Saturday, November 9, 2013

Levy scrapped to stop asbestos waste being dropped in city streets

Deadly asbestos dust busters
Health inspectors contain an asbestos dump in Wattle Lane, Untimo.  
THE state government will scrap the waste levy on asbestos from home renovations sent to tips in an effort to stop the potentially deadly material being dumped on city streets. 

Environment Minister Robyn Parker will also ­announce today that, under the $3 million trial scheme, the Environmental Protection Authority will pay $50 towards the cost of removing and transporting asbestos to tips and landfill sites.

Asbestos dumping has ­become a major problem across the state, despite new laws that threaten imprisonment instead of a fine.

Dumpers are trying to avoid the waste levy, which is charged at tips and landfill sites and costs $107.80 per tonne in Sydney and $53.70 a tonne in regional NSW.

One of the most infamous asbestos dumpings was a tip truck opening its rear gate and depositing two tonnes outside a pair of daycare centres on Wattle Lane at Ultimo in inner Sydney last December which took two days and cost $13,000 to clear up.
The asbestos waste levy will be scrapped over a 12-month trial in at least 10 local government areas, which have yet to be decided. The scheme will be expanded if successful.

Ms Parker said the EPA would waive the asbestos levy to a maximum of 6500 tonnes over the 12 months, and the $50 contribution per tonne ­towards the cost and removal of asbestos would also be capped at 6500 tonnes.

"The scheme is open to residents for small residential amounts of asbestos and licensed asbestos removalists on behalf of a resident for larger amounts,'' a spokesman for Ms Parker said. "Unlicensed removalists are ineligible.''

The spokesman said the scheme was a trial in which methods of disposal of asbestos would be tested and so would not include all landfills.

The government is seeking expressions of interest from local councils.

EPA officers sickened by fumes at South L.A. oil field

The inspectors suffered sore throats and headaches during a visit to Allenco Energy Co. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) urges a temporary shutdown pending an investigation.

Boxer urges suspension of operations at oil field
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) talks with residents in University Park on Friday. She urged Allenco to suspend operations immediately pending completion of an EPA investigation. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / November 8, 2013)
concerns in South L.A.
Federal environmental officers were sickened by toxic vapors as they toured a south Los Angeles urban oil field whose emissions are blamed by neighbors for a variety of ailments, an EPA official said Friday.

Jared Blumenfeld, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, was among those stricken by the fumes during the recent tour of the Allenco Energy Co. site in University Park, about a half-mile north of USC.

"I've been to oil and gas production facilities throughout the region, but I've never had an experience like that before," Bumenfeld said. "We suffered sore throats, coughing and severe headaches that lingered for hours."
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Friday urged Allenco to suspend operations immediately pending completion of an EPA investigation, which was prompted by hundreds of complaints from neighbors who blame the noxious odors for persistent respiratory ailments, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds.

Boxer said EPA investigators who toured the site Oct. 24 "told me that they saw a shoddy operation. They saw oil on the ground. They saw pipes held up by 2-by-4s. This cannot go on."

The EPA is investigating whether the Allenco operation is in compliance with federal clean air and water laws. The site, owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and leased to Allenco, is surrounded by low-income housing and schools, including the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary's College.

Tensions have been on the rise in the community since 2010, when Allenco boosted production at its wells by more than 400%. Neighbors complained to the South Coast Air Quality Management District 251 times over the next three years. The agency responded by issuing 15 citations against Allenco for foul odors and equipment problems.

However, frustrations over the air district's inability to say whether fumes from the oil field are hazardous has triggered the EPA investigation and others by the Los Angeles County Department of Health, the Los Angeles city attorney's office and the archdiocese.

Investigators hope to determine the cause of the ailments and scrutinize the validity of Allenco's operating permits, as well as the archdiocese's lease agreements with the company.

"This is an exceptionally important moment for this community," said Nancy H. Ibrahim, executive director at Esperanza Community Housing Corp., a nonprofit affordable housing developer in the area. "The AQMD has been complicit in what has become a community health emergency by apparently requiring a mass body count before we get their full attention — and an appropriate response."

Boxer, who said she learned of the University Park illnesses from the Los Angeles Times, said she called upon the archdiocese to act.

"The Catholic Church is a strong advocate for children," Boxer said. "Well, if you love children, you don't expose children to dangerous things."

Allenco was unavailable for comment. Monica Valencia, an archdiocese spokeswoman, said, "We take the residents' concerns seriously. We are examining our lease with Allenco to ensure their operations are in compliance with our agreement. We continue to work with all involved parties to see that health standards are being met at the site."

