AmeriScan: December 15, 2005

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AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk Dam Breaks, Flooding Missouri Town

LESTERVILLE, Missouri, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - A mountaintop reservoir in southeast Missouri used to generate electricity broke open early Wednesday flooding the valley below. The flood closed a road and a nearby town was evacuated.

Homes and vehicles were washed away when the dam ruptured at AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant, located near Lesterville, in Reynolds County. The town of Lesterville, with about 150 residents, was under a voluntary evacuation.

The 600 foot breach in the upper basin of the Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant released more than one billion gallons of water, causing major flooding and significant damage to surrounding areas.

The incident occurred at dawn with the upper reservoir at its normal level. At this point, the company said it appears that there was no failure of equipment used to move water upward or any evidence of foul play.

The plant’s 1.5 billion gallon upper reservoir ruptured in the northwest corner draining the upper reservoir and resulting in the closing of Route N. The 300 acre lower reservoir is slightly higher than its normal level but is intact and within normal volumes, the company said.

Ameren Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Rainwater said, "More than two dozen senior AmerenUE managers, engineers and specialists are at the scene, investigating the incident. Clearly, public safety is our top concern."

The plant employs 12 people. All are accounted for and uninjured.

"We have implemented our emergency flooding plan and local authorities, including all emergency officials, have been notified. More than two dozen senior AmerenUE managers, engineers and specialists are at the scene, investigating the incident; clearly, public safety is our top concern," says Taum Sauk Plant Superintendent Rick Cooper. "We have nothing yet to report on the extent of the damage or on any impact on nearby homes or the welfare of local residents."

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed two State of Emergency Disaster Executive Orders Wednesday, authorizing state agencies and the Missouri National Guard to respond to local requests resulting from the Taum Sauk reservoir failure.

Blunt said. "I am personally overseeing the state’s response and want to personally assure all Missourians that we are working diligently to respond to this tragic event and to assist in recovery efforts."

Blunt toured the area yesterday, visiting Johnson Shut-Ins State Park and meeting with families seeking shelter in Lesterville.

State agencies responding in Reynolds County include - Missouri Departments of Natural Resources, Transportation, Department of Public Safety Agencies Highway Patrol, Water Patrol and the State Emergency Management Agency. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are establishing sheltering and feeding operations for evacuated citizens in Lesterville.

Built in 1963, AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk is a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant. It stores water from the Black River in the upper reservoir, built atop 1,590 foot-high Proffit Mountain, and releases the water to generate electricity when power is needed.

The water flows down a mile-long tunnel inside the mountain, turning turbine-generators to produce electricity. When power demand is low, the same turbines run in reverse to pump water back to the upper reservoir.

The dam had leaked since it was built, a company that performed repairs last year told the "Kansas City Star" today. Geo-Synthetics Inc. of Wakesha, Wisconsin said the Taum Sauk plant was built in 1963 at a cost of $50 million and the upper reservoir has leaked ever since.

AmerenUE is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation. Ameren companies serve 2.3 million electric customers and 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000 square mile area of Missouri and Illinois.

AmerenUE Claims personnel have set up a local office in Room 52 of the Shepherd Mountain Inn at 1321 North Highway 21, Ironton, telephone: 573-546-7418. The company says that anyone needing to report damages related to the flooding near AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant can visit that office.

In addition, claims personnel representing AmerenUE will be going door-to-door throughout the area visiting homes and families that have been identified as being affected by the flood.

Or, people who suffered a loss from the flood can call AmerenUE Community Relations Manager Otie Cowan at 314-554-4740, or dial 1-800-552-7583 ext 44740.

Governor Blunt reminded families that it is important to have an emergency response plan in place before disaster strikes. The state’s Ready in Three program provides guidelines for families to set up emergency plans. For more information about Ready in Three visit www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3

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Bill Would Require High-Level Nuclear Waste Storage On-Site

WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - Highly radioactive nuclear waste would be stored on-site where it is produced and the federal government would be required to take responsibility for possession, stewardship, maintenance, and monitoring of the waste, under a bill introduced Wednesday by two U.S. Senators from Nevada.

Senators Harry Reid, a Democrat, and John Ensign, a Republican, say that for decades, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the federal government has focused only on the proposed Yucca Mountain site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas as a central repository for nuclear waste generated at plants around the country.

But the two senators say "conclusive evidence has shown that the Yucca Mountain project is fraught with safety, scientific and budgetary problems, making it a near certainty that the site will never be approved for use."

They object that any high-level nuclear waste storage plan the includes only one waste site would require transporting radioactive material from sites all over the country across thousands of miles, "greatly increasing the chances of an accident or terrorist attack."

The Ensign-Reid legislation would require nuclear power companies to store nuclear waste in what is known as dry cask storage containers. As approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, dry cask containers can safely store waste for at least 100 years and are already used at 33 nuclear power site throughout the country.

The bill would eliminate the need for a single repository, ensuring nuclear waste can be safely stored on-site and under control of the federal government. The legislation would increase safety at all nuclear power plants by providing funding for additional security to guard against accidents or terrorist attack, the senators said.

"The Yucca Mountain project is never going to open," said Reid, the Senate Democratic Leader. "It is time we put the safety of this country first and approach the storage of nuclear waste in a way that is productive and realistic. There cannot be any weak links in the chain of security of our nation’s nuclear power infrastructure."

"Storing nuclear waste on-site is the safest, most reasonable and most effective way of allowing nuclear power companies to continue operating while keeping the health and safety of Americans as our top priority," Reid said.

"What we are proposing today represents the safest and most responsible course of action available for storing nuclear waste," Ensign said. "The dry cask storage technology exists to provide a viable, on-site alternative to shipping waste across the country and it is time we make use of that technology for the health and safety of Americans everywhere. Yucca Mountain is not feasible and it is not acceptable. This is a safe and real solution for nuclear waste storage."

Reid and Ensign pointed to a long list of set backs for the Yucca Mountain project including a July, 2004 court decision that the radiation standard for the site was not stringent enough to protect the public from the risks associated with nuclear waste, and a November 2004 announcement by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board that there is no plan for safely transporting nuclear waste to the proposed repository.

In February, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board called for hearings to review concerns over the corrosion of the titanium drip shields that are supposed to keep water from leaking into casks inside Yucca Mountain.

On March 16, 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the falsification of document and models about water infiltration, a key issue, at Yucca Mountain.

On July 18, 2005, the DOE announced that if Yucca Mountain were to open, high-level nuclear waste would be shipped by train, regardless of the fact that about one-third of reactor sites are not capable of shipping fuel by rail.

The legislation was cosponsored by Utah Senators Robert Bennett and Orrin Hatch, both Republicans.

"I’ve always said that storage on site is the right scientific answer, but differing state laws have made it impossible. The Reid legislation resolves this problem, and buys us time to craft a sensible national policy on nuclear energy," said Bennett.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives Wednesday by the Nevada contingent - Republicans Jim Gibbons and Jon Porter, and Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, and Utah Representative Republican Rob Bishop.

The Spent Nuclear Fuel On-Site Storage Security Act of 2005 amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 by requiring requires commercial nuclear utilities to transfer nuclear waste from spent nuclear fuel pools into dry storage casks within six years after enactment or six years after the waste is produced, whichever comes first.

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Failure to Reveal Teflon Manufacturing Risk Costs DuPont $16.5 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - DuPont has agreed to pay a $10.25 million fine for failing to report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk information about a chemical used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, including some Teflon® products.

Fluoropolymers impart desirable properties, including fire resistance and oil, stain, grease, and water repellency. They are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing.

