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Guide to
Environmental Issues
September 1996

Office of Solid Waste &       Cover photo: Bottomland Hardwoods, Yazoo
                              National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, courtesy
Emergency Response
                              U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Project Manager and Editor:   This Guide To Environmental Issues was based
Julie Klaas Pangman           in concept and format on Citizens’ Guide for
                              Environmental Issues - A Handbook for Cultivating
                              Dialogue by the National Institute for Chemical
                              Studies and U.S. EPA, 1989 and 1990.
introduction            2   public health                          32

where do I get help?    3   community safety                       34

pollution prevention    4   health & environmental risk            38

air & radiation         8   enforcement                            40

surface water          12   glossary of terms & acronyms           44

ground water           16   major environmental laws               72

pesticides             20   government agencies                    78

hazardous waste        24   EPA information numbers                82

solid waste            28

                            Note: Bold face terms used throughout are
                            defined in the Glossary, Laws Section, or
                            Government Agencies Section.

                                                      information sources
                                                      Although protective laws respond to public
                                                      needs, we need to understand how laws and
                                                      regulations work in real situations. Knowing
                                                      where to turn for help is sometimes as diffi-
                                                      cult as understanding which issues are
                                                      addressed by specific environmental laws.

By choosing to read this Guide, you are show-         This handbook lists federal and state agencies
ing your concern for the environment. Many            as well as pertinent health, safety, and envi-
of our daily activities can potentially alter envi-   ronmental laws, with brief comments on each
ronmental balances, but too often we ignore           law’s intent.
relationships among people, other living crea-
tures, and our surroundings.
                                                      the terminology problem
Environmental protection can be most effec-           Discussing complex economic, technical,
tive when complex connections between all             health, safety, and environmental issues can
parts of an ecosystem and society are taken           be frustrating. Many environmental conversa-
into account. No longer can we say, “I’m too          tions evolve into a series of acronyms, techni-
busy to be concerned with the environment—            cal terms, and jargon that can leave you con-
someone else can take care of it.”                    fused unless you have been previously
                                                      involved with the issues. When words or
citizen participation                                 phrases remain undefined, dialogue is likely
                                                      to be limited. With Guide to Environmental
That someone is you. Citizen participation is a
                                                      Issues, we try to make specific concepts clear
key element in environmental protection. This
                                                      to all so that language and limited access to
Guide is dedicated to the enthusiastic interest
                                                      information do not hinder public participa-
and creative ideas of people across the country
who are concerned about the nation’s environ-
mental health. Diverse elements of everyday           When you see a term in bold, that word is
life make each contribution unique. The abili-        defined in the Glossary in the back or may refer
ties and vision of a multitude of people need         to a specific Law or Government Agency. We
to be applied to the public decision-making           included terms and definitions relating to pol-
process.                                              lution prevention, enforcement, regulations,
community involvement, and environmental           Civic and community organizations are usual-
risk. We also included a variety of technical      ly helpful too. Chances are, if you contact one
terms and acronyms frequently used by sub-         group that is not involved with a particular
ject matter specialists.                           topic, you will be steered to the correct orga-
                                                   nization. In some areas, environmental and
Please note that many terms in the text and
                                                   other community groups have formed coali-
glossary may have different meanings for dif-
                                                   tions for improved communications and
ferent audiences. Definitions and explanations
                                                   action on specific issues.
presented here provide only a general under-
standing of the terminology and should not         The literally thousands of trade and citizen
be taken as full technical or legal definitions.   groups involved in environmental issues are
Although much more could be said about any         far too numerous to list. Your local telephone
topic, the information provides the basics in      Yellow Pages contains a directory of many
non-bureaucratic English. We hope this             groups and their respective telephone num-
Guide helps you become actively involved in        bers. You should contact those groups whose
community dialogue and better able to under-       interests are similar to yours.
stand environmental issues.

where do I get help?
Have you ever wondered where to turn for
answers to environmental problems? If so,
you are not alone. In the back of this Guide
we have listed four pages of EPA and federal
agency telephone numbers and addresses, fol-
lowed by two pages of Hotlines that EPA
maintains for general and specific information.
But protection of the environment is a big job.
Federal, state, and local agencies across the
nation are all involved, employing thousands
of citizens who care about their health and
natural resources. Every city, county, and
state networks with federal groups to share
and provide information. If the first person
you contact can’t answer a specific question,
he or she will know who can.

                                                     substitute raw materials, and make improve-
                                                     ments in management techniques, training, and
                                                     inventory control.

                                                     Here’s one example. The U.S. Environmental
                                                     Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for
                                                     protecting people and the environment from
                                                     risks associated with all sorts of toxic chemicals.

    pollution prevention
One of the most encouraging environmental            One of the best ways to accomplish this is
developments of recent years is the trend toward     through pollution prevention. Before a new
preventing — and not just treating — pollu-          chemical is marketed, EPA reviews the ingredi-
tion. For example, scientists have found various     ents and intended uses to determine potential
ways to treat wastes in order to protect the envi-   health or environmental hazards. During the
ronment. Now, there is growing realization that      review, EPA identifies measures aimed at reduc-
whenever possible, avoiding wastes altogether is     ing exposures to the chemical. At this early stage,
even better.                                         companies wanting to manufacture or use the
                                                     chemical can readily integrate pollution preven-
On a broad level, passage of several laws relating   tion measures into their plans. If such measures
to the environment helped create a climate of        will not reduce potential risks, EPA can regulate
change. The Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1970 and          the chemical in several other ways.
the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972 signalled
our nation’s intent to address pollution. Many       EPA also reviews chemicals already in produc-
activities and programs have followed these Acts     tion. The Toxic Substances Control Act
to limit further the amounts of allowable dis-       (TSCA) Inventory lists about 70,000 existing
charges into the environment. We now recog-          chemicals. Of greatest concern are 10,000 to
nize that end-of-pipe technology offers only a       14,000 high-volume chemicals for which little
partial solution and fails to completely protect     or no data exist. To address this large number
the environment.                                     of chemicals, EPA systematically reviews clus-
                                                     ters of related chemicals and ranks them for
The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 takes a         further review or testing. Nominations of can-
new approach. To avoid pollution in the first        didates for screening come from a variety of
place, manufacturers are encouraged to modify        sources, including a federal interagency testing
equipment and processes, redesign products,          committee of experts.

Pollution prevention also involves waste mini-           tion techniques. The printing and drycleaning
mization — recycling what we used to throw               industries are currently piloting a voluntary shift
away or not generating wastes in the first place.        toward using more environmentally safe chemi-
Many companies now are cleaning up solvents              cals and technologies. More information is avail-
for re-use or changing the industrial process to         able at 202/260-1821.
more efficiently use raw materials. Likewise, sci-
                                                             Six “Energy STAR” programs seek to prevent
entists are developing new technolo-
                                                                   emissions of air pollutants associated
gies every year to eliminate or
                                                                        with climate change and acid
greatly reduce our depen-
                                                                            rain, while promoting prof-
dence on toxic sub-
                                                                                itable investments in ener-
stances. A simple
                                                                                  gy-efficient technologies.
example is using hot
                                                                                 Information about all
water and soap
                                                                               “Energy STAR” programs is
instead of organic
                                                                               available from 202/233-
solvents to clean
                                                                                  9659. You can request
                             E PA P O L L U T I ON         PR E V E N T E R specific documents to be
Preventing pollution can save money in a variety         mailed or sent by facsimile. A handy set of direc-
of ways, and so EPA has designed several non-            tions walks you through program selections on
regulatory, innovative pollution prevention pro-         your telephone.
grams. Corporations, environmental groups,
                                                         In a nutshell, the “Green Lights” program
electric utilities, and state, city, and local govern-
                                                         encourages the widespread use of energy-saving
ments participate voluntarily in the following:
                                                         light bulbs and fluorescent tubes. “Green Lights”
The “33/50” Program focuses on reducing over-            participants are already avoiding over 95 million
all risk from 17 high-priority toxic chemicals.          kilowatts annually — that equals $9.4 million in
The name derives from voluntary performance              avoided electricity costs.
goals: participating companies pledged to
                                                         The “Energy STAR Buildings” program is a part-
reduce emissions and transfers of these chemi-
                                                         nership effort with business to promote energy
cals by 33% in 1992 and 50% by 1995. The
                                                         efficiency in commercial buildings. The program
1992 goals were surpassed a year ahead of
                                                         starts with membership in “Green Lights,” fol-
schedule — more than 486 million pounds of
                                                         lowed by a comprehensive building survey and
reductions were achieved, due to conscientious
                                                         tune-up. The program then engineers increased
business practices.
                                                         efficiency in heating, ventilation, and air condi-
Through the “Design for the Environment” Pro-            tioning loads and improved fans and air-han-
gram, EPA is working with specific industries to         dling systems.
find chemical substitutes and exposure reduc-
“Energy STAR Computers” is another partner-           mizing energy efficiency through better com-
ship with leading U.S. manufacturers to save          pressors, door seals, and insulation.
additional energy costs. Desktop computers,
monitors, and printers can “sleep” or “power          In addition, EPA has many other new voluntary
down” when not in use, cutting electricity use by     programs, some just getting off the ground, but
over one-half. The federal government, the            these three top the list:
largest user of computer equipment in the             The “Climate-Wise” Program challenges organi-
world, will buy only energy-efficient computers       zations from all sectors of the economy to find
in the future.                                        creative ways to limit or reduce greenhouse gas
The “Ag STAR” Program focuses on animal waste         emissions (see climate change in the Glossary).
methane which is emitted to the air when              Such actions may include raw material substitu-
manures ferment. Such emissions waste a usable        tion, process improvements, and switching to
energy supply, produce odors, and contribute to       lower-carbon-content fuels. Other initiatives put
climate change. This innovative program recov-        into place employee’s good ideas: planting more
ers methane gas from swine and dairy manure           trees, grasses, and plants to absorb excess carbon
for re-use by the farmer.                             dioxide from the air, carpooling, and installing
                                                      corporate-wide efforts to recycle and reduce
The “Natural Gas STAR” program is another             waste. For more information, call 202/260-4407.
methane recovery project aimed at oil and natur-
al gas pipeline leakages and system inefficiencies.   The “Waste-Wise” Program is a public-private
EPA is working with public utility commissions        partnership designed to assist businesses in
to reform rate structures to include incentives for   reducing their solid waste. Businesses set their
efficiency gains, cost reductions, and methane        own goals and commit to achievements in the
emissions reductions.                                 following three areas: waste prevention, recy-
                                                      cling collection, and buying or manufacturing
The “Super Efficient Refrigerator                          recycled products. Additional information is
Program” seeks to produce                                     available by calling 800/ EPA-WISE.
energy-wise appliances for
home and commercial use.                                       Last, but not least, is the “Water
Chlorofluorocarbons                                             Alliance for Voluntary Efficiency” Pro-
(CFCs), chemicals used in                                        gram, called WAVE. Designed to
refrigerators for cooling and                                    focus attention on efficient use of
freezing, are ozone-depleting                                     water, WAVE encourages hotels and
substances that will be phased out                                  motels to install water-saving
of production by 1995. This program
is finding alternative coolants and opti-

                                                     some questions & answers
                                                     on pollution prevention
                                                     Q. How does pollution prevention work?
                                                     A.    Here’s an example. If a chemical has been
                                                     identified as toxic to the environment and a less
                                                     harmful substance is used instead, pollution may
                                                     be prevented. By the same token, your conscien-
devices. Use of low-flush toilets, and low-flow      tious selection of products for the home can pre-
shower heads, dishwashers, and laundry equip-        vent pollution.
ment, as well as recycling wastewater, is both
profitable and practical. The payback period for     Q. Why wasn’t pollution prevention started
most projects is three years or less. This program   sooner?
will be expanded to more businesses, institu-
                                                     A.     During the industrial revolution, few peo-
tions, and local governments. For more informa-
                                                     ple envisioned what an enormous collective
tion, call 202/260-7288.
                                                     effect we would have on the global environment.
The same basic pollution prevention ideas can        We chose first to treat the obvious effects of pol-
be used in the home. Each of us can use energy       lution, not the sources.
efficient or recyclable products and decrease our
volume of waste. Contact agencies listed in the      Q. What are some specific ways I can personally
Directory of this Guide for things you can do to     prevent pollution?
prevent pollution. In addition, bookstores and       A. Look for goods with less packaging; use
libraries typically contain information that can     longer-lasting, full-spectrum fluorescent tubes
help you and your family dramatically reduce —       that require only a fraction of the energy of
and in some cases eliminate altogether — every-      incandescent bulbs; reduce your use of haz-
day sources of pollution. As our awareness           ardous household products; recycle glass, paper,
grows and we begin to realize the full health and    plastic, cardboard, and other materials. Many
environmental effects our actions have, pollution    other ideas are available from EPA, environmen-
prevention becomes increasingly attractive.          tal groups, and trade associations.

                                                     Q. Where can I get more information on pollution
                                                     A. Call EPA’s Pollution Prevention Office at
                                                     202/260-1023. Many states also have pollution
                                                     prevention offices with information available to
                                                     the public.
                                                     address these and other chronic air quality

                                                     These Amendments signal a change from past
                                                     pollution control approaches. Innovations in
                                                     this law include programs based on coopera-
                                                     tion between government and industry, and

air & radiation
Perhaps more than anything else, air interacts       pollution prevention incentives based on
directly and constantly with us. All land crea-      market forces. The goal of the entire Act is to
tures breathe gases and materials suspended          reduce air pollution by 56 billion pounds per
in the air. By the same token, trees, grasses        year. These reductions are expected to come
and other plant species carpeting the earth are      from cutting emissions from several major as
equally dependent on clean air. We all have a        well as many minor sources.
stake in the quality of our air.
                                                     Urban pollution also is addressed under the
Outdoor air quality is affected by many human        1990 CAA Amendments. Cities that fail to
and natural activities. Manufacturing compa-         meet standards for human health must com-
nies, power plants, small businesses, automo-        ply with the standards by deadlines set in the
biles, forest fires, and volcanoes are all sources   law. In many urban areas, ground level ozone
of air pollution. Any activity that releases mate-   persists in concentrations harmful to human
rials into the air affects air quality.              health. Large sources of pollutants (such as
                                                     nitrogen oxides) that contribute to this prob-
Although the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act             lem and smaller sources of hydrocarbons
(CAA) prompted large improvements in air             must reduce emissions. In some cities, this
quality, not all of Congress’ goals have been        requires vehicle emissions testing, vapor
met. Emissions of pollutants such as sulfur          recovery systems at gas stations, and other
oxides, volatile organic compounds                   controls on smaller sources of pollution.
(VOCs), carbon monoxide, particulates, and
lead have been greatly reduced. But much             Carbon monoxide problems in non-attain-
work remains to effectively reduce acid rain,        ment areas are addressed in a similar fashion.
smog, and air toxics associated with increased       Areas with the worst carbon monoxide prob-
cancer risk and other health complaints. The         lems are required to use special forms of gaso-
1990 CAA Amendments were intended to                 line known as oxyfuels during winter months.

Other areas that fail to attain standards for      ozone-depleting chemicals such as chlorofluo-
particulate matter may be required to limit        rocarbons (CFCs, also known as Freons) and
the use of wood stoves and fireplaces and to       other chlorine- and bromine-containing com-
impose stiffer controls on industry.               pounds. CFCs are commonly used in refrigera-
                                                   tors and air conditioners.
In addition, emissions of 189 air toxics must
be reduced by the turn of the century. EPA         Working in consultation with state and local
has published a list of source categories for      governments, EPA bears primary responsibili-
which Maximum Achievable Control Tech-             ty for this sweeping legislation. EPA’s Office
nology (MACT) is being developed. Compa-           of Air and Radiation is the lead office for
nies that achieve reductions of emissions          developing the scores of regulations required
before the regulations are proposed can            under the Act. States also share responsibility
receive six-year extensions to comply with the     for issuing and enforcing air pollution per-
standard. EPA has estimated that overall           mits. In some areas, local governments will
health risks, including risk of cancer, respira-   test vehicle emissions and monitor other air
tory disease, heart ailments, and reproductive     quality issues.
disorders, will decline significantly once
MACT controls are installed.                       Indoor air is often more polluted than the air
                                                   outside our homes and workplaces. This has
The CAA Amendments also look beyond the            been shown to be true across the country, even
U.S. to reduce acid rain and address loss of       in neighborhoods without heavy industrial
stratospheric ozone. Sulfur dioxide emissions      pollution. More than 90% of our time is spent
from power plants are a major source of acid                            indoors where we are
rain. Under a new two-phase system, these                               exposed to contaminants
emissions will be cut in half by the year 2000.                          from faulty heating units,
Power plants will be
issued emission
allowances which
can be banked or
traded. If emissions
exceed the allowances
held, the power plant
must pay a penalty.
The CAA Amend-
ments also restrict
the use, emission,
and disposal of

gas stoves, fireplaces, cleaners, solvents, cos-   some questions & answers
metics, cigarette smoke, wall coverings, paints,   about air quality
and improperly stored chemical products.
                                                   Q. Whom do I call to report visible emissions
Another significant indoor health hazard           or noxious odors in the air?
results from radon gas, which in many areas of
                                                   A. Generally, your state or local air quality
the country seeps from the earth into homes.
                                                   office should be contacted. For emergencies,
There are several ways to check and safeguard
                                                   dial 911 or your local fire department or pub-
your home, with proper ventilation being one
                                                   lic health agency. Be aware that visible emis-
of the simplest. Radon test kits are available
                                                   sions are not necessarily the most harmful;
from a variety of sources including hardware
                                                   most emissions are colorless or odorless.
stores, health departments, and environmental
                                                   Q. Who monitors the required reports of toxic
In your home, make sure that gasoline cans for     air emissions and safety measures used to control
lawn mowers have securely fitted lids. These       those emissions?
items as well as household hazardous chemicals     A. EPA, your state air quality office, the
should be stored outside the home when possi-      State Emergency Response Commission
ble. Dispose of unwanted or unused solvents        (SERC), and your Local Emergency Plan-
and pesticides properly. Some stores that sell     ning Committee (LEPC) monitor these
these items will dispose of them for you. In       reports.
many states, environmental agencies in cooper-
ation with industries have sponsored “House-       Q. Who sets the legal air exposure limits for
hold Hazardous Waste Days” during which citi-      toxic chemicals?
zens may take paint, solvents, and other wastes    A. EPA sets the standards for outside (ambi-
to local collection sites for proper disposal.     ent) air, OSHA for the workplace.
The quality of indoor air is largely up to indi-
                                                   Q. What is Best Available Control Technology?
viduals and businesses. Although safe working
                                                   What is MACT?
conditions are mandated by the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),           A. Best Available Control Technology
no agency forces homeowners to provide clean       (BACT) refers to the best equipment, tech-
indoor air. You must take steps on your own        niques, or mechanisms that are currently
to improve the quality of indoor air in your       available to achieve a level of pollution con-
home.                                              trol. Through research, technology may be

available in the future to achieve even better    Q. Are incinerators a source of toxic emissions
controls. MACT is Maximum Achievable              to the air?
Control Technology and refers to the maxi-
                                                  A. Well-designed, well-constructed, and
mum degree of pollution reduction obtainable.
                                                  well-operated incinerators can nearly elimi-
                                                  nate toxic emissions to the air. To receive a
Q. What happens to toxic airborne emissions
                                                  permit to operate, a hazardous waste inciner-
when they are released from chemical plants,
                                                  ator must demonstrate 99.99% efficiency in
automobiles, or power plants? Do they change
                                                  destroying most hazardous wastes. The stan-
into other toxics when they mix? Where are they
                                                  dard is even stricter for dioxins and PCBs.
finally deposited?
A. We are only beginning to find out what         Q. How does eliminating toxic wastes at the
happens to emissions. Little is known about       source of production differ from utilizing best
the interaction of chemicals in ambient air,      available control technology (BACT)?
but some effects such as smog, ozone deple-
                                                  A. Basically, at-source control is a pollu-
tion, acid rain, and climate change are a few
                                                  tion prevention approach that seeks to keep
of the known consequences when air emis-
                                                  hazardous wastes from being produced.
sions interact, are blown by the wind, and are
                                                  BACT, on the other hand, is the best technol-
deposited in cities, fields, and wetlands.
                                                  ogy for treating, containing, or reducing dis-
These effects have generated new research to
                                                  charges and emissions.
find answers.

Q. Do weather conditions affect pollution and
the dispersion of airborne chemicals?
A. Yes. Weather conditions—including
temperature, sunlight, precipitation, and
wind—play a major role in how vapors and
suspended particles behave. Sunlight can
destroy or alter some airborne chemicals.
Rain, snow, and wind affect where and when
air pollutants are deposited on land or water.