After analyzing three air samples collected in 2011, the district concluded that the odors posed no health risks. Two weeks ago, Barry Wallerstein, the agency's executive director, tried to assure a crowd at a town hall meeting that recent air samples taken at Allenco also showed that the air was safe to breathe.

A new round of air samples, however, has detected "brief episodes of elevated hydrocarbon levels around the facility," air district spokesman Sam Atwood said. "We will continue to conduct air monitoring until we can figure out what's causing them."

The facility has a history of violations. For example, an air sample taken from a wastewater tank discharge line Aug. 29, 2011, detected levels of hydrocarbons from volatile petroleum products that were 10,000 times higher than ambient levels, air quality district lab reports show. Although some hydrocarbons are toxic, the analyses did not identify the hydrocarbons in the samples or determine how long they had been leaking.
EPA and county health investigators suspect that constant exposure to extremely low levels of pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide, a colorless flammable gas that occurs naturally in petroleum and natural gas, is contributing to the illnesses reported by neighbors.

Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the county health department, said the symptoms described by neighbors "are not inconsistent with what we would expect to see after exposure to low levels of hydrocarbons. So, while the detectable concentrations of hazardous pollution may be below regulatory standards, they are nonetheless making people sick."

He said his agency will work to develop an alternative set of standards to cover conditions like those in University Park.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Asbestos Landfill a Concern for Area Residents

LA Testing provides environmental and air testing services to ensure asbestos found in California does not cause health concerns for area residents.

A recent article highlighted the fact that once asbestos has been removed from a building the health concerns caused by the asbestos do not just go away.  A California family in Vacaville is concerned about their health because of asbestos that is being dumped in a nearby landfill.

The family purchased their home before the landfill was opened and according to the article have complained on several occasions to the landfill operators about unpleasant smells.  According to the homeowners these complaints have not been acknowledged which leads them to be even more concerned about the asbestos waste at the landfill.

The company that runs the landfill says the asbestos waste is specially packaged and inspected before being buried separately in an isolated area.  Asbestos from building materials and other waste is heavily regulated.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), “When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.”  This fact has lead to stringent regulations for its removal and disposal.

LA Testing, an affiliate of EMSL Analytical and a leading provider of environmental testing services, has extensive experience providing asbestos testing solutions to ensure workers and residents are protected.  “Scientific studies have proven that breathing asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and respiratory diseases,” reported Ben Sublasky, National Director of Client Services for LA Testing and EMSL Analytical.   “The Department of Toxic Substances (DTSC) classifies asbestos-containing material as hazardous if it is friable and contains 1% or more of asbestos.  There are specific regulations regarding its disposal to help protect workers, residents and the environment.”

To learn more about asbestos, mold or other environmental testing services please visit, email or call (800) 755-1794.

About LA Testing and EMSL Analytical, Inc.

LA Testing and EMSL Analytical are providers of environmental testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The companies have an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nike Builds Concept Store from Trash

Nike's concept store in Shanghai was built completely out of trash and recylced materials by Miniwiz Sustainable Development. Photo: Miniwiz Sustainable Development

Nike’s concept store in Shanghai was built completely out of trash and recylced materials by Miniwiz Sustainable Development. Photo: Miniwiz Sustainable Development
When sports and athletic apparel retail giant Nike opened its concept store in China earlier this year, it took the idea of recycling to a whole new level. The Shanghai store, which was designed by the Taiwan-based architectural firm Miniwiz Sustainable Development, is called the Nike X158 Hyper Nature — and it’s made completely out of trash.
With no virgin materials to be found, the building has gained acclaim for its forward-thinking approach to construction. In addition to using all recycled materials, the construction was done without the use of any glue — which means the materials used to build the facility can all be re-recycled down the line.
Among the items used to construct the modern, urban building are:
  • More than 50,000 used CDs and DVDs
  • More than 5,000 drink cans
  • 2,000 post-consumer recycled water bottles, which were used to make nearly 7,000 feet of tension cables
In addition, the ceiling — which is made of the recycled compact discs and DVDs — is reinforced with a natural organic material called Rice Husk Si02.
Since forming in 2006, Miniwiz has built its reputation as a leader in creating such forward-thinking models of sustainability. Its products include PolliBricks, a wall system made completely of recycled PET bottles, and Natrilon, a fiber made from 100 percent recycled PET.
The company also makes iPhone cases, called Re-Cases, out of 100 percent trash products, and also designed the EcoARK, a nine-story building in Taipei, Taiwan, made from more than 1.5 million plastic bottles. The builiding features natural ventilation, solar power and even an exterior waterfall.

