AmeriScan: April 19, 2004

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March Was Third Warmest on Record

WASHINGTON, DC, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - New Mexico had its warmest March on record this year, the Southwest region as a whole had its warmest March on record, and an additional 30 states were warmer than average in March 2004, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports.

Virtually all parts of the Lower 48 states experienced warmer than average temperatures in March, according to scientists at the NOAA Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. The West, Southeast and parts of the Northeast were unusually dry, while precipitation was above average across the middle of the nation.

The global monthly average temperature was the second warmest on record for the month of March.

Preliminary data indicate the average temperature for the Lower 48 states in March was 47.7 degrees F (8.7 degrees C), which was 5.2 degrees F (2.9 degrees C) above the 1895-2003 mean, the third warmest March on record.

Florida was the only state with a near-normal March temperature, while Alaska was cooler than average.

Precipitation for the Lower 48 states was below average, with much of the West, Southeast and Northeast drier than normal. But wetter than average conditions occurred in 12 states along a path from Texas to Minnesota.

The Southeast region - from Alabama to Virginia - had its driest March on record. The January-March 2004 period was generally drier than average for much of the East Coast in contrast to 2003, which had record or near record precipitation for many states.

Below average precipitation occurred in many areas of the West, where drought has persisted for much of the past four to five years.

The drier than average conditions and much warmer-than-normal temperatures contributed to record snowpack losses during the month of March and left mountain snowpack levels below-average in most parts of the West.

Despite the rapid snowmelt, reservoir levels remained below-average in many areas. By the end of the month, the drought area had expanded to include 59 percent of the western United States in moderate-to-extreme drought, based on a widely used measure of drought, the Palmer Drought Index.

By contrast, the most extensive drought on record for the West occurred during the Dust Bowl in July 1934, when 97 percent of the region was in moderate to extreme drought.

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Health Care of Greatest Concern, Environment Ranks Tenth

PRINCETON, New Jersey, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - The environment ranks number 10 on a list of the most important concerns troubling Americans, according to this year's Gallup Poll timed to coincide with Earth Day, April 22.

Telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,005 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 8-11, found that the availability and affordability of health care is the issue of greatest concern to those polled.

Although this is an environmentally related issue, as many pollutants in air, water and food affect the health of individuals and public health in general, the Gallup organization did not make this connection.

Crime and violence ranked as the second most worrisome issue, followed in order by: drug use, the possibility of terrorist attack in the United States, the economy, illegal immigration, unemployment, hunger and homelessness, the availability and affordability of energy, and then the quality of the environment.

A little over one-third (35 percent) of those polled worry a great deal about the quality of the environment, the Gallup pollsters found, while 62 percent worry about the environment either a great deal or a fair amount. This puts the environment on par with energy, hunger and homelessness, and unemployment.

By a 57 percent to 43 percent margin, more Americans rate current environmental conditions as "only fair" or "poor" than say they are "excellent" or "good." This assessment is slightly more negative than those of two and three years ago.

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National Healthy Schools Day Prompts Parent Teacher Demands

WASHINGTON, DC, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - "Every single day millions of children attend schools whose contaminated conditions harm health and undermine learning," Claire Barnett, executive director of the Healthy Schools Network, said today. "Congress and the administration know that healthier facilities have better outcomes, yet have failed to invest in key programs to help the nation's 53 million children enrolled in 115,000 schools."

Barnett's comments were made today to mark April 19, 2004 as National Healthy Schools Day and the start of National School Building Week.

The National Parent Teacher Association, Healthy Schools Network, Children's Environmental Health Network, and American Public Health Association, are joining with dozens of organizations representing millions of parents and school employees, to urge members of Congress and President Bush to address the impacts of decayed and environmentally contaminated schools on child health and learning.

National PTA President Linda Hodge said, "National PTA believes that every child deserves to learn in a healthy environment and that improving the quality of the school environment will have a significant impact on student academic achievement."