                                                 charged into our lakes, streams, rivers, and
                                                 oceans, as well as the energy needed to
                                                 treat wastewater.

                                                 The cornerstone for protecting this valu-
                                                 able resource and controlling water pollu-
                                                 tion was the Federal Water Pollution Con-

surface water
Although the vast majority of the earth’s        trol Act of 1972. In 1977, the Act was
surface is covered with water, the oceans        reauthorized and renamed the Clean
and seas are salty. Only 3% is fresh — and       Water Act (CWA). The goal of the CWA
two-thirds of that is ice! This tiny fraction    is the “restoration and maintenance of the
of fresh water sustains a multitude of very      chemical, physical and biological integrity
specific life forms, including our own.          of the Nation’s waters.” Under this Act, it
While many people get their drinking             is illegal to discharge pollutants from a
water from underground reserves, surface         point source into any surface water with-
waters also are an important source. In          out a National Pollution Discharge Elim-
addition, lakes, rivers, and streams provide     ination System (NPDES) permit. EPA
boating, swimming, fishing, and other            has the authority to set standards for the
forms of recreation.                             quality of wastewater discharges. Amend-
                                                 ments to the CWA in 1987 increased the
The economic support offered by plentiful
                                                 ability of EPA and states to improve water
and high quality surface waters includes
                                                 quality by addressing toxic discharges,
agricultural irrigation, process and cooling
                                                 allowing citizen lawsuits, and funding
waters for power plants, and chemical,
                                                 municipal sewage treatment facilities.
steel, lumber, mining, and other industrial
operations. The eastern U.S. has a bounti-       Most states have legal authority to imple-
ful supply of this natural resource, while in    ment and enforce the provisions of the
the western states, the relative scarcity of     Clean Water Act, while EPA retains over-
surface water serves to increase its value. In   sight responsibilities for most state water
all parts of the country, however, we need       programs. Water quality standards, crite-
to use our water efficiently. Using less         ria to assure that streams are “fishable and
water reduces the amount of wastes dis-          swimmable,” are set by each state, with

EPA oversight and approval. State water      Wet meadows, prairie potholes, wooded
pollution control agencies and EPA use       swamps, and coastal, saltwater marshes are
these standards to set limits on the                   distinctly different. But all wet-
amounts of pol-                                            lands are important wildlife
lutants that can                                           habitats, breeding grounds,
be dis-                                                    and nurseries. Hundreds of
charged                                                   species of birds use wetlands
into surface                                           for mating, nesting, brood-rear-
waters. Ques-                                        ing, and for resting and feeding
tions dealing                                      during migration. Fish, crus-
with specific                                      taceans, insects, and other animals
bodies of water,                                      form complex food chains in
monitoring sur-                                             these valuable ecosystems.
veys, or permits
                                             Some progress has been made, but a major
should be direct-
                                             challenge remains to reduce and control
ed to your state water
                                             pollutants that enter all surface waters.
quality agency.
                                             Water that runs off city streets and parking
Wetlands occupy a special-                   lots during rainstorms may contain metals,
ized niche between land and sur-             oil, grease, and other automotive fluids.
face water, where plants and ani-            Runoff from agricultural fields contains ani-
mals abound. Wetlands have his-              mal waste, fertilizers, and pesticides. These
torically been viewed as mosqui-             contaminants and others are called non-
to-ridden wastelands, impedi-                point source pollution and cannot be
ments to development because                 reduced by traditional end-of-pipe controls.
of their saturated and frequently
                                             Recent stormwater regulations are begin-
flooded conditions. The impor-
                                             ning to reduce nonpoint source pollution
tance to fish and wildlife, clean
                                                                from industries and
water, and flood control went
                                                                   cities. Farming prac-
unappreciated as draining and filling
                                                                   tices that emphasize
operations destroyed more than 60% of
                                                                    soil conservation and
coastal and inland wetlands nationwide.
                                                                appropriate use of pesti-
Discharges from industries, midnight
                                             cides are effective in reducing pollutants in
dumping of toxic wastes, urban runoff,
                                             runoff. You can help prevent nonpoint
acid rain, and agricultural chemicals have
                                             source pollution by properly disposing of
polluted and degraded wetlands as well.

used motor oil, using fewer pesticides, and      that address state-specific needs, are scien-
carefully assessing lawn and garden prac-        tifically defensible, and as stringent as the
tices. By reducing the potential contami-        national criteria. States are required to
nants we place on streets, driveways and         review water quality standards every three
lawns, we can make a substantial contribu-       years. New information from EPA, indus-
tion to improving the quality of rivers,         try, or any other group concerning safe lev-
streams, lakes, and wetlands.                    els of materials in surface water may be
                                                 considered, and existing standards may be
                                                 revised to reflect current scientific develop-
some questions & answers
                                                 ments. Notices of proposed revisions are
on surface water                                 published in newspapers to encourage the
Q. Where can I get information about the         public to participate in the revision
water quality of streams, lakes, wetlands, and   process. State standards must be approved
other bodies of water in my state?               by EPA.

A. State water quality agencies, in gener-       Q. How can I find out what materials are
al, maintain records of water quality for        being discharged into local bodies of water?
many state surface waters. General infor-        A. By submitting a request to the water
mation about water quality is available          pollution control agency in your state, you
through the state agency information             can review the National Pollutant Dis-
offices, EPA, and many citizen groups. EPA       charge Elimination System (NPDES) per-
maintains an Office of Water Resource            mits for specific dischargers into surface
Center to answer general questions about         water. New permits and renewals of exist-
standards and water quality. The telephone       ing permits are published in local papers
number is 202/260-7786.                          with information on how to review the per-
Q. How are water quality standards devel-        mit application. State and federal agencies,
oped for U.S. surface waters?                    including EPA’s Office of Water and the
                                                 U.S. Geological Survey, compile stream-
A. EPA develops water quality criteria           specific water quality data in various
that indicate concentrations of contami-         reports available to the public.
nants that are not expected to harm human
health and aquatic life. States may use          Q. What can I do if I think that an NPDES
these criteria to set water quality standards    permit should not be issued or that the
or they may develop their own standards          requirements of the permit are inadequate?

A. Anyone may comment on the issuance
or reissuance of an NPDES permit within
the period listed in the public notice. The
permit-issuing agency must respond to
public comments before granting the per-
mit. Most states have a process by which
affected citizens and companies may appeal
the terms and conditions of a NPDES per-
mit or who receives one.

Q. Whom do I contact if I see a spill or
notice unusual conditions such as color, odor,
or fish kills in a stream, lake, estuary, or
coastal area?

A. First contact your city or county pub-
lic health department or check to see if
your state has a toll-free pollution hotline.
Any spill should be reported immediately
to the National Response Center at
1-800-424-8802. For other complaints and
concerns about water quality, call your
state agency representatives during normal
business hours and ask for an investigation.

                                                  parts of the country are abundant and sup-
                                                  ply good quality water, contamination in
                                                  other areas may be severe but undetected
                                                  until the ground water is used.

                                                  Activities to protect ground water are guid-
                                                  ed by several different federal and state laws
                                                  and are conducted by a number of different

ground water
The nation’s ground water resources are           agencies. Some states have comprehensive
extremely valuable. Half of all Americans         ground water protection statutes, but all
and more than 95% of our rural population         states have some authority to protect ground
get their household water supplies from           water under solid and hazardous waste laws,
underground sources. Ground water also is         public health laws, and energy extraction
used for about half of all agricultural irriga-   laws. Regulatory authority and information
tion and a third of industrial water needs. In    about ground water quantity and quality
many places, this vital resource is already       vary among state agencies, but usually
contaminated or threatened.                       reside in natural resources, environmental
                                                  protection, or public health agencies.
Even more than surface waters, ground
water resources are often taken for granted       Ground water issues in agricultural areas
because they are not visible. Rainfall and        are the concern of a wide variety of organi-
surface water which had seeped into the           zations and institutions including soil and
earth’s crust over many years formed under-       water conservation districts and commis-
ground reservoirs. Where the water table is       sions. In urban areas, local public works
at or close to the surface, ground water          and planning departments can often
enters wetlands, lakes, rivers, and streams       respond to questions about the effects of
and provides a base flow during dry periods.      land disturbance on ground water.
By comparison to rivers and streams, ground
                                                  Federal statutes that authorize ground
water moves very slowly and with little tur-
                                                  water protection include the Safe Drinking
bulence. Therefore, once contamination
                                                  Water Act (SDWA), the Resource Conser-
reaches ground water, little dilution or mix-
                                                  vation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the
ing occurs. While wells and springs in many

Comprehensive Environmental                    them in the trash, or dump them on the
Response, Compensation, and Liability          ground. Hazardous substances disposed of in
Act (CERCLA, or Superfund law). On the         these ways can find their way into both sur-
federal level, EPA has primary responsibili-   face and ground water. Reducing home water
ty for ground water.                           use also will reduce ground water contami-
As an individual, you can
help protect your com-                         Household products that are hazardous
munity’s ground                                materials may be recycled. Check with local
water. Use and dis-                            gas stations and automotive centers about
pose of household                              recycling used motor oils and batteries and
hazardous substances                           with paint stores for leftover paints and sol-
properly. Reduce your                          vents. In many communities, businesses
use of these hazardous                         and government agencies sponsor annual
substances whenever                            Household Hazardous Waste Days when cit-
possible. When you do                          izens can bring household chemicals to a
have pesticides,                               central spot for collection, proper treat-
cleaning products,                             ment, and/or disposal.
and paint to dispose
of, don’t pour these
                                               some questions & answers
down the
                                                 on ground water
drain, put                                          Q. How is ground water contaminated?

                                                        A. Ground water may become cont-
                                                          aminated when rainfall and surface
                                                           runoff pass through contaminated
                                                           soil. Water dissolves many sub-
                                                          stances and can carry particles and
                                               microorganisms with it into the ground water.
                                               Landfills, mining, improperly applied pesti-
                                                   cides, improperly stored chemicals and
                                                     de-icing salts, leaking underground
                                                       storage tanks, improperly installed
                                                        or failing septic tanks, and other
                                                     surface activities can significantly alter

ground water quality. Contamination often         ground water cleanup is very difficult, expen-
goes undetected for many years.                   sive, and less than completely effective. Pre-
                                                  venting ground water contamination is more
Q. If I notice a change in the taste, color, or
                                                  practical to ensure good water quality.
odor of my well water, whom should I contact?
A. You should contact your county health          Q. Are permits required for water supplies and
department, state agency with ground water        sewage treatment systems?
responsibility, and state health department.      A. Yes. State health and environmental
These agencies can investigate the cause of the   agencies are responsible for certifying the
change in your well water. In addition, infor-    adequacy of municipal water supplies and
mation on ground water may be obtained by         sewage treatment systems.
calling EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline
(800/426-4791) or the U.S. Geological Survey      Q. What is the relationship between ground
(USGS) (703/648-4460).                            water and surface water?
                                                  A. Surface water seeps into ground water
Q. What should I do if I suspect that a nearby
                                                  during wet weather periods and the reverse
facility may be contaminating my well and the
                                                  occurs during drought conditions. When
ground water?
                                                  close to the surface, ground water often
A. You should contact the agencies listed         becomes surface water in the form of springs,
above. Depending on the circumstances, they       wetlands, and streams. Contamination of
may be able to help you. You might also con-      ground water can pollute surface water and
tact the state agencies that issue environmen-    vice versa.
tal permits to the facility; permits can be
reviewed by the public.                           Q. Are underground storage tanks (USTs)
Q. Can contaminated ground water be cleaned
up?                                               A. Yes. In 1988, EPA issued regulations
                                                  setting minimum standards for new tanks and
A. In some situations, yes. Contaminated          requiring owners of existing tanks to close,
reservoirs that are limited in size may be        replace, or upgrade them. Tank owners and
cleaned up by pumping water out of the            operators are required to meet leak detection
aquifer for treatment by above-ground treat-      requirements and to show they have financial
ment systems. Also, methods are under devel-      resources to pay for cleanups should a leak or
opment to treat ground water in the subsur-       spill occur.
face, such as biodegradation. However,

EPA estimates that there are from 5 to 7 mil-
lion USTs nationwide. Most of the USTs hold
petroleum and the rest hold hazardous mate-
rials, used motor oil, or other substances.

Q. Who runs the UST program and who
should be notified if a leak is suspected?
A. State and local governments oversee the
UST program. Report suspected leaks to the
state implementing agency. Contact the
RCRA/Superfund/UST Hotline at 800/424-
9346 for the name, address, and telephone
number of the agency in your state.

                                                 quency or location of application, or require
                                                 the use of specially trained, certified applica-
                                                 tors. EPA also can suspend or cancel the reg-
                                                 istration if later information shows that use
                                                 of the pesticide poses unacceptable health

Few chemicals have had as much effect or         Pesticide registration decisions are based pri-
been the subject of as much controversy in       marily on EPA’s evaluation of test data pro-
recent decades as pesticides. Broadly            vided by applicants. Testing is needed to
defined, a pesticide is any agent used to kill   determine whether a pesticide can cause
or control undesired insects, weeds, rodents,    adverse effects, including acute toxic reac-
fungi, bacteria, or other organisms. Pesti-      tions, skin and eye irritations, cancers, birth
cides are used on food and feed crops, lawns     defects, and reproductive system disorders.
and golf courses, in schools, in the home        Data on how a pesticide behaves in the envi-
and other buildings, and to disinfect swim-      ronment also is required. This information
ming pools and hospital equipment. Because       lets EPA determine whether a chemical poses
of their wide application, EPA “registers”       a threat to ground water or to “non-target”
(licenses) thousands of pesticide products in    species (other than those the pesticide is
the U.S. No pesticide may legally be sold or     meant to control).
used unless the chemical’s label bears an
                                                 Many of us are concerned about food safety
EPA registration number.
                                                 but don’t understand how crops are raised
EPA must ensure that these pesticides will       or how our fruits and vegetables arrive at
not present unreasonable risks to people,        grocery stores. We seem to have an abun-
wildlife, fish, and plants, including endan-     dance of fresh produce every day, regardless
gered species. Under the Federal Insecti-        of what is “in season.” Advances in technolo-
cide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act             gy over the years have ensured bumper
(FIFRA) and its 1988 Amendments, the             crops of many fruits and vegetables, and
chemical’s benefits must outweigh the risks.     what we don’t grow in this country we
FIFRA gives EPA the authority to limit the       import from abroad.
amount of pesticide applied, restrict the fre-

Pesticides can be registered or re-registered    pesticides that are banned from use in the
under FIFRA for use on our food or feed          U.S. because we may be importing fruits and
crops only if “tolerances,” or maximum legal     vegetables grown and harvested with these
limits, for residues are established under the   same chemicals. Likewise, use of banned pes-
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFD-       ticides or improper application may lead to
CA). These tolerances help ensure that con-      contaminated topsoil and ground water, and
sumers (especially infants and children) are     may have lasting adverse effects on wildlife
not exposed to unsafe levels of pesticides       in these other countries.
remaining in or on their food. EPA sets a tol-
                                                 In addition, EPA is making a concerted effort
erance only if chemical and toxicological
                                                 to safeguard farmworkers in the U.S. through
data, as well as residue and food consump-
                                                 a combination of educational, regulatory,
tion data, show no unreasonable risk to con-
                                                 and research programs. Many farmworkers
sumers from eating foods containing low-lev-
                                                 are non-English-speaking immigrants who
el residues of the pesticide—even over an
                                                 are unable to read instructions or warnings
entire lifetime.
                                                 on product labels. These applicators must
EPA also is working to develop and maintain      contend with many insect and weed species
programs that will protect world health and      that have become resistant to insecticides
the global environment from adverse effects of   and herbicides, necessitating higher doses
pesticide use. A major objective is to improve   and increased applications. In the last 40
foreign countries’ abilities to meet our stan-   years, pesticide use has increased 10-fold, yet
dards for food safety while improving their      crop loss has almost doubled. Many farmers
own citizens’ health. EPA’s Office of Pes-          and ranchers have come to question the
          ticide Programs is working to                  benefit of pesticides and started prac-
               prohibit the export of                      ticing alternative farming methods.

                                                           Some of these methods are embod-
                                                             ied in the concept of sustainable
                                                               agriculture, which was officially
                                                                 recognized by Congress when
                                                                 the Organic Foods Production
                                                                 Act was passed as part of the
                                                    1990 Farm Bill. This law required the U.S.
                                                     Department of Agriculture to develop
                                                  national organic certification standards and
                                                   labeling requirements for crops that are

organically grown. USDA is being advised by        bring any unused amounts or empty contain-
a National Organic Standards Board composed        ers for proper disposal. Because of their
of farmers, processors, scientists, and environ-   inherent nature, all pesticides, including
mentalists. USDA will be publishing regula-        home, lawn, and garden pesticides, are
tions that list synthetic and natural substances   potentially toxic and should be used with the
and biochemicals that will be permitted or         utmost care.
prohibited in organic production. Any formu-
lated products must be registered with EPA.
                                                   some questions & answers
As a consumer, you can remove pesticide            on pesticides
residues by thoroughly washing your fruits
                                                   Q. Are there any alternatives to using pesti-
and vegetables with soap and water. If you
feel you need to use a pesticide in your home,
first seek advice from local professionals.        A. Yes. Scientists have begun to manage,
Many nurseries, hardware stores, and garden        rather than try to eradicate, certain species
centers have staff who are knowledgeable           using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
about the best product to use and how to           IPM uses a combination of biological, cultural,
apply the chemical. You may not need a pes-        and genetic control methods, with use of pes-
ticide at all—sometimes cleaning or removal        ticides as the last resort. Understanding a
of objects attracting a “pest” are all that is     species’ life cycle is essential to reduce the use
necessary. Take special precautions to apply       of pesticides. Population explosions can be
the chemical exactly according to the label        prevented and reptiles, birds, bats, and preda-
instructions. Wear protective clothing indi-       tor insects used as natural pest controls. A
cated on the label over hands and face and         sustainable farm ecosystem provides habitat
keep all containers isolated from children or      for a multitude of beneficial organisms which
pets. Close off rooms to children and pets         maintain the pest-predator balance.
when a pesticide has been applied, and never
use a pesticide close to your face.                Q. What natural controls can I use in my gar-
Outdoors, be aware that pesticides also can
                                                   A. Many garden shops and nurseries have
kill many beneficial insects as well as birds
                                                   resident experts on this topic, as do county
and squirrels. Some chemicals are unusually
                                                   extension services. Some common methods
persistent, meaning residues are left in the
                                                   include planting marigolds to repel asparagus
environment for long periods of time, even
                                                   beetles. Beer or vinegar in a shallow pan readi-
years. Watch for “Household Hazardous
                                                   ly attracts and traps slugs and snails. Gypsy
Waste Disposal Days” in your community to
                                                   moths on oak and ornamental trees can be

controlled by a common bacterial spray                Certified organic crops can be harvested after
applied at the hatching and early larval stages       three continuous years since the last applica-
(a form of IPM). In addition, several soaps are       tion of a prohibited pesticide or fertilizer. But
on the market that are pest-specific and              organically grown does not mean “no spray.”
biodegradable.                                        Farmers can use naturally derived pesticides
                                                      that break down quickly in the environment;
Q. How can I get rid of cockroaches in my             some wash off with rain. Other synthetically
kitchen?                                              derived materials that can be used include
A. Mix equal parts of powdered sugar and              toxins from bacteria, soaps, fish emulsions,
powdered boric acid, obtainable from any              vitamins, minerals, and certain medicines for
hardware store. Sprinkle in corners and along         livestock. In practice, livestock must be fed
baseboards. Find points of entry and seal             organically grown grains and forages, and can
them off. Store food in sealed containers and         receive no hormones, antibiotics, or medica-
keep the kitchen clean. At night, drain your          tions that increase growth or production.
sink and wipe dry. Cockroaches are depen-
                                                      Q. What pesticides are banned in the U.S.?
dent on water, so check for small leaks under
the sink and seal.                                    A. Over the years, EPA has banned 42 dif-
                                                      ferent pesticides, including aldrin, DDT,
Q. What does organically grown mean?
                                                      dinoseb, and vinyl chloride. Others are called
A. Growing organically is an alternative              restricted-use, meaning they must be applied
approach that views the farm as an agro-              by or under the direct supervision of a certi-
ecosystem. The key principle is biodiversity,         fied applicator. Banned or restricted chemi-
first accomplished by building a balanced, fer-       cals are acutely toxic to farmworkers and
tile soil rich in microorganisms. This concept        applicators, as well as various mammals,
of “feeding the soil, not the plant” imparts          birds, and aquatic animals, and have environ-
resistance and vigor to the crops grown. A            mental effects long after suspended use.
diversity of crops are grown in a long period of
rotation, particularly grasses and legumes for
animal forage and green manures. Such rota-
tions break pest life cycles, improve soil fertili-
ty, and reduce soil erosion. In addition, the
natural resources on the farm such as forests,
wetlands, and meadows are viewed as critical
resources for climate and water management
and provide habitat for indigenous species.