Popcorn ceiling, it probably contains asbestos

Popcorn ceiling texture close up
A popcorn ceiling, also known as cottage cheese ceiling or more accurately a Stucco ceiling, is a term for a spray-on or paint-on ceiling treatment used from the late 1950s into the 1980s in American residential construction. It was the standard for bedroom and residential hallway ceilings for its bright, white appearance, noise reduction qualities and ability to hide imperfections, while kitchen and living rooms ceilings would normally be finished in smoother skip-trowel or orange peel texture for their higher durability and ease of cleaning.
In early formulations it often contained white asbestos fibers. When asbestos was banned in ceiling treatments by the Clean Air Act of 1978 in the United States,[1] popcorn ceilings fell out of favor in much of the country. However, in order to minimize economic hardship to suppliers and installers, existing inventories of asbestos-bearing texturing materials were exempt from the ban, so it is possible to find asbestos in popcorn ceilings that were applied through the 1980s. After the ban, popcorn ceiling materials were created using a paper-based or Styrofoam product to create the texture, rather than asbestos. Textured ceilings remain common in residential construction in the Upper Midwest of the United States.
Although the process is messy, popcorn texturing can be easily removed by spraying it with water to soften it, then scraping the material off with a large scraping trowel or putty knife.[2] As the texturing may have been applied before the ban on asbestos, its removal should only be done by a licensed professional or after testing of a sample by a qualified laboratory has ruled out asbestos content.

  1. Jump up ^ Asbestos in Your Home at
  2. Jump up ^ How to Remove a Popcorn Textured Ceiling

Best Practices For Going Green With Your Heating And Cooling

going green with your heating and coolingNow is the time to go green. If you were ever wondering if it was worth your time, money, and thought, then you should know that the answer is simple. Yes. Yes, you should be adjusting your life to go green in as many ways as possible. The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are currently higher than they have ever been at any point in human history – and anything you can do to lower your impact on the environment is good. Besides the obvious environmental incentives, there are other good reasons to go green. It often ends up saving you money, because energy is expensive. And, if you are smart with the way you make your green changes, you will likely end up saving yourself time, too.
So how should you go green? There are a lot of ways – seemingly endless ways, in fact. But with summer coming up, you might be interested in lowering your cooling costs. You can go green in the way you heat and cool your house, and you can do it with minimal efforts. It will be worth all of your time and money in the end. Below are some best practices for going green with your heating and cooling. They are a great way to get started living your environmentally minded life.

#1 – Set your thermostat to work with timers. Your home does not need to be kept at the same temperature at all times during the day. In the summer, you obviously want to cool your home. However, you do not need to keep it cool when you are not at home. So set up a timer to control your thermostat so that it will turn off the air conditioning when you leave your house every day for the office. In the winter, you want to heat your home, but again, you don’t need it to be as warm during the day as it is in the evening. And since you will sleep better at lower temperatures, you should also program the thermostat to drop the temperature in your home at bedtime.

#2 – Invest in new, energy efficient appliances. You might love your vintage shoes or your used couch, but that does not mean you should be using an old air conditioning system. These old air conditioners use a ton of excess energy as compared with current air conditioners. They also do not do as good of a job cooling your apartment or room. So spend the time doing some research into the current market of air conditioners, properly dispose of your old one, and go to the store and buy something energy efficient for cooling your home.  You will quickly see a drop in your electricity bills.

#3 – Clean all of your filters! This is a very easy step that every single person should take. It only uses a few minutes of your time, it costs nothing, and it makes a big difference. When was the last time you cleaned the filters in your heating and cooling systems? You should be doing it every month at least. The more dust that gets caught in your filters, the less air can pass through them. This means you need to crank up the air conditioning or the heat to overcompensate. It also means that you are blowing air through the dust, and therefore bringing the dust into your home. So clean all of the filters – it’s good for energy efficiency and air quality both.

#4 – Try geothermal energy. Our planet is overflowing with sources of unlimited energy, we just have to know how to tap into them. Deep inside the earth there is a lot of steam and hot water that can be used to heat and cool your home. According to, “Geothermal homes use heat pumps to take advantage of the constant temperature of geothermal wells under the ground. The heat pump can cool a house in the summer and warm it during the winter. Heat pumps have a fluid inside, which could be water or a refrigerant. When it is cold outside, the fluid absorbs Earth’s heat and brings it inside to warm the air. In the summertime, the heat exchange works in reverse, cooling the house.”

#5 – Install solar panels. As solar panels get more popular, they also get much more affordable. Solar panels are an excellent way to pump energy into your home and the cost of installation is usually eventually offset by energy savings. Have a professional solar panel expert come to your home to evaluate whether solar panels are a good option for you.

Matt Zajechowski enjoys writing about green heating and cooling for Controlled Comfort Heating & Cooling.  Matt enjoys golfing and spending his free time relaxing with his two cats.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles