Tag Archives: EPA

My Path to the Certified Environmental, Safety and Health Trainer (CET)

CET Self Assessment Exam

My well worn Self-Assessment Exam.

I’ve spent a chunk of my career teaching environmental, health and safety (EHS) courses. I’ve know about the Certified Environmental, Safety and Health Trainer (CET) for years, but I didn’t really need it for my job. Therefore, I never pursued it. I asked other EHS trainers I know and no one else had it or had even considered it. Was this process going to be worth the effort? Eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I didn’t have any first-hand accounts of the process. Therefore, I write this in hope that it helps you on your path to the CET.

Spoiler: I was approved, passed the test and am now a CET. Continue reading

Taking the Proper Environmental, Health, and Safety Training

Good or bad? A garbage can full of oil.

The proper training could have avoided this garbage can of used oil.

Warning: this article might test your knowledge of environmental, health and safety training abbreviations and acronyms!

As professionals in the environmental field, we may be exposed to hazardous work conditions, possibly radiological, chemical and/or physical. For some of us it’s a routine part of our jobs. If you are working around hazardous conditions, there is most likely a required environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) training course you’ll need to complete. Unfortunately, people often get inadequate information or misinterpret the course(s) they need. Depending on your job, the required course could be from a federal regulation, state regulation, a requirement of a client, and even individual job locations may require a specific course or more. Continue reading

Environmental Impacts of a Government Shutdown

Rocky Mountain National Park

You’ll miss a beautiful fall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

As of publishing, there is a threat of a government shutdown beginning on Oct 1, 2015. Some have put the odds at 75%. The impacts of a shutdown will be widely felt as progress, facilities, and operations across nearly all fields will impacted. This will provide you an overview of the environmental impacts of a government shutdown. This is not inclusive, but should give you a good indication of the overall impact. Continue reading

What Makes Hazardous Waste Hazardous?

Simpsons Haz Waste Poster, via SafetyPoster.com

Despite Mr. Burns worst intentions, radioactive waste is not hazardous waste. Image via SafetyPoster.com

I am asked some version of this question or need to explain it nearly every month. What makes hazardous waste hazardous? Is this hazardous waste? What’s in hazardous waste?

The answer provided here isn’t intended for an environmental professional or hazardous material manager. It is for everyone else. No regulations, no citations, and nothing technical. Actually, I know a lot of environmental professionals who don’t work in the hazmat/waste field who would benefit from this. If you want the technical definitions and regulations, you can get them here from the EPA.

I’ve found that people have a generic, catch-all perspective that hazardous waste is all the “toxic stuff we have to throw out”. It is not a generic term. It has very specific characteristics and determinations.

Q: What is hazardous waste? Continue reading

BPA on Receipt Paper

Thermal Receipt Paper

Did handling this toll receipt put BPA on my fingers?

Thermal receipt paper is covered in Bisphenol A or BPA. These are the receipts from restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations that we handle nearly every day. Once you handle the receipt, the BPA transfers to your hands. In the past year, the EPA and others have begun highlighting this issue, educating the public, and are helping with alternatives. I first heard about it while listening to this episode of Science Friday. I was surprised that it took this long to find it’s way into my news feed. So here’s my little part to help inform you of the issue.

Continue reading

TNEP Profile: Carson Hodges, Attorney, EPA, Washington, DC

800x800_sealWhat is it like to be an environmental attorney in Washington, DC? There are so many disciplines within the community of environmental professionals. This is a niche I want to know more about. In a city full of lawyers and policy makers, I’m curious what it’s like to work as a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not so much the day-to-day work, but the lifestyle.

Carson Hodges is an Attorney for the EPA living and working in the Washington, DC and a friend of mine. We’ve known each other for several years, but have rarely talked about work. He was in Denver and we had a chance to meet and discuss my curiosities about his work and life as an environmental lawyer for the EPA in DC.

The Nation Environmental Professional (TNEP): What drew you to environmental law? Was it the environment or the law? Continue reading

Contamination, Where Are You?

Part of the MIlltown Reservoir Superfund Site, Missoula, MT

Part of the Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site, Missoula, MT. Not all Superfund sites are green ooze and rusty drums.

When I’m teaching environmental compliance and hazard management courses, one of the issues I try to convey is that environmental compliance isn’t just for tree huggers and protecting the environment. It’s more about protecting yourself from toxic exposures. First from direct exposure while working with and around hazardous substances and second from exposure to contaminated air, water, and land. When the conversation turns to their own safety or the contamination of their favorite fishing hole, people’s interest picks up. Then they want to know, “How do I find out where all the contamination is located?” So contamination, where are you?

You would be surprised and probably a bit scared by how much contamination we are surrounded by. The park where you walk your dog, the river you cross every day, the nursery where you buy your flowers, the building down the street from where you work, or even the land you’re building a house. They’re not all Superfund sites, but they’re out there.

Fortunately much of this information is provided to the public by the EPA and your state’s environmental agency. The EPA is happy to tell you about it with a “Where You Live” link on its homepage.

Here is a good starting list of links where you can find out if there are contaminated streams, air, or Superfund sites in your life.

1. EPA’s National Priorities List map, which is a list of national priorities among the known contaminated sites. You probably know these by their more common name – Superfund sites.

2. EPA’s Enforcement Annual Results map. This isn’t necessarily all contaminated sites, but a map showing the location of all the concluded enforcement actions from the last fiscal year. Basically, where the EPA found something wrong and action was taken. You’d be surprised, like I was, to find a local business on this map.

3. How about that river, creek or lake where you fish or swim? The EPA has another good website, http://watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/. Enter your location and it will bring up all the surrounding waterways and if they are contaminated.

4. AirNow.gov and EPA’s AirNow mobile app will give you the current air quality at your location.

5. Consumption warnings can be found on your state’s environmental protection or fish and wildlife website. Some people are shocked to learn that states may recommend limiting how much fish or waterfowl you eat and to practice catch and release, but these warnings and postings have been around for over a decade.

Housing development near a former nuclear weapons facility in beautiful Arvada, CO.

Housing development near a former nuclear weapons Superfund site in beautiful Arvada, CO.

Here’s an example from my neck of the Colorado Front Range. There are high-end and sustainable homes being built in the far northwest Denver suburbs. It’s a beautiful location right up along the base of the mountains. Unfortunately it’s also the former site of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility. That’s right, plutonium. It’s a lot different from cleaning up an oil spill or TCE contaminated soil. As much as I tend to trust environmental scientist who claim the area is clean, it’s a scary thought to be spending a lot of money and a portion of your life living on a former radioactive site.

Even more unusual is that the main development, Candelas, is a sustainable, green living development. What if you just bought a new, sustainably built house surrounded by beautiful Colorado open space, then learned a new highway is being built nearby (which is also happening), and then also learned that the area used to be a nuclear weapons production facility. Time to reconsider that half a million dollars you’re about to spend. I’ve seen enough science (both good and bad) influenced by politics and money that a history of plutonium is enough for me to set aside any science, use common sense, and not to live there.

My final disconcerting point, which drives some of my students wild, is that there is so much contamination that is either not known about or is known about and is not being cleaned up due to limited money, time, and effort. It’s quite amusing to watch a fiscally conservative person get fired up about contamination in their neighborhood and then become conflicted when I tell them the EPA and/or state knows about it but doesn’t have the money to clean it up. Emotion, science, and politics. It can be a “toxic” combination.