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AmeriScan: April 26, 2004

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$307 Million Earmarked for Airport Noise Pollution

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta marked Earth Day by announcing $307 million in grants this year to soundproof homes and schools and combat noise pollution near airports in 29 communities.

The largest chunk of federal funding so far awarded - $18 million - will go to combat noise at the Louisville International-Standiford Field in Kentucky. The funds will go to buy 150 homes of people affected by noise from the planes, bringing the long buyout program near its end.

The Louisville airport expansion and relocation of families were announced in 1988. In 1994, the airport began voluntarily relocating people affected by airplane noise, which shakes homes and stops conversations until planes pass over.

When the program is complete, 1,692 families will have been moved because of the noise.

Louisville is in a unique situation because the airport is a cargo hub, with the United Parcel Service Worldport operation, than a passenger hub.

Louisville is impacted by noise and does not have the passenger money to generate its own dollars to solve the problems," said U.S. Representative Anne Northup. a Kentucky Republican.

Boston's Logan International Airport in Massachusetts will receive $12 million; Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington gets $10.1 million; San Diego International in California will receive $8 million; and Ted Stevens Anchorage International in Alaska will get $7 million.

Mineta said federal money will pay for sound insulation for homes located near airports, noise barriers near runways and taxiways and enhanced noise tracking systems to monitor engine sound levels.

Airports may also use the funds to acquire land to create larger boundaries between airports and communities, contour airfields differently to reduce noise and take other measures that will help nearby neighborhoods.

“We’ve worked hard to make jet engines quieter and to reduce the number of people affected by aircraft noise,” said Mineta. “These investments will bring a little more peace and quiet to people with airports in their neighborhoods.”

The $307 in noise mitigation grants are being awarded by the Department’s Federal Aviation Administration. Twenty-nine communities already have been informed that they will receive the federal funds totaling $118 million, while an additional $189 million will be awarded over the coming months.

“Airports and the jobs they bring are important to the health of nearby communities,” said Secretary Mineta. “This work allows us to achieve balance between important economic growth at airports and airport neighbors’ quality of life.”

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Colombia's $10 Million Debt for Nature Swap

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - The governments of the United States and Colombia, along with The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund have signed agreements that will reduce Colombia's debt to the United States by $10 million, the U.S. Department of State announced Friday.

"In return, the government of Colombia has committed to using this savings to fund local conservation projects for the protection and conservation of several important tropical forest areas in Colombia," the State Department explained.

Under the agreement, Colombia will use half the funds to finance local environmental organizations that are working in selected areas, said the World Wildlife Fund.

The other half will go toward the Fondo Patrimonial, or Heritage Trust, which the government expects to use to leverage additional loans of up to $40 million that will guarantee the long term financial sustainability of Colombia's existing protected areas.

"The great variety of plants and animals that are found in Colombia make it one of the most biologically rich nations on Earth," said Pilar Barrera, The Nature Conservancy's representative in Colombia. "A debt for nature swap is one of the most effective economic tools we have to conserve our invaluable biological treasures. The Nature Conservancy is proud to be a part of this extraordinary effort to protect Colombia's tropical forests."

Funds from the debt swap will be focused in three areas key for tropical forest conservation. In the tropical Andes, funds will go toward 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) that shelter some of the nation's last remaining stands of oak.

In the Llanos of the Orinoco River basin, the funds will go toward the 1.4 million hectare (3.5 million acre) Tuparro National Park and its buffer zone. A UNESCO Natural Biosphere Reserve since 1979, the park is inhabited by jaguars, river dolphins and the endangered giant armadillo and the critically endangered Orinoco crocodile, which is found only in this part of South America.

