AmeriScan: April 16, 2007

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Nor'easter Batters East Coast

NEW YORK, New York, April 16, 2007 (ENS) - A nor'easter pounded the East with strong wind and pouring rain Sunday and today, grounding hundreds of airline flights, downing power lines and bringing severe coastal flooding overnight. Some New Jersey shore residents evacuated, and officials in Connecticut urged some residents along the Long Island Sound to evacuate.

More than 5.5 inches of rain fell in the New York area Sunday, breaking the record for this date of 1.8 inches set in 1906.

In New York City, flooding stalled traffic along highways and forced residents in at least one Queens neighborhood to paddle boats through the streets.

Basements were flooded and a mudslide in Staten Island left homes balanced precariously on a hillside.

In the coastal Seagate section of Brooklyn, which suffered major flooding in a December 1992 nor'easter, residents placed sandbags in the streets. Fire Island Ferries suspended service to the island, off the south shore of Long Island, and the Metro-North Railroad suspended service on its Harlem and New Haven lines for hours because of flooding in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Public schools in Westchester County were closed.

The storm forced the postponement of six major league baseball games Sunday - the most in a single day in a decade - and gave runners in Monday's Boston Marathon a rough time.

Airlines canceled more than 400 flights at the New York area's three major airports. Kennedy Airport, on the wind-exposed south side of Long Island, had sustained wind of 30 to 35 mph with gusts to 48 mph.

Governor Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency for the state of West Virginia on Sunday night.

One person was killed by a tornado in South Carolina, and two others died in car accidents blamed on the storm - one in New York and one in Connecticut. The storm system was responsible for five deaths on Friday in Kansas and Texas.

At least three tornadoes touched down in South Carolina Sunday morning. The most destructive made a 14 mile long, 300 yard wide cut through Sumter County in the central part of the state.

In central Florida, a tornado damaged mobile homes in Dundee but no injuries were reported.

Thousands of electricity customers lost power in states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and North Carolina.

The Nor'easter low is moving up the Mid-Atlantic Coast and was centered near New York City today, where it will remain through Tuesday. The system will produce heavy rainfall, flooding and gusty winds over much of the region.

The National Weather Service has posted high Wind Watches for much of the East Coast, warning that some areas could see gusts to 70 miles per hour.

Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for most of the interior areas of New York and Northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, up to 18 to 24 inches of new snow is expected.

Flood Warnings, Watches and Coastal Flood Watches are in effect from the mid-Atlantic to New England. Of particular concern is New England where the combination of strong east to northeast winds and large waves will cause water to pile up along the coast.

These conditions along with new moon high tides at 10:30 am and 10:30 pm EDT may produce coastal flooding near the times of high tide.

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New Hampshire Waste Oil Cleanup Will Cost $74 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, April 16, 2007 (ENS) - The federal government and state of New Hampshire today reached a comprehensive $74 million settlement agreement with 101 potentially responsible parties which will ensure cleanup actions at the Beede Waste Oil Superfund Site in Plaistow, New Hampshire.

The 41 acre Beede Site is located in a residential Plaistow neighborhood that is served entirely by private drinking water supply wells.

The facility was in operation from the 1920s through August 1994 as a waste oil storage and recycling facility. The site is contaminated with waste oil that seeped into the ground from a former unlined lagoon, underground storage tanks, aboveground storage tanks, and numerous drums located throughout the property.

The site was added to EPA's Superfund List in December 1996.

The settlement agreement provides for site-wide cleanup estimated to cost $48 million, payment of over $9 million for future federal and state oversight costs, and recovery of over $17 million in past response costs incurred by federal and state agencies at the site.

The agreement calls for major settling parties, who collectively contributed roughly half of the known waste, to clean up the site under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Under the settlement agreement, a group of parties responsible for smaller amounts of waste and federal agencies are also resolving their Superfund liability by contributing funds needed to help clean up and restore the site.

