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AmeriScan: December 8, 2004

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PVC Products Target of Poison Plastic Campaign

WASHINGTON, DC, December 8, 2004 (ENS) – Florida incinerates 45,364 tons of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) a year in its 13 incinerators, topping the list of states that burn what a new report is calling "the poison plastic."

New York is second, burning 37,517 tons in 10 incinerators, and Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania round out the top five states that incinerate PVC, releasing into the air a toxic group of chemicals called dioxins that are linked to cancer.

The title of the report, "PVC: Bad News Come in Threes," refers to the number "3" stamped on PVC products to designate their chemical composition at a glance.

The report was written by the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), a group founded and led by Lois Gibbs, the housewife turned activist around Love Canal’s toxic contamination in her hometown of Niagara Falls, New York.

"We know enough about the dangers of PVC to take precautionary action and phase it out," said Gibbs. "We need to tell corporations to protect our health and environment by switching to non-PVC materials. Consumers need to know that bad news comes in three’s - avoid buying PVC products which are marked with a "3" or "v" in the recycle symbol."

To raise public awareness of the risks of manufacturing and disposing of PVC, organizations in 20 states held events or issued statements to the media on Tuesday.

PVC is used in pipes, building materials such as vinyl floor covering, siding, and fencing; consumer products such as toys and shampoo bottles, medical supplies and disposable packaging.

Automotive components made of PVC include body side moldings, windshield system components, interior upholstery, under-the-hood wiring, under-the-car abrasion coatings, floor mats; adhesives and sealants; other components such as dashboards and arm rests, according to The Vinyl Institute, an industry association.

The CHEJ's Be Safe network released the report in connection with its campaign to convince Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft to switch to available, safe non-PVC products and packaging as Bristol Meyers, Samsung and Nike have already done.

"Many firefighters who are concerned about PVC-producing toxic fumes in burning buildings will benefit from Firestone’s announcement in October to phase out 8,000 tons of PVC used annually in their roofing," the groups said.

The two corporate targets are large users of PVC packaging such as Microsoft’s blister packaging on software products, and Johnson and Johnson’s shampoo bottles.

In suggested letters to manufacturers using PVC to request that they find alternatives, the groups say PVC is a "poison plastic" which poses "serious environmental health threats throughout its life cycle."

"You can’t dump PVC waste in landfills because it pollutes groundwater and can result in dioxin-forming landfill fires and the release of toxic landfill gases," the environmental groups warn. "You can’t incinerate PVC waste because it forms dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in the food chain."

"You can’t recycle PVC because of the many different formulations used to make PVC products," the environmentalists say. "When PVC products are mixed in with the recycling of non-chlorinated plastics, such as in bottle recycling programs, they contaminate the entire recycling process."

Nevertheless, The Vinyl Institute says, "All types of vinyl products can be recycled and reprocessed into second-generation products."

A 1999 study by Principia Partners cited by the institute found that more than one billion pounds of vinyl were recovered and recycled into products in North America. About 18 million pounds of that was post-consumer vinyl diverted from landfills and recycled into second-generation products. Overall, more than 99 percent of all manufactured vinyl compound ends up as packaging, pipe, siding, parking stops, floor tiles, notebook covers, or traffic cones, the institute says.

Production of PVC is also hazardous to human health. Government tests detailed in the report found residents of Mossville, Louisiana - the location of four vinyl production facilities - had dioxin levels in their blood at three times the average rate and were breathing air contaminated with vinyl chloride, a potent carcinogen, more than 120 times higher than the ambient air standard.

Find out more at: http://www.besafenet.com/pvc.htm

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Accuracy of Bid for First U.S. MOX Fuel Challenged

ROCKVILLE, Maryland, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - The first attempt at licensing a U.S. nuclear power plant to use a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides as fuel has hit a snag.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials will hold a "predecisional enforcement conference" with the Duke Energy Corporation December 17, to discuss three apparent violations of NRC requirements.

The apparent violations are related to Duke’s license amendment request to allow the use of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at its Catawba Nuclear Station 17 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina. If the request is granted, it would be the first time MOX fuel would be used to power a nuclear plant in the United States, although power plants in Europe and Japan use the fuel.

