of New Jersey and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers voted against the measure, and New Jersey abstained from the vote.

The Delaware River Basin drains from portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people. Governors of the four states and the federal representative serve as the Delaware River Basin Commissioners and are tasked with overseeing a unified approach to managing the river system regardless of political boundaries. The DRBC has oversight in the basin for water-quality protection, permitting, water-conservation initiatives, water-supply allocation, watershed planning, drought management, flood-loss reduction, and recreation.

The DRBC resolution comes after congressional passage of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016, which requires federal, state, and local partners to work together and preserve the basin and its water resources. Congress passed the Act as part of a larger national legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

Hydraulic fracturing related to oil and gas development in the Delaware River Basin has been a contentious issue since 2010, when DRBC’s five Commissioners voted unanimously to “postpone consideration of well pad dockets until regulations are adopted.” This postponement essentially put a moratorium on drilling for natural gas in several Pennsylvania counties and parts of southern New York.

In more recent news, some Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill (House Resolution 515) urging the DRBC to abandon any plans to regulate drilling beyond already established requirements and to suspend a consideration of a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Pennsylvania Representative Jonathan Fritz stated that passing the DRBC resolution would be detrimental to all Pennsylvanians by impacting jobs and depriving land owners of economic opportunities in the northeastern part of the state. 


The Virginia Uranium Mining Industry—To Be or Not to Be?

On private acreage in Virginia, millions of pounds of uranium ore lie buried—the nation’s largest known uranium deposit. In the early 1980s, after the “oil shocks” of the 1970s encouraged investments in other forms of energy, a company called Marline Corporation searched for uranium in the Piedmont physiographic province of Virginia. The company reportedly discovered the “Swanson ore deposit” in Pittsylvania County, as well as other deposits that were less valuable. Marline Corp. began searching for uranium deposits in the East in the late 1970s, and in 1982 said it discovered 30 million pounds of uranium oxide in Pittsylvania County, potentially worth $1 billion or more. The company obtained leases on what it believed were 40,000 uranium-rich acres in the county and 16,000 acres in Fauquier, Madison, Culpeper, and Orange counties. The deposit at the Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania County has been described as, “the largest unmined uranium deposit in the nation, worth an estimated $10 billion.”

In 2011, Virginia Uranium, Inc. (Virginia Uranium), current holder of the Coles Hill Uranium lease, estimated the deposit to be worth $7 billion. A separate 2011 report calculated that the ore deposit included 119 million pounds of uranium, of which, 63 million pounds exceeded 0.06% uranium and was economical to process.

However, the Commonwealth has banned uranium mining in the state. Virginia Uranium, the resource developer, wants to overturn the state’s three-decade old ban on uranium mining in order to develop the massive uranium deposit in the state. In 2015, Virginia Uranium sued Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state officials seeking to force Virginia to process its mining application. The developer’s studies show that the net economic benefit of construction and operations would yield almost $5 billion for Virginians over the life of the mine—around 35 years. Some argue that with modern technology, efficient regulation, and 21st-century best practices, uranium mining is safe for workers, the environment, and surrounding populations.

The U.S. Supreme Court has requested the Solicitor General’s perspective on Virginia Uranium’s request for the high court to review Virginia’s ban on uranium mining and the company’s argument that the ban conflicts with precedent. In a signal that the high court is taking a closer look at the case, the federal government will now have an opportunity to weigh in on a petition filed in April 2017 by Virginia Uranium that disagreed with a split lower court’s decision to uphold dismissal of the company’s suit seeking to overturn the ban on uranium mining.

The lower courts said in February that the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) does not give the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing authority over uranium mining unless it is located on federal lands. Virginia’s ban, therefore, is derived under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which provides the state with primary regulatory authority, the appeal’s court majority said. However, the company disagreed and filed its petition asserting that the Supreme Court has already held that states must have a non-safety rationale to regulate activities within the NRC’s purview

Virginia’s ban has no “non-safety rationale” for the ban, and Virginia Uranium believes that this was reason for the court to overturn it. The Fourth Circuit said, however, that because conventional mining is not subject to NRC regulation, the non-safety standard isn’t applicable and Virginia’s ban should hold. Both sides agree that the AEA gives the NRC the exclusive authority to regulate the radiation safety of uranium mining-related activities such as uranium ore milling and tailings storage, the petition said.

Virginia has urged the Supreme Court to deny the petition, arguing that there is nothing in the AEA that preempts state regulation of uranium mining, regardless of what the state’s alleged purpose for regulating the activity is.

