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EPA’ efforts to identify priority chemicals


Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started to study commercial chemicals. The agency continues searching for priority chemicals using an intelligent and effective selection process.

The interest in chemical substances began in 2009 and the EPA came up with 11 action plans to address controversial chemicals or classes of substances including phthalates and perfluorinated compounds.

The EPA then went into detail to find other priority chemicals. Regulations may be created for these chemicals if necessary. EPA’s goal is to identify and select these new substances by the end of 2011 and to review and assess them in 2012.

To do so, the EPA created a two-step process.

                The first step aims at identifying substances that could become priority chemicals. To choose the substances to study, the EPA will first look if a chemical meets one of the “six factors”. These factors qualify chemicals according to their nature.

The six factors are:

  • Is the chemical linked to adverse reproductive or developmental effects
  • Is the substance persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic
  • Is it a know or possible carcinogen
  • Is it found in children’s products
  • Is it found in consumer’s products
  • Is it detected in human blood, urine, or tissue in biomonitoring programs

Then, the agency will use data from other government agencies such as the National Toxicology Program or the International Agency for Research or Cancer, as well as from its own Integrated Risk Information System and from chemical manufacturers.

                The second step will enable the EPA to examine in detail the substances found out in the first step. These substances will be ranked according to their risk – those with the greatest risk will be at the top- in order to keep the effort focused on chemicals of high concern.

The EPA felt the need to gather suggestions and advice from representatives of the chemical industry and health advocacy groups about the priority chemicals selecting process. Therefore the agency planned and conducted 7 webinars that were very useful.

The most relevant ideas that came out from these webinar were:

  • To have a precise selection right at the first step by adding selecting factors. It will enable the EPA to identify more chemicals.
  • To include substances that can cause damage to the nervous system.
  • To consider the production volume of a substance in its exposure. In fact, studying production volumes may lead to better estimates of exposure. The two main things to know about a chemical are its hazard and its exposure information.
  • To publish the criteria used in order to make this selection process easier for people to understand
  • To work with other regulatory agencies involved in chemical assessment such as the European Chemical Agency
  • To use what the state regulators have done on chemicals

The American Chemistry Council (ACC, a trade association of chemical manufacturers) suggested another methodology in selecting priority chemicals. This methodology is a tool that gives scores to chemicals based to their toxicity and their potential for exposure. It will enable EPA to evaluate the toxicity of a compound by studying its structure –activity relationship. If hazard data is lacking for a chemical, the ranking tool will automatically give it a high hazard ranking. If the EPA chooses to use this methodology, chemical manufacturers will have incentive to give the Agency the information relative to the toxicity of their products. The interest of this tool is to determine in an easiest way which substances should undergo review first.    

The ACC methodology could be an interesting and effective means for the EPA and its selection process for priority chemical. However, the agency has not given its opinion on ACC’s proposal yet.


If you have any question about priority chemicals, or need assistance with environmental exposures to chemicals, please call Brian Moran, P.E., LSP, at (508) 747 – 7900 x 189.

Information in this article taken from Sept 19, 2011 article by Cheryl Hogue, C&EN Washington

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New Massachusetts Law on Homeowner Oil Heating Systems


If you are heating your home with oil, you must now comply with a new law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  This new requirement starts September 30, 2011 and requires homeowners to upgrade the home heating system equipment to prevent leaks from tanks and pipes that connect to the furnace.  This is a preventive measure that helps avoid disruption and expense that can be caused by heating oil leaks.

For more information about the law, please read this article from MA DEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection): .

Learn more about heating oil system maintenance here.  Or download Norfolk Ram's complimentary Heating Oil Spill Information Kit for more information.

To learn how Norfolk can help with home heating oil spill clean-up, click here. 

If you have any question about heating oil leaks or remedation, please call Jonathan D. Kitchen at (508) 747 – 7900 x 154.

Student study on chemicals in dry-cleaning clothing


A debate on dry-cleaning arose after a high school sophomore – Alexa Dantzler – wondered whether chemicals remain in dry-cleaned clothing. She wanted to learn more about dry-cleaning and the chemicals used for dry-cleaning. Dry-cleaning is a common practice in everyday life but there was little information about its effect on leaving toxic residue on clothes. Alexa’s goal was to have the support from an expert or chemistry professors and to do some experiments with them to assess the risks.