"This settlement marks the first step towards site-wide remediation and restoration of the Beede site. I am pleased the settling parties have worked together to sign this agreement and to make Plaistow a cleaner, safer community," said Matthew J. McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, of the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the settling parties are required to implement the January 2004 Record of Decision, which is the comprehensive cleanup plan for the site.

The cleanup plan calls for the removal of contaminated soil and sediment for off-site disposal or treatment, the treatment of deeper soils through the use of soil vapor extraction technology, the extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater with limited areas of natural attenuation, the long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface water, and the establishment of institutional controls.

The consent decree, lodged today in the District Court for New Hampshire, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by federal court.

Comments should be mailed to: Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, P.O. Box 7611, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20044-7611

The consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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$27.5 Million Funds Uranium Contamination Studies

RICHLAND, Washington, April 16, 2007 (ENS) – The Department of Energy has granted Pacific Northwest National Laboratory $27.5 million dollars over five years to investigate the movement groundwater contaminated with uranium at sites in Washington and Colorado. The studies are intended to identify new approaches and strategies to help clean up the groundwater.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PNNL, will lead the field studies at a uranium mill tailings site in Rifle, Colorado, and at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Richland, Washington, where some 60 percent of the nation's high-level nuclear waste is stored.

The Hanford study involves investigation of the groundwater and the subsurface soil and rock just above the groundwater - both of which are contaminated by uranium. The study area is adjacent to the Columbia River and located near the southern boundary of the Hanford Site, north of Richland.

PNNL Project Manager John Zachara says the field study at Hanford will help develop transport models that will be relevant to contaminant movement along the entire Columbia River corridor.

At the uranium mill tailings site in Colorado, PNNL geohydrologist Phil Long leads a diverse team of researchers examining the stimulation of subsurface microorganisms aimed at reducing and immobilizing uranium in the subsurface.

Researchers have found that bioremediation of uranium is possible, but optimal control and manipulation of the process is still unknown.

"We hope to understand the microbial factors and the associated geochemistry that is controlling uranium movement, so that DOE can confidently remediate the uranium plumes," Long said. "Our approach should lead to new knowledge that can then be used to develop effective flow and reactive transport models."

Participants in the field studies include the United States Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Purdue University, the University of Alabama, the University of California-Berkley, and DOE’s Pacific Northwest, Lawrence Berkley, Los Alamos and Idaho national laboratories.

Both the Hanford and Colorado studies are part of Energy Department’s Integrated Field-Scale Subsurface Research Challenge, a new program that commits multi-investigator teams to performing large, benchmark-type experiments on formidable field-scale science issues.

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Goodall's New Coffee Protects Chimp Habitat

NEW YORK, New York, April 16, 2007 (ENS) - Today in New York, renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall introduced a new fair trade coffee that she hopes will help to preserve the habitat of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania.

Dr. Goodall led a tasting of Gombe Reserve, a new coffee developed by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in cooperation with the Jane Goodall Institute.

Those who purchase this high-quality coffee are supporting cultivation of a sustainable, chimpanzee-friendly crop grown by farmers in the impoverished Kigoma region of western Tanzania.

The coffee is shade-grown so trees are not felled to plant coffee bushes. Because chimpanzees are not fond of coffee beans, they leave the fields alone, and human-wildlife conflict is avoided.

Traditionally, coffee from the Kigoma region was sold at auction and blended with coffees from other, better-known regions.

But now, by connecting the 2,700 small-scale farmers in Kigoma's Kalinzi Cooperative with new markets and introducing new quality control and production methods, Jane Goodall Institute and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are helping the farmers to boost their income and coffee production.

This gives farmers an incentive to work with the Institute in the future to set aside land for the chimpanzees.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will pay a premium price to the farmers for the coffee. Both Dr. Goodall and Green Mountain Coffee intend to encourage additional roasters to do the same, giving the Kigoma coffee farmers afurther incentive to protect land for the chimpanzees.

If key villages reserve 10 to 20 percent of their land, there will be an interlinked, multi-village forest reserve, providing additional habitat to chimpanzees and connecting Gombe National Park to forest reserves in Burundi.