                                               follow proper disposal practices to protect
                                               our environment.

                                               Currently operating industries that produce
                                               hazardous wastes are regulated by the provi-
                                               sions of the Resource Conservation and
                                               Recovery Act (RCRA). One of the RCRA

hazardous waste
Today’s world is complex — sophisticated       requirements is the cradle-to-grave reporting
technologies produce consumer goods rang-      system that tracks hazardous wastes from the
ing from cars to cleaning fluids. Many of      factory through transportation, treatment, and
these processes generate hazardous wastes      disposal. Most states have received authority
of one sort or another. Hazardous wastes are   from EPA to regulate and enforce RCRA; EPA
specifically identified by EPA because they    controls hazardous waste storage, treatment,
have characteristics that make them poten-     and disposal in those states that do not have
tially dangerous. Hazardous wastes include     this authority.
chemicals that are corrosive, flammable,
                                               In addition to active facilities regulated under
reactive, or toxic. Hazardous wastes may be
                                               RCRA, some sites have abandoned hazardous
by-products of manufacturing processes or
                                               wastes for which ownership is unclear or
discarded consumer products, such as house-
                                               unknown. In these situations, control and
hold cleaning fluids, paints, and batteries.
                                               cleanup is possible through the Comprehen-
Once generated, hazardous wastes require       sive Environmental Response, Compensa-
proper storage, treatment, and disposal.       tion, and Liability Act (CERCLA), com-
While major industries must follow specific    monly known as Superfund. Under the
regulatory requirements for handling haz-      Superfund program, EPA has the authority to
ardous wastes, many companies are institut-    clean up the nation’s worst hazardous waste
ing pollution prevention techniques that       sites using money from a trust fund support-
reduce the amounts of wastes that are gener-   ed primarily from a tax on chemical feed-
ated. Individual citizens also should try to   stocks used by manufacturers. Those sites
reduce the amounts of chemicals used.          have been placed on EPA’s National Priori-
When we must discard hazardous materials       ties List (NPL). Companies or individuals
such as pesticides and old paint, we should    responsible for the wastes are identified by

EPA, if possible, and made to pay for the            some questions & answers
cleanups.                                            on hazardous waste
Your participation as a concerned community          Q. What should I do if I suspect hazardous
member is an integral part of the Superfund          waste dumping?
cleanup process. The Superfund Amend-
ments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of              A. Contact the National Response Center
1986 specifically provided for public partici-       at 1-800-424-8802 if you detect signs of illegal
pation in selecting the appropriate remedies         dumping such as:
for site contamination problems. EPA assigns           • drums in the woods, on roadsides or
staff to each Superfund site to work with the            abandoned property, in empty buildings
local community to reach decisions related to            or city or county landfills;
site cleanup activities. EPA is required to
make site-related information accessible to            • odors that smell like turpentine, paint,
the public. In most cases, this information              fingernail polish, glue, rotten eggs, or
and records of EPA decisions about the site              any unfamiliar chemical odor;
are placed in the public library or town hall.
                                                       • discolored soil with dead vegetation
Communities near Superfund sites have numer-             along roadsides, in abandoned lots or
ous resources available to them for meaningful           fields, around vacant buildings, or
participation in the management and cleanup of           beside streams and rivers;
the site. For example, technical assistance grants
                                                       • abandoned warehouses or factories with
(TAGs) from EPA are authorized under SARA.
                                                         leaking drums or waste-like material;
These grants allow communities to hire experts
                   to help citizens understand the       •    sludge-like appearance or ooze on
                     technical aspects of haz-                              the ground.
                       ardous waste problems.

Q. Are hazardous substances regulated under        wastes cannot be landfilled and some must be
RCRA?                                              incinerated because they have no other dis-
                                                   posal method. In addition, many states simply
A. No. RCRA only regulates hazardous sub-
                                                   have no available landfill space, and so
stances once they become wastes, but some
                                                   municipal solid waste, including household
hazardous substances are regulated under the
                                                   garbage, must be incinerated. But many new
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) or by
                                                   facilities are waste-to-energy plants which
the Occupational Safety and Health Admin-
                                                   convert the heat from combustion into elec-
istration (OSHA). Many hazardous chemicals
                                                   tricity for the community, an added bonus to
must be reported to federal, state, and local
                                                   eliminating tons of trash.
officials under the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).               Q. How are citizens assured that permitted haz-
                                                   ardous waste facilities are complying with the law?
Q. Can hazardous wastes be incinerated safe-
ly? Does incineration make hazardous wastes        A. Hazardous waste inspectors have the right
non-hazardous?                                     to enter a facility at any reasonable time for an
A. A hazardous waste incinerator that is           inspection, which may be unannounced. Facili-
properly designed and operated to meet per-        ties are inspected for compliance with laws and
formance standards set by EPA can safely and       regulations, as well as with the specific condi-
effectively reduce or destroy a wide variety of    tions of their individual permits. When viola-
hazardous wastes. Depending on the compo-          tions are found, they are followed by appropri-
sition of the hazardous wastes, some wastes        ate actions, ranging from issuance of a non-
can be rendered non-hazardous. The residues        compliance notice to initiation of a criminal
left after incineration, such as ash and materi-   investigation. If you have reason to believe that
als from air pollution control equipment,          a hazardous waste facility is not complying
must be properly managed and disposed of in        with the law, call your state environmental
accordance with EPA requirements.                  office with responsibility for hazardous waste.
                                                   A complaint filed with the agency may result in
Q. Why are new commercial incinerators             an unannounced inspection of the facility.
being built?
                                                   Q. What is the difference between hazardous
A. Federal legislation mandated each state         waste management and treatment?
to provide, by October 17, 1989 a 20-year
plan to assure that the state had the capacity     A. Hazardous waste management refers to
to dispose of hazardous and solid wastes gen-      the precautions taken to reduce the dangers of
erated within its borders. Most hazardous          handling or disposing of hazardous wastes.

Hazardous waste treatment refers to practices      A. Yes. Using Superfund enforcement
which render the wastes non-hazardous or           authority, EPA locates the owners, operators,
less harmful. Treatment methods include neu-       generators, and transporters and negotiates for
tralization, such as mixing acids with bases       the cleanup. Those who contributed only mini-
to make their pH more like that of water, bio-     mal amounts or low-toxicity wastes (de min-
logical treatment to break the waste down into     imis parties) can “cash out”, putting their pro-
simpler compounds, and incineration.               portional share of costs into a trust fund for the
                                                   cleanup. Or EPA can order non-cooperative
Q. What is being done to reduce hazardous
                                                   parties to conduct the work. Cleanup doesn’t
                                                   have to wait until legal and financial issues are
A. Better manufacturing processes and work-        resolved. EPA can stabilize the site and then
er training are reducing quantities used and       pursue responsible parties to recover costs and
non-hazardous or less hazardous ingredients        commit to long-term remedial actions.
are being substituted in processes. Some wastes
are refined and recycled; others are immobi-       Q. How do I dispose of household hazardous
lized so they cannot be released into the envi-    wastes, such as old pesticides, paints, acids, clean-
ronment. Another important way is to design        ers, and used oils?
well-managed, well-regulated hazardous waste       A. Watch your newspaper for local “House-
management facilities with proper state permits.   hold Hazardous Waste Disposal Days.” Often
Q. Officials in my area have just declared an      local organizations or businesses, in coopera-
old abandoned property in my community a           tion with state environmental agencies, will
Superfund site. What does that mean?               sponsor free disposal if you bring your materi-
                                                   als to a specified collection site. Public service
A. Under CERCLA, abandoned hazardous               announcements on television and radio also
waste sites that pose an immediate threat can      help to promote such events. In addition, some
be cleaned up under emergency response and         local gas stations recycle used motor oils and
removal programs. Sites that do not pose an        old automobile batteries.
immediate danger but have significant contam-
ination may be cleaned up by responsible par-      The best way to deal with household haz-
ties or under federal or state investigation and   ardous wastes is to purchase products wisely.
cleanup programs.                                  Estimate your needs accurately and buy the
                                                   smallest quantity possible.
Q. Shouldn’t the folks who put the chemicals in
the dump pay for the cleanup?

                                                  cling efforts and created a demand for “post-
                                                  consumer” materials.

                                                  But the early days of the “sanitary” landfill
                                                  fouled ground water, soil, surface water,
                                                  and air because of improper disposal meth-
                                                  ods. Engineers have since designed new liners

solid waste
Solid waste continues to receive a great deal     and leachate treatment systems to prevent
of media attention across the country as cities   environmental degradation. Today, landfill
and counties deal with the lack of available      space is at a premium. Other options include
space to dispose of household garbage and         incineration, recycling, source reduction,
municipal solid waste. How to manage our          and biodegradation as viable alternatives to
wastes has been a problem for decades. In the     solid waste disposal.
early 1960s, cities and towns across the coun-
                                                  Each of us is part of the problem as well as
try practiced open air burning of trash. In
                                                  the solution. From gum wrappers to used
response, Congress passed the Solid Waste
                                                  cars, we exert our personal choices in what
Disposal Act in 1965 as part of the amend-
                                                  we purchase, how we use the product, and
ments to the Clean Air Act. This was the first
                                                  how we dispose of the waste.
federal law that required environmentally
sound methods for disposal of household,          Simple solutions include purchasing goods
municipal, commercial, and industrial waste.      with less packaging, maintaining and repair-
                                                  ing household appliances, and carrying
In 1970, Congress amended this law and
                                                  reusable shopping bags. Recycling newspa-
passed the Resource Recovery Act, the first
                                                  pers, aluminum cans, glass, and some plastics
nationwide recycling initiative. Federal agen-
                                                  is becoming more common at schools and the
cies were recycling high-grade white paper
                                                  workplace. Even if your town does not have a
and newsprint with the slogan, “Use it Again
                                                  recycling program, you can effectively reduce
Sam.” The beverage industry at this time
                                                  waste while conserving raw materials and
switched from tri-metal to the lighter but
                                                  energy. Yard and food wastes make up at
more expensive aluminum, primarily to save
                                                  least 25% of materials heading for landfills.
transportation and equipment costs. That
                                                  But making compost of these wastes replaces
switch paved the way for other major recy-

soil nutrients and commercial fertilizers when   Q. What goes into a solid waste landfill? What
placed in the garden. Removal of these mate-     happens to it over time?
rials from household garbage also extends the
                                                 A. In 1990, on average, the solid waste that
useful life of existing landfills.
                                                 went into a typical municipal landfill was
                                                 estimated to contain 38% paper; 18% yard
some questions & answers                         waste (trimmings, leaves, etc.); 8% metals;
about solid waste & waste                        7% food; 7% glass; 6% wood; 8% plastics;
disposal                                         and 8% miscellaneous. Biodegradable materi-
                                                 als may decompose over many years, while
Q. How do we dispose of solid wastes?            non-degradable materials, such as glass and
                                                 most plastics, remain at the site.
A. In 1990, more than 67% of our wastes
were landfilled. We recycled about 17% and       Q. When rainfall leaches through an unlined
the balance (16%) was incinerated.               landfill, how is ground water affected?
Q. How is out-of-state garbage regulated?        A. Leachate can contain a variety of sub-
A. Current legal readings of interstate          stances depending upon the contents of the
commerce laws suggest that a state, in gener-    waste, including metals, organic compounds,
al, cannot flatly refuse to accept               suspended particles, and bacteria. If toxic
out-of-state waste. In oth-                                   wastes are deposited in the land-
er words, wastes export-                                      fill, the leachate can contain tox-
ed to your state may                                          ic chemicals that are hazardous
be restricted only                                            even at low levels. Many of these
to the degree in-                                             substances pollute the ground
state wastes are                                             water.
restricted. For                                            Most leachates are collected at per-
example, if in-                                            mitted landfills and treated at local
state or county                                            sewage treatment plants. Treatment
mandatory recycling                                        can include aeration to eliminate
laws are enacted to                                        volatile compounds and gases and
require separation of                                      to enhance oxygen-dependent
waste into recyclable                                      breakdown of organics, settling or
and non-recyclable                                         filtering to remove sediment, and
components, out-of-                                        other treatment to stimulate chemi-
state waste can be                                         cal or microbial breakdown of con-
restricted in a similar                                    taminants.
Q. Are hazardous wastes disposed of in land-       Q. How close can a landfill be to my house?
                                                   A. State and local regulations may require
A. Both hazardous and solid waste regula-          that a landfill be a minimum distance from an
tions prohibit disposal of hazardous waste in      occupied dwelling unless written permission
a landfill that is not specifically designed and   to be closer is given by the occupant. A com-
permitted. Nevertheless, we generate a great       mon distance is 500 feet.
deal of hazardous wastes in our homes that
we unwittingly dispose of daily. For example,      Q. Won’t a landfill attract pests such as rats,
pesticides and paint thinners may be tossed        flies, and cockroaches?
in trash taken to the landfill. Most businesses    A. At the end of each day, a landfill is
are regulated and monitored for their haz-         required to be covered with a layer of soil to
ardous waste disposal practices. Although          deter scavenging animals. If the cover is prop-
some people and companies illegally put haz-       erly applied, these pests should be less of a
ardous wastes in landfills, heavy penalties        problem.
including fines and jail sentences make illegal
disposal very unattractive.                        Q. How will a landfill affect my well water?
                                                   Who can check my water to be sure it remains
Q. How do we know that infectious hospital         unpolluted?
wastes are not going into landfills?
                                                   A. Some state and local regulations require
A. Only non-infectious hospital waste can          a landfill to be located a minimum distance
be legally dumped in a non-hazardous waste         (in some states, at least 1,200 feet) from a
landfill. Hospitals operate under regulations      well water supply. Monitoring wells
that specify disposal requirements for med-        required around the landfill aid in the detec-
ical wastes. Violations of these rules can sub-    tion of ground water contamination before it
ject hospitals to substantial penalties.           reaches the drinking water well. Monitoring
                                                   reports are usually available upon request
Q. How is the volume of waste entering a
                                                   from the county government, state environ-
landfill regulated?
                                                   mental agency, or your local health depart-
A. Generally, the volume of waste accepted         ment, or county extension service.
is set in the terms of the landfill permit, usu-
                                                   If a well owner desires testing of a well, a cer-
ally as tons per month. The landfill operator
                                                   tified laboratory should be hired to run the
weighs the waste upon arrival, and tonnage
                                                   tests. Names of such laboratories can be
reports must be submitted on a periodic basis
                                                   obtained from your local health department.
to state environmental agencies.

Q. How is a landfill closed? Are there any pos-
sible uses or restrictions for a closed landfill?

A. A landfill that reaches capacity is cov-
ered with a multi-layer, protective cap and
planted with grasses and other ground covers.
The owner must then conduct post-closure
care, which includes monitoring of ground
water, landfill gases, and leachate collection
systems. Monitoring may be required for 30
years following closure.
Few restrictions exist on how the property
over a closed landfill can be used. Parks and
golf courses are examples of possible uses.
Construction of large buildings is usually
avoided because of settling that occurs during
biodegradation and compaction of the waste.

                                                       bringing people of all races, cultures, incomes,
                                                       and educational levels into the mainstream of
                                                       environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

                                                       A major public health issue today is exposure to
                                                       lead. Elimination of leaded gasoline has reduced
                                                       air-borne exposure for the general population.

public health
Society’s earliest historical records reveal that      But threats remain for children, who are most
public health problems have been associated            susceptible to the adverse effects of lead. In
with life in large communal groups. Early writ-        many homes, lead from old pipes and solder
ers documented such epidemic diseases as               may dissolve into the water. If you have plumb-
cholera, plague, and polio, and attributed them        ing that was installed before the early 1950s,
to crowded living conditions in cities and vil-        you can reduce your exposure to lead by letting
lages. Epidemics were later traced by scientists       the tap run for a few minutes. Use only cold
and physicians to lack of sanitation and dis-          water for cooking or drinking.
ease-carrying organisms. With these discover-
                                                       Another avenue of exposure to small children,
ies, public health agencies emerged to prevent
                                                       and perhaps the greatest, is through lead paint
such occurrences by building sewers and water
                                                       in older housing. Small children tend to stick
purification plants. Innoculation campaigns
                                                       almost anything in their mouths. If a child
continue through modern times.
                                                       swallows chips of lead-based paint, exposure to
Public health research today addresses the more        lead is increased. To help protect small chil-
difficult cause and effect relationships behind        dren, the Consumer Product Safety Commis-
cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. Citizen par-      sion no longer allows the sale of paints with
ticipation in these investigative activities through   high levels of lead. The Centers for Disease
questionnaires and providing illness and lifestyle     Control and Prevention suggests that paint
information greatly assists in the effort. But         already existing inside and outside of buildings
minority and low-income communities are often          be tested for lead. If the lead content is high,
characterized by poor health and lack of educa-        the paint should be removed in a safe manner
tion, two factors that exacerbate exposure to          and replaced with a lead-free paint.
toxic substances. EPA has committed to
address environmental justice concerns by

State health departments often oversee public      some questions & answers
water supplies and private septic tanks in         on public health
addition to duties associated with food safety.
Many states maintain registries of diseases such   Q. Where can I find information about disease
as cancer and birth defects. Studying patterns     rates in my community?
of incidence may help identify causes and
                                                   A. In many states, the state health depart-
allow public health agencies to target resources
                                                   ment may have a registry of diseases such as
on high risk diseases, behaviors, or locations.
                                                   cancer. A call to your state health department
The Centers for Disease Control and Preven-
                                                   should let you know if the registry can give you
tion (CDC), an arm of the U.S. Department of
                                                   information specific to your community. Your
Health and Human Services (HHS), conducts
                                                   local health agency may also be aware of
research on the causes of disease and tracks the
                                                   research that may have been performed in your
progression of infectious and other diseases.
                                                   community by universities or other researchers.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Dis-
ease Registry (ATSDR) is a part of the Public      Q. Do chemical companies and other industries
Health Service in HHS. The mission of ATSDR        keep track of employees’ cancer and respiratory ill-
is to protect the public from exposure to haz-     nesses and deaths?
ardous substances in the environment. See
                                                   A. Many large companies do. Some compa-
Government Agencies section.
                                                   nies keep extremely detailed medical records
                                                   on employees. Larger companies may have an
                                                   epidemiologist who studies the incidence of
                                                   disease in workers. Smaller companies may not
                                                   have as detailed medical records on employees
                                                   and may not keep them for long.

                                                   Q. Whom do I call about suspected contamina-
                                                   tion of my public water supply?
                                                   A. The water pollution control agency or
                                                   public works department in your county or
                                                   state has an office dealing with the safety of
                                                   public water supplies. Ask them for the office
                                                   to contact with questions and concerns.

