AmeriScan: December 12, 2005

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$50 Million Ashtabula River Cleanup in the Works

CHICAGO, Illinois, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - A federal-state-local agreement to fund and carry out a $50 million cleanup of sediment contaminated with PCBs from the Ashtabula River in Ohio was announced on Friday. This cleanup project, under the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002, is the largest to date in terms of scope and cost and Ohio's first.

"This ambitious cleanup under President [George W.] Bush's Great Lakes Legacy program will enhance and restore Ashtabula's recreational, residential and economic values," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson. "The water that flows from the Ashtabula River out to Lake Erie will be cleaner because of our efforts."

The Legacy Act is a special initiative to clean up 31 pollution hot spots on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. The cost of this fourth Legacy Act cleanup will be split evenly by the EPA and the Ashtabula City Port Authority and its partners. The state of Ohio will provide $7 million as part of the Port Authority's cost share.

"The Ashtabula River dredging is an example of what we can accomplish together," said Ohio Governor Bob Taft, a Republican. "Federal investment in this project is being matched by private dollars and $7 million from the state of Ohio. This is a model for the way in which we must all come together to advance the cleanup and restoration of the Great Lakes."

The EPA in cooperation with the Port Authority will clean up 600,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a one mile stretch of the river, which flows into Lake Erie.

The work, expected to be completed in 2009, will be done in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the Corps will conduct navigation dredging downstream of the project area.

"Cleaning up the contaminated sediment in the Ashtabula River ensures healthier drinking water for Ohio families and improved recreational opportunities, like fishing," said Republican Senator Mike DeWine, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force and sponsor of the Great Lakes Legacy Act.

The Ashtabula's name comes from the Iroquois and means "river of many fish." Numerous species of fish still live there but PCB pollution caused the Ohio Department of Public Health to post warning signs in 1997 to advise limiting consumption of fish caught from the river. The goal of this cleanup is to reduce contamination to safe levels so such warnings will no longer be necessary.

"On behalf of the partnership, I wish to thank EPA," said Fred Leitert, co-chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Ashtabula River Partnership. "Throughout Ashtabula, we are looking forward with great enthusiasm to the completion of the project, which is vital to the continued viability of the port, the City of Ashtabula, and the surrounding community."

Contaminated sediment is one of the major reasons many Great Lakes fish are not safe to eat in unlimited quantities. It also harms aquatic habitat and pollutes sources of drinking water. This has been a long-term and persistent problem throughout the entire Great Lakes basin. There are still millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediment to be removed from the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act authorizes $270 million in funding over five years for cleanups of contaminated sediment hotspots. In 2004, the first year funds were available, Congress appropriated $9.9 million. In 2005, Congress appropriated $22.3 million, and $30 million will be available in 2006.

Cleanups of Black Lagoon, an inlet of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan as well as Newton Creek/Hog Island Inlet in Superior, Wisconsin, were completed last month. Another Great Lakes Legacy Act project is under way at Ruddiman Creek in Muskegon, Michigan, and more projects are expected.

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First Bush-Clinton Hurricane Grants to Schools, Faith, Governors

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have announced the first grants from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

Totalling $90 million, the grants include $30 million to Gulf region higher education institutions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and a $20 million grant for a ministerial partnership with local and regional faith-based organizations.

An initial disbursement of $40 million divided amongst the three states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for their governors' recovery and relief funds.

Presidents Bush and Clinton also announced a collaborative partnership between the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and the United Negro College Fund on behalf of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

These grants come from the millions donated to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to benefit the hundreds of thousands of hurricane and flood victims that lost their homes and livelihoods when Katrina made landfall on August 29.

At the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, the two former Presidents said it is important to get higher education institutions up and running quickly.

"Universities and colleges are the cornerstones of communities across the region. Helping them get back on their feet is a key to the long-term recovery of the Gulf," said former President Bush.

"These institutions need to reestablish themselves to give people hope that the foundations of their communities will be there now and in the future. Colleges and universities not only train new workers but they are often the largest employers in their communities," said former President Clinton.