The Llanos are an important major nesting ground for migrating bird species from North America. Along the Caribbean coast, conservation efforts will focus on 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres), including include the world's highest coastal mountain, the 5,770 meter (18,900 foot) Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

"Increasingly, there are indications that we are going to lose our natural heritage if we don't dedicate ourselves to protecting it," said Fabio Arjona, the director of Conservation International in Colombia. "This debt swap is a perfect example of how the conservation community needs to work - hand-in-hand with government to protect our biological riches. We hope this swap sets an example for other organizations and other nations."

"To carry out this debt for nature swap, the U.S. government used $7 million of funds appropriated under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, and The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund contributed $1.4 million," the State Department said.

The agreement will be managed by an oversight committee composed of representatives from the governments of Colombia and the United States, as well as the Conservancy, WWF and Conservation International.

The Tropical Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1998 to provide eligible developing countries the opportunity to reduce their concessional debts owed to the United States while at the same time generating funds for activities to conserve important tropical forests.

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Fire Season Starts With Recall of Emergency Shelters

BOISE, Idaho, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - The 2004 fire season has just started and already firefighters are facing a problem with their equipment that could put their safety at risk.

A new generation of fire shelters - used as a last resort by crews to survive uncontrollable flames that arise without warning - have been found to tear apart when deployed.

The federal firefighting agencies and the General Services Administration are recalling 68,000 of the new fire shelters for a retrofit to strengthen the products.

About 19,000 of the new, flawed, shelters are currently being carried by state, federal and contract firefighters.

The 11 national fire caches are no longer distributing the new generation fire shelter, and state and federal firefighters are being told to return the newer shelters to the nearest federal cache. Firefighters are supposed to use the older style shelters until supplies of the newly manufactured or retrofitted shelters become available, the U.S. Forest Service says.

But some firefighters may not be able to obtain an older style shelter immediately "due to the limited number," the Service says. The newly manufactured shelters and retrofitted shelters will be available "within the next two months."

According to the manufacturers, retrofitting should proceed quickly, at the rate of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 per week, plus production of about 5,000 per month of the newly manufactured shelters.

In mid-March, an alert was submitted to SAFENET, an anonymous reporting system firefighters use to alert managers to observed unsafe practices.

All the tears in the shelters were found to be in the floor material. The seam connecting the floors to one of the sides of the shelter ripped away. If used in that condition, the rips would allow flames to reach firefighters sheltering within.

Equipment specialists at the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) researched the problem and confirmed that some shelters were tearing near the shake handles during deployment.

“No rips occurred during the extensive testing we did before the design went to the manufacturers. But we do acknowledge the issue, and have developed a fix in the design to strengthen the area of the shake handles,” said fire shelter specialist Leslie Anderson of MTDC.

The design fix is being applied to all newly manufactured shelters, and the shelters recalled will be retrofitted with an improvement to the handle.

Fire shelters are required equipment for firefighters, but are considered a tool of last resort and should never be needed if situational awareness, risk management and discipline are employed to make the right decisions in strategy and tactics on wildland fires, the Forest Service says.

Still, the older style shelters have saved 300 lives since the 1970s, the Service says, and provide good protection against radiant and thermal heat when deployed properly.

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Chemical Fix Planned for Lead in DC Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - A multi-agency team of water treatment experts has scheduled two public meetings to outline plans for implementing its recommended corrosion control measures designed to reduce levels of lead in drinking water in the District of Columbia.

The recommendation focuses on adding the chemical zinc orthophosphate to the finished drinking water before it leaves the district's two water treatment plants – Dalecarlia and McMillan.

Zinc orthophosphate is expected to reduce the corrosiveness of the water supply, and thereby reduce the amount of lead that wears away from inside the pipes in households and other buildings.

The experts do not expect lead levels to drop immediately after treatment begins. The team says it will likely take six months or longer to see measurable reductions in lead levels.

The group of experts from federal, state, and local agencies, known as the Technical Expert Working Group, includes people from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA), the Washington Aqueduct, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, the DC Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Health and a variety of independent experts and contractors.

Their zinc orthophosphate plan has been presented its recommendation to officials at the EPA's mid-Atlantic Region, who are reviewing it.