Two of the alleged violations involve "the completeness and accuracy of Duke’s license amendment request" and the third involves a failure to periodically update the Final Safety Analysis Report for the Catawba plant, NRC officials said.

The conference is an opportunity for company officials to provide their perspective on the apparent violations and to offer any other information that they believe the NRC should take into consideration in making an enforcement decision. No decision on the apparent violations or any enforcement action will be made at the conference. Those decisions will be made later by NRC officials.

The proposed amendment would allow Duke to use four MOX assemblies at Catawba. The Duke request is part of a joint U.S.-Russian Federation program to dispose of surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons by converting the material into MOX fuel for use in nuclear reactors.

The Nuclear Control Institute (NCI), an anti-nuclear advocacy group based in Washington, DC, says plans to dispose of plutonium from surplus nuclear weapons by turning it over to utility companies for use as fuel in nuclear power plants presents "grave dangers to the public."

"Converting warhead plutonium into fuel for generating electricity would stimulate commerce in this extremely toxic, weapons-usable material," the NCI says.

"Fifteen pounds of plutonium is enough for one atomic bomb. A few specks of it inhaled into the lungs causes cancer. Commerce in many tons of plutonium raises risks of theft by terrorists and outlaw states, and of aggravating the consequences of reactor accidents," warns the advocacy group.

The enforcement conference will be from 9:00 to 11:00 am in Room T-2B3, 11545 Rockville Pike, Rockville. The public is invited to observe the meeting, and will have an opportunity to communicate with NRC officials after the business portion, but before the meeting is adjourned.

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Foreign Reactors Get 10 More Years to Return U.S. Fuel

WASHINGTON, DC, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has extended by 10 years the period of time for spent nuclear fuel of U.S. origin to be returned to the United States from foreign research reactors.

Abraham said the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision to extend the period for spent fuel acceptance will provide additional time for research reactors to convert from high-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) cannot.

Under the Atoms for Peace program established in the 1950s, the United States provided reactor technology to further other countries’ research into peaceful uses of atomic energy. Research reactors use nuclear technology for medical, agricultural and industrial applications.

The current acceptance policy established by DOE and the State Department in 1996 permits the United States to accept certain eligible spent fuel that is irradiated by May 2006, and returned to the United States by May 2009.

A revised record of decision, signed by National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Linton Brooks on November 22 and made public on Monday, extends the irradiation deadline to May 2016, and the acceptance deadline to May 2019.

Some countries with eligible fuel have not used their fuel as rapidly as projected or have made alternative fuel processing arrangements, and there have been technical delays in the development of LEU alternatives, Abraham said.

Since 1996, the acceptance program has conducted 30 shipments involving 27 countries, resulting in the safe return of over 6,300 spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

Abraham said that amounts to nearly 500 kilograms of uranium-235 – enough to build about 20 crude nuclear weapons.

The acceptance policy is a cornerstone of the DOE's Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which focuses on minimizing, and, where possible, eliminating the use of HEU in civil applications by converting research reactors to LEU and securing, returning or recovering vulnerable nuclear material.

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U.S. Taps Grain Reserves to Feed Sudanese

WASHINGTON, DC, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - The United States will make available 200,000 metric tons of wheat from the Bill Emerson Trust to relieve suffering and avert famine in the Sudan, ravaged by a ethnic conflict that has driven more than a million people from their homes and threatens millions of people with starvation.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios Friday announced the release for emergency food assistance for Sudan.

The wheat will be shipped as emergency food relief under P.L. 480, Title II, a program administered by USAID. It will be distributed mainly through the UN World Food Program and is expected to arrive over the next few months.

"We are pleased that we can use the abundance from our nation's farms to help alleviate suffering in Sudan," said Veneman. "These steps will provide relief to those in need. The United States is the largest donor addressing the serious food shortages in Africa."

"Through this release of the Emerson Trust, the United States will provide urgently needed food to meet the needs of two and a half to three million Sudanese over a five month period who are displaced inside Darfur, or have fled to neighboring Chad," said Natsios.