                                                     The NRC is the primary communications cen-
                                                     ter for reporting major chemical and oil spills
                                                     and other hazardous substances into the envi-
                                                     ronment. Operated by the U.S. Coast Guard
                                                     since 1972, the NRC receives reports of trans-
                                                     portation emergencies, oil and hazardous sub-
                                                     stance spills, and other chemical accidents.

community safety
Every day, oil and hazardous substances are          The NRC relays information to a predesignat-
spilled or released into our harbors and water-      ed federal On-Scene Coordinator (OSC),
ways, onto the ground, and into the air.             based on the incident’s geographical location.
Some of these incidents are relatively minor,        Coastal and tidal waters fall under Coast
some cause disruptions in the community,             Guard jurisdiction; EPA manages inland
and others cause serious damage and take             waterways and spills on land; the Depart-
lives. Most such incidents are handled at the        ments of Defense and Energy manage inci-
local level, by fire fighters, police, and emer-     dents on their respective properties.
gency medical teams. In many cases, the
                                                     When the federal OSC receives a call, he is
owner or operator of a facility will handle the
                                                     backed up by Special Forces: the U.S. Coast
cleanup or provide help to local responders,
                                                     Guard’s National Strike Force (NSF) com-
sometimes in the form of technical advice or a
                                                     posed of three teams: Atlantic, Pacific, and
trained hazardous materials team.
                                                     Gulf coasts; EPA’s Environmental Response
Some serious incidents, however, warrant acti-       Team; and the NOAA Scientfic Support
vation of the National Response System. When         Coordinators. EPA’s 10 regional offices each
the person in charge of a facility or vessel con-    have a team of OSCs and direct responders
taining a hazardous substance becomes aware          who can access any of the Special Forces for
of a release in a reportable quantity, that person   assistance. The OSC in turn contacts state
must notify the National Response Center             and local agencies to coordinate their role.
(NRC) at 1-800-424-8802. Reportable quanti-
                                                     State Emergency Response Commissions
ties have been established for 779 hazardous
                                                     (SERCs) administer community safety pro-
substances. Similarly, a discharge or spill of oil
                                                     grams and appoint Local Emergency Plan-
that causes a discoloration or “sheen” on the
                                                     ning Committees (LEPCs) in all major cities
surface of the water must be reported.

and every county. LEPC members include           sification (SIC) Codes 20-39) to report to
state or local officials, police, fire, public   EPA and the states the amounts of over 300
health, environmental, hospital, and trans-      toxic chemicals and 20 chemical categories
portation officials, as well as community        that they release directly to air, water, or land,
groups and the media. The Emergency Pre-         inject underground, or transfer to off-site facil-
paredness Coordinator at the county level is     ities. In addition, EPCRA specifies that EPA
usually the chairperson of the LEPC and has a    must compile these reports into an annual
listed telephone number, although large cities   inventory of releases and transfers — the Tox-
frequently have a separate LEPC.                 ic Release Inventory (TRI) — and make that
                                                 inventory available to the public.
The key statute directing all of these federal
and state activities is the Comprehensive        In October of 1990, Congress passed the Pol-
Environmental Response, Compensation,            lution Prevention Act, requiring all TRI facili-
and Liability                                    ties to provide information on pollution pre-
Act of 1980                                                                       vention and
(CERCLA).                                                                         recycling
When CERCLA                                                                         efforts for
was amended in                                                                        each
1986 by the                                                                            chemical
Superfund                                                                             on their
Amendments                                                                            reporting
and Reautho-                                                                    forms beginning
rization Act (SARA),                             with the 1991 reporting year. Information
Title III of SARA authorized the Emergency       includes quantities recycled, source reduction
Planning and Community Right-to-Know             practices, and changes in production. EPA
Act (EPCRA). This law is based on the            recently added two chemical categories and 32
premise that citizens have a right to know       additional chemicals that require reporting.
about chemicals in their communities.
                                                 By the end of 1994, EPA will add 313 priority
EPCRA has two main purposes: to encourage
                                                 pollutants to the list, including acutely toxic
planning for responses to accidents, and to
                                                 chemicals, flammable gases and liquids,
provide the public and the government with
                                                 explosives, and pesticides. Small-source
information about possible chemical hazards
                                                 exemptions will be proposed at that time. In
in communities.
                                                 early 1995, TRI reporting will be extended to
Section 313 of EPCRA requires certain manu-      treatment plants for drinking water, utilities,
facturers (those in Standard Industrial Clas-    mining companies, propane retailers, and oth-

er nonmanufacturing industries associated          A. Ask the plant for a copy of EPCRA Sec-
with significant chemical releases.                tion 311 and 312 data submitted to the LEPC
                                                   and an explanation of the codes used. Or, ask
These right-to-know efforts have been enhanced
                                                   the LEPC for this information.
by a 1994 Executive Order committing EPA
and other federal agencies to environmental        Q. In case of an accident at a chemical plant,
justice for minority and low-income popula-        who will warn me and my family about toxic
tions. Efforts to educate and empower citizen      emissions and provide for appropriate protection?
groups, native Americans, and new immigrants
                                                   A. Your LEPC has developed warning sys-
to our shores will ensure early participation in
                                                   tems, evacuation plans, and shelter-in-place
environmental decision making, form partner-
                                                   instructions. You can also ask the local plant
ships, and promote sustainable communities.
                                                   to explain how their emergency response
Another law intended to improve public safety      plans mesh with the LEPC. The plant must
is the Hazardous Materials Transportation          report immediately all incidents of chemical
Uniform Safety Act (HMTUSA). Under this            releases to the NRC, the SERC, and the LEPC.
law, local emergency planners and responders
                                                   Q. Are visible, continuous emissions or odors
can receive grants and technical assistance from
                                                   from an industrial plant harmful?
the federal government to help communities
deal with the risks from transporting hazardous    A. To identify whether specific emissions
materials. HMTUSA is aimed at improving            are harmful, you should ask the plant manag-
transportation safety by ensuring that haz-        er about emissions and request a copy of the
ardous material manufacturers, transportation      plant’s SARA Section 313 data. Or, ask your
companies, and community safety officials          SERC for the data. EPA’s Chemical Emer-
reduce the threat of chemical accidents on our     gency Preparedness and Prevention Office
nation’s highways, railroads, and waterways.       also may be able to help. After identifying the
                                                   chemicals and volumes being emitted, Mater-
                                                   ial Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) may help
some questions & answers
                                                   you to determine risk. Remember that risk
on community safety                                depends on the dose received; Section 313
Q. How do I know what chemicals are used or        data are reported annually and can not be
made in an industrial plant near my home and       used alone to accurately determine exposure
what amounts are being stored there?               or dose, or their consequences.

Q. Where do I get the MSDS for the emissions       Q. What processes can be used to reduce or
in question? Can I understand an MSDS? Isn’t it    eliminate the hazards presented by the storage
too technical?                                     and transportation of large volumes of hazardous
A. An MSDS is a fact sheet that describes
how to use, handle, and dispose of a specific      A. There are some technologies, called con-
chemical (see the Glossary). The plant that        tinuing or closed-loop processes, that convert
manufactures, stores, or discharges the            hazardous or dangerous compounds into
chemical must submit an MSDS to the LEPC.          more stable or less toxic substances in a sin-
Ask the LEPC or the plant safety manager for       gle continuous system. That is, some chemi-
help in interpreting the information.              cals are immediately converted or recombined
                                                   in the manufacturing process to reduce risks
Q. What is the difference between hazardous        that would otherwise be posed by transporta-
chemicals and toxic chemicals?                     tion and storage. Some companies also are
A. Hazardous chemicals are a much broader          using just-in-time delivery to reduce the need
category and may be toxic, flammable, corro-       to store large volumes of chemicals.
sive, explosive, or environmentally harmful.
                                                   Q. Where can I go to get more information
Substances which are toxic can cause severe ill-
                                                   about chemical risks?
ness, poisoning, or death when ingested,
inhaled, or absorbed by living organisms. Toxic    A. Ask EPA’s Office of Research and Devel-
chemicals are one type of hazardous chemical.      opment, your LEPC, environmental or con-
                                                   sumer activists, or any of several other organi-
Q. If I am exposed to a small amount of a tox-
                                                   zations in the directory at the end of this Guide.
ic chemical once, are my chances of getting can-
cer the same as someone who is exposed to the
chemical everyday?

A. Generally, no. Exposure relates both to
the amount and frequency of coming into
contact with a specific chemical. Federal
agencies have established certain exposure
limits for workers that prevent them from
becoming ill. Repeated exposure to low levels
of a mix of chemicals may be linked to health
problems, while a single incident at a higher
level may be below a toxic threshold.

                                                  those that best reduce risk. Some manage-
                                                  ment decisions may lead to elimination of
                                                  the risk altogether. Since precise estimates of
                                                  risk often are not possible, policy makers
                                                  may use qualitative risk assessments to iden-
                                                  tify substances or activities that pose a risk
                                                  to our health and the environment. With
                                                  good data, quantitative risk assessments can

health &
environmental risk
Risk is a description of the chance that some     go a step further to identify how much of a
hazard to health or the environment will          substance or activity may cause a harmful
occur. For example, insurance companies           effect. For example, exposure to 10 grams of
commonly use risk to assess the probability       a chemical compound may create a specific
that a driver will or will not have an acci-      health problem, or the loss of 20% of the
dent. While society has always assessed risk,     trees in the Amazon basin may cause a num-
it was not until recently that risk has been      ber of severe problems for wildlife.
discussed as a policy-making tool for health
                                                  Risk analysis is used by agencies, industries,
and environmental issues.
                                                  and individuals every day to identify health
Risk assessment is an evaluation of the           and environmental problems in our society.
potential for a problem to occur and the sci-     Regulatory agencies use risk assessment as a
entific analysis of its threat to public health   tool to evaluate health and safety issues such
and the environment. The evaluation may           as food safety and workplace exposure.
include toxicology, epidemiology, and expo-       Chemicals or practices that are identified as
sure data and provides a systematic analysis      very risky receive more management atten-
of risks. While risk assessments are based on     tion then those perceived to be less risky.
science, they are rarely precise, since
                                                  Risk communication is the exchange of
absolute data almost never exist.
                                                  information between interested parties and is
In attempting to control risks, environmental     a tool for understanding many environmen-
managers examine the options and select           tal risks. To enhance public outreach activi-

ties about risk, EPA is working toward envi-    some activities are more hazardous than
ronmental equity so that no segment of the      once perceived (smoking cigarettes or man-
population, regardless of race, national ori-   ufacturing PCBs). Once the evidence is eval-
gin, or income bears a disproportionate         uated, these practices may be either stopped
share of exposure to environmental pollu-       or limited. An assessment on an unknown
tants. For information on how agencies use      chemical or practice attempts to project
risk assessments regarding specific public      what the consequences might be without
hazards, you should call EPA’s Office of Pol-   waiting for final proof.
icy, Planning, and Evaluation or your state
                                                Q. Is zero risk possible? Can we eliminate all
agencies that deal with health and environ-
mental protection.
                                                A. No. We live in a world with many
some questions & answers                        risks, both natural and manmade, and many
                                                we take voluntarily. We can develop prac-
on health & environmen-
                                                tices that reduce, but not totally eliminate,
tal risk                                        daily risks. For example, U.S. motor vehicle
Q. Can a risk assessment tell me                laws mandate that we drive on the right side
exactly what to do about a specific             of the road. This reduces, but does not elim-
hazard?                                         inate, auto accidents. Similarly, public
                                                health and environmental officials, together
A. No. Risk assessments are                                   with industries and the public,
often imprecise in that they draw                                        must seek to reduce
upon available information about                                         industrial accidents
the hazard, apply scientific princi-                                      and societal hazards
ples, and provide guidance. But risk assess-                                that contribute to
ments can help you identify hazards. You                                      involuntary
can use that information to decide what                                            risk.
steps, if any, to take to reduce the hazard.

Q. Why use risk assessment if it can not pro-
vide absolute answers?

A. Because so many hazards exist in
everyday life, risk assessment must be used
as a tool for evaluating the most pressing or
most hazardous. Over time we find that

                                                     caught. We use enforcement actions to compel
                                                     a person or company to comply. These actions
                                                     include civil and criminal prosecution in
                                                     courts, administrative orders, and other forms
                                                     of action that take place after a violation has
                                                     occurred. Although directed at a specific viola-
                                                     tor, enforcement causes a deterrent effect that
                                                     motivates other people to comply.

Environmental enforcement is a comprehen-            some questions & answers
sive program involving federal, state, local,
                                                     on health & environmen-
and tribal governments working together to
enforce federal environmental laws. These
                                                     tal risk
laws set standards for what individuals and          Q. Is EPA responsible for every environmental
institutions must do to control or prevent pol-      action?
lution. Without enforcement, environmental
laws would be just words on paper.                   A. No. Virtually every federal environmen-
                                                     tal law allows state governments to develop
The term “enforcement” covers all efforts to         their own programs to carry out the law.
encourage compliance with environmental              When EPA has determined that the state pro-
laws. “Compliance” refers to the condition that      gram meets federal requirements, EPA
exists when a person or company fully obeys          approves the program. Such programs are
the law. An environmental law without com-           called “delegated” or “approved” programs.
pliance would mean that pollution problems           Under this arrangement, the states apply the
would continue and grow worse. EPA has an            national standards and regulations by issuing
enforcement program to make sure that laws           and enforcing their own rules and permits.
get the results that Congress and the public         State governments carry out the lion’s share
want.This program will include environmen-           of environmental enforcement actions and
tal justice concerns in all compliance efforts.      perform a majority of the inspections.

The fundamental aim of enforcement is to con-        Q. What is the enforcement relationship
vince those who are regulated that it is better to   between EPA and the states?
comply quickly than to wait until they are

A. EPA strives to work out an effective                corrective action should be taken, and by
enforcement partnership with each state. This is       what date. Informal responses carry no
accomplished through enforcement agreements            penalty or power to compel actions, but if
with the separate state agencies. These agree-         they are ignored, they can lead to more
ments usually define the characteristics of a          severe actions.
good program, using the same criteria by which
                                                     • Formal administrative responses—legal
EPA judges its own performance. The agree-
                                                       orders that are independently enforceable,
ments also spell out the circumstances under
                                                       and which may require the recipient to
which EPA will step in and take enforcement
                                                       take some corrective or remedial action
action in an approved state program (called
                                                       within a specified period of time, to refrain
“overfiling”). The most common reasons are:
                                                       from certain behavior or to require future
the state asked for help; the state’s enforcement
                                                       compliance. These administrative actions
response was not timely and appropriate
                                                       are strong enforcement tools. If a person
(according to EPA guidance); the case involves
                                                       violates an order, EPA may go to U.S. fed-
national precedents; or there is a violation of an
                                                       eral court to force compliance. Administra-
EPA order or settlement agreement.
                                                       tive actions are handled under EPA’s inter-
Q. What is the range of enforcement responses?         nal administrative litigation system, which
                                                       is comparable to any court system except
A. EPA’s policy is to respond to every viola-
                                                       that administrative law judges preside.
tion in some way, and the type of response will
be in keeping with the seriousness                   • Civil judicial responses—formal lawsuits
and circumstances of the violation.                    brought in U.S. federal court by the
EPA has a range of options when                        Department of Justice (DOJ) at EPA’s
contemplating an enforcement                             request. They are normally used
response against a violator, and                              against the more serious or recalci-
these options differ from one                                     trant violators of environmental
law to another:                                                       laws or to seek prompt cor-
  • Informal response—adminis-                                            rection of imminent haz-
    trative actions that are                                                    ards. Civil judicial
    advisory in nature, such as                                                 cases generally
    a notice of noncompliance                                                 result in penalties
    or a warning letter. In these                                       and court orders requiring
    actions, EPA advises the                                             correction of the violation
    manager of a facility what                                            and specific actions to
    violation was found, what                                                 prevent future viola-

       tions.                                              tor is permitted to carry out a supple-
                                                           mental environmental project that will
     • Criminal judicial responses—used when a
                                                           yield environmental benefits partly offset-
       person or company has knowingly and
                                                           ting the harmful effects of the violation.
       willfully violated the law. In a criminal
       case, the DOJ prosecutes an alleged viola-       • Penalties—the violator is required to pay
       tor in federal court, seeking criminal sanc-       a cash penalty that is not tax deductible
       tions including fines and imprisonment.            (in criminal cases, a fine). The penalty
       Criminal actions are often used to respond         includes sanctions intended to deter the
       to flagrant, intentional disregard for envi-       violator from falling into noncompliance
       ronmental laws (such as “midnight dump-            again and to deter others from similar
       ing” of hazardous wastes) and deliberate           violations.
       falsification of documents or records.
                                                        • Imprisonment—in criminal cases, the vio-
Q. What happens as a result of an enforcement             lator may be sentenced to jail time or
case?                                                     placed on probation.

A. Most importantly, the enforcement action             • Contractor listing—a facility that has violat-
results in a remedy to the violations, but also           ed the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air
serves as a deterrent to others. In many cases,           Act may be placed on EPA’s List of Violat-
EPA seeks both a remedy and a penalty. These              ing Facilities. Listed facilities are not eligi-
may result from either administrative or judi-            ble to receive federal contracts, grants, or
cial cases, and either from a settlement or from          loans from EPA or any other federal
a final decision in court or an administrative            agency. Facilities that commit criminal vio-
action. The remedy includes returning the vio-            lations of other environmental statutes may
lating facility to compliance and sometimes               be subject to possible suspension and/or
other remedial actions:                                   debarment from receiving or entering into
                                                          EPA or other federal agency contracts.
     • Compliance—the violator will be required
       to comply with the law. If the violation       Q. What is an inspection?
       has not already been corrected, the viola-
       tor is usually placed under a court-           A. Inspections are the government’s main
       ordered schedule, with severe penalties        tool for officially assessing compliance. An
       for failure to comply with the order.          inspection is an examination into the environ-
                                                      mental affairs of a single regulated facility, to
     • Benefit projects—in some cases, the viola-     determine its compliance with environmental
                                                      requirements. Inspection findings become the
                                                      basis for a variety of possible actions EPA might

take to bring the facility into compliance.          zens the power to initiate an enforcement
                                                     action in federal court in order to ensure ade-
Q. How does the EPA decide which facilities to       quate protection of the environment. Citizen
inspect?                                             suits have proven to be an important tool for
                                                     the enforcement of the various environmental
A. While we would like to inspect every reg-
ulated facility on a regular basis, we do not have
the funds or personnel to do so. As a result,
                                                     Q. How can I recognize a potential pollution
each EPA program has a strategy or policy for
allocating inspections to various segments of the
regulated community and ultimately to particu-       A. While some pollution is an unfortunate
lar facilities. Most inspections are routine, con-   consequence of modern industrial life, national
ducted because the facility is within a segment      and state laws limit the amount and kinds of
of the regulated community that has been tar-        pollution allowed. Sometimes a citizen can easi-
geted for inspection. Other inspections are “for     ly identify pollution that violates a law and
cause,” meaning there is some reason to suspect      sometimes we need sophisticated equipment.
that an actual violation exists. The stimulus may    EPA encourages the public to “keep their eyes
be a tip, a citizen’s complaint, a self-monitoring   and ears open” and to contact the appropriate
report, or information from the Toxic Release        local, state, and federal authorities whenever
Inventory (TRI). Inspections may be                  they notice a potential pollution problem.
announced or unannounced.
                                                     Q. Whom should I contact to report a pollution
Q. Can a citizen file a suit to enforce an envi-     incident?
ronmental standard?
                                                     A. State and local governments have
A. Yes. The first citizen suit provision             responsibility for enforcing most environmen-
appeared in 1970, when Congress enacted the          tal laws in the area where you live. You can
Clean Air Act. Specifically, this provision          locate them through your telephone directory.
allowed citizens to sue polluters who violated       In most communities, the responsible agency
certain requirements of the Clean Air Act and to     is the city or county health department. At the
sue the EPA if we failed to carry out a non-dis-     state level, an environmental agency carries
cretionary duty set forth in the Act. Since 1970,    out the pollution control laws, whereas an
a citizen suit provision has been included in        agriculture agency often handles regulation of
almost every federal environmental statute.          pesticides. If they are unable to help you,
Under these statutes, Congress has granted citi-     contact the EPA, which principally operates
                                                     through 10 Regional Offices. The Public
                                                     Affairs office is a good starting point.

 Acid - A corrosive solution with a pH less          Acute Effect - An adverse effect on any living
than 7. Vinegar is a common weak acid; bat-          organism in which severe symptoms develop
tery acid is much stronger.                          rapidly and often subside after the exposure
Acid Rain - You first need to understand Acid
Deposition: a complex chemical and atmos-            Acute Toxicity - Adverse effects that result
pheric phenomenon that occurs when emis-             from a single dose or single exposure of a
sions of sulfur and nitrogen compounds and           chemical; any poisonous effect produced
other substances are transformed by chemical         within a short period of time, usually less
processes in the atmosphere, often far from          than 96 hours. This term normally is used to
the original sources, and then deposited on          describe effects in experimental animals.
earth in either wet or dry form. The wet forms
                                                     Administrative Order on Consent - A legal
(precipitation) are popularly called “acid rain”
                                                     agreement signed by EPA and an individual,
and fall as rain, snow, or fog. The dry forms
                                                     business, or other entity through which the
are acidic gases or particulates.
                                                     violator agrees to pay for correction of viola-
Active Ingredient - In any pesticide product,        tions, take the required corrective or cleanup
the component that kills, or otherwise con-          actions, or refrain from an activity. The order
trols, target pests. Pesticides are regulated pri-   describes the actions to be taken, may be sub-
marily on the basis of active ingredients.           ject to a comment period, applies to civil
                                                     actions, and can be enforced in court.
Activated Sludge Process - A sewage treat-
ment process by which bacteria that feed on          Administrative Order - A legal document
organic wastes are continuously circulated and       signed by EPA directing an individual, busi-
put in contact with organic waste in the pres-       ness, or other entity to take corrective action
ence of oxygen to increase the rate of decom-        or refrain from an activity. The order
describes the violations and actions to be tak-    Alkalinity - Having the properties of a base
en, and can be enforced in court. Such orders      with a pH of more than 7. A common alkaline
may be issued, for example, as a result of an      is baking soda.
administrative complaint whereby the respon-
                                                   Ambient - Any unconfined portion of the
dent is ordered to pay a penalty for violations
                                                   atmosphere; open air; outside surrounding air.
of a statute.
                                                   Anaerobic - A biological process which
Administrative Record - All documents
                                                   occurs in the absence of oxygen.
which EPA considered or relied on in selecting
the remedy at a Superfund site, culminating in     Aquifer - A water-bearing layer of rock
the record of decision for remedial action, or     (including gravel and sand) that will yield
an action memorandum for removal actions.          water in usable quantity to a well or spring.
Aeration - The act of mixing a liquid with air     Asbestos - A mineral fiber that can pollute air
(oxygen).                                          or water and cause cancer or asbestosis when
                                                   inhaled. EPA has banned or severely restricted
Aerobic - A biological process that occurs in
                                                   the use of asbestos in manufacturing and con-
the presence of oxygen.
Agricultural Waste - Poultry and livestock
                                                   Assimilative Capacity - The ability of a nat-
manure, and residual materials in liquid or
                                                   ural body of water to receive wastewaters or
solid form generated from the production and
                                                   toxic materials without harmful effects and
marketing of poultry, livestock, furbearing
                                                   without damage to aquatic life.
animals, and their products. Also includes
grain, vegetable, and fruit harvest residue.