The lead problem began in 2000 when the Washington Aqueduct added chloramine - a combination of chlorine and ammonia - to DC water to limit corrosion. The chloramine caused lead to leach from lead service pipes and has resulted in the elevated lead levels in drinking water.

The Washington Aqueduct is run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and supplies the DC Washington Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) with water. Tests by WASA in 2002 revealed elevated lead levels in more than half of test samples.

To date, water has tested unacceptably high for lead in more than 5,000 homes and schools in three districts in the DC metropolitan area - a few have tested as high as 6,000 parts per billion.

During the public meetings, working group representatives will make a formal presentation about the zinc orthophosphate treatment and answer questions.

As a test, the partial distribution of zinc orthophospahate would begin around June 1 in the area known as the 4th High Pressure Zone in Northwest Washington. This area was chosen because it is a manageable size, isolated from the rest of the distribution system, and is a good representation of water mains used throughout the district. Using a limited area at first will allow experts to closely monitor changes before expanding treatment.

Residents in the pilot area may temporarily see rust colored water from their taps during the monitoring period, WASA says. Residents should not drink or cook with rust colored water, and they should run the water to make sure it is clear before they use it for drinking, cooking or doing laundry. The discolored water can stain clothing if it is used for doing laundry.

For six weeks, the distribution system in the pilot area will be monitored for bacteria and discolored water. A special flushing crew will be available to respond to complaints about the rust colored water.

If the treatment is successful, it could be rolled out as early as July 15 to the entire Washington Aqueduct distribution system, which includes Washington, DC and parts of northern Virginia.

Until further notified, consumers should continue to use water filters and follow flushing recommendations and the DC Department of Health's advisory for children and pregnant women who live in homes with lead service lines.

The public information meetings will be held:

    • Tuesday, April 27, 6 pm at the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church Harmon Hall, 3000 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
    • Thursday, April 29, 6 pm at the Metropolitan United Methodist Church Great Hall, 3401 Nebraska Ave, NW

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Point Sur Lighthouse Transferred to California Parks

POINT SUR, California, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - In a ceremony Friday at Point Sur National Historic Park, Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed documents to transfer Point Sur Lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard to the California state parks. The event marked the first transfer of its kind on the West Coast, and she announced other lighthouses to follow in California, Washington, and Hawaii.

"Point Sur Light Station has been in continuous operation for 115 years. It stands as a witness to the journeys of seafarers a hundred years ago and to the migrations of whales today," Norton said.

This historic aid to navigation has a modern aero-beacon which still guides ships along the treacherous Central California Coast.

Point Sur Lighthouse and a related barracks building on 12 acres will be added to Point Sur State Historic Park. It is one of a chain of 60 California lighthouses begun in 1852 and managed by the Coast Guard until recently.

Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, about 300 lighthouses are candidates for transfer. The law calls for the Secretary of the Interior to decide which applicant can best protect a given lighthouse.

The law authorizes the transfer of historic lighthouses and stations at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations and community development organizations.

Preservation of each historic light station first under the new law. It directs the Secretary of the Interior to work with the General Services Administration and the National Park Service to choose the best stewards for long term preservation.

Under the leadership of the state parks department and its nonprofit partner, the Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers, more than $2 million already has been invested in the maintenance and restoration of the Point Sur Lighthouse.

"In this case, California State Parks and its nonprofit partner certainly have proven to be the best possible stewards of Point Sur," Secretary Norton said. "The partnership between the private and public sectors that is protecting Point Sur Light Station is a model for the nation during Earth Week. At Point Sur, we have seen the type of care that our lighthouses need."

Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, the Point Sur lighthouse was completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard, in August 1889. The existing park already preserves other components of the light station - the main keeper's dwelling, hoisting house, carpenter and blacksmith shop, barn, and oil house.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation obtained the majority of the buildings and 27 acres in 1984, excepting the lighthouse, the barracks building, and the oil house. The department has worked under a lease for the operation and maintenance of the structures since 1990.