“Conventional uranium mining on nonfederal lands is simply not within the preempted field,” the Commonwealth’s response brief said. “Virginia’s uranium-mining moratorium likewise does not conflict with the Atomic Energy Act because the Act does not require states to permit the mining of uranium ore in the first place.”

Will the largest uranium deposit in the country be developed? Stay tuned.


Hexavalent Chromium Extraction Method Criticized – An Interesting Double Standard

For many environmental investigations, heavy metals are frequently determined to be constituents of concern that require remedial action. For solid samples, the US EPA has published metals digestion methods, which act to transfer metals from the solid phase to a liquid acid-digest phase for instrumental analysis. The acid digestion processes also bring metals (or other trace elements) of interest to an ionic form, which is required for the dissolution during introduction to the analytical instrument. Historically, questions have arisen with regard to the efficiency of the metals digestion process and how that process realistically simulates environmental exposure. While many environmental professionals believe that US EPA Method 3050 is the “gold standard’ for digesting solid samples and represents a total metals analysis, Method 3050 is operationally defined as a “total leachable” digestion method. In fact, Section 1.2 of Method 3050 states:

“This method is not a total digestion technique for most samples. It is a very strong acid digestion that will dissolve almost all elements that could become “environmentally available.” By design, elements bound in silicate structures are not normally dissolved by this procedure as they are not usually mobile in the environment.”

Effectively, this citation states that this digestion method yields metals results that are ‘environmentally available’ and does not include metals that are bound in silicate structures, as those forms of metals are not usually mobile in the environment.

Several authors from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently published a paper entitled, “Modifications to EPA Method 3060A to Improve Extraction of Cr(VI) from Chromium Ore Processing Residue-(COPR) Contaminated Soils”.
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b01719 The authors state that US EPA Method 3060A, as written, does not adequately extract Cr(VI) from solid COPR samples. Substantial method modifications including the use of polytetrafluoroethylene vessels, intensive sample drying and grinding, an increased extraction fluid to sample ratio, and a 48-hour extraction time resulted in a maximum release of
1274 mg kg–1 Cr(VI) in a National Institute of Standards and Technology- (NIST-)certified Cr(VI) reference sample, which is more than double the certified Cr(VI) value of 551 mg kg–1 Cr(VI).

These USGS modifications were clearly designed to maximize the concentrations of extracted Cr(VI), to the point where they yielded more than double the NIST-certified Cr(VI) value compared to the method as written. These modifications would appear to include concentrations that are bound in silicate structures, and would not be expected to become mobilized in the environment except in geologic time frames. From a geologic perspective the absolute metals concentration in soils and sediments may be of interest, but from an environmental perspective, longstanding policy has held that metals which are tightly bound in minerals are not relevant. It is scientifically reasonable
to presume that if Method 3050 were subjected to the same extreme modifications listed above, substantially higher concentrations of many other metals would also be observed. Such modifications alter the operational definition of these digestion methods, and a question arises as to the prospect of substantially higher concentrations that do not bear relevance to the US EPA’s intent of determining “environmentally available” concentrations. So why would there be a double standard with respect to this one particular metal? Given the limited resources available for remediation, it would seem more protective to focus those resources on environmentally relevant components.


Maryland Planning a Pilot Project to Dredge Conowingo Dam Sediments to Protect Chesapeake Bay

Scientists and politicians are exploring a dredging project at the Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland. A decades-long effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, has been showing signs of success. Recently, scientists have indicated that progress may now be hindered by the reduced sediment capacity of Conowingo Dam.

The Conowingo Dam is a hydroelectric dam located on the Susquehanna River. It was constructed in 1928 and is 94 feet high. Since its completion, it has been trapping sediment and nutrients attached to the sediment, keeping them from flowing into the Bay, which is 10 miles downstream. A study conducted by the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016 identified that the dam has reached its sediment-retention capacity and the dam does little to prevent sediment from reaching the Chesapeake. The assessment found that the sediment and nutrients swept over the dam during large storm events are among the pollution sources that should be addressed to protect water quality and aquatic life in the Chesapeake Bay. Another finding is that nutrients that enter the river upstream of the dams in Pennsylvania and New York, and attach to sediment particles, may have a larger impact on water quality than sediment itself.

In response to the concern over sediment buildup, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has announced a pilot dredging project. The intent of the pilot project is to evaluate what the overall cost would be to dredge massive quantities of sediment from the dam and to find out if there is a viable market for reuse of the material. The project is also designed to help the state determine if large-scale dredging is feasible. The pilot project will be funded by Maryland, but if it is determined that more dredging is needed, financial help will be requested from the dam’s owner (Exelon Corporation), the Federal government, as well as states up river.


