Thursday, January 29, 2009

CH2M Hill Presents "Winston Farm - Public Forum"

Saugerties High School Auditorium tonight Thursday, January 29, 2009, @ 6:45pm - 9:00pm --- CH2M Hill will be presenting a "High Technology Development Community Input & Evaluation" public forum to discuss possible development plans of the Winston Farm.

Here are some recent violations or actions against CH2M Hill:

Federal Contractor Misconduct Database

DOE Cites CH2M Hill Hanford Group for Price-Anderson Violations

Hanford: Is Fast Cleanup Endangering Workers?



josepha said...

I for one am always uneasy when the county gets involved with anything in Saugerties. Their idea of "planning" is to expand Saugerties highway system and throw in some more traffic lights. The state's even worse -- remember the Gov. helicoptering in to welcome the ill-fated candle factory?
The fact is, Saugerties is doing well, thank you, without outside "help" and the Ponzi schemers promising "jobs" and a "tax base," with all those bogus charts. Saugerties is one of the most diversified communities in the country -- compare us to one-horse towns or big business clusters or the usual suburban monotone -- our mix is amazing. R&d, engineering, software devlp.,manufacturing, the arts, construction, mom and pop retail, franchise, farms, on and on.
The core is small business -- the model for the future. And, by the way, the only thing keeping the U.S. chugging -- eighty percent of new jobs were created by small businesses: the big guys were too busy doctoring their books.
I'd suggest the Town Board steer our future in the direction of "small" -- how about a symposium with local businesses, finding out what they need, instead of inviting global operatives like Hill, who clearly relish pitting town against town in a taxpayer-financed bidding war?
One of the best economic moves the Town Board has made -- smack in the midst of an historic "miracle" housing boom -- was to put a moratorium on building.
Wow, many boo-hoos from many corners about that, BUT thanks to the Town Board's prescience, Saugerties is not the catastrophe it would be.
That's the kind of hard, visionary steering we need.
The worst mischief is caused by County officials with fat paychecks who just don't have much to do to justify them. So we have Planning guys swirling around "projections" that have proven, over and over, to be dead-wrong. And we have the dinosaurs in the Economics boards still talking the line that "growth" is always good, big is always better.
Last night at the meeting, many of us felt the heat to say yes to the vaguest of promises.
We might as well just hand over the goods to Madoff.

WhatsTheBigIdea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana Bryan said...


information from the Dept. of Energy webpage; and others
from Diana Bryan Saugerties resident 246-3182

Questions for CH2M Hill

1. Since you don't adhere to federal rules and regulations can we expect you or your clients to do the same here in Saugerties?

2.We see at least 40 violations of OSHA safety rules toward your employees can we expect the same when you hire local Saugertiesians?

3.Your track record for taking care of your employees and the environment hasn't been good, why should we trust you?

Hanford: Is Fast Cleanup Endangering Workers
Sep 23, 2003 12:00 AM, By Sandy Smith

A new report released by the Government Accountability Project documents dozens of recent exposures to toxic chemical vapors requiring medical attention, and what the study authors feel is the failure of the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and contractors to protect worker health and safety at the Hanford nuclear waste tank farm in Richland, Wash.

According to "Knowing Endangerment: Worker Exposure to Toxic Vapors at the Hanford Tank Farms," worker exposures to chemical vapors from Hanford's high level waste tanks have skyrocketed, with 45 documented exposure events involving over 67 tank farm workers requiring medical attention between January 2002 and August 2003. In 1997, Battelle's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) stated in a draft report that the risk of contracting cancer from even a single exposure to these chemical vapors could be as high as 1.6 in 10.

Hanford, part of the Manhattan Project, made plutonium for nuclear weapons. It has been operated under contract by private companies over the years. Fifty-four million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste is stored at Hanford in 177 underground tanks. The tanks are arranged into eighteen farms, known as "tank farms,"and managed primarily by DOE cleanup contractor CH2M-Hill Hanford. The high level waste in the tanks forms noxious vapors, which must vent to the atmosphere in order to prevent pressure buildup and possible explosion or tank rupture.

DOE officials dispute that the accelerated cleanup schedule has anything to do with increased worker claims of exposure. They say new regulations account for the higher number of exposures requiring medical attention.

"Before, when people smelled vapors, unless there were symptoms, they were not taken to a hospital," Energy Department spokesman Robert Barr told the Associated Press. "Now, workers can see a doctor for peace of mind even if they have no symptoms."

An official for CH2M-Hill Hanford Group said none of the exposures required the workers to be hospitalized.