The Emerson Trust was established as an emergency reserve to allow the United States to respond to unanticipated food crises, such as the current situation in parts of Africa. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The reserve is being tapped because U.S. food aid programs this fiscal year are fully allocated to meet critical needs in Sudan and other parts of the world. Use of the reserve will help ensure that commodities will be available to respond to urgent needs in Sudan without undercutting U.S. food aid commitments elsewhere.

The Trust was reauthorized through 2007 by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Prior to this release, the reserve held 1.6 million tons of wheat. Up to four million tons in any combination of wheat, rice, corn or sorghum can be held in the reserve.

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Bangor City Hazwaste Violations Settled with Biodiesel

BANGOR, Maine, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - The city of Bangor, Maine has agreed to pay a $59,586 penalty and to convert its entire fleet of vehicles to biodiesel fuel to resolve claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it violated hazardous waste and clean water laws at four of its facilities at the former Dow Air Force Base.

Under the agreement signed Monday, the city will pay $165,432 to convert its fleet to cleaner burning biodiesel made partially from soy beans. The city plans to buy about 458,000 gallons of biodiesel over the life of the project, which will cost $165,432 more than current diesel. The city was able to offset its penalty by that amount in order to pursue this project.

The violations were found after Bangor failed to participate in an environmental audit and self-disclosure initiative offered by EPA in 2001.

The settlement resolves EPA claims that Bangor improperly stored, handled and disposed of hazardous wastes. The EPA claims that Bangor failed to train personnel or have contingency plans at the city's Department of Public Works, motor pool, aviation fuel and Bangor International Airport facilities, in violation of federal and state hazardous waste standards.

The agreement also resolves an EPA claim that Bangor discharged untreated wastewater from its motor pool into a stream that flows to the Penobscot River, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Bangor did not have a permit to discharge from the facility.

The city has come into compliance with hazardous waste laws and has disconnected the illicit discharge from the motor pool facility.

In addition to paying a $59,586 penalty, the city's agreement to convert its diesel fleet to biodiesel will reduce emissions of hydrocarbons by 21 percent, of particulates by five to 10 percent and of carbon monoxide by 11 percent.

The project also has the added benefit of replacing non-renewable fossil fuels with a renewable agricultural-based fuel. The federal government's energy and environment policy has put a priority on converting diesel fleets to biodiesel.

The agreement may help encourage a stronger market for the alternative fuel in central and northern Maine, said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

"The settlement also develops a framework for future investigation and cleanup at this important site," Varney said.

The city has agreed to investigate jet fuel contamination of groundwater at the aviation fuel farm and along a pipeline that runs to the airport, under direction from the EPA.

The city is working with Maine Department of Environmental Protection to address potential leaks in the city's jet fuel distribution system and to evaluate cleanup alternatives.

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Wildfire on Kilauea Volcano Destroys Rare Plants

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - Firefighters are scrambling to suppress a wildfire that has burned more than 700 acres in a remote area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Fueled by non-native grasses - broomsedge, bushy beardgrass, and molasses grass - the fire is consuming rare native trees, shrubs and roses near the southwest rift of Kilauea Volcano.

When it was first reported late Sunday night, park officials believed the fire was part of the volcanic eruption. From Highway-11, rangers described what they saw as an "orange wall of light and smoke" about two miles from the highway.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists at the Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory monitored their sensitive instrumentation but did not detect any significant changes in seismicity or tilt, changes that might signal an eruption on Kilauea’s southwest rift.

An Monday morning flight over the rift by park and observatory staff determined that what some had thought was a volcanic eruption was in fact a wildland fire burning at about the 1,680 foot elevation.

The volcanic eruption on Kilauea’s east rift continues.

"We’re using all available resources to contain and suppress this fire," said Greg Herbst, the fire’s incident commander. "Strong winds increase the fire’s potential to spread makai into the coastal lowlands and run east and west."

Twenty national park service and seven Hawaii County firefighters are on duty and are supported by three water carrying helicopters. Park officials have closed nearby roads and trails.

A four person helibase support team, called a helicopter module, has been ordered and a 20 person Type II firefighter crew has been called up from Eldorado National Forest in California.