Air Quality Standards - The level of selected      Bactericide - A pesticide used to control or
pollutants set by law that may not be exceeded     destroy bacteria, typically in the home,
in outside air. Used to determine the amount       schools, or on hospital equipment.
of pollutants that may be emitted by industry.
                                                   Benthic Organism - Any of a diverse group
Alar - Trade name for daminozide, a pesti-         of aquatic plants and animals that lives on the
cide that makes apples redder, firmer, and         bottom of marine and fresh bodies of water.
less likely to drop off trees before growers are   The presence or absence of certain benthic
ready to pick them. Alar also is used to a less-   organisms can be used as an indicator of
er extent on peanuts, tart cherries, concord       water quality.
grapes, and other fruits.

Best Available Control Technology (BACT)           Biochemicals - Chemicals that are either nat-
The application of the most advanced meth-         urally occurring or identical to naturally
ods, systems, and techniques for eliminating       occurring substances. Examples include hor-
or minimizing discharges and emissions on          mones, pheromones, and enzymes. Biochemi-
a case-by-case basis as determined by EPA.         cals function as pesticides through non-toxic,
BACT represents an emission limit based on         non-lethal modes of action, such as disrupting
the maximum degree of reduction of each            the mating pattern of insects, regulating
pollutant as described in regulations under        growth, or acting as repellants. Biochemicals
the Clean Air Act (CAA). The determination         tend to be environmentally compatible and
of BACT takes into account energy, environ-        are thus important to Integrated Pest Man-
mental, economic effects, and other costs.         agement programs.

Best Available Technology Economically             Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) - A
Achievable (BATEA) - Originally described          measure of the oxygen required to break
under Section 304(b)(2)(B) of the Clean            down organic materials in water. Higher
Water Act, this level of control is generally      organic loads require larger amounts of oxy-
described as the best technology currently in      gen and may reduce the amount of oxygen
use and includes controls on toxic pollutants.     available for fish and aquatic life below
                                                   acceptable levels.
Best Management Practices (BMP) - Proce-
dures or controls other than effluent limita-      Biodegradable - The ability of a substance to
tions to prevent or reduce pollution of sur-       be broken down physically and/or chemically
face water (includes runoff control, spill pre-    by microorganisms. For example, many
vention, and operating procedures).                chemicals, food scraps, cotton, wool, and
                                                   paper are bio-degradable; plastics and poly-
Bioaccumulation/Biomagnification - A               ester generally are not.
process where chemicals are retained in fatty
body tissue and increase in concentration over     Biodiversity - The number and variety of dif-
time. Biomagnification is the increase of tissue   ferent organisms in the ecological complexes
accumulation in species higher in the natural      in which they naturally occur. Organisms are
food chain as contaminated food species are        organized at many levels, ranging from com-
eaten.                                             plete ecosystems to the biochemical struc-
                                                   tures that are the molecular basis of heredity.
Bioassay - A method of testing a material’s        Thus, the term encompasses different ecosys-
effects on living organisms.                       tems, species, and genes that must be present
                                                   for a healthy environment. A large number of

species must characterize the food chain, rep-      clay soil and synthetic liner, which is placed
resenting multiple predator-prey relationships.     over a landfill during closure. The cap serves
                                                    to minimize leachate volume during
Biological pesticides - Certain microorgan-
                                                    biodegradation of the waste by keeping pre-
isms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and
                                                    cipitation from percolating through the land-
protozoa that are effective in controlling target
                                                    fill. The cap also keeps odors down and ani-
pests. These agents usually do not have toxic
                                                    mal scavengers from gathering.
effects on animals and people and do not
leave toxic or persistent chemical residues in      Capacity Assurance Plan - A plan which
the environment.                                    assures that a state has the ability to treat and
                                                    dispose of hazardous wastes generated within
Bioremediation - The use of living organ-
                                                    its borders over the next 20 years. Section 104
isms (e.g., bacteria) to clean up oil spills or
                                                    of SARA required the first plan to be submit-
remove other pollutants from soil, water, and
                                                    ted to EPA in October 1989. But even though
                                                    capacity has been certified, the state is not
Biota - All living organisms in a given area.       required to treat or dispose of hazardous
                                                    wastes at home; many are exporting to other
Boom - (1) A floating device used to contain        states that have commercial facilities, permitted
oil on a body of water. (2) A piece of equip-       landfills, and incinerators. See Law section.
ment used to apply pesticides from a tractor
or truck.                                           Carcinogenic or Carcinogen - Capable of
                                                    causing cancer. A suspected carcinogen is a
Bubble (Bubble Policy) - Existing sources of        substance that may cause cancer in humans or
air pollution with several facilities may control   animals but for which the evidence is not
more than is required at one emission point         conclusive.
where control costs are lower, in return for
comparable relaxation at a second point where       CERCLIS (Pronounced SERK-liss) - The fed-
costs are higher or more difficult to achieve.      eral Comprehensive Environmental Response,
                                                    Compensation, and Liability Information Sys-
By-product - Materials, other than the intend-      tem. This database includes all sites which
ed product, generated as a result of an indus-      have been nominated for investigation by the
trial process.                                      Superfund program and the actions that have
                                                    been taken at these sites. If the site investiga-
                                                    tion reveals contamination, the site is ranked
Cap - A fairly impermeable seal, usually com-       and may be included on the National Priori-
posed of clay-type soil or a combination of         ties List for Superfund cleanup. Inclusion in

the CERCLIS database does not necessarily            the upper atmosphere where their chlorine
mean that a property is a hazardous waste            components destroy ozone. CFCs are thought
site. An emergency action may have been con-         to be a major cause of the ozone hole over
ducted there or a simple investigation which         Antarctica.
concluded that no further action was required.
                                                     Chronic Effect - An adverse effect on any liv-
Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) - Since              ing organism in which symptoms develop
the 1890s, CAS has been assigning identifica-        slowly over a long period of time or recur fre-
tion numbers to chemicals that companies             quently.
register with them. Every year, CAS updates
                                                     Clear Cut - Harvesting all the trees in one
and writes new chemical abstracts on well
                                                     area at one time, a practice that destroys vital
over a million different chemicals, including
                                                     habitat and biodiversity and encourages rain-
their composition, structure, characteristics,
                                                     fall or snowmelt runoff, erosion, sedimenta-
and all the different names of that chemical.
                                                     tion of streams and lakes, and flooding.
CAS On-Line is a computer network available
to individual and business account holders to        Cloning - In biotechnology, obtaining a
receive information about specific chemicals         group of genetically identical cells from a sin-
of concern. Each abstract is accompanied by          gle cell; making identical copies of a gene.
the CAS number.
                                                     Climate Change - this term is commonly
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) - A mea-                used interchangeably with “global warming”
sure of the oxygen-consuming capacity of inor-       and “the greenhouse effect,” but is a more
ganic and organic matter present in water or         descriptive term. Climate change refers to the
wastewater; the amount of oxygen consumed            buildup of man-made gases in the atmosphere
from a chemical oxidant in a specific test.          that trap the sun’s heat, causing changes in
                                                     weather patterns on a global scale. The effects
Chlorination - Adding chlorine to water or
                                                     include changes in rainfall patterns, sea level
wastewater, generally for the purpose of disin-
                                                     rise, potential droughts, habitat loss, and heat
fection, but frequently for accomplishing other
                                                     stress. The greenhouse gases of most concern
biological or chemical results. Chlorine also is
                                                     are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous
used almost universally in manufacturing
                                                     oxides. If these gases in our atmosphere dou-
processes, particularly for the plastics industry.
                                                     ble, the earth could warm up by 1.5 to 4.5
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - A family of             degrees by the year 2050, with changes in
chemicals commonly used in air conditioners          global precipitation having the greatest conse-
and refrigerators as coolants and also as sol-       quences.
vents and aerosol propellants. CFCs drift into

Closure - The procedure an operator must go       Compost - Decomposed organic material that
through when a landfill reaches the legal         is produced when bacteria in soil break down
capacity for solid waste. No more waste can       garbage and biodegradable trash, making
be accepted and a cap usually is placed over      organic fertilizer. Making compost requires
the site. The cap is then planted with grasses    turning and mixing and exposing the materi-
and other ground covers. Post-closure care        als to air. Gardeners and farmers use compost
includes monitoring ground water, landfill        for soil enrichment.
gases, and leachate collection systems, some-
                                                  Concentration - The relative amount of a
times for as long as 30 years.
                                                  substance mixed with another substance. An
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) - A peri-       example is five parts per million of carbon
odic publication of the regulations established   monoxide in air or 1 milligram/liter of iron
by U.S. law.                                      in water.

Commercial Waste - All solid waste from           Conditionally Exempt Generators - Small
businesses. This category includes, but is not    quantity facilities that produce fewer than 220
limited to, solid waste originating in stores,    pounds of hazardous waste per month.
markets, office buildings, restaurants, shop-     Exempt from most regulations, conditionally
ping centers, and theaters.                       exempt generators are required to determine
                                                  whether their waste is hazardous and to notify
Commercial Waste Management Facility -
                                                  local waste management agencies. These gen-
A treatment, storage, disposal, or transfer
                                                  erators may treat or dispose of the waste on
facility that accepts wastes from a variety of
                                                  site or ensure that the waste is sent to a per-
sources for profit. A commercial facility man-
                                                  mitted disposal or recycling facility.
ages a broader spectrum of wastes than a pri-
vate facility, which normally manages a limit-    Cone of Depression - A lowering in the water
ed volume or type of waste.                       table that develops around a pumped well.

Community Relations - Two-way communi-            Construction and Demolition Waste -
cations with the public to foster understand-     Waste building materials, dredging materials,
ing of EPA programs and actions and to            tree stumps, and rubble resulting from con-
increase citizen input into EPA decisions. Spe-   struction, remodeling, repair, and demolition
cific community relations activities such as      operations on houses, commercial buildings
holding public meetings and comment peri-         and other structures, and pavements. May
ods and opening information repositories are      contain lead, asbestos, or other hazardous
required at Superfund sites.                      materials.

Corrosive - A substance that eats or wears         County Emergency Operations Plan - A
away materials gradually by chemical action.       plan required by Federal Emergency Man-
                                                   agement Agency regulations that describes
Consent Decree - A legal document submit-
                                                   actions the county will take to respond to
ted by the Department of Justice on behalf
                                                   emergency situations such as natural disas-
of the EPA for approval by a federal judge to
                                                   ters, major fires, transportation incidents, or
settle a case. A consent decree can be used to
                                                   chemical releases.
formalize an agreement reached between EPA
and potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for     Covered Facility - A facility having one or
cleanup at a Superfund site. Consent decrees       more of the 366+ extremely hazardous sub-
also are signed by regulated facilities to cease   stances in amounts higher than the quantity
or correct certains actions or processes that      designated by EPCRA. These facilities must
are polluting the environment and include          file reports with the SERC and LEPC.
payment of penalties. The Clean Water Act,
                                                   Cradle-to-Grave or Manifest System - A
Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances Control
                                                   procedure in which hazardous wastes are
Act, and others all use consent decrees.
                                                   identified as they are produced and are fol-
Conservation - Preserving and renewing nat-        lowed through further treatment, transporta-
ural resources to assure their highest econom-     tion, and disposal by a series of permanent,
ic or social benefit over the longest period of    linkable, descriptive documents.
time. Clean rivers and lakes, wilderness areas,
                                                   Criteria - Descriptive factors taken into
a diverse wildlife population, healthy soil, and
                                                   account by EPA in setting standards for pollu-
clean air are natural resources worth conserv-
                                                   tants. For example, water quality criteria
ing for future generations.
                                                   describe the concentration of pollutants that
Continuous Discharge - A permitted release         most fish can be exposed to for an hour with-
of pollutants into the environment that occurs     out showing acute effects.
without interruption, except for infrequent
shutdowns for maintenance, process changes,
etc.                                               Dechlorination - Removal of chlorine and
                                                   chemical replacement with hydrogen or
Controlled Reaction - A chemical reaction at
                                                   hydroxide ions to detoxify a substance.
temperature and pressure conditions that are
maintained within safe limits to produce a         Deep Well Injection - A process by which
desired product.                                   waste fluids are injected deep below the sur-
                                                   face of the earth.

Delist - Use of the petition process (1) to       Disposal Facility - A landfill, incinerator, or
have a chemical’s toxic designation rescinded;    other facility which receives waste for dispos-
(2) to remove a site from the National Priori-    al. The facility may have one or many dispos-
ty List; or (3) to exclude a particular waste     al methods available for use. Does not include
from regulation even though it is a listed haz-   wastewater treatment.
ardous waste.
                                                  Dissolved Oxygen (DO) - Oxygen that is
Destruction and Removal Efficiency (DRE) -        freely available in water to sustain the lives of
a percentage that represents the number of        fish and other aquatic organisms.
molecules of a compound removed or
                                                  Dose - In terms of monitoring exposure lev-
destroyed in an incinerator. A DRE of 99.99%
                                                  els, the amount of a toxic substance taken
means that 9,999 molecules are destroyed for
                                                  into the body over a given period of time.
every 10,000 that enter.
                                                  Dose Response - How an organism’s
Discharge - The release of any waste into the
                                                  response to a toxic substance changes as its
environment from a point source. Usually
                                                  overall exposure to the substance changes. For
refers to the release of a liquid waste into a
                                                  example, a small dose of carbon monoxide may
body of water through an outlet such as a
                                                  cause drowsiness; a large dose can be fatal.
pipe, but also refers to air emissions.
                                                  Dump - A land site where wastes are discard-
Discharge Area - An area of land where there
                                                  ed in a disorderly or haphazard fashion with-
is a net annual transfer of water from the
                                                  out regard to protecting the environment.
ground water to surface water, such as to
                                                  Uncontrolled dumping is an indiscriminate
streams, springs, lakes, and wetlands.
                                                  and illegal form of waste disposal. Problems
Dispersion Model - A mathematical predic-         associated with dumps include multiplication
tion of how pollutants from a discharge or        of disease-carrying organisms and pests, fires,
emission source will be distributed in the        air and water pollution, unsightliness, loss of
surrounding environment under given condi-        habitat, and personal injury.
tions of wind, temperature, humidity, and
other environmental factors.
                                                  Emergency Broadcasting System (EBS) -
Disposal - The discharge, deposit, injection,
                                                  Used to inform the public about an emer-
dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of any
                                                  gency and the protective actions to take. The
solid waste or hazardous waste into the
                                                  EBS is a service of local radio and television
environment (land, surface water, ground
                                                  stations, activated as needed and approved by
water, and air).
                                                  a local emergency management agency.

Ecology - The study of the relationships           Emergency Preparedness Coordinator - The
between all living organisms and the environ-      local government official designated to be noti-
ment, especially the totality or pattern of        fied immediately of chemical emergencies
interactions; a view that includes all plant and   (e.g., spills, chemical releases, explosions, or
animal species and their unique contributions      fires) under EPCRA.
to a particular habitat.
                                                   Emission - The release or discharge of a sub-
Ecosystem - The interacting synergism of all       stance into the environment. Generally refers
living organisms in a particular environment;      to the release of gases or particulates into
every plant, insect, aquatic animal, bird, or      the air.
land species that forms a complex web of
                                                   Emission Standards - Government standards
interdependency. An action taken at any level
                                                   that establish limits on discharges of pollu-
in the food chain, use of a pesticide for exam-
                                                   tants into the environment (usually in refer-
ple, has a potential domino effect on every
                                                   ence to air).
other occupant of that system.
                                                   Endangered Species - Animals, plants, birds,
Effluent - Wastewater discharged from a
                                                   fish, or other living organisms threatened
point source, such as a pipe.
                                                   with extinction by man-made or natural
Effluent Guidelines - Technical documents          changes in the environment.
developed by EPA which set discharge limits
                                                   Energy Recovery - To capture energy from
for particular types of industries and specific
                                                   waste through any of a variety of processes
                                                   (e.g., burning). Many new technology incin-
Effluent Limitations - Limits on the amounts       erators are waste-to-energy recovery units.
of pollutants which may be discharged by a
                                                   Environmental Assessment (EA) - A prelim-
facility; these limits are calculated so that
                                                   inary, written, environmental analysis
water quality standards will not be violated
                                                   required by NEPA (see the Federal Law sec-
even at low stream flows.
                                                   tion) to determine whether a federal activity
Emergency and Hazardous Chemical                   such as building airports or highways would
Inventory - An annual report by facilities hav-    significantly affect the environment; may
ing one or more extremely hazardous sub-           require preparation of more detailed Environ-
stances or hazardous chemicals above certain       mental Impact Statement.
weight limits, as specified in Section 311 and
                                                   Environmental Audit - An independent
312 of EPCRA.
                                                   assessment (not conducted by EPA) of a facili-

ty’s compliance policies, practices, and controls.   dinator. The ERT’s capabilities include multi-
Many pollution prevention initiatives require        media sampling and analysis, hazard assess-
an audit to determine where wastes may be            ment, hazardous substance and oil spill
reduced or eliminated or energy conserved.           cleanup techniques, and technical support.
Many supplemental environmental projects
                                                     Epidemiologist - A medical scientist who
that offset a penalty use audits to identify ways
                                                     studies the various factors involved in the
to reduce the harmful effects of a violation.
                                                     incidence, distribution, and control of disease
Environmental Equity - Equal protection              in a population.
from environmental hazards for individuals,
                                                     Erosion - The wearing away of soil by wind
groups, or communities regardless of race,
                                                     or water, intensified by land-clearing practices
ethnicity, or economic status.
                                                     related to farming, residential or industrial
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) - A             development, road building, or logging.
document prepared by or for EPA which
                                                     Estuary - A complex ecosystem between a
identifies and analyzes, in detail, environmen-
                                                     river and near-shore ocean waters where fresh
tal impacts of a proposed action. As a tool for
                                                     and salt water mix. These brackish areas
decision-making, the EIS describes positive
                                                     include bays, mouths of rivers, salt marshes,
and negative effects and lists alternatives for
                                                     wetlands, and lagoons and are influenced by
an undertaking, such as development of a
                                                     tides and currents. Estuaries provide valuable
wilderness area. (Required by NEPA — see
                                                     habitat for marine animals, birds, and other
Federal Law Section).
Environmental Justice - The fair treatment of
                                                     Explosive Limits (chemical) - The amounts
people of all races, cultures, incomes, and
                                                     of vapor in air that form explosive mixtures.
educational levels with respect to the develop-
                                                     These limits are expressed as lower and upper
ment and enforcement of environmental laws,
                                                     values and give the range of vapor concentra-
regulations, and policies. Fair treatment
                                                     tions in air that will explode if an ignition
implies that no population should be forced
                                                     source is present.
to shoulder a disproportionate share of expo-
sure to the negative effects of pollution due to     Exposure - Radiation or pollutants that come
lack of political or economic strength.              into contact with the body and present a
                                                     potential health threat. The most common
Environmental Response Team (ERT) -
                                                     routes of exposure are through the skin,
EPA’s group of highly trained scientists and
                                                     mouth, or by inhalation.
engineers based in Edison, NJ and Cincinnati,
OH who back up the federal On-Scene Coor-

Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) -                 environment. Flares may operate continuous-
Any of 366 (+ or -) chemicals or hazardous             ly or intermittently and are usually found on
substances identified by EPA on the basis of           top of a stack. Flares also burn off methane
hazard or toxicity and listed under EPCRA.             gas in a landfill.
The list is periodically revised.
                                                       Flash Point - The lowest temperature at
                                                       which evaporation of a substance produces
                                                       enough vapor to form an ignitable mixture
Fecal Coliform Bacteria - Found in the
                                                       with air.
intestinal tracts of mammals, this bacteria in
water or sludge is an indicator of pollution           Floodplain - Mostly level land along rivers and
and possible contamination by pathogens.               streams that may be submerged by floodwater.
                                                       A 100-year floodplain is an area which can be
Feedstock - Raw material supplied to a
                                                       expected to flood once in every 100 years.
machine or processing plant from which other
products can be made. For example,                     Flue Gas Desulfurization - The removal of
polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene are raw            sulfur oxides from exhaust gases of a boiler or
chemicals used to produce plastic tiles, mats,         industrial process; usually a wet scrubbing
fenders, cushions, and traffic cones.                  operation which concentrates hazardous mate-
                                                       rials in a slurry, requiring proper disposal.
Financial Assurance - A means (such as insur-
ance, guarantee, surety bond, letter of credit, or     Fugitive Emissions - Air pollutants released
qualification as a self-insurer) by the operator       to the air other than those from stacks or
of a facility such as a landfill to assure financial   vents; typically small releases from leaks in
capability for cleaning up possible environ-           plant equipment such as valves, pump seals,
mental releases and closure of that facility.          flanges, sampling connections, etc.

