EVA Construction Rules In Effect; More Sewer/Water Stimulus Funds Coming?

EPA Continues Aggressive Measures: OSHA Could Reassert Its Influence
By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2

EFV installation will kick up some dust, literally, which brings up the topic of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) possible revision of its Clean Air standard for particular matter (PM) which affects construction where dirt and soil are dislodged. Beth Hassett-Sipple, an EPA spokeswoman, says the agency currently expects to publish a proposed rule revising the PM standard in November 2010 and a final rule the next summer. The current PM standard is twofold: there is a standard for fine particles (PM 2.5) and another for coarse particles (PM 10). In the later case, the EPA revoked its annual coarse standard in 2006 but kept its 24-hour PM10 standard. It also made changes in some of the elements in the fine PM2.5 standard in 2006, although both the 24-hour and annual standards were retained. Both these standards are now up for review, and the chatter in the business community is that the EPA may tighten up the PM10 standard, which could have an impact on construction companies, who are affected when a state has to draw up what is called a State Implementation Plan showing the EPA how it will meet any new standard. The SIP could contain measures affecting just some or all activities where PM10 (or PM2.5) particles are thrown up into the atmosphere whether from a smokestack or a "dig." An interesting sidelight -- or a troubling one -- to any new EPA PM 2.5/10 standard is that the agency does not have to consider the costs to any sector when establishing a new standard.

The EPA was relatively active under the George W. Bush administration and keeps on percolating under the Barack Obama administration. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on the other hand, essentially disappeared during the eight years of the Bush reign and has been slow to re-emerge. OSHA still does not have an administrator a year after Obama gained the White House. It remains a backwater. However, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (OSHA is part of the Labor Department) says OSHA will finally, after years of delay, propose a first-time standard for silica dislodged during construction in the summer of 2010. Currently, OSHA has a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica which underground construction companies have to adhere to. But because it is based on particle-counting technology, it is considered obsolete. OSHA will propose replacing that PEL with a broader silica standard which will include an updated PEL plus a bevy of other requirements which come along with any standard, such as employee training, medical monitoring, recordkeeping and the like. Compliance won't be cheap.

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