Daniel Swartz, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network, raising questions about illnesses and disabilities, asked, "With asthma the leading cause of school absenteeism and rates of learning disabilities skyrocketing, why can the federal government not help schools understand that environmental factors are playing an increasing role in child development and provide schools with funds to fix health hazards or to engineer better facilities?"

In Washington, the national coalition wrote to Congress and to President George W. Bush, saying, "We cannot compel children to attend schools that make them sick; we must provide the renovation and construction funds to ensure that every child has a healthy school."

The coalition asked that the President:

Speaking for the American Public Health Association, executive director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, stressed, "The environmental condition of America's schools and the impacts on children, especially low income children, is a priority for us. Public health must not stop at the schoolhouse door. Should the poorest children and the highest risk learners have to beg for repair funds?"

Activities around the country to build awareness of facility issues illustrate that local schools can adopt healthier practices and that even high needs districts are scrambling to put healthy, high performance school building standards into place. Federal support would speed needed changes, the coalition urges.

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Explosives Detected in More Residential Wells near Badger

MERRIMAC, Wisconsin, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - Preliminary test results show that another seven drinking water wells serving dozens of homes south of Badger Army Ammunition Plant, may have dinitrotoluene (DNT) contamination. DNT is a cancer causing chemical used in the manufacture of munitions.

Nitrates were also detected above the safe drinking water standard in several private wells north of Prairie du Sac. One well may have low levels of chloroform.

Army officials said that initial test results were all below health standards but will be providing bottled water to around 40 homes as a precaution. More tests will be needed to confirm the findings, the Army said.

The group Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger has been asking federal and Wisconsin state authorities to test private wells near the ammunition plant since 1998, and now that the tests are finally being conducted in response to sustained public pressure, contaminants are being discovered in the well water.

Two months ago, on February 5, the Army confirmed that unsafe levels of DNT had been detected in two private wells located just south of the ammunition plant on Keller Road. Convinced other wells were also at risk, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger issued a public statement demanding that testing of private wells be expanded to include all homes south and east of the property.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused, saying they did not see the need to expand the private well sampling effort.

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger stepped up the pressure and initiated a concerted campaign Ė including dozens of phone calls, emails, editorials, press releases, and public meetings Ė in support of testing for all private wells located from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center to the Village of Prairie du Sac.

A month later, on March 3, the WDNR asked the Army to expand the sampling program in the area requested by the group. The wells were sampled for volatile organic chemicals, dinitrotoluene and other semivolatiles, and nitrates. Wells adjacent to Gruberís Grove Bay were also sampled for ammonia. The recent findings were a direct result of this expanded testing.

"Some samples show traces of chloroform and dinitrotoluene are present at levels below the state standard. The levels are too low to quantify. While we are doing confirmation sampling, we are providing water in areas where we have found the chemicals traces" said Installation Director of Badger Army Ammunition Plant Joan Kenney,

According to Army officials, the Prairie du Sac municipal well is routinely tested for DNT and other groundwater contaminants from Badger. To date, the Army has not detected contaminants above the drinking water standard in the Prairie du Sac well.

The WDNR has agreed to citizen requests to test the Bluffview drinking water well, just west of Badger, which serves over 600 residents. The Army will collect a drinking water sample within the next month.

Unsafe levels of benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, and trichloroethylene have been detected nearby in groundwater at Badger.

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Court Saves 10,000 Year Old Native American Site in New Jersey

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - All 40 acres of the Black Creek Native American Site must be protected and its history preserved, the Superior Court of New Jersey's Appellate Division ruled on Friday. The site will not be turned over to recreational playing fields.

The decision upholds the position of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said Commissioner Bradley Campbell.

"I'm grateful that the court has vindicated our efforts to save a precious resource from destruction," said Campbell. "New Jersey could have lost thousands of years of Native American history."