Paul Roepe, then-chairman of Georgetown University’s chemistry department, agreed to help her in this study. Little by little, the university lab began to show interest in this study too; and resulted in a paper published in a peer-reviewed environmental journal about the amount of a toxic chemical that lingers in clothing after it is dry-cleaned.

Alexa Dantzler started the experiment. She sewed squares of different fabrics – wool, cotton, polyester, silk – into jackets and took them to be cleaned several times. She preserved the samples in a freezer and did chemical analysis with graduate students of Georgetown University. The experiment upheld Alexa’s doubts: a dangerous solvent, perchloroethylene (also known as PCE or perc), stayed in the fabrics at a high level. The more the clothing was cleaned, the higher the level was, and it was particularly true with wool. The concern with perc is that it is linked to cancer and neurological damage.

The research team then focused on perc to try find out how much this solvent is retained in dry-cleaned clothes and absorbed through the skin. Industry representatives state that perchloroethylene is used in 65-70 percent dry-cleaning facilities in the country. Experts still do not know the real consequences and risks for the consumers yet, in terms of health effect. They have to keep researching to reach an accurate result.

There are regulations and guidelines for atmospheric concentrations in the workplace – although there are not any standards for perc levels in dry-cleaning fabric. The experts are sure that the perc levels produced after dry-cleaning are even higher than the recommended limits.

The next step will be now an assessment of human exposure to wearing dry-cleaned clothes.

Industry representatives may not agree with the study because they find it either incomplete or imprecise, but the study raises many important questions about PCE and its consequences on human body. 

If you have any question about pce contamination, please call Brian Moran, P.E., LSP, at (508) 747 – 7900 x 189.


Information in this article taken from Sept 5, 2011 article by Lena H. Sun published in the Boston Globe.


An innovative stormwater management system in Berkeley


A unique stormwater retention system was designed for the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Endicott College (Berkeley, MA). This facility is a large center with classrooms, a theater, labs, music rooms, gardens, house studios.

Endicott College had already installed a stormwater management system with overland ditches, swales and a gate-controlled pond system. The school showed interest in protecting the environment and becoming thoroughly involved in treating stormwater. They hired a local engineering company and its research team to develop a new stormwater system. One of the major challenges the research team had to cope with was too much ledge and not enough room here for treatment. They had to find out an innovative solution to face this constraint. Thus, instead of developing underground storage system, the research team chose to install a rooftop retention system.

Retaining stormwater directly on the roof is a unique concept. The project goal was to hold  6 in. of stormwater across the entire building footprint. Stormwater runoff requires treatment and infiltration in accordance with the MA DEP  (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) stormwater policy. The advantage of rooftop retention is that roof runoff does not have to undergo treatment as roof runoff is generally clean.

The Center’s roof is 28,550 ft² with catch basins. The team observed that water used to remain on the roof longer than it should and there was less efficient water storage. The team found a grate product with internal weirs that would automatically slow the rate of water running into a catch basin to counteract this.

After having developed this new roof stormwater retention system, the research team also added a sand filter in a parking lot. With both of these systems, Endicott College has an efficient and complete stormwater system that enables it to control all of the center’s runoff.

This project is part of the Center’s effort to be a “green” building. The Center belongs to the School’s Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. The Center has to make efforts to be as green as possible. Those efforts include reduced site disturbance, erosion and sedimentation controls, having rooftop gardens and landscape terraces. The Center has a natural look, many windows to reduce energy costs and was partially built with green materials.

The stormwater retention system at Endicott College is an innovating and efficient approach to stormwater management.


This article is a summary of a report from the Water Environment Federation.

Permeable Pavement Systems to sustainably manage stormwater runoff


Managing stormwater runoff from parking lots, driveways and roadways is essential to prevent pollution and absorb runoff from asphalt pavement. The MA DEP has a Stormwater Policy with ten performance standards that must be met in order to comply depending on certain factors, such as impervious cover. The overall goal of the policy is to mimic natural hydrologic condition by having stormwater retained, treated and infiltrated or re-used onsite. Impervious paved surfaces can have adverse impacts on water quality, including transporting sediments and petroleum by products, and there are effective ways to prevent it.  Constructed wetlands, raingardens and underground chambers are part of these innovative pavement alternatives. But there are also permeable pavement technologies (also known as porous pavement technologies) for civil engineers and project owners that are powerful tools to protect watersheds.