First Draw - The water that comes out when             Fungicide - A pesticide used to control or
a faucet in the kitchen or bathroom is first           destroy fungi on food or grain crops.
opened, which is likely to have the highest
level of lead contamination from old plumb-
ing solder and pipes.                                  Garbage - Food waste (animal and vegetable)
                                                       resulting from the handling, storage, packag-
Flammable - Describes any material that can
                                                       ing, sale, preparation, cooking, and serving of
be ignited easily and that will burn rapidly.
Flare - A device that burns gaseous materials
                                                       General Reporting Facility - A facility hav-
to prevent them from being released into the
                                                       ing one or more hazardous chemicals above

the 10,000-pound Threshold Planning Quan-          Hazardous Chemical - EPA’s designation for
tity. These facilities must file Material Safety   any hazardous material that requires a Mater-
Data Sheets and emergency inventory infor-         ial Safety Data Sheet. Such substances are
mation with the SERC, LEPC, and local fire         capable of producing adverse physical effects
departments.                                       (fire, explosion, etc.) or adverse health effects
                                                   (cancer, dermatitis, etc.)
Generator - A facility or mobile source that
emits pollutants into the air; any person who      Hazardous Waste - A subset of solid wastes
produces a hazardous waste that is listed by       that pose substantial or potential threats to
EPA and therefore subject to regulation.           public health or the environment and meet
                                                   any of the following criteria:
Genetic Engineering - A process of inserting
new genetic information into existing cells in     - is specifically listed as a hazardous waste by
order to modify an organism for the purpose          EPA;
of changing particular characteristics.            - exhibits one or more of the characteristics
                                                     of hazardous wastes (ignitability, corrosive-
Global Warming - See definition for Climate
                                                     ness, reactivity, and/or toxicity);
                                                   - is generated by the treatment of hazardous
Grab Sample - A single sample of soil or of          waste; or is contained in a hazardous waste.
water taken without regard to time or flow.
                                                   Hazardous Waste Landfill - A specially per-
Greenhouse Effect - See definition for Cli-        mitted, excavated or engineered area in which
mate Change.                                       hazardous waste is deposited and covered.
                                                   Proper protection of the environment from
Ground Water - Water found below the sur-
                                                   the materials to be deposited in such a land-
face of the land, usually in porous rock for-
                                                   fill requires careful site selection, the cata-
mations. Ground water is the source of water
                                                   loging of types of wastes, good design (includ-
found in wells and springs and is used fre-
                                                   ing a liner and a leachate collection and treat-
quently for drinking.
                                                   ment system), proper operation, and thor-
                                                   ough final closure.

Hazard Communication Standard - An                 Health Assessment - An evaluation of avail-
OSHA regulation that requires chemical man-        able data on existing or potential risks posed by
ufacturers, suppliers, and importers to assess     a Superfund site. Every site on the National Pri-
the hazards of the chemicals they make, sup-       orities List has a health assessment prepared by
ply, or import, and to inform employers, cus-      the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
tomers, and workers of these hazards through       Registry (see Government Agency section).
a Material Safety Data Sheet.
Heavy Metal - A common hazardous waste;           Incident Command System (ICS) - An orga-
can damage organisms at low concentrations        nizational scheme wherein one person, nor-
and tends to accumulate in the food chain.        mally the Fire Chief, takes charge of an inte-
                                                  grated, comprehensive emergency response.
Herbicide - A pesticide designed to control
                                                  This commander is backed by an Emergency
or kill plants, weeds, or grasses. Almost 70%
                                                  Operations Center which provides support,
of all pesticide used by farmers and ranchers
                                                  resources, communications, and advice.
are herbicides. These chemicals have wide-
ranging effects on non-target species (other      Incineration - The destruction of solid, liq-
than those the pesticide is meant to control).    uid, or gaseous wastes by controlled burning
                                                  at high temperatures. Hazardous organic
Household or Domestic Waste - Solid waste,
                                                  compounds are converted to ash, carbon
composed of garbage and rubbish, which nor-
                                                  dioxide, and water. Burning destroys organ-
mally originates from residential, private
                                                  ics, reduces the volume of waste, and vapor-
households, or apartment buildings. Domestic
                                                  izes water and other liquids the wastes may
waste may contain a significant amount of toxic
                                                  contain. The residue ash produced may con-
or hazardous waste from improperly discard-
                                                  tain some hazardous material, such as non-
ed pesticides, paints, batteries, and cleaners.
                                                  combustible heavy metals, concentrated
Hydraulic Gradient - The direction of ground      from the original waste.
water flow due to changes in the depth of the
                                                  Incinerator - A furnace for the routine burn-
water table.
                                                  ing of waste materials using controlled flame
Hydrocarbons - Chemicals that consist entire-     combustion.
ly of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons con-
                                                  Incompatible Waste - A waste unsuitable for
tribute to air pollution problems like smog.
                                                  mixing with another waste or material
                                                  because of reactivity hazards.

Identification Code or EPA I.D. Number -          Indirect Discharge - The introduction of pol-
The unique code assigned to each generator,       lutants from a non-domestic source into a
transporter, and treatment, storage, or dispos-   publicly owned wastewater treatment system.
al facility by EPA to facilitate identification   Indirect dischargers can be commercial or
and tracking of hazardous waste. Superfund        industrial facilities who must pre-treat their
sites also have assigned I.D. numbers.            wastes before discharge into local sewers.

Impoundment - A body of water or sludge           Indoor Air - Breathing air inside a habitable
confined by a dam, dike, floodgate, or other      structure, often highly polluted because of
barrier.                                          lack of exchange with fresh oxygen from out-
                                                  doors. Solvents, smoke, paints, furniture
glues, carpet padding, and other synthetic          Interstate Commerce - A clause of the Unit-
chemicals trapped inside contribute to an           ed States Constitution which reserves to the
often unhealthy environment.                        federal government the right to regulate the
                                                    conduct of business across state lines. Under
Industrial Waste - Unwanted materials pro-
                                                    this clause, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled
duced in or eliminated from an industrial
                                                    that states may not restrict the disposal of
operation and categorized under a variety of
                                                    wastes originating out-of-state more than that
headings, such as liquid wastes, sludge, solid
                                                    of waste originating in-state.
wastes, and hazardous wastes.
                                                    Inversion - An atmospheric condition caused
Inert ingredients - Substances that are not
                                                    by increasing temperature with elevation,
“active,” such as water, petroleum distillates,
                                                    resulting in a layer of warm air preventing the
talc, corn meal, or soaps. When discussing
                                                    rise of cooler air trapped beneath. This condi-
pesticides, inert ingredients do not attack a
                                                    tion prevents the rise of pollutants that might
particular pest, but some are chemically or
                                                    otherwise be dispersed. Trapping pollutants
biologically active, causing health and envi-
                                                    near the ground increases ozone to harmful
ronmental problems.
Infectious Waste - See definition for Med-
                                                    Irradiated Food - Food that has been briefly
ical Waste.
                                                    exposed to radioactivity (usually gamma rays)
Innovative Technology - New or inventive            to kill insects, bacteria, and mold. Irradiated
methods to treat hazardous wastes, conserve         food can be stored without refrigeration or
energy, or prevent pollution.                       chemical preservatives and has a long “shelf
Insecticide - A pesticide compound specifical-
ly used to kill or prevent the growth of insects.   Irritant - A substance that can cause irritation
                                                    of the skin, eyes, or respiratory system. An
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) - A                irritant can cause an acute effect from a sin-
combination of biological, cultural, and genet-     gle high-level exposure, or chronic effects
ic pest control methods with use of pesticides      from repeated, low-level exposures. Some
as the last resort. IPM considers a targeted        examples of irritants are chlorine, nitric acid,
species’ life cycle and intervenes in reproduc-     and various pesticides.
tion, growth, or development to reduce the
population. Land use practices are examined
for possible change; other animals, birds, or
                                                    Karst - A geologic formation of irregular lime-
reptiles in the ecosystem are used as natural
                                                    stone deposits with sinks, underground
                                                    streams, and caverns.

                                                   face waters. An industrial landfill disposes of
                                                   non-hazardous industrial wastes. A munici-
Lagoon - A shallow, artificial treatment pond
                                                   pal landfill disposes of domestic waste includ-
where sunlight, bacterial action, and oxygen
                                                   ing garbage, paper, etc. This waste may
work to purify wastewater; a stabilization
                                                   include toxins that are used in the home,
pond. An aerated lagoon is a treatment pond
                                                   such as insect sprays and powders, engine oil,
that uses oxygen to speed up the natural
                                                   paints, solvents, and weed killers.
process of biological decomposition of organ-
ic wastes. A lagoon is regulated as a point        Large Quantity Generator - Person or facili-
source under the Clean Water Act if there is       ty which generates more than 2,200 pounds
a direct surface water discharge. Some             of hazardous waste per month. In 1989,
lagoons that discharge into ground water           only 1% of more than 20,000 generators fell
also are regulated if they have a direct hydro-    into this category. Those generators produced
geologic connection to surface water. In other     nearly 97% of the nation’s hazardous waste.
areas, lagoons were historically used to dump      These generators are subject to all require-
various liquid, solid, and hazardous wastes        ments of RCRA.
from manufacturing or industrial processes.
These wastes typically flooded and polluted        Leachate - Liquid (mainly water) that perco-
surrounding environs or seeped under-              lates through a landfill and has picked up
ground. Such lagoons are now regulated             dissolved, suspended, and/or microbial cont-
under RCRA but some must be cleaned up             aminants from the waste. Leachate can be
under Superfund.                                   compared to coffee: water that has percolated
                                                   down through the ground coffee.
Land Disposal Restrictions (Land Ban) -
Mandated by the 1984 amendments to                 Lethal Concentration 50 (LC 50) - A con-
RCRA; prohibits the disposal of hazardous          centration of a pollutant or effluent at which
wastes into or on the land.                        50% of the test organisms die; a common
                                                   measure of acute toxicity.
Landfill - A method for final disposal of sol-
id waste on land. The refuse is spread and         Lethal Dose 50 (LD 50) - The dose of a tox-
compacted and a cover of soil applied so that      icant that will kill 50% of test organisms
effects on the environment (including public       within a designated period of time. The lower
health and safety) are minimized. Under cur-       the LD 50, the more toxic the compound.
rent regulations, landfills are required to have   Limited Degradation - A policy that allows
liners and leachate treatment systems to pre-      for some lowering of natural environmental
vent contamination of ground water and sur-        quality to a given level beneath an established
                                                   health standard.

Liner - Structure of natural clay or manufac-       Maximum Achievable Control Technology
tured material (plastic) which serves as a barri-   (MACT) - Generally, the best available con-
er to restrict leachate from reaching or mixing     trol technology, taking into account cost and
with ground water in landfills, lagoons, etc.       technical feasibility.

Litter - The highly visible portion of solid        Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The
waste (usually packaging material) which is         maximum level of certain contaminants per-
generated by the consumer and carelessly dis-       mitted in drinking water supplied by a public
carded outside of the regular garbage dispos-       water system as set by EPA under the federal
al system, as on the highways or in streets.        Safe Drinking Water Act.

Local Emergency Planning Committee                  Maximum Contaminant Level Goal
(LEPC) - The body appointed by the State            (MCLG) - The maximum level of a contami-
Emergency Response Commission (SERC),               nant that is associated with no adverse health
as required by EPCRA, which develops com-           effects from drinking water containing that
prehensive emergency plans for Local Emer-          contaminant over a lifetime. For chemicals
gency Planning Districts, collects MSDS             believed to cause cancer, the MCLGs are set
forms and chemical release reports, and pro-        at zero. MCLGs are not enforceable, but are
vides this information to the public. Each          ideal, health-based goals which are set in the
county and some large city governments par-         National Primary Drinking Water Standards
ticipate in an LEPC.                                developed by EPA. MCLs are set as close to
                                                    MCLGs as possible, considering costs and
Manifest System - Tracking of hazardous
                                                    Medical Waste - All wastes from hospitals,
waste from “cradle to grave” (generation
                                                    clinics, or other health care facilities (“Red
through disposal), with accompanying docu-
                                                    Bag Waste”) that contain or have come into
ments known as “manifests.”
                                                    contact with diseased tissues or infectious
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) - Print-          microorganisms. Also referred to as infec-
ed material concerning a hazardous chemi-           tious waste which is hazardous waste with
cal, or Extremely Hazardous Substance,              infectious characteristics, including: contami-
including its physical properties, hazards to       nated animal waste, human blood and blood
personnel, fire and explosion potential, safe       products, pathological waste, and discarded
handling recommendations, health effects,           sharps (needles, scalpels, or broken medical
fire fighting techniques, reactivity, and prop-     instruments).
er disposal. Originally established for
                                                    Microorganisms - Bacteria, yeasts, simple
employee safety by OSHA.
                                                    fungi, algae, protozoans, and a number of

other organisms that are microscopic in size.    that EPA set under the Clean Air Act for
Most are beneficial but some produce disease.    attainment by each state. The standards were
Others are involved in composting and            to be achieved by 1975, along with state
sewage treatment.                                implementation plans to control industrial
                                                 sources in each state.
Milligrams/liter (mg/l) - A measure of con-
centration used in the measurement of flu-       National Emissions Standards for Haz-
ids. Mg/l is the most common way to present      ardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) - Emis-
a concentration in water and is roughly          sion standards set by EPA for an air pollutant
equivalent to parts per million.                 not covered by NAAQS that may cause an
                                                 increase in deaths or serious, irreversible, or
Minimization - Measures or techniques that       incapacitating illness. Primary standards are
reduce the amount of wastes generated dur-       designed to protect human health, secondary
ing industrial production processes; this term   standards to protect public welfare.
also is applied to recycling and other efforts
to reduce the volume of waste going to land-     National Pollutant Discharge Elimination
fills. This term is interchangeable with waste   System (NPDES) - The primary permitting
reduction and waste minimization.                program under the Clean Water Act which
                                                 regulates all discharges to surface water.
Mitigation - Measures taken to reduce
adverse effects on the environment.              National Priorities List (NPL) - A list of
                                                 sites, many nominated by the states, for haz-
Monitoring Well - A well used to take water      ardous waste cleanup under Superfund.
quality samples or to measure ground water
levels.                                          National Response Center (NRC) - The pri-
                                                 mary communications center operated by the
Morbidity - Rate of incidence of disease.        U.S. Coast Guard to receive reports of major
Mortality - Death rate.                          chemical and oil spills and other hazardous
                                                 substances into the environment. The NRC
Mutagenicity - The property of a chemical        immediately relays reports to a predesignated
that causes the genetic characteristics of an    federal On-Scene Coordinator.
organism to change in such a way that future
generations are permanently affected.            National Response Team (NRT) - Represen-
                                                 tatives from 15 federal agencies with interests
                                                 and expertise in various aspects of emergency
                                                 response to pollution incidents. EPA serves as
National Ambient Air Quality Standards
                                                 chair and the U.S. Coast Guard serves as vice-
(NAAQS) - Maximum air pollutant standards
                                                 chair. The NRT is primarily a national plan-

ning, policy, and coordinating body and does        Non-Degradation - A policy that forbids any
not respond directly to incidents. The NRT          lowering of naturally occurring environmen-
provides policy guidance prior to an incident       tal quality regardless of established health
and assistance as requested by a federal On-        standards.
Scene Coordinator via a Regional Response
                                                    Nonpoint Source - Any source of pollution
Team during an incident. NRT assistance
                                                    not associated with a distinct discharge
usually takes the form of technical advice,
                                                    point. Includes sources such as rainwater,
access to additional resources or equipment,
                                                    runoff from agricultural lands, industrial
or coordination with other RRTs.
                                                    sites, parking lots, and timber operations, as
National Strike Force (NSF) - Operated by           well as escaping gases from pipes and fittings.
the U.S. Coast Guard, the NSF is composed
                                                    No Observed Adverse Effect Level or No
of three strategically located teams (Atlantic,
                                                    Observed Effect Level (NOAEL) or (NOEL)
Pacific, and Gulf coasts) who back up the fed-
                                                    A level of exposure which does not cause
eral On-Scene Coordinator. These teams are
                                                    observable harm.
extensively trained and equipped to respond
to major oil spills and chemical releases.
These capabilities are especially suited to inci-
dents in a marine environment but also              Odor Threshold - The lowest concentration
include site assessment, safety, action plan        of a substance in air that can be smelled. Odor
development, and documentation for both             thresholds are highly variable because of the
inland and coastal zone incidents. The NSF          differing ability of individuals to detect odors.
Coordination Center is at Elizabeth City, NC.
                                                    On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) - The federal
Neutralization - The chemical process in            official responsible for the coordination of a
which the acidic or basic characteristics of a      hazardous materials response action, as speci-
fluid are changed to those of water (pH = 7).       fied in individual Regional Contingency Plans.
                                                    OSCs are predesignated by EPA for inland
Non-Attainment - Refers to areas of the Unit-       areas and by the U.S. Coast Guard for coastal
ed States that have not met air standards for       areas. The OSC coordinates all federal contain-
human health by deadlines set in the Clean          ment, removal, and disposal efforts and
Air Act.                                            resources during a pollution incident. The OSC
                                                    is the point of contact for the coordination of
Non-Contact Cooling Water - Water used
                                                    federal efforts with those of the local response
for cooling which does not come into direct
                                                    community. The OSC has access to extensive
contact with any raw material, product, by-
                                                    federal resources, including the National
product, or waste.

Strike Force, the Environmental Response           seven to 18 miles above the surface and
Team, and Scientific Support Coordinators.         shields the earth from ultraviolet light. Several
The OSC can be a source of valuable support        holes in this protective layer have been docu-
and information to the community.                  mented by scientists. Ozone also concentrates
                                                   at the surface as a result of reactions between
On Site - On the same, or adjacent, property.
                                                   by-products of fossil fuel combustion and
Organically Grown - Food, feed crops, and          sunlight, having harmful health effects.
livestock grown within an intentionally-diver-
sified, self-sustaining agro-ecosystem. In prac-
tice, farmers build up nutrients in the soil       Particulates - Liquid or solid particles such
using compost, agricultural wastes, and cover      as dust, smoke, mist, or smog found in air
crops instead of synthetically derived fertiliz-   emissions.
ers to increase productivity, rotate crops,
                                                   Parts per billion (ppb) - One ppb is compa-
weed mechanically, and reduce dramatically
                                                   rable to one kernel of corn in a filled, 45-foot
their dependence on the entire family of pesti-
                                                   silo, 16 feet in diameter.
cides. Farmers must be certified to character-
ize crops as organically grown and can only        Parts per million (ppm) - One ppm is com-
use approved natural and synthetic biochemi-       parable to one drop of gasoline in a tankful of
cals, agents, and materials for three consecu-     gas (full-size car).
tive years prior to harvest. Livestock must be
fed a diet that includes grains and forages that   Parts per trillion (ppt) - One ppt is compa-
have been organically grown and cannot             rable to one drop in a swimming pool cover-
receive hormones, sub-therapeutic antibiotics,     ing the area of a football field 43 ft. deep.
or other growth promoters.
                                                   Pathogen - A bacterial organism typically
Organism - Any living being, whether plant,        found in the intestinal tracts of mammals,
mammal, bird, insect, reptile, fish, crustacean,   capable of producing disease.
aquatic or estuarine animal, or bacterium.
                                                   Performance Bond - Cash or securities,
Oxidant - A substance containing oxygen            deposited before a landfill operating permit is
that reacts chemically with other materials to     issued, which are held to ensure that all
produce new substances. Oxidants are the           requirements for operating a landfill are per-
primary ingredients in smog.                       formed. The money is returned to the owner
                                                   after proper closure of the landfill is complete.
Ozone - Three molecule oxygen compound             If contamination or other problems appear at
(O3) found in two layers of the earth’s atmos-     any time during operation, or upon closure,
phere. One layer of beneficial ozone occurs at     and are not addressed, the owner must forfeit

all or part of the performance bond which is       or stacks; a single identifiable source such as
then used to cover costs of cleanup.               a ship or a mine.