The Jane Goodall Institute hopes the partnership with Kigoma coffee growers will result in a new leafy corridor connecting these rangelands from which the Gombe chimpanzees have been cut off due to deforestation.

Dr. Goodall says the corridor will allow the chimpanzees to expand their feeding range and mingle with other chimpanzee groups, which is vital for genetic diversity and disease resistance.

She says, "Our effort to involve local citizens in restoring the forests and practicing sustainable agriculture is the most important work we can do to ensure a future for the Gombe chimpanzees and the people of Africa."

Gombe Reserve coffee is available online. Click here.

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Leakey Involves Stony Brook in New African Research Institute

STONY BROOK, New York, April 16, 2007 (ENS) - Dr. Richard Leakey, the conservationist and paleo-anthropologist who has made some of the most important fossil discoveries of the last 100 years was honored by Stony Brook University at its Eighth Annual Stars of Stony Brook Gala on Wednesday at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. His finds include Turkana Boy, a human skeleton some 1.6 million years old.

The dinner, which also celebrated the University’s 50th anniversary, raised $2 million for scholarships for the Turkana Basin Institute, a state-of-the-art research center in Kenya created by Dr. Leakey in partnership with Stony Brook, the U.S. International University in Kenya, and the University of Nairobi.

Northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia are a fossil-rich region where many of the world’s most important paleontological and archeological discoveries have been made.

Dr. Leakey, former director of the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service, is currently spearheading the development of the Turkana Basin Institute.

"In a world rife with bureaucratic dithering and political maneuvering, Richard makes things happen," said Stony Brook President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny at the dinner.

"Never one to operate in the conventional way, he has greatly enlarged our understanding of our prehistoric ancestors, shocked his own country and the world into realizing the importance of preserving nature’s diversity, and risked life and limb for the people and animals of his native Kenya," Kenny said. "In so doing, he has made us all recognize how fragile and precious our natural world is."

The $25 million Turkana Basin Institute will be a series of three field stations, consisting of both laboratories and hotel-style living quarters, making it possible for teams of researchers to simply travel to the site without making complicated, expensive, and time consuming arrangements.

Because the site is permanent, researchers will be able to use it year-round, tripling the amount of time spent in the field. Researchers now are limited to 10 to 15 weeks a year due to planning and expense.

The Institute will have 80 staff, including 30 students, as well as local scientists at the three sites. Dr. John Fleagle, a professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook, has been named director.

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Monk Seal Dies Trying to Escape Researchers

HONOLULU, Hawaii, April 16, 2007 (ENS) - An endangered monk seal died Tuesday during a capture attempt by five researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. With only an estimated 1,200 animals remaining, monk seals are a federally listed endangered species.

Operating near Hanauma Bay on the island of Oahu, the researchers were attempting to throw a net over the female seal's head so they could attach a satellite tracking device to its body. The seal threw herself backward to escape capture and hit her head on rocks, fracturing her skull.

The 2 to 3 year old seal had a fish hook piercing her rear flipper, which caught the attention of scientists from NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

George "Bud" Antonelis, chief of the protected species division of the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center, told reporters at a news conference Friday, "We will review our recovery protocols to ensure such an accident never happens again."

He said a monk seal has not died during a capture attempt for about 10 years.

Most Hawaiian monk seals occur at six locations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands - French Frigate Shoals, Laysan and Lisianski Islands, Pearl and Hermes Reef, and Kure and Midway Atolls. In addition, several dozen inhabit the main Hawaiian islands.

The satellite tracking program, ongoing since 1992, is an attempt to find out as much as possible about monk seal behavior, NOAA says.

Monk seals have been fitted with small satellite transmitters to track their movements and with special cameras to videotape what they see when they are diving. It is now known that some travel considerable distances and dive to depths of 800 ft or more to feed. Scientists know they eat fish and invertebrates, including eels, octopuses, and crustaceans.