Thousands of artifacts dating from approximately 8500 BC to 1700 AD have been uncovered at the Black Creek Site, which is one of the last areas to exhibit settlement in northern New Jersey by the Lenni Lenape. The artifacts uncovered indicate 10,000 years of human habitation on the site.

"We always support local community efforts to develop recreational spaces, but it need not come at the expense of other local treasures like the Black Creek Native American site, said Campbell.

The Black Creek Native American Site, in Vernon Township, Sussex County is a 40 acre parcel of land with archaeological and historic value.

"Ten thousand years of human history are now saved, not just for Native Americans, but all citizens who respect history and for their sons and daughters," said the tribe's attorney, Greg Werkheiser of the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice.

"The tribe is most grateful for this decision. We thank the Commissioner of the DEP for his courage, and the hundreds of supporters who have stood by the Tribe during this long battle for their humble dedication. Your friendship will not be forgotten."

Previously, four acres of the south field portion of the site were not included when the DEP originally listed the site in January 2002. The remaining four acres were remanded back to the State Review Board for further deliberation.

But in April 2002, just moments before Vernon Township called an emergency meeting to hire a contractor to bulldoze the area to create recreational playing fields, Commissioner Campbell listed the remaining four acres of the Black Creek Site to the NJ Register of Historic Places. This was later appealed by the Township of Vernon.

Besides the Black Creek Site, only four of 1,626 sites listed in the New Jersey Register are Native American sites. The New Jersey Department of Transportation discovered the site in the early 1990's as part of a bridge replacement project on Maple Grange Road.

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Boats Banned From Sewage Dumping off Connecticut

BOSTON, Massachusetts, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday proposed to designate the Groton/Mystic area of Connecticut as a federal No Discharge area, where discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage would be prohibited within three miles of the shore.

Boat sewage can lead to health problems for swimmers, closed shellfish beds and the overall degradation of marine habitats.

The proposed No Discharge zone is an area between Wamphassuc Point and Eastern Point, including portions of Fisher's Island Sound, Pine Island Bay, Baker Cove, Mumford Cove, West Cove, Mystic Harbor, Mystic River, Quiambog Cove, lower portions of the Poquonnock River and lower portions of Palmer Cove in Connecticut.

This area is adjacent to the Stonnington area, which was designated last summer as a No Discharge area.

A petition requesting EPA approval of the No Discharge area was submitted by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The petition was published this week in the Federal Register and is subject to a 45 day public comment period through June 1, 2004.

To quality for a No Discharge designation, the applicant must show there are enough pumpout facilities where boaters can get their holding tanks pumped out. This particular area has an estimated 3,700 boats, of which only 1,300 are large enough to have a "head" or toilet on board. The pumpout facilities include nine that are fixed or shore based, two that are mobile carts, one dump station and one pumpout boat.

"The Groton/Mystic Area provides important economic and recreational resources and this designation will help ensure it stays that way," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "No Discharge areas are bringing tangible water quality improvements throughout New England and soon we can expect the same in the Groton/Mystic area, which will mean cleaner beaches, cleaner shellfish beds and cleaner boating."

"Millions of people either live along or visit the shores of Long Island Sound every year and we have placed a high premium on protecting this very special coastal resource," said DEP Commissioner Arthur J. Rocque Jr. "By extending the No Discharge area already in place in Stonington west to Groton, strengthens protections in place to improve water quality and the overall health of Long Island Sound."

DEP initiated the No Discharge Area designation for the Groton Mystic area in the spring of 2003 to safeguard local marine resources.

Other areas in New England with No Discharge areas include - all of Rhode Island's marine waters, all in Massachusetts; Stonnington Harbor area in Connecticut; and Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Lake Menphremagog in Vermont and New York.