Working with universities and colleges throughout the region, the $30 million in funding will go toward repairs, reconstruction and replacement of equipment due to physical damage on campuses; assist students who left school due to its closure and/or their relocation after the hurricane, and; salaries and benefits paid to retain and support faculty and staff who were/are not working because of school closures.

Presidents Bush and Clinton stressed the importance of helping faith-based organizations recoup from their recovery efforts.

"In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, local and national churches and religious organizations were tremendously helpful in providing for the needs of the people of the Gulf Coast, but at extreme financial strain," said Clinton.

"We need to make sure these organizations can continue to provide their necessary services to the community, and that they are not punished for doing such important work," said Bush.

Money donated to the governors' funds will be used to fill gaps and community needs unmet by local, state, and national relief and rebuilding efforts.

Former Commerce Secretary Don Evans and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman will serve as co-trustees, guiding the fund on behalf of the two presidents. Herman is the current chairman and CEO of New Ventures. Evans is chairman of the Financial Services Forum.

"Alexis and Don are outstanding public servants who continue to give to their country everyday. Helping us guide the fund is just another example of that service. We are lucky to have them," said Presidents Bush and Clinton.

For more information on the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and how to make a donation to the fund visit: www.BushClintonKatrinaFund.org.

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Gulf Seafood From Hurricane Affected Waters Called Safe

WASHINGTON, DC, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - There is no reason for concern about consuming seafood from the Gulf region due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, state and federal agencies said Friday after analyzing hundreds of samples of fish and shellfish from the affected waters.

The states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, along with U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed the samples for chemical and microbiological contaminants that could have been introduced by the hurricanes.

The seafood tissue sampling occurred in an area from the estuaries of New Orleans to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The sampled areas included Lake Pontchartrain, Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay as well as the offshore areas of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Additional monitoring is now in progress and results will be announced as they become available, the agencies said.

While many oyster harvest areas have been tested and re-opened, other areas remain closed until routine sampling by existing state regulated Molluscan Shellfish Programs determines that oyster harvesting can resume. Current data from analyses of fish and other shellfish from these areas show no reason for concern.

Health officials advise that consuming raw seafood always poses a potential risk from bacterial and viral contamination. This risk can be reduced by thoroughly cooking seafood.

As always, the agencies said, fishermen should avoid catching seafood in areas with visible oil sheens or slicks, and should only harvest live seafood.

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Passaic River Dredging, Decontamination Tests Launched

TRENTON, New Jersey, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - An environmental dredging test project on the lower Passaic River in New Jersey begun last week will pave the way for wider cleanup of the river.

The removal of 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 1.5 acre area in the Passaic River near downtown Newark starts a two-part evaluation of environmental dredging and sediment decontamination technologies.

"This is a critical first step that uses an integrated approach providing us with effective tools," said Army Colonel Richard J. Polo Jr., the Corps' New York District Engineer. "The end result is that these expandable tools will allow us to remediate the contaminated sediments and restore the ecological health of the lower Passaic."

"Results from this test project will greatly enhance our ability to evaluate sediment removal and treatment options," said EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg. "It is critical that we first demonstrate effectiveness on a pilot basis, and then apply that knowledge on a larger scale to develop a comprehensive cleanup plan for sediment contamination in the lower Passaic River."

The dredged sediment will be transported to the Bayshore Recycling Inc. facility located in Keasbey, New Jersey. The sediment will then be off-loaded to the Valgocen, a 730 foot bulk carrier vessel that will serve as a temporary storage location and material handling facility. This winter, the partner agencies will perform a sediment decontamination pilot study on the dredged sediments.

The agencies will use two different sediment decontamination technologies to demonstrate that contaminated Lower Passaic River sediments can be handled safely, decontaminated effectively, and be used to manufacture beneficial use products such as cement and soil.