Many projects incorporate permeable pavement systems, and there are many products as well as custom designs that be implemented to meet site specific needs.

A brief summary of these options is:  

  • Proprietary BMPs (Best Management Practices) :

BodPave85 is a cost-effective porous paving solution with very little maintenance installed in parking stall areas. This system is composed of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. This highly porous reinforced gravel profile stabilizes the area, drains water and provides a storage capacity during rainfall events. The 4-inch clean gravel profile will accommodate an additional 0.75 inch to 1 inch of rainfall over its relative area.

GravelPave2 is another permeable paving system. This system can be used for the entrance road but also for driveways and onsite parking. This system provides a natural gravel road look. The structure is composed of cylinders connected by a grid with an attached geotextile fabric and it is anchored to a base course with ring-shank spikes.

Another example of a low-impact parking improvements project is Geoblock. This is a porous pavement system linked with sustainable design practices. To be more precise, Geoblock is a vegetated parking lot that suits the needs of an unfrequent use traffic parking (i.e. overflow parking areas). It provides infiltration of rainfall with minimal amount of runoff and the grass surface reduces heat island effects associated with the asphalt.

  • Engineered BMPs :

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Stormwater Center provides research of stormwater treatment system in order to help water managers, planners and design engineers in New England and in the United States in their projects by providing them resources. Its main goal is to protect water resources by managing stormwater effectively. The UNH Stormwater Center has developed an effective permeable paving profile for which most engineering designs are based, it is as follows.

describe the imageTypical Parking Area Cross-Section for Pervious Pavement System


Porous pavement systems should be installed on pedestrian-only areas and for low-volume, low-speed areas such as overflow parking areas, residential driveways, bikepaths. It is not appropriate for high traffic areas, because it has lower load-bearing capacity than conventional pavement and area has a risk of transporting petroleum hydrocarbons to the groundwater table if not sited properly. The permeability of the underlying soils has to be of at least 0.17 inches per hour. This system does not require any additional land, thus it is a perfect technical solution for dense urban areas.

Porous pavement systems are really efficient for recharging groundwater and reducing stormwater runoff volume. Porous paving can infiltrate as much as 70% to 80% of annual rainfall. This is an excellent technique to reduce peak discharge rates significantly by diverting stormwater into the ground and away from pipe-and-basin stormwater management systems. Porous paving can also increase the effective development area of a site by reducing the need for large stormwater management structures.

However, requirements must be observed:

  • Porous paving must not receive stormwater from other drainage areas (i.e. rooftops, walkways, parking area)
  • Porous paving has to be used only on gentle slopes (less than 5%)
  • This system cannot be used in high traffic areas

Concerning the design, there are three different types of permeable paving, constructed over a storage bed:

  • Porous asphalt and pervious concrete
  • Paving stones
  • Grass pavers

Some designs incorporate an “overflow edge”. This is a trench surrounding the edge of the pavement.

Porous pavement can be successfully installed in cold climates and they perform well there, because the design includes features to reduce frost heaving. This system can reduce meltwater runoff and avoid excessive water on the road during the snowmelt period.

  • Maintenance requirements :

Maintenance is essential and required in any porous pavement systems. Cleaning the pavement surface helps prevent clogging. If the surface clogs, the system efficiency will considerably decrease because stormwater will flow over the surface and into the trench, and infiltration and treatment loss will occur.

Surface cleaning consists in frequent vacuum sweeping (monthly) along with jet washing of asphalt and concrete pavement. Annually, the surface must be inspected for deterioration or spalling. And periodically, grass pavers must be reseeded to fill in bare spots.

Some rules must be known and respected too as:  minimizing salt use during winter months, avoiding winter sanding, monitoring the paving surface (to make sure it drains properly after storms), posting signs identifying porous pavement areas or never re-seal or re-pave  with impermeable materials.



For more information about the permeable pavement systems, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.

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