DOE officials announced recently that CH2M-Hill had removed most of the liquid radioactive waste stored in 29 underground tanks. Only six tanks remain, and they will be emptied by April 2004, said Roy Schepens, manager of the DOE's Office of River Protection in Richland, Wash. The radioactive liquid was pumped out of single-walled tanks and transferred into double-walled tanks.

The Government Accountability Project claims that between 1987 and 1992, it took only 16 vapor releases requiring medical attention to trigger large scale investigations by the DOE, the then tank farm contractor Westinghouse, the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, the DOE's Office of Inspector General, and, upon invitation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The investigations resulted in widespread changes onsite.

Now, over a decade later, the rate of worker exposure to chemical vapors has increased 750 percent, and over 1200 chemicals have been documented in the vapors contained in the tank headspaces.

The report claims workers exposed to the tank vapors have health effects ranging from nosebleeds, persistent headaches, tearing eyes, burning skin and lungs, constant productive coughs, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and increased heart rates. Despite these conditions, says the Government Accountability Project, CH2M Hill fails to require basic respirators in the tank farms, denies worker requests to use supplied air, and is planning to reduce the level of personal protective equipment used by tank farm workers.

"When the tanks off-gassed, or burped, the vapor plumes came out and nobody was wearing a mask," said Lloyd Stone, an electrician who worked in the Hanford Tank Farms. "In 2002, I was exposed to these chemical vapors five times in two months, and suffered nosebleeds, headaches and contact dermatitis. With each one of these exposures, I was told that the monitoring equipment read non-detectable, yet my skin was bright red. When I asked for additional respiratory protection, CH2M Hill's answer was 'No, not until our monitoring equipment shows it is necessary.'"

Toxicologist Timothy Jarvis, Ph.D., REA, noted, "Every time Hanford workers enter the tank farms with inadequate respiratory protection, they risk health-threatening exposures to toxic vapors." Like every other employer in the United States, "it is incumbent upon CH2M Hill and the Department of Energy to protect their workers from toxic chemical vapors," he added.

According to the GAP report, physicians at the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation (HEHF) consistently have attributed symptoms of chemical vapor exposure to seasonal allergies or as being psychological, have pressured workers to accept medical restrictions designed by CH2M Hill, and have prohibited family, friends and union stewards from accompanying workers in medical examinations.

"The Department of Energy's failure to exercise contractor oversight at the Hanford Tank Farms is a damning indictment of its willingness to sacrifice the health and safety of workers in exchange for cheap operating costs and meeting production goals," said Tom Carpenter of GAP's Nuclear Oversight Campaign.

Despite Carpenter's claims to the contrary, the Energy Department has been taking a closer look an Hanford. On Sept. 12, DOE announced it had issued a proposed civil penalty of $82,500 to CH2M-Hill Hanford for violations of nuclear safety requirements. The violations did not result in actual harm to workers or the environment, according to DOE.

There were three areas of violation work processes, quality improvement and information requirements. DOE investigators found that contractors at the tank farms inadvertently shut off the leak detector in Hanford's AN tank farm and then failed to accurately indicate their status, overfilled dilution tanks causing spills of water onto contaminated soil and did not report two of the spills, and failed to control the movement of vehicles and equipment onto and around the underground tanks.

Each of the three areas of the violation carries a proposed civil penalty of $27,500 for a total proposed penalty of $82,500. In its letter of proposed violation and civil penalty, the Energy Department notes that recent corrective actions have been both aggressive and comprehensive and resulted in a mitigation of the maximum civil penalty.

The preliminary notice of violation will become final in 30 days unless the violations are denied with sufficient justification. The Price-Anderson Amendments Act directed the department to develop and enforce nuclear safety rules with its contractors.