Secretary Norton announced the status of other proposed transfers:

The National Park Service has recommended that Pigeon Point Light Station in San Mateo County also be transferred to the California Department of Parks and Recreation with a nonprofit partner, The Peninsula Open Space Trust. This recommendation is pending an appeal by two other nonprofits and should be decided by the end of June.

Grays Harbor Lighthouse in Westport, Washington, will be transferred to the Westport/South Beach Historical Society, which has operated the lighthouse since 1998 under a U.S. Coast Guard license.

West Point Light Station in Seattle has been recommended by the National Park Service for transfer to the City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. This recommendation is pending an appeal by the nonprofit Light Keepers Retreats. A decision should be made by the end of June.

Molokai Lighthouse in Molokai, Hawaii, will be transferred administratively to the National Park Service.

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Irrigation Company Fined for Polluting Snake River

SEATTLE, Washington, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - One of the largest irrigation systems in the West has signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to settle violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Great Feeder Canal Company (GFCC), a Southeast Idaho water provider to agriculture, agreed to repair the environmental damage and pay a $15,000 penalty.

The settlement concludes an enforcement action against the company for unauthorized discharges of dredged spoils into a side channel of the Snake River and adjacent wetlands near Heise, Idaho.

In November, 2002 GFCC dredged wetlands while removing a gravel bar in a side channel of the Snake River, called the South Fork. GFCC was attempting to deepen and widen a side channel of the river to protect an irrigation head gate downstream of the site. The dredging removed a large amount of woody vegetation and destroyed the riparian habitat for about two-tenths mile.

This unauthorized activity occurred on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In addition to violating the Clean Water Act, the company trespassed on BLM land while conducting this work.

Jim Werntz, EPA's Idaho Operations Director, said, "It is unfortunate that the Snake River, one of our state's most valued resources has been needlessly damaged."

"It's important that everyone – especially canal companies and irrigation districts – obtain the proper permits and comply with applicable environmental protections before beginning work in wetlands or stream channels." said Werntz. "I'm glad that the Great Feeder Canal Company is accepting responsibility for the damage they caused, and are performing the necessary repair work."

The company has completed most of the restoration work at the site, after receiving a Notice of Violation and Order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in November 2002. GFCC has removed the dredged spoils from the riparian area along the shore and it is monitoring the revegetation of that area.

The settlement agreement was filed on April 15 with the Regional Hearing Clerk in Seattle.

Established in 1895, the Great Feeder Canal Company is the largest irrigating system in the Upper Snake River Valley and one of the largest systems in the West. It supplies water for some 20 major canal systems, diverts up to one million acre-feet of water and has irrigated 100,000 or more acres of farmland.

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Alabama Man Imprisoned for Counterfeit Pesticides

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - An Alabama man has been handed more than three years in prison and a $45,000 fine for for selling counterfeit and misbranded pesticides to municipalities in Alabama and Georgia for mosquito and West Nile Virus control.

The Justice Department announced that William C. Murphy of Glencoe, Alabama was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 41 months in prison, ordered to pay $45,300 in restitution, and was given three years supervised release

In January, shortly before his trial was to begin, Murphy pled guilty to a 28 count indictment charging him with having manufactured and sold counterfeit pesticides by using registered brand names that he had no authority to use in the marketing of chemicals he mixed and packaged in an Anniston, Alabama warehouse.

Murphy, operating under the name Sierra Chemical, sold imitations of brand name pesticides which bore labels falsely identifying the brand name, manufacturer, or active ingredients to the following municipalities: Enterprise, Linden, Alexander City, Brundidge, Jacksonville, Oneonta, Talladega, Weaver, Cullman, Pell City, Union Springs, Tallassee - in Alabama, and Lee County, Georgia, according to the indictment.