Permeability - The ease with which water, or       Pollution - Any substances in water, soil, or
other fluid, passes through a substance.           air that degrade the natural quality of the
                                                   environment, offend the senses of sight, taste,
Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - Work-
                                                   or smell, or cause a health hazard. The useful-
place exposure limits for contaminants estab-
                                                   ness of the natural resource is usually
lished by OSHA.
                                                   impaired by the presence of pollutants and
Permit - A legal document issued by state          contaminants.
and/or federal authorities containing a
                                                   Pollution Prevention - Actively identifying
detailed description of the proposed activity
                                                   equipment, processes, and activities which
and operating procedures as well as appropri-
                                                   generate excessive wastes or use toxic chemi-
ate requirements and regulations. The permit-
                                                   cals and then making substitutions, alter-
ting process includes provisions for public
                                                   ations, or product improvements. Conserving
                                                   energy and minimizing wastes are pollution
Pesticide - Substances intended to repel, kill,    prevention concepts used in manufacturing,
or control any species designated a “pest”         sustainable agriculture, recycling, and
including weeds, insects, rodents, fungi, bac-     clean air/clean water technologies.
teria, or other organisms. The family of pesti-
                                                   Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) - A
cides includes herbicides, insecticides,
                                                   group of toxic, persistent chemicals used in
rodenticides, fungicides, and bactericides.
                                                   electrical transformers and capacitors for
pH - The measure of acidity or alkalinity of a     insulating purposes, and in gas pipeline sys-
chemical solution, from 0–14. Anything neu-        tems as a lubricant. The sale and new use of
tral, for example, has a pH of 7. Acids have a     PCBs were banned by law in 1979.
pH less than 7, bases (alkaline) greater than 7.
                                                   Potable Water - Raw or treated water that is
Plume - A concentration of contaminants in         considered safe to drink.
air, soil, or water usually extending from a
                                                   Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) - Any
distinct source.
                                                   individual or company that is potentially
Point Source - A stationary location or fixed      responsible for or has contributed to a spill or
facility such as an industry or municipality       other contamination at a Superfund site.
that discharges pollutants into air or surface     Whenever possible, EPA requires PRPs to
water through pipes, ditches, lagoons, wells,      clean up sites they have contaminated.

Pretreatment - Methods used by industry and         Quench Tank - A water-filled tank used to
other non-household sources of wastewater to        cool incinerator residue or hot materials from
remove, reduce, or alter the pollutants in          industrial processes.
wastewater before discharge to a POTW.

Primary Treatment - First stage of waste-
                                                    Radioactive Waste - Any waste that emits
water treatment in which solids are removed
                                                    energy as rays, waves, or streams of energetic
by screening and settling.
                                                    particles. Radioactive materials are often mixed
Process Wastewater - Any water which                with hazardous waste, usually from nuclear
comes into contact with any raw material,           reactors, research institutions, or hospitals.
product, by-product, or waste.
                                                    Radon - A colorless, naturally occurring gas
Public Comment Period - The time allowed            formed by radioactive decay of radium atoms.
for the members of an affected community to         Radon accumulating in basements and other
express views and concerns regarding an             areas of buildings without proper ventilation
action proposed to be taken by EPA, such as a       has been identified as a leading cause of lung
rulemaking, permit, or Superfund remedy             cancer.
                                                    Raw Water - Intake water prior to any treat-
Public Water System - Any water system that         ment or use.
regularly supplies piped water to the public
                                                    Reactivity - Refers to those hazardous wastes
for consumption, serving at least an average of
                                                    that are normally unstable and readily undergo
25 individuals per day for at least 60 days per
                                                    violent chemical change but do not explode.
year, or has at least 15 service connections.
                                                    Receiving Waters - A river, lake, ocean,
Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW)
                                                    stream, or other body of water into which
A municipal or public service district
                                                    wastewater or treated effluent is discharged.
sewage treatment system.
                                                    Recharge Area - An area of land where there
                                                    is a net annual transfer of water from the sur-
Quality Assurance/Quality Control - A sys-          face to ground water; where rainwater soaks
tem of procedures, checks, audits, and correc-      through the earth to reach an aquifer.
tive actions to ensure that all technical, opera-
                                                    Recycling - Reusing materials and objects in
tional, monitoring, and reporting activities are
                                                    original or changed forms rather than discard-
of the highest achievable quality.
                                                    ing them as wastes.

Record of Decision (ROD) - A public docu-         Release - Any spilling, leaking, pumping,
ment that explains which cleanup alternative      pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging,
was selected for a Superfund site.                injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or dis-
                                                  posing into the environment of a hazardous
Red Bag Waste - see definition for Medical
                                                  or toxic chemical, or extremely hazardous
Reference Dose (RfD) - The particular con-
                                                  Remedial Action - The actual construction or
centration of a chemical that is known to cause
                                                  clean-up phase of a Superfund site cleanup.
health problems. A standard that also may be
referred to as the acceptable daily intake.       Reportable Quantity (RQ) - Amount of a
                                                  hazardous or extremely hazardous sub-
Refine - To remove impurities.
                                                  stance that, if released into the environment,
Regional Response Team (RRT) - There are          must be reported to the NRC, the SERC, and
13 RRTs, one for each of 10 federal regions,      the LEPC under Section 304 of EPCRA.
plus one for Alaska, one for the Caribbean,
                                                  Residual Risk - The risk associated with pol-
and one for the Pacific Basin. Each RRT main-
                                                  lutants after the application of maximum
tains a Regional Contingency Plan and has
                                                  achievable control technology or MACT.
state and federal government representation.
EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard cochair the          Resource Recovery - The extraction of useful
RRTs. Like the NRT, RRTs are planning, poli-      materials or energy from solid waste. Such
cy, and coordinating bodies and do not            materials can include paper, glass, and metals
respond directly to pollution incidents but do    that can be reprocessed for re-use. Resource
provide assistance when requested by the fed-     recovery also is employed in pollution pre-
eral On-Scene Coordinator. RRTs also pro-         vention.
vide assistance to SERCs and LEPCs in local
                                                  Responsiveness Summary - A summary of
preparedness, planning, and training for
                                                  oral and written comments received by EPA
emergency response.
                                                  during a public comment period on key doc-
Registration - Formal listing with EPA of a       uments or actions proposed to be taken, and
new pesticide before sale or distribution. EPA    EPA’s response to those comments.
is responsible for pre-market licensing of pes-
                                                  Risk - A measure of the chance that damage
ticides on the basis of data demonstrating no
                                                  to life, health, property, or the environment
unreasonable adverse health or environmental
                                                  will occur.
effects when applied according to approved
label directions.

Risk Assessment - A process to determine           Scrubbing - A common method of reducing
the increased risk from exposure to environ-       stack air emissions; removal of impurities by
mental pollutants together with an estimate of     spraying a liquid that concentrates the impu-
the severity of impact. Risk assessments use       rities into waste.
specific chemical information plus risk factors.
                                                   Secondary Treatment - The second step tak-
Risk Communication - The process of                en by a Publicly Owned Treatment Works
exchanging information about levels or signif-     in which bacteria consume the organic parts
icance of health or environmental risk.            of the waste. This treatment usually removes
                                                   about 90% of all solids and oxygen-demand-
Risk Factor - A characteristic (e.g., race, sex,
                                                   ing substances.
age, obesity) or variable (e.g., smoking, expo-
sure) associated with increased chance of tox-     Sediment - Topsoil, sand, and minerals
ic effects. Some standard risk factors used in     washed from the land into water, usually after
general risk assessment calculations include       rain or snow melt. Sediments collecting in
average breathing rates, average weight, and       rivers, reservoirs, and harbors can destroy fish
average human life span.                           and wildlife habitat and cloud the water so
                                                   that sunlight cannot reach aquatic plants. Loss
Rodenticide - A pesticide or other agent used
                                                   of topsoil from farming, mining, or building
to kill rats and other rodents or to prevent
                                                   activities can be prevented through a variety
them from damaging food, crops, or forage.
                                                   of erosion-control techniques.

                                                   Septic tank - An underground tank to collect
Sanitary Water - Water discharged from             wastes from homes that are not connected to
restrooms, showers, food preparation facili-       a municipal sewer system. Waste goes from
ties, or other nonindustrial operations; also      the home to the tank and is decomposed by
known as “gray water.”                             bacteria. Solids and dead bacteria settle to the
                                                   bottom as sludge while the liquid portion
Scientific Support Coordinators (SSC) -            flows into the ground through drains. While
Scientific and technical advisors in coastal and   properly placed and maintained septic sys-
marine areas from the National Oceanic and         tems can effectively treat domestic waste-
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who              water, others are a major source of ground
serve as members of the federal On-Scene           water and surface water pollution.
Coordinator’s staff. Their capabilities include
contingency planning, surface/subsurface tra-      Sewer - A channel or conduit that carries
jectory forecasting and hindcasting, resource      wastewater and stormwater to a treatment
risk analysis, and liaison to other scientists.    plant or receiving waters. “Sanitary” sewers

carry household, industrial, and commercial        mercial refuse, sludge from water supply or
waste. “Storm” sewers carry runoff from rain       waste treatment plants, or air pollution con-
or snow.                                           trol facilities, and other discarded materials.

Siting - Choosing a location for a facility.       Solid Waste Management Facility - Any dis-
                                                   posal or resource recovery system; any sys-
Sludge - The residue (solids and some water)
                                                   tem, program, or facility for resource conser-
produced as a result of raw or wastewater
                                                   vation; any facility for the treatment of solid
Slurry - A pumpable mixture of solids and
                                                   Source Reduction - The design, manufacture,
                                                   purchase, or use of materials (such as prod-
Small Quantity Generator (SQG) - Persons           ucts and packaging) to reduce the amount or
or facilities that produce 220–2,200 pounds        toxicity of garbage generated. Source reduc-
per month of hazardous waste. SQGs are             tion can help reduce waste disposal and han-
required to keep more records than condi-          dling charges because the costs of recycling,
tionally exempt generators. SQGs may               municipal composting, landfilling, and com-
include automotive shops, dry cleaners, pho-       bustion are avoided. Source reduction con-
tographic developers, and a host of other          serves resources and reduces pollution.
small enterprises. SQGs comprise by far the
                                                   Source Separation - Organizing materials by
vast majority of hazardous waste generators.
                                                   type (such as paper, metal, plastic, and glass)
Smog - Dust, smoke, or chemical fumes that         so that these items can be recycled instead of
pollute the air and make hazy, unhealthy con-      thrown away. For example, many of us sepa-
ditions (literally, the word is a blend of smoke   rate these items from the rest of our house-
and fog). Automobile, truck, bus, and other        hold and office wastes. Industries also orga-
vehicle exhausts and particulates are usually      nize materials in this fashion.
trapped close to the ground, obscuring visibil-
                                                   Standard Industrial Classification Code
ity and contributing to a number of respirato-
                                                   (SIC Code) - A method of grouping indus-
ry problems.
                                                   tries with similar products or services and
Solid Waste - As defined under RCRA, any           assigning codes to these groups.
solid, semi-solid, liquid, or contained gaseous
                                                   State Emergency Response Commission
materials discarded from industrial, commer-
                                                   (SERC) - The agency appointed by the Gov-
cial, mining, or agricultural operations, and
                                                   ernor to oversee the administration of EPCRA
from community activities. Solid waste
                                                   at the state level. This commission designates
includes garbage, construction debris, com-

and appoints members to LEPCs and reviews            chemicals or muscles in synergy enhance the
emergency response plans for cities and              effectiveness of one another beyond what an
counties.                                            individual could have produced.

Surface Impoundment - Treatment, storage,
or disposal of liquid hazardous wastes in
                                                     Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) - EPA
                                                     grants of up to $50,000 for citizens’ groups to
Surface Water - All water naturally open to          obtain assistance in interpreting information
the atmosphere (rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds,    related to cleanups at Superfund sites. Grants
streams, seas, estuaries) and all springs, wells,    are used by such groups to hire technical
or other collectors directly influenced by sur-      advisors to help them understand the site-
face water.                                          related information for the duration of
                                                     response activities.
Surfactant - A detergent compound that pro-
motes lathering.                                     Ten-to-the-Minus-Sixth (10-6) - Used in risk
                                                     assessments to refer to the probability of
Suspended Solids - Solids that either float
                                                     risk. Literally means a chance of one in a mil-
on the surface or are suspended in water,
                                                     lion. Similarly, ten-to-the-minus-fifth means a
wastewater, or other liquids.
                                                     probability of one in 100,000, and so on.
Sustainable Agriculture - Environmentally
                                                     Teratogen - A substance capable of causing
friendly methods of farming that allow the pro-
                                                     birth defects.
duction of crops or livestock without damage to
the farm as an ecosystem, including effects on       Tertiary Treatment - An enhancement of
soil, water supplies, biodiversity, or other sur-    normal sewage treatment operations to pro-
rounding natural resources. The concept of sus-      vide water of potable quality using further
tainable agriculture is an “intergenerational” one   chemical and physical treatment; the highest
in which we pass on a conserved or improved          drinking water standard achieved in the U.S.
natural resource base instead of one which has
                                                     Threshold Limit Value (TLV) - The concen-
been depleted or polluted. Terms often associat-
                                                     tration of an airborne substance that a healthy
ed with farms or ranches that are self-sustaining
                                                     person can be exposed to for a 40-hour work
include “low-input,” organic, “ecological,” “bio-
                                                     week without adverse effect; a workplace
dynamic,“ and “permaculture.”
                                                     exposure standard.
Synergism - The cooperative action of two or
                                                     Tolerance - Permissible residue level for pes-
more organisms producing a greater total result
                                                     ticides in raw agricultural produce and
than the sum of their independent effects;
                                                     processed foods. Whenever a pesticide is regis-

tered for use on a food or feed crop, a toler-     defects. The quantities and exposures neces-
ance must be established. EPA establishes the      sary to cause these effects can vary widely.
tolerance levels, which are enforced by the        Many toxic substances are pollutants and
Food and Drug Administration and the               contaminants in the environment.
Department of Agriculture.
                                                   Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Proce-
Tonnage - The amount of waste that a land-         dure (TCLP) - A test designed to determine
fill accepts, usually expressed as tons per        whether a waste is hazardous or requires
month. The rate at which a landfill accepts        treatment to become less hazardous; also can
waste is limited by the landfill’s permit.         be used to monitor treatment techniques for
Total dissolved solids (TDS) - The quantity
of dissolved material in a given volume of         Toxicity Testing - Biological testing (usually
water.                                             with an invertebrate, fish, or small mammal)
                                                   to determine the adverse effects, if any, of a
Toxic Chemical - Substances that can cause
                                                   chemical, compound, or effluent.
severe illness, poisoning, birth defects, dis-
ease, or death when ingested, inhaled, or          Trade Secret - Any confidential formula, pat-
absorbed by living organisms.                      tern, process, device, information, or set of
                                                   data that is used in a business to give the
Toxic Cloud - An airborne mass of gases,
                                                   owner a competitive advantage. Such infor-
vapors, fumes, or aerosols of toxic materials.
                                                   mation may be excluded from public review.
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) - A database
                                                   Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility
of annual toxic releases from certain manufac-
                                                   (TSD) - Refers to any facility which treats,
turers compiled from EPCRA Section 313
                                                   stores, or disposes of hazardous wastes.
reports. Manufacturers must report annually
to EPA and the states the amounts of almost
350 toxic chemicals and 22 chemical cate-
                                                   Ultraviolet Rays - Radiation from the sun in
gories that they release directly to air, water,
                                                   the invisible portion of the spectrum. Some
or land, inject underground, or transfer to
                                                   UV rays (UV-A) enhance plant life and are
off-site facilities. EPA compiles these reports
                                                   useful in certain medical and dental proce-
and makes the information available to the
                                                   dures. Other UV rays (UV-B) can cause skin
public under the “Community Right-to-
                                                   cancer or other tissue damage. The ozone
Know” portion of the law.
                                                   layer in the atmosphere partly shields us from
Toxic Substance - A chemical or mixture            ultraviolet rays reaching the earth’s surface.
that can cause illness, death, disease, or birth

Underground Injection Control (UIC) - A          to the atmosphere. VOCs contribute signifi-
program under the Safe Drinking Water Act        cantly to photochemical smog production
that regulates the use of wells to pump fluids   and certain health problems.

Underground Storage Tank (UST) - A tank
                                                 Wasteload Allocation (WLA) - The portion
and any underground piping connected to
                                                 of a stream’s total assimilative capacity
the tank that has 10% or more of its volume
                                                 assigned to an individual discharger.
(including pipe volume) beneath the surface
of the ground. USTs are designed to hold         Wastewater Treatment Plant - A facility
gasoline, other petroleum products, and haz-     containing a series of tanks, screens, filters,
ardous materials.                                and other processes by which pollutants are
                                                 removed from water. Most treatments include
                                                 chlorination to attain safe drinking water
Vapor - The gas given off by substances that     standards.
are solids or liquids at ordinary atmospheric
                                                 Water Quality Standard (WQS) - The com-
pressure and temperatures.
                                                 bination of a designated use and the maxi-
Vapor Dispersion - The movement of vapor         mum concentration of a pollutant which will
clouds or plumes in the air due to wind,         protect that use for any given body of water.
gravity, spreading, and mixing.                  For example, in a trout stream, the concentra-
                                                 tion of iron should not exceed 1 mg/l.
Vapor Recovery System - A system by
which the volatile gases from gasoline are       Water Table - The boundary between the
captured instead of being released into the      saturated and unsaturated zones. Generally,
atmosphere. Recovery systems may be              the level to which water will rise in a well
required for gasoline stations in some cities    (except artesian wells).
and other non-attainment areas.
                                                 Wellhead Protection Area - A protected sur-
Vent - The connection and piping through         face and subsurface zone surrounding a well
which gases enter and exit a piece of equip-     or well field that supplies a public water sys-
ment.                                            tem and through which contaminants could
                                                 likely reach well water.
Volatile - Any substance which evaporates
quickly.                                         Wetlands - Areas that are soaked or flooded
                                                 by surface or ground water frequently
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) - Any
                                                 enough or for sufficient duration to support
organic compound which evaporates readily
                                                 plants, birds, animals, and aquatic life. Wet-

lands generally include swamps, marshes,
bogs, estuaries, and other inland and coastal
areas, and are federally protected. Wetlands    Z-list - OSHA’s Toxic and Hazardous Sub-
frequently serve as recharge/discharge areas    stances Tables (Z-1, Z-2, and Z-3) of air cont-
and are known as “nature’s kidneys” since       aminants; any material found on these tables
they help purify water. Wetlands also have      is considered hazardous.
been referred to as natural sponges that
                                                Zone of Saturation - The layer beneath the
absorb flood waters, functioning like natural
                                                surface of the land in which all openings are
tubs to collect overflow. Wetlands are impor-
                                                filled with water.
tant wildlife habitats, breeding grounds, and
nurseries because of their biodiversity. Many
endangered species as well as countless
estuarine and marine fish and shellfish, mam-
mals, waterfowl, and other migratory birds
use wetland habitat for growth, reproduction,
food, and shelter. Wetlands are among the
most fertile, natural ecosystems in the world
since they produce great volumes of food
(plant material).

Wildlife Refuge - An area designated for the
protection of wild animals, within which
hunting and fishing are either prohibited or
strictly controlled.

Wood Treatment Facility - An industrial
facility which treats lumber and other wood
products for outdoor use. The process
involves use of chromated copper arsenate
and other toxic chemicals which are regulat-
ed as hazardous materials.