Information on No Discharge Areas may be found at the EPA's website at:

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Fertilizing the Ocean With Iron No Quick Climate Fix

WOODS HOLE, Massachusetts, April 19, 2004 (ENS) - Dumping iron at sea is known to increase the growth of plankton that remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but a new study indicates iron fertilization may not be the quick fix to climate problems that some had hoped. Scientists have now determined for the first time how carbon dioxide is transported from surface waters to the deep ocean in response to fertilizing the ocean with iron, an essential nutrient for marine plants, or phytoplankton. Prior work suggested that in some ocean regions, marine phytoplankton grow faster with the addition of iron, taking up more carbon dioxide. But until now, no one has been able to accurately quantify how much of the carbon in these plants is removed to the deep ocean. New data, reported in the April 16 issue of the journal "Science," suggests that there is a direct link between iron fertilization and enhanced carbon flux and hence atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, but that the quantities that can be removed are no greater than natural plankton blooms and are not large enough to serve as a quick fix to our climate problems. Results from the largest ocean fertilization experiment to date, the Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX), are reported in three related articles in "Science." Ken Buesseler and coauthors John Andrews, Steven Pike and Matthew Charette of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department reported their findings on ocean carbon fluxes in one of the articles, and Buesseler is a coauthor on a second article. SOFeX was conducted using three ships in January and February 2002 at two sites in the Southern Ocean, the oceans surrounding Antarctica. More than 100 scientists were involved with the international effort, led by the United States and funded by the National Science Foundation with additional support from the Department of Energy. The 2002 study focused on two areas of 15 square kilometers, about 10 square miles, in the Southern Ocean between Antarctica and New Zealand chosen to represent contrasting ecological and chemical conditions. Just over one metric ton (2,200 pounds) of iron was added to surface waters to stimulate biological growth at the southern site that Buesseler studied. Scientists aboard the three ships observed the biological patch for 28 days and measured the amount of carbon being transported deeper into the ocean in the form of sinking particulate organic carbon.

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Michigan Reaches for Control of Chronic Wasting Disease

LANSING, Michigan, April 19, 2004 (ENS) Ė To address the threat of chronic wasting disease, the state of Michigan is taking over the regulation of privately owned deer and elk captive livestock facilities and operations from the federal Department of Agriculture.

Governor Jennifer Granholm Thursday signed an Executive Order transferring the function to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The order paves the way for the DNR to begin an audit of Michiganís captive deer and elk industry, which was a key recommendation of the Governorís Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Task Force.

"CWD would have serious impacts on the stateís wildlife population, our agriculture industry, and our economy as the CWD Task Force noted in its report," Granholm said. "It is imperative that we act decisively in adopting measures that will protect our native deer and elk from this horrible disease."

The Executive Order is subject to review by the Legislature which has 60 days to consider the order.

Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease of deer and elk that can be spread from animal to animal, or indirectly from soil or surface to animal. There is no known cure or vaccine. Once considered to be a disease limited to small endemic areas, CWD has recently been found in more than 15 states and in Canada.

The human transport of both privately owned and wild animals is a contributor to the spread of this fatal disease, experts say.

"This audit is critical for keeping CWD out of Michigan," said Dr. Howard Tanner, chair of the CWD Task Force and a former director of the DNR. "Given that deer and elk are migratory animals that often move substantial distances, introduction of one infected animal could pose a substantial threat to Michiganís wildlife."

"The DNR has the resources to conduct the audit, and it is important we know the results before the 2004 hunting season is upon us," said Dr. Tanner.

The audit will include inspections of facilities, checking fences to make sure animals cannot get in or out, checking records to make sure there is an accurate accounting of the number and types of animals at each facility and, most important, a check of movement records to ensure animals have not been illegally imported from areas that are known to have CWD or exported to other states and/or countries.

State officials estimate that a complete audit of Michiganís captive deer and elk will take six months and cost $800,000. The audit will be funded by a ombination of restricted and general fund dollars.

"I applaud the Governor for moving forward on the recommendations of the CWD Task Force," said Keith Charters, chair of the Natural Resources Commission. "This action demonstrates her commitment to keeping CWD out of Michigan and the wild herd healthy."