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A methane explosion in November of 1988 in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District tunnel CT-7,
spawned federal court litigation over the question of whether the engineering consultant for the project
was liable under OSHA for failing to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that
might cause death or serious physical injury. The explosion killed three employees of S.A. Healy
Company, the general contractor. The Secretary of Labor prosecuted CH2M Hill, the engineering
consultant employed by MMSD on the theory that the construction standards of safety had been violated
by CH2M Hill permitting the contractor to use unapproved electrical equipment in the tunnel after the
detection of methane gas. The citation filed against CH2M Hill was heard by an administrative law judge
who concluded that the safety regulation found in the code of federal regulations did not apply to CH2M
Hill because it was not engaged in construction work, but rather as an engineering consulting firm
providing typical engineering services. The OSHA Review Commission reversed that decision and
remanded it back to the administrative law judge who found that CH2M Hill entered the tunnel regularly
and knew of the OSHA standards requiring the use of only approved electrical equipment but had
authorized Healy to use unapproved equipment. The ALJ found 40 violations and assessed fines of
$5,000 for each violation against CH2M Hill. Hill appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th
Circuit in Chicago.
The federal appeals court observed that the case presented the question of whether OSHA construction
safety standards apply to professional firms with engineering responsibilities similar to those exercised by
CH2M Hill regarding tunnel CT-7.
The federal court initially observed that all professionals operating in the field of construction are not
exempt from complying with construction safety standards. However, the court held that under the facts of
this case, CH2M Hill’s responsibilities did not rise to a level that constituted being engaged in construction
work and therefore the OSHA regulations did not apply to it.
In explaining its view of the application of OSHA regulations to professional consultants, the court
observed that the OSHA safety standards consisted of both general industry standards as well as various
industry-specific standards such as the construction standards found in the Code of Federal Regulations.
The regulatory scheme requires that the general industry standards apply unless a specific industry
standard trumps them. CH2M Hill and the OSHA Review Commission were in disagreement as to whether
the industry-specific standards for construction applied to CH2M Hill.
After reviewing the applicable standards relating to electrical equipment found in the OSHA regulations,
requiring electrical equipment approved for hazardous locations, the court noted that OSHA claimed that
those standards apply to CH2M Hill because it functioned as an employer engaged in construction work
as evidenced by its contractual responsibilities and its role in approving safety standards in the
performance of its agreed tasks. OSHA had argued that CH2M Hill violated the requirements for electrical
equipment installed in tunnels by permitting the use of unapproved electrical equipment. CH2M Hill
contended that it was not engaged in construction work, and therefore should not be held liable for any
regulatory violations.
CH2M Hill urged the federal court to reject the Secretary’s interpretation of the construction standards that
permits application to professionals such as engineers and architects, arguing that the plain meaning of
the term “construction” creates a per se exclusion of a professional working on a construction project.
CH2M Hill argued that “construction” should be strictly construed according to its dictionary meaning of
building, erecting or putting together.
The Federal Appeals Court disagreed with the proposition that the Secretary of Labor or Congress
envisioned a broad exclusion of engineering professionals from the construction standards. The court
concluded that under OSHA, the Secretary had adopted construction standards that apply to every
employer, not just those with construction contracts. The court also noted that the OSHA Review
Commission had repeatedly rejected arguments similar to those presented by CH2M Hill and concluded
that construction standards may apply to professionals under certain circumstances, citing other cases
where a consulting firm operated as a construction manager exercising substantial supervisory authority
over the construction work at the job site. The court held:
“Thus, Congress did not intend the Act, or the regulations flowing from it, to apply only to some employers
and not to others, but rather to those employers who were best suited to alleviate hazards at the
construction site. A per se exception excluding professionals, regardless of their duties, from liability under
the Act, and its regulations would diminish the aims of Congress in enacting this legislation. Therefore, the
Secretary’s goal of adopting a balance as to whom the regulations apply is a reasonable approach. We do
not find the Commission’s decisions regarding the general applicability to professionals in some cases
arbitrary or capricious."
As to the applicability of the construction standards to CH2M Hill, the court reviewed the Commission’s
test of applying OSHA standards to engineering or architectural firms who possess broad responsibilities
in relation to construction activities including both contractual and de facto authority involving the work of
trade contractors and who are directly and substantially engaged in activities that are connected with
safety issues. The court noted that several professional engineering and architectural associations and
societies urged the court to accept CH2M Hills arguments and reject the Commission’s expanded
interpretation of those engaged in construction work. However, the court refused to reject the
Commission’s test in its general sense, but held that OSHA had failed to establish that CH2M Hill
contractually or in effect exercised direct authority and control over the construction safety measures
involving tunnel CT-7. The court did reject the OSHA Review Commission’s decision to ignore contract
language found in the contracts between owners and engineers, stating,
“While perfunctory language that does not represent the true responsibilities of a particular employer
should not absolve it from complying with the regulations, language exempting an employer from
particular responsibilities that the facts confirm the employer does not actually retain cannot be casually
thrown aside.”
The court concluded that the question of what responsibilities an engineering firm has should turn on a
factual inquiry including the language of the contract.
It therefore is evident that engineering firms are well advised to carefully draft contracts so as to relieve
them of any responsibility under the OSHA construction safety standards. The Federal Appeals Court
made it clear that while such contract language may not be determinative of an actual outcome if the
engineering firm’s actual work is broader than the contractual responsibilities, where both the contract
exclusions and the engineering firm’s work established that the engineering firm had no responsibility for
construction safety standards, OSHA could not lawfully apply the safety regulations to an engineering firm.
*Published in the Wisconsin Professional Engineer, July-August, 2001. Written by Attorney Robert J. Kay.

Posted by diana bryan to Saugerties at February 3, 2009 3:44 PM