About 2,500 cubic yards of Passaic River sediment will undergo treatment using a sediment washing process performed at the Bayshore Recycling Inc. facility in Keasbey. Manufactured soil will be produced during the treatment process. The agencies say this decontaminated soil could be used in applications such as upland remediation and landscaping.

The remaining 2,500 cubic yards of Passaic River sediment will undergo treatment using a thermal destruction process performed at the International-Matex tank terminal located in Bayonne, New Jersey. Construction grade cement will be produced during the treatment process. The cement could potentially be used in the construction of sidewalks, parking lots and driveways.

The environmental dredging and decontamination pilot study is part of the Lower Passaic River Restoration Project, an ongoing joint effort conducted by New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the EPA and the Corps with support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The inception of the lower Passaic River dredging and decontamination project reflects NJDOT's commitment to advance both commerce and the environment by improving the condition of our maritime resources," said NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere. "This pilot study will enable us to more quickly clean up the lower Passaic River by providing vital information on dredging and decontamination technology, economics and environmental impact."

The environmental dredging and sediment decontamination pilot will collect data on environmental dredging technology performance, productivity, re-suspension and treatability of contaminated sediments.

The partner agencies, along with the U.S. Geological Survey and Rutgers University, collected monitoring data before the start of dredging and will collect extensive water quality monitoring data during and after the dredging to evaluate the extent of sediment re-suspension in the Lower Passaic River caused by environmental dredging operations.

Find out more at: www.ourpassaic.org.

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Sierra Club Lawsuit Targets EPA Rule on Toxic Chemical Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - The Sierra Club is going back to court to appeal a ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the group claims fails to address a previous court order won six years ago.

The group is suing to force the EPA to impose the strictest protections required by law on hundreds of hazardous waste combustors nationwide that release tons of toxic air pollution each year.

Litigation filed Thursday by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenges the agency's rule, which the plaintiff claims does nothing to reduce toxic chemicals like dioxins, mercury, toxic metals and organic hazardous air pollutants.

"EPA has again shown us that reducing toxic air pollution does not register within the agency as a high priority," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew, who will argue the case.

"For the millions of Americans who live near these combustors who are at a higher risk for cancer and other illnesses, reducing overall pollution releases is an unbelievably high priority," said Pew. "If EPA saw this as the threat it truly is, they certainly would have required much stronger emission reductions from these combustors."

In 1999, Earthjustice successfully challenged a previous hazardous waste combustor rule that did not comply with federal law. The EPA's subsequent proposed rule, issued October 12, again fails to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act by neglecting to address many of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by hazardous waste combustion.

The EPA has identified hazardous waste combustors as sources that "emit some of the most toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent hazardous air pollutants."

The agency estimates that there are about 145 facilities operating 265 combustors nationwide. Combustors can include hazardous waste burning cement kilns, industrial boilers, lightweight aggregate kilns, and hydrochloric acid furnaces.

"Years ago we learned how bad it was to burn our garbage in our backyards," said Marti Sinclair, chair of Sierra Club's National Air Committee. "We stopped burning, but apparently these combustors did not get the message. While they continue to burn huge amounts of hazardous waste right in our backyards, EPA again fails to require them to reduce the amount of pollution they contribute to nearby communities."

The Sierra Club aims to reduce toxic emissions from industrial polluters such as polyvinyl chloride and plywood manufacturers, cement kilns, power plants, industrial waste incinerators and mobile sources such as cars, buses and trucks.

In all of these cases, EPA's dismissal of federal law, court orders and meaningful pollution reduction have forced conservation, public health and community groups into litigation to seek stronger clean air protections, Earthjustice says.

"The rules that EPA has proposed for many different industrial facilities are continually inadequate," Pew said. "Whether it's a federal court or Congress directing EPA to draft stronger protections against air pollution, the agency just seems to continually ignore these guidelines."

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Pennsylvania OKs Lafarge Cement to Burn Nonrecyclable Plastics

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection today approved an air quality plan for LaFarge North American Inc. in Whitehall Township that allows the company to use certain nonrecyclable plastics as a fuel supplement in its cement kilns.