Xenobiotic - A term for non-natural or man-
made substances found in the environment
(i.e., synthetics, plastics).

environmental laws
If you are interested in becoming active in       Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient
environmental, health, and community safety       Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect
issues, you will need to understand many of       public health and the environment. The goal
the following federal laws. These laws, and       of the Act was to set and achieve NAAQS in
others enacted by states, have various require-   every state by 1975. This setting of maximum
ments and are enforced by various agencies.       pollutant standards was coupled with direct-
We have presented a brief description of the      ing the states to develop state implementation
intent of each law. For more details, you         plans (SIPs) applicable to appropriate indus-
should obtain a copy from your local library,     trial sources in the state.
state library, or the relevant federal or state
                                                  The Act was amended in 1977 primarily to set
agency. Federal and state officials, community
                                                  new goals (dates) for achieving attainment of
organizations, and interest groups will help
                                                  NAAQS since many areas of the country had
you gain a working knowledge of these laws.
                                                  failed to meet the deadlines. The 1990 amend-
                                                  ments to the Clean Air Act in large part were
the clean air act (CAA)                           intended to meet unaddressed or insufficiently
42 U.S.C. s/s 7401 et seq. (1970)                 addressed problems such as acid rain, ground
                                                  level ozone, stratospheric ozone depletion,
The Clean Air Act is the comprehensive fed-
                                                  and air toxics.
eral law which regulates air emissions from
area, stationary, and mobile sources. This law
authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection

the clean water act (CWA)                        CERCLA (pronounced SERK-la) provides a
33 U.S.C. s/s 121 et seq. (1977)                 federal “Superfund” to clean up uncontrolled
                                                 or abandoned hazardous waste sites as well
The Clean Water Act is a 1977 amendment          as accidents, spills, and other emergency
to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of    releases of pollutants and contaminants into
1972, which set the basic structure for regu-    the environment. Through the Act, EPA was
lating discharges of pollutants to waters of     given power to seek out those parties responsi-
the United States. This law gave EPA the         ble for any release and assure their cooperation
authority to set effluent standards on an        in the cleanup. EPA cleans up orphan sites
industry-by-industry basis (technology-based)    when potentially responsible parties (PRPs)
and continued the requirements to set water      cannot be identified or located, or when they
quality standards for all contaminants in sur-   fail to act. Through various enforcement tools,
face waters. The CWA makes it unlawful for       EPA obtains private party cleanup through
any person to discharge any pollutant from a     orders, consent decrees, and other small par-
point source into navigable waters unless a      ty settlements. EPA also recovers costs from
permit (NPDES) is obtained under the Act.        financially viable individuals and companies
The 1977 amendments focused on toxic pol-        once a response action has been completed.
lutants. In 1987, the CWA was reauthorized
and again focused on toxic substances,           EPA is authorized to implement the Act in all
authorized citizen suit provisions, and funded   50 states and U.S. territories. Superfund site
sewage treatment plants (POTWs) under the        identification, monitoring, and response activ-
Construction Grants Program.                     ities in states are coordinated through the
                                                 state environmental protection or waste man-
The CWA provides for the delegation by           agement agencies.
EPA of many permitting, administrative, and
enforcement aspects of the law to state gov-
                                                 the emergency planning &
ernments. In states with the authority to
implement CWA programs, EPA still retains
                                                 community right-to-know
oversight responsibilities.                      act (EPCRA)
                                                 42 U.S.C. 11011 et seq. (1986)
the comprehensive                                Also known as Title III of SARA, EPCRA was
environmental response,                          enacted by Congress as the national legislation
compensation, and liability                      on community safety. This law was designed to
act (CERCLA or Superfund)                        help local communities protect public health,
                                                 safety, and the environment from chemical
42 U.S.C. s/s 9601 et seq. (1980)

To implement EPCRA, Congress required                EPA’s decision to register a pesticide is based
each state to appoint a State Emergency              in part on the risk of adverse effects on
Response Commission (SERC). The SERCs                endangered species as well as environmental
were required to divide their states into            fate (how a pesticide will effect habitat).
Emergency Planning Districts and to name a           Under FIFRA, EPA can issue emergency sus-
Local Emergency Planning Committee                   pensions of certain pesticides to cancel or
(LEPC) for each district. Broad representa-          restrict their use if an endangered species will
tion by fire fighters, health officials, govern-     be adversely affected. Under a new program,
ment and media representatives, community            EPA, FWS, and USDA are distributing hun-
groups, industrial facilities, and emergency         dreds of county bulletins which include habi-
managers ensures that all necessary elements         tat maps, pesticide use limitations, and other
of the planning process are represented.             actions required to protect listed species.

                                                     In addition, we are enforcing regulations under
the endangered species act                           various treaties, including the Convention on
7 U.S.C. 136; 16 U.S.C. 460 et seq. (1973)           International Trade in Endangered Species of
                                                     Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The U.S. and
The Endangered Species Act provides a pro-
                                                     70 other nations have established procedures
gram for the conservation of threatened and
                                                     to regulate the import and export of imperiled
endangered plants and animals and the habi-
                                                     species and their habitat. The Fish and Wildlife
tats in which they are found. The U.S. Fish
                                                     Service works with U.S. Customs agents to stop
and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Depart-
                                                     the illegal trade of species, including the Black
ment of Interior maintains the list of 632
                                                     Rhino, African elephants, tropical birds and
endangered species (326 are plants) and 190
                                                     fish, orchids, and various corals.
threatened species (78 are plants). Species
include birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mam-
mals, crustaceans, flowers, grasses, and trees.      the federal insecticide,
Anyone can petition FWS to include a species         fungicide and rodenticide
on this list or to prevent some activity, such       act (FIFRA)
as logging, mining, or dam building. The law         7 U.S.C. s/s 135 et seq. (1972)
prohibits any action, administrative or real,
that results in a “taking” of a listed species, or   The primary focus of FIFRA was to provide
adversely affects habitat. Likewise, import,         federal control of pesticide distribution, sale,
export, interstate, and foreign commerce of          and use. EPA was given authority under
listed species are all prohibited.                   FIFRA not only to study the consequences of

pesticide usage but also to require users           the national environmental
(farmers, utility companies, and others) to
                                                    policy act (NEPA)
register when purchasing pesticides. Through
                                                    42 U.S.C. s/s 4321 et seq. (1969)
later amendments to the law, users also must
take exams for certification as applicators of      The National Environmental Policy Act was
pesticides. All pesticides used in the U.S. must    one of the first laws ever written that estab-
be registered (licensed) by EPA. Registration       lishes the broad national framework for pro-
assures that pesticides will be properly labeled    tecting our environment. NEPA’s basic policy
and that, if used in accordance with specifica-     is to assure that all branches of government give
tions, will not cause unreasonable harm to the      proper consideration to the environment prior
environment.                                        to undertaking any major federal action which
                                                    significantly affects the environment. NEPA
the (federal) freedom of                            requirements are invoked when airports, build-
information act (FOIA)                              ings, military complexes, highways, parkland
                                                    purchases, and other such federal activities are
U.S.C. s/s 552 (1966)
                                                    proposed. Environmental Assessments (EAs)
The Freedom of Information Act provides             and Environmental Impact Statements
specifically that “any person” can make             (EISs), which are assessments of the likelihood
requests for government information. Citizens       of impacts from alternative courses of action,
who make requests are not required to identify      are required from all federal agencies and are
themselves or explain why they want the infor-      the most visible NEPA requirements.
mation they have requested. The position of
Congress in passing FOIA was that the work-         the occupational
ings of government are “for and by the people”
                                                    safety and health act
and that the benefits of government informa-
                                                    29 U.S.C. 61 et seq. (1970)
tion should be made available to everyone.
                                                    Congress passed the Occupational and Safety
All branches of the federal government must
                                                    Health Act to ensure worker and workplace
adhere to the provisions of FOIA with certain
                                                    safety. Their goal was to make sure employers
restrictions for work in progress (early drafts),
                                                    provide their workers a place of employment
enforcement confidential information, classified
                                                    free from recognized hazards to safety and
documents, and national security information.
                                                    health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals,
                                                    excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat

or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. In      the amount of pollution produced through
order to establish standards for workplace        cost-effective changes in production, operation,
health and safety, the Act also created the       and raw materials use. Opportunities for
National Institute for Occupational Safety and    source reduction are often not realized
Health (NIOSH) as the research institution        because existing regulations, and the industrial
for the Occupational Safety and Health            resources required for compliance, focus on
Administration (OSHA). OSHA is a division         treatment and disposal. Source reduction is
of the U.S. Department of Labor which over-       fundamentally different and more desirable
sees the administration of the Act and            than waste management or pollution control.
enforces federal standards in all 50 states.      Pollution prevention also includes other
                                                  practices that increase efficiency in the use of
the oil pollution act of 1990                     energy, water, or other natural resources, and
                                                  protect our resource base through conserva-
33 U.S.C. Section 2702 to 2761
                                                  tion. Practices include recycling, source
The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 stream-       reduction, and sustainable agriculture.
lined and strengthened EPA’s ability to prevent
and respond to catastrophic oil spills. A trust   the resource conservation
fund financed by a tax on oil is available to
                                                  and recovery act (RCRA)
clean up spills when the responsible party is
                                                  42 U.S.C. s/s 321 et seq. (1976)
incapable or unwilling to do so. The OPA
requires oil storage facilities and vessels to    RCRA (pronounced “rick-rah”) gave EPA the
submit to the federal government response         authority to control hazardous waste from
plans detailing how they will respond to large    “cradle-to-grave.” This includes the genera-
discharges. EPA has published regulations for     tion, transportation, treatment, storage, and
aboveground storage facilities; the Coast         disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also set
Guard has done so for oil tankers. The OPA        forth a framework for the management of
also requires the development of Area Contin-     non-hazardous solid wastes.
gency Plans to prepare and plan for oil spill
response on a regional scale.                     The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled EPA
                                                  to address environmental problems that
                                                  could result from underground tanks storing
the pollution prevention act                      petroleum and other hazardous substances.
42 U.S.C. 13101 and 13102, s/s 6602 et            RCRA focuses only on active and future facili-
seq. (1990)                                       ties and does not address abandoned or his-
The Pollution Prevention Act focused industry,    torical sites (see CERCLA).
government, and public attention on reducing

HSWA (pronounced “hiss-wa”) - The federal         country. Several site-specific amendments,
Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments.             definitions, clarifications, and technical
The 1984 amendments to RCRA which                 requirements were added to the legislation,
required phasing out land disposal of haz-        including additional enforcement authorities.
ardous waste. Some of the other mandates of
                                                  Title III of SARA also authorized the Emer-
this strict law include increased enforcement
                                                  gency Planning and Community Right-to-
authority for EPA, more stringent hazardous
                                                  Know Act (EPCRA).
waste management standards, and a compre-
hensive underground storage tank program.
                                                  the toxic substances
the safe drinking water act                       control act (TSCA)
(SDWA)                                            15 U.S.C. s/s 2601 et seq. (1976)
43 U.S.C. s/s 300f et seq. (1974)                 The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976
                                                  was enacted by Congress to test, regulate, and
The Safe Drinking Water Act was established
                                                  screen all chemicals produced or imported
to protect the quality of drinking water in the
                                                  into the U.S. Many thousands of chemicals
U.S. This law focuses on all waters actually or
                                                  and their compounds are developed each year
potentially designated for drinking use,
                                                  with unknown toxic or dangerous characteris-
whether from above ground or underground
                                                  tics. To prevent tragic consequences, TSCA
sources. The Act authorized EPA to establish
                                                  requires that any chemical that reaches the
safe standards of purity and required all own-
                                                  consumer market place be tested for possible
ers or operators of public water systems to
                                                  toxic effects prior to commercial manufacture.
comply with primary (health-related) stan-
dards. State governments, which assume this       Any existing chemical that poses health and
power from EPA, also encourage attainment         environmental hazards is tracked and report-
of secondary standards (nuisance-related).        ed under TSCA. Procedures also are autho-
                                                  rized for corrective action under TSCA in cas-
the superfund amendments                          es of cleanup of toxic materials contamina-
and reauthorization act                           tion. TSCA supplements other federal
                                                  statutes, including the Clean Air Act and the
                                                  Toxic Release Inventory under EPCRA.
42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq. (1986)

The Superfund Amendments and Reautho-
rization Act of 1986 reauthorized CERCLA
to continue cleanup activities around the

government agencies
Throughout this handbook we have referred          Responsible for: working with state and local
to organizations, agencies, and offices to con-    governments to control and prevent pollution
tact for further information. The following is     in areas of solid and hazardous waste, pesti-
a list of several of those organizations and       cides, water, air, drinking water, and toxic
agencies dealing with health and environ-          and radioactive substances. When contacting
mental protection. For each citation, a cur-       EPA, we suggest starting with your Regional
rent address and phone number are provided,        Office. If the Regional Office is unable to
as well as a brief notation of responsibilities    assist you, your questions may be directed to
and/or interests of the group. This list is pro-                      EPA Headquarters in
vided for quick reference when specific issues                             Washington, DC.
arise but is by no means complete.

federal agencies for health &
environmental protection
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
401 M Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 260-2080
Public Information Center, open 9 AM
to 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday

U.S. EPA regional offices                        Region 6
                                                 U.S. EPA (Arkansas, Louisiana,
Region 1                                         New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas)
U.S. EPA (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine,     1445 Ross Avenue
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)            Dallas, TX 75202
JFK Federal Building                             214/665-6444
1 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02203                                 Region 7
617/565-3420                                     U.S. EPA (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)
                                                 726 Minnesota Avenue
Region 2                                         Kansas City, KS 66401
U.S. EPA (New Jersey, New York, Puerto           913/551-7000
Rico, Virgin Islands)
290 Broadway                                     Region 8
New York, NY 10007-1866                          U.S. EPA (Colorado, Montana, North
212/637-3662                                     Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming)
                                                 999 18th Street
Region 3                                         Denver, CO 80202-2466
U.S. EPA (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania,      303/293-1603
Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia)
841 Chestnut Building                            Region 9
Philadelphia, PA 19107                           U.S. EPA (Arizona, California, Hawaii,
1-800/438-2474                                   Nevada, Guam, American Samoa)
                                                 75 Hawthorne Street
Region 4                                         San Francisco, CA 94105
U.S. EPA (Alabama, Florida, Georgia,             415/744-1305
Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina,
South Carolina, Tennessee)                       Region 10
345 Courtland Street, NE                         U.S. EPA (Idaho, Washington, Oregon,
Atlanta, GA 30365                                Alaska)
                                                 1200 Sixth Avenue
                                                 Seattle, WA 98101
Region 5                                         206/553-1200
U.S. EPA (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin)
77 West Jackson
Chicago, IL 60604

U.S. department of justice (DOJ)                    U.S. coast guard
10th and Constitution Ave., N.W.                    2100 2nd St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530                              Washington, D.C. 20593
202/514-2007                                        202/267-1587

Responsible for: all enforcement actions that       Responsible for: port safety, maritime law
must be filed in court, and organizing eviden-      enforcement, boating safety, search and res-
tiary and other documents to prepare for and        cue, aids to navigation, merchant marine safe-
conduct litigation. Litigation includes the pro-    ty, and environmental protection. The Coast
tection, use, and development of the nation’s       Guards works with EPA on marine protection
natural resources and public lands, wildlife        programs, including regulating the transporta-
protection, Indian rights and claims, cleanup       tion of hazardous cargoes, oil pollution
of hazardous waste sites, acquisition of private    cleanup, and marine salvage.
property for federal use, and defense of envi-
ronmental challenges to government programs
                                                    federal emergency manage-
and activities. DOJ’s Environment and Natural
Resources Division is the nation’s environmen-
                                                    ment agency (FEMA)
tal lawyer and the largest environmental law        P.O. Box 70274
firm in the country.                                Washington, D.C. 20024
U.S. department of                                  Responsible for: providing a federal focus on
transportation (DOT)                                emergency management in the United States.
400 7th Street, S.W.                                This includes natural disasters such as earth-
Washington, D.C. 20590                              quakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, tech-
202/366-4570                                        nological calamities, and national security crises.

Responsible for: setting standards for safety and
                                                    U.S. geological survey (USGS)
providing funds to plan, construct and operate
transportation systems by rail, highway, air, or    12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
water and providing law enforcement and traf-       Mail Stop 119
fic management services for the nation’s air-       Reston, VA 22092
space and waterways. DOT also regulates man-        703/648-4460
ufacturers of containers and transporters of
                                                    Responsible for: analyzing the quantity and
hazardous materials.
                                                    quality of surface and ground water and pre-

cipitation, and conducting research in geology    health. Programs include health studies, sub-
and hydrology. Programs include extensive         stance-specific research, and maintaining vari-
topographic and land-use mapping, energy          ous disease registries.
and mineral resource assessments, evaluations
of natural disasters, and space exploration.
                                                  U.S. department of labor
U.S. department of health                         Occupational Safety and Health
                                                  Administration (OSHA)
& human services:
                                                  200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
National Institute for Occupational Safety        Washington, D.C. 20210
and Health (NIOSH)                                202/219-8151
1600 Clifton Road, N.E.,                          Responsible for: issuing standards and rules for
Building 1, Room 3007
                                                  safe and healthful working conditions, tools,
Atlanta, GA 30333
1-800/356-4674                                    equipment, facilities, and processes. Employ-
                                                  ers have the general duty of providing their
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention        workers a place of employment free from rec-
(CDC)                                             ognized hazards to safety and health, and
1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Building 1               must comply with OSHA standards. OSHA
Atlanta, GA 30333                                 conducts workplace inspections to assure
404/639-2888                                      standards are followed.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease           National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Registry (ATSDR)                                  Administration (NOAA)
1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Building 1               14th and Constitution Ave., N.W., Rm 6013
Atlanta, GA 30333                                 Washington, D.C. 20230
404/639-2888                                      202/482-6090

NIOSH provides research and evaluation            Responsible for: environmental satellite and
studies of occupational injuries and hazardous    data information, oceanic and atmospheric
substances in the workplace. These criteria are   research, sustainable development, coastal
used by OSHA for setting workplace safety         management programs, cleanup of oil spills,
standards. The CDC tracks and evaluates inci-     the National Weather Service, and the
dence of disease and performs epidemiological     National Marine Fisheries Service.
studies. ATSDR conducts research focused on
toxic substances and their effects on public

EPA            information numbers
In many situations, a phone call to EPA can      hotlines listed by topic
provide you with the information you need to
start working with environmental issues.         Acid Rain
Below is a list of some of the most useful EPA   (617) 674-7377
telephone numbers. Although numbers              Air Control Technology Assistance Center
change periodically, these were correct at the   (919) 541-0800
time of printing. All telephone numbers are in
the Eastern Standard Time Zone.                  Air Risk Hotline
                                                 (919) 541-0888

general U.S.EPA numbers                          Appropriate Technology (energy: DOE)
Public Information Center                        (800) 428-2525
(202) 260-2080                                   Asbestos Ombudsman
(202) 260-7751                                   (800) 368-5888
ORD Research Information (Cincinnati)            Drinking Water
(513) 569-7562                                   (800) 426-4791
National Center for Environmental                Emergency Planning & Community
Publications & Information (Cincinnati)          Right-to-Know
(513) 489-8190                                   (800) 535-0202

                                                 Environmental Education
                                                 (202) 260-4962

Environmental Justice                         RCRA, Superfund, and Underground
(800) 962-6215                                Storage Tanks
                                              (800) 424-9346
Green Lights/Energy Star Programs
(202) 775-6650                                Small Business
                                              (800) 368-5888
Ground Water
(202) 260-7786                                Solid Waste Information Clearinghouse
                                              (800) 677-9424
Hazardous Waste Ombudsman
(800) 262-7937                                Storm Water, NPDES Permitting
                                              (703) 821-4823
Indoor Air
(800) 438-4318                                Stratospheric Ozone Protection (CFCs)
                                              (800) 296-1996
National Response Center (U.S. Coast Guard)
(800) 424-8802                                Toxic Substances & Asbestos Information
                                              (202) 554-1404
Pesticides (health effects, spills)
(800) 858-7378                                Transporting Hazardous Materials
Pollution Prevention Info. Exchange System
                                              (800) 752-6367
(703) 821-4800
                                              Waste Water
Pollution Prevention Clearinghouse
                                              (800) 624-8301
(202) 260-1023
                                              (800) 832-7828
(800) 767-7236
we want your comments!

Additional copies of this Guide may be   This booklet is intended to help you address
obtained from:                           environmental issues that interest you. Help
                                         us do a better job by letting us know what
                                         information you need. Questions or sugges-
Public Information Center (3404)
                                         tions for future revisions of this Guide can be
401 M Street, SW
                                         sent to the Project Manager, mail code
Washington, D.C. 20460
                                         (2201A), or call (202) 564-2618.
(202) 260-7751

        = GLOSSARY =
A   B   C    D   E   F   G   H

I   J   K    L   M N O       P

Q   R    S   T   U   V W X

Y   Z

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