Teamwork is Key

“We cannot accomplish all that we need to do without working together.” – Bill Richardson

Teamwork is the key to any successful project. Environmental Standards recently undertook a data validation project that required a massive amount of teamwork and coordination between the Chemistry Quality Assurance and the Information Technologies and Environmental Data Management departments.

For this project, soil samples were analyzed for metals. Over the course of a 3-month period, 870 Sample Delivery Groups (SDGs), encompassing over 24,000 samples, were validated, and data were reported in a specific electronic data deliverable (EDD) format to the client for reporting purposes.

In addition to teamwork, coordination and organization were also key to successfully delivering this project. An Operations Room was established where all data were centralized, cataloged, and tracked. While the project required over 30 professionals working together to meet the deadline, all communication with the client and analytical laboratory was centralized with the Project Manager to ensure timely resolution of each inquiry.

Capacity is also vital when committing to large-scale validation projects for which there are strict regulatory schedules being imposed. Because of our comprehensive base of Quality Assurance Chemists and Information Technology professionals, Environmental Standards was able to dedicate the appropriate resources to meet all of our client’s needs.


PPCPs – What Goes Around Comes Around

As the world population continues to grow, and sources of paleo-groundwater used for drinking decrease, many communities are looking at recycling wastewater to take up the slack. What we have learned the past two decades, via new and improved analytical methods, is that many of our pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are not mineralized in traditional wastewater treatment plants, septic systems, or landfills. The result is that these chemicals are making their way into the ground, surface water, and associated ecosystem including animal tissue. The list of these compounds found in drinking water systems includes: antibiotics, analgesics, steroids, antidepressants, antipyretics, stimulants, antimicrobials, disinfectants, fragrances, and cosmetics, with common analytes show on the table below. Both licit and illicit drugs are included in this list. Agencies within the United States and across the globe are increasingly scrutinizing water systems for these products due to their inherent ecological toxicity or potential as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs).

Investigations across the U.S. conducted by Mark J. Benotti, et al., have identified and quantified ibuprofen, naproxen, atenolol, atrazine, carbamazepine, diazepam, estrone, gemfibrozil, meprobamate, phenytoin, sulfamethoxazole, caffeine, DEET, and trimethoprim in the ng/L range. Those findings were published in Environmental Science and Technology in December 2008. In the U.S. study, a variety of treatment plant configurations (e.g., chlorine versus ozone oxidation) were surveyed, but all employ various combinations of coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, primary disinfection, filtration, and secondary disinfection. Additionally, research conducted by David Hanigan, et al., and published in Environmental Science and Technology in May 2015, indicated that methadone, which is used to mitigate heroin withdrawal symptoms and is also prescribed for chronic pain, has been identified as a precursor to N-Nitrosodimethylamine during chloramination. N-Nitrosodimethylamine has been listed as a probable human carcinogen by US EPA. The results of these studies highlight not only the potential ecological and human risk in our drinking water, but the potential for using PPCPs as indicator compounds including in forensic investigations.


Business Intelligence Applications in
Remediation Strategies

Without question, the complexity of software frameworks as well as data storage capacity have been growing exponentially and are expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Some estimates suggest that the digital world is doubling every two years. And with the growing scrutiny on protecting our environment including EPA’s Next Generation Compliance Initiative, calling the amount of environmental information that has been and will be pushed to the cloud as “big data” is a palpable understatement. So now the question becomes, how do we best use this data beyond the primary use for which it was originally collected?

In mid-September of this year, ENFOS, a leading software provider that offers an enterprise cloud application to manage environmental cleanup portfolios, gathered environmental professionals in Chicago from around the world to discuss that very topic. The industry and consulting experts in attendance represented a wide range of market segments including chemical, oil & gas, pulp & paper, energy, railroad, government, and retail. Over the course of 3 days, ideas were exchanged on how best to use Business Intelligence (BI) to tease out valuable information in our countless environmental remediation and compliance databases comprised of both structured and unstructured data. Even more exciting, visionary presentations were given on the artificial intelligence tools that IBM and others are developing, and how these tools can be directly applied to predictive management of remediation portfolios and compliance strategies.