"We want to assure our neighboring communities that we are on the attack, we are fighting this fire aggressively," said Superintendent Cindy Orlando. "Our firefighters are dedicated, highly skilled, and experienced. With their expertise, and mainland support, we look to bring this fire under control as soon as possible."

Although the fire’s cause is unknown, in 1988, a lightning fire burned 156 acres in the same remote wilderness area.

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Three New Ports Designated for Wildlife Trade Inspections

WASHINGTON, DC, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - Importers and exporters dealing in wildlife and wildlife products will soon have three new ports of entry for their shipments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.

Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Houston, Texas, will be designated as ports for wildlife trade on January 5, 2005.

Service wildlife inspectors will process wildlife imports and exports at these locations, bringing the number of ports nationwide that handle all types of wildlife trade to 17.

"We are pleased to offer expanded inspection services to the wildlife trade community in these cities," said Kevin Adams, chief of the Service's Office of Law Enforcement. "This extension of our inspection operations also promises improved protection for wildlife."

Both Memphis and Louisville are hubs for major international express mail companies that move large volumes of cargo each year. Memphis International Airport ranks as the world's largest processor of international airfreight, while the Louisville International Airport is the sixth largest handler of air cargo. Neither location has previously been authorized to receive wildlife trade, which is regulated under federal wildlife laws.

The Service has offered limited inspection services in Houston since the early 1980s, but businesses using this port were required to obtain special permits and pay additional inspection fees. Designation of this port will improve service and reduce costs for businesses and individuals shipping wildlife via the city's three airports and ocean port.

Common imports and exports through Houston include big game trophies, reptilian leather goods, scientific and museum specimens, live tropical fish, and wildlife curios.

By law, wildlife imports and exports must enter or leave the United States through a designated port, where they are inspected and cleared by Service wildlife inspectors. "The system of designated ports, which funnels wildlife shipments through a limited number of locations, and related declaration, inspection, and clearance requirements help the Service ensure that wildlife trade complies with U.S. laws and treaties that protect species worldwide," the Service said.

The Service has hired and trained inspectors to monitor trade at the newly designated ports of Memphis and Louisville, and is working with shipping companies, air carriers, and brokers in these cities to ensure that importers and exporters understand Service requirements for declaring and clearing wildlife shipments.

The Houston inspection staff will remain at the current level.

The Service selects designated ports based on such criteria as volume of wildlife shipments and geographic diversity. The agency already provides full wildlife inspection services at 14 other designated ports, including New York/Newark - a dual location port - Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

The Service also maintains designated ports at Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Anchorage; and Honolulu.

The Service calls its wildlife inspection program the nation's front-line defense against illegal international wildlife trade. In fiscal year 2004, Service inspectors processed more than 146,400 wildlife shipments.

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Leatherback Turtle Survival Dramatized in New Documentary

FOREST KNOLLS, California, December 8, 2004 (ENS) - The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has released the new documentary, "Last Journey for the Leatherback?" by the Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker Stan Minasian (The Free Willy Story: Keiko's Journey Home).

"Last Journey for the Leatherback?" will make its worldwide television premiere Friday on Link TV, found on the EchoStar and Dish satellite networks. The film will also air three more times on Saturday.

"Sea turtles are really symbolic of what’s happening to the oceans as a whole. As go sea turtles, so go, will go, the ocean," says oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, in the opening sequence of the film as dozens of newly hatched leatherback sea turtles crawl to the water under the moonlight.

The giant Pacific leatherback is the largest sea turtle, measuring nine feet from head to tail with the largest ever recorded tipping the scales at 2,000 lbs.

Scientists predict that the leatherback, which has survived unchanged for over 100 million years, could vanish in the next five to 30 years, if industrial longline fishing vessels continue to kill them while targeting fish.

The female nesting population of leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean has collapsed by 95 percent in the past 20 years, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project says.

"Last Journey for the Leatherback?" combines science, activism and rare footage of endangered sea turtles, to tell the story of sea turtles and the dangers they encounter in their struggle to survive.

After its premiere "Last Journey for the Leatherback?" will move to the festival circuit and later broadcast on the Caribbean Broadcast Union, Link TV and PBS in the United States.

For more information visit www.seaturtles.org and click here for a progam schedule.

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