Murphy, who has been held in prison since his arrest in May, could have received a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment of up to 10 years for violating federal trademark protection laws, and a fine of up to $100,000 per count and imprisonment of up to one year per count for violation of federal pesticide control laws.

“This case is an example of how state and federal agencies can work together effectively to bring to justice those who violate the environmental laws that both the state and federal governments have a responsibility to enforce,” said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“The sentence imposed in this case demonstrates the seriousness of environmental crimes, and my commitment to protecting the public from those who perpetrate such crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Alice Martin.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Resident Agent in Charge David McLeod said, “Murphy's sentence should send a clear message to those persons who think they can get away with undermining the regulatory system that is intended to ensure the safety and efficacy of the pesticides sold in this country."

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Teens Win National Earth Day Awards

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2004 (ENS) - Andrew Rominger of Albuquerque, New Mexico made a journey to the White House for Earth Day as the winner of one of 10 regional President’s Environmental Youth Awards. Winners from each of EPA's 10 regions were recognized at a ceremony Thursday at which the awards were presented by President George W. Bush.

Rominger is 17 years old and a member of Talking Talons Leadership Center and Conservation Museum in Tijeras, New Mexico.

The teen developed a curriculum as part of his independent study at Valley High School. He partnered with Stephanie Kasprzak, a teacher at a neighboring elementary school, to turn his curriculum into a class entitled "The New Mexico/Mexico Connection: A Study of Twelve Migratory Birds."

Early in the process of conducting his survey work on county open space, Andrew joined the newly forming Bernalillo County Open Space Steering Committee, a citizen discussion and action group facilitated by the County Open Space Manager and a contractor from the National Parks Service.

He prepared two documents for inclusion in the Bernalillo County East Mountain Area Plan. He presented his findings to Congressman Tom Udall during a visit to the Talking Talons Leadership Center in Tijeras, New Mexico, and Udall mentioned the teen's environmental advocacy efforts in an address to Congress. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Richard Greene accompanied Rominger to Washington for the ceremony. "Mr. Rominger is an excellent example of how each of us can make a difference," Greene said. "His commitment, enthusiasm and resourcefulness make me proud of today's young people."

In the Midwest, EPA Region 5 selected Benjamin Banwart of Shakopee, Minnesota as regional winner of the President's Environmental Youth Award.

In May 2000 at age 18, Banwart adopted Jackson Park in Shakopee and made a commitment to restore it. He focused his efforts on three areas: forestry management, invasive species control and erosion control.

Through coordination with his Dan Patch Chapter of the Order of the Arrow, a part of Boy Scouts of America, he was able to get donations and equipment necessary to organize workdays to remove invasive buckthorn and create a trail around one of the park lakes.

"Benjamin's project shows that everyone can make a difference when it comes to protecting the environment," said Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur.

In the mid-Atlantic region, the Busy Bison 4-H Club of Barrackville, West Virginia received a Presidential Environmental Youth Award. The club's winning project, "Helping Hands in the New Millennium," was a community service and conservation project.

The Busy Bison 4-H Club has adopted more than 20 miles of highway, holds monthly cleanups and set up and maintain trash cans. Their Clean Streams, American Dreams project consists of two yearly cleanups of Buffalo Creek, a 20 mile river between Mannington and Fairmont, and monthly water monitoring.

Every month, the club recycles items in Barrackville. Last year, the club recycled 610 pounds of aluminum; 4,305 pounds of steel; 6,002 pounds of paper; 27,953 plastic bags; 1,080 pounds of plastic; and 2,929 pounds of glass; 690 tires as part of their "Waste Not Want Not" and "Guardian for Earth" projects.

Bison members have rebuilt and reprogrammed more than 500 donated computers, distributing many of them to local students and organizations in need, and shipping more than 300 of them to students in Nigeria.

The President’s Environmental Youth Awards program was established by the White House in 1971 and has been administered by EPA since that time. View this year’s winning projects online at: http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/awards.html.

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