The DEP issued the approval for the Lehigh County facililty following a two year review process that included a test burn and sampling regimen that the department developed and monitored to obtain data to determine whether emissions met all air quality regulations.

“The entire testing and monitoring process was carefully controlled to ensure there was no threat to public health or the environment,” said DEP Northeast Regional Director Michael Bedrin.

LaFarge had to test for many organic and inorganic chemicals, including dioxin, furans and products of incomplete combustion. The company also had to conduct a specially designed health-based risk assessment, using DEP’s approved models and protocols, on emissions found during the test burn to ensure the use of these plastics are safe for residents and the environment.

LaFarge submitted the request to DEP in January 2003 and proposed to use Types 4, 5, 6 and 7 plastic as a fuel supplement. The plastic type codes are defined by the Society of the Plastics Industry.

  • Type 4, low-density polyethylene, includes many plastic bags, shrink wrap, and garment bags.
  • Type 5, polypropylene includes refrigerated containers, some bags, most bottle tops, some carpets, some food wrap.
  • Type 6, polystyrene includes throwaway utensils, meat packing, and protective packing.
  • Type 7 is layered or mixed plastic with no recycling potential.

    At the time of its original application, DEP directed the company to present the details of the proposal to township officials and residents and ensure their early involvement in the process.

    During review of the LaFarge application, state recycling experts reviewed the use of the specific recyclable material as a fuel and found there is no secondary market for these plastic, confirming the company’s assertion that these materials normally are disposed of in landfills.

    In addition to these preliminary assessments, the plan approval also requires additional fuel sampling, annual stack emissions testing and the use of continuous emission monitors to ensure air quality.

    DEP held a public hearing on the application October 27. A comment and response document on the testimony that was presented during that meeting has been prepared and will be distributed and made available to residents and officials.

    The LaFarge air plan approval can be appealed to the state Environmental Hearing Board within 30 days.

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    Hawaii Becomes the First TsunamiReady State

    HONOLULU, Hawaii, December 12, 2005 (ENS) - Officials from the NOAA National Weather Service were in Honolulu Friday to praise Hawaii’s civil defense team for completing a set of rigorous warning and evacuation criteria necessary to earn the distinction of the entire state being TsunamiReady and StormReady.

    “It is with great pride that we announce Hawaii as the first TsunamiReady state in America,” said U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, a Democrat. “Hawaii has experienced more tsunami threats than any other state in the union and we know how devastating they can be. As we near the one-year anniversary of the greatest tsunami of our lifetime, our hearts go out to those Indian Ocean countries who are still recovering."

    Senator Inouye was referring to the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed more than 250,000 lives in 11 countries and left millions of people homeless.

    "In Hawaii," Inouye said, "we have taken steps to be better prepared for the next tsunami. We have an emergency operations center in every county, a statewide siren system, evacuation maps in the phone books, regular drills and public education programs. These provisions and others helped the State of Hawaii become TsunamiReady and StormReady.”

    “Hawaii is proud and honored to receive the TsunamiReady Award on behalf of the hundreds of state personnel. It acknowledges their achievements, individually, as a department and our Administration over the past few years," said Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican. "However, as we have learned this year from the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, we can never be fully prepared."

    The Lingle administration is proposing a comprehensive Emergency Preparedness Package focused on hazard mitigation, enhancing preparedness, and accelerating response and recovery efforts to help make Hawaii better prepared in the years ahead, the governor said.

    “All four counties in Hawaii have earned the TsunamiReady and StormReady designation, making Hawaii the first state in the United States to achieve this status,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "The state of Hawaii should take great pride in having gone the extra mile to provide its residents and visitors with the added measure of protection that the TsunamiReady program affords.”

    TsunamiReady and StormReady community preparedness programs use a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle tsunamis, local severe weather, wave impacts and flooding threats, and help communities inform citizens of threats associated with each.

    To be recognized as TsunamiReady and StormReady, a community must:

    Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems, NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop an integrated global monitoring network.

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