To kick off the conference, Roger Well of ENFOS presented the results of a remediation BI survey that was provided to the group in advance. The purpose of the survey was to gain insight on how the group currently perceived the application of BI in their daily functions. While the survey showed that currently BI is not an integral part of our daily work, one statistic in particular stuck with us. That is, 100% of the professionals with 5 years or less experience (e.g., our “next gen”) believe the BI is, and will, be a growing part of their job.

Participating in this year’s conference was Stephanie Lein, Environmental Standards’ Manager of Information Technologies, and Kevin Renninger, Principal.


The Environmental Implications of Cannabis
Cultivation

As the cannabis industry takes off, research and regulation addressing the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation and processing are struggling to keep up. There are myriad impacts of cannabis cultivation, whether indoor or outdoor, on water quality, air quality, and land quality. The American Chemical Society summarizes the impact in a 2017 paper, “High Time to Assess the Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation” (Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 51; Issue 5, Pages 2531-2533).

Both indoor and outdoor cultivation sites use a tremendous amount of water; bad news for those states that have struggled in drought throughout the more recent years of legalization such as California, Nevada, Arizona, and parts of Colorado. Both types of cultivation sites have also been shown to emit volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, decreasing the air quality significantly in cultivation areas.

State regulatory agencies have started to address these concerns, but all claim that more research is needed to understand the true impact. Oregon mandated a Cannabis Environmental Best Practices Task Force in HB 3400, which produced a working document in 2016, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture has put out educational flyers with information on good agricultural practices pertaining to water quality. California, known for its strict regulatory stances on environmental impacts within its borders, has not backed away from this challenge as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act with environmental provisions in SB 837 was implemented. The Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act has gone further by tasking the State Water Resources Control board with creating environmental policies pertaining to the impact of cannabis cultivation and production. The October 2017 Board release of the Cannabis Cultivation Policy is the most comprehensive effort to date, covering everything from soil disposal, irrigation runoff, pesticides, to wetland protection and restoration in 14 regions across the state, nine of which are considered priority regions because they support salmon and other endangered wildlife.

Part of the soon-to-be billion-dollar industry is trying to capture this niche in the market by offering greenhouse grows, solar options, LED lighting, water recycling systems, and organic fertilizer solutions, but many license holders are continuing to use old practices from the days when illegal growers cared more about avoiding detection than protecting the environment. As studies and articles begin to explode into the media with doomsday predictions, the days of the cannabis “Wild West” are coming to a screeching halt, and responsible business practices relating to the environment are becoming top talking points in an industry whose previous reputation as “green-friendly” begins to unravel.


Laboratory News

PA DEP Collects $220,000 Penalty from Ohio Laboratory for Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently collected a $220,000 penalty from Summit Labs in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, for violations related to testing drinking water samples and failure to notify DEP and public water suppliers in cases of maximum contaminant level (MCL) exceedances, among others, according to an October 12, 2017 press release.

“We rely on accredited, third-party labs for testing to ensure the safety and validity of drinking water treatment, and those labs must meet our standards and provide the proper notification,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Among the violations Summit Labs was cited for include:

• Failure to properly notify public water supplier and DEP of an MCL exceedance

• Failure to control laboratory conditions, to identify and correct contamination

• Failure to generate accurate and valid data

• Failure to properly certify results

• Failure to have proper staffing, management structure, quality assurance/quality control to ensure accurate, valid data were generated

DEP reached a settlement agreement with Summit Labs to address those violations, in which Summit Labs agreed to pay $220,000 in penalties.

“None of these violations are known to have affected public health, however that does not excuse the actions of Summit Labs,” said McDonnell. “Ensuring that accurate and timely information is made available to DEP and public water systems from labs like this is a crucial part of providing clean, safe drinking water to the people of Pennsylvania.”


Environmental Forensics and the Use of Stable Isotope Analysis

Environmental forensics involves the collection of analytical data and the use of environmental chemistry theory to describe or reconstruct past environmental releases, usually for the purpose of a legal action. Environmental forensics relies on scientific information of varying age, origin, and reliability, and theory to decipher and reorder of past events of chemical releases to the environment. Topics of interest involving legal inquiries include many complex questions, but on a very basic level, fundamental questions include:

• What are the characteristics of the release?

• When did the release occur?

• What are the possible types of parent and degraded sources of the release?

• What amounts of pollutants were released, initially and over time?

Historically, the subject pollutants of environmental forensics have been organic compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chlorinated solvents/pesticides, and a variety of other hydrocarbons. With the ongoing development of more sophisticated technologies, the origin and sourcing of various metals found in the environment are being added to the scientist’s tool box.

In the past, determining if there are multiple sources, and differentiating those sources from naturally occurring sources of heavy metals contamination, has been a significant challenge. On a recent river sediment investigation, questions regarding the source(s) of sediment mercury loads became a contentious legal matter with regard to remediation cost allocation between the responsible parties. In this case, the project objective required developing lines of evidence regarding the source(s) of Hg in various reaches of the river, along the locations proximate to responsible party facilities with samples collected and analyzed for the stable isotopes 198Hg, 199Hg, 200Hg, 201Hg, and 202Hg. The isotope ratios of various sources of Hg in the environment differ due to mass-dependent and/or -independent fractionation. Analysis of stable Hg isotopes provides the potential to determine the source(s) of Hg in systems where multiple sources of contamination exist, or to distinguish contaminant Hg from the natural background. To ensure accurate isotopic abundance measurement for each, Hg isotope was scaled against the certified abundances for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Standard Reference Material (SRM) 3133. Using Hg isotopes as tracers of contaminated river sediments in this study demonstrated to be a very powerful tool and allowed for distinctions to be made between sources of contamination and allowed for estimations of the relative contributions of each of those sources to be determined.

On another project, questions regarding the differentiation of anthropogenic sources of Cr(VI) versus a theory of a naturally occurring source of Cr(VI) in groundwater included the measurement of both Cr(VI) and stable Cr isotopes. Chromium has stable isotopes 50Cr, 52Cr, 53Cr, and 54Cr, with natural abundances of 4.35%, 83.8%, 9.5%, and 2.37%, respectively. With low concentration sites, isotope analysis focuses on the fractionation of the two of highest abundances. Isotopic fractionation occurs during reduction of Cr(VI) as Cr-O bonds are rearranged allowing one to infer natural reduction. The reaction product is enriched in 52Cr relative to 53Cr as the reaction progresses resulting in steadily enriched heavier Cr isotopes. This shift in the proportion of heavy and light isotopes is quantified by measuring the 53Cr/52Cr abundance ratio and thus the extent of reduction can be estimated from these data. Combining Cr(VI) data with stable isotope measurements allowed us to show that natural reduction was occurring resulting in Cr(VI) levels that were consistent with site background. Working closely with the laboratory we were able to obtain stable isotope analysis of samples with less than 1 µg/L total chromium.

Over our 30-year history, Environmental Standards, Inc. (Environmental Standards) Chemists have participated in environmental forensics projects involving PCBs, dioxins, PAHs, chlorinated solvents/pesticides, creosote, hydrocarbons (including light gases), heavy metals, and other chemicals using the following techniques:

• Statistical, chemical “unmixing,” using regression mixing models, positive matrix factorization, principal components analysis (PCA), and multivariate techniques.

• Calculating diagnostic ratios, creating and evaluating double ratio plots.

• Tracking changes that occur to chemical mixtures during release, weathering, and transport, and evaluating and using data types that measure these effects.

• Modeling accelerated aging processes.

• Calculating transport vectors and mechanisms (hydrogeology, fractionation, diffusion), and uncertainty
analysis.

• Analyzing pertinent analyte types, (e.g., alkylated PAHs, geochemical biomarkers, PIANO1 analytes, homologs, and fractional and compound-specific stable isotopes [13C/12C, 2H/1H, 37Cl/35Cl, 18O/16O, and 17O/16O, 36Cl/12C]).

• Discriminating chemical profiles

For more information on Environmental Standards’ environmental forensics practice, contact Principal Chemist, Mr. David I. Thal, CEAC (dthal@www.envstd.com, 865.376.7590) or Technical Director of Chemistry Mr. Rock J. Vitale, CEAC
(rvitale@www.envstd.com, 610.935.5577).

1PIANO-paraffins, isoparaffins, aromatics, napthenes, and olefins.


Environmental Standards Celebrates 30 Years

On Thursday, October 12 2017, a crowd of 150 gathered at the Phoenixville Foundry to celebrate Environmental Standards’ 30th year in business. Guests included colleagues, clients, friends, and family. The theme of the night was a Venetian Carnival Masquerade and guests donned masks that ranged from traditional Venetian style to those inspired by Phantom of the Opera and the steampunk genre. The evening began with an aerial bartender pouring champagne to the sounds of a talented string quartet from CAPA, The Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. DJ, Aaron DeAngelo kept the dance floor alive, while other guests engaged in friendly competition up on the mezzanine around craps, blackjack and roulette tables.

Thank you to all who came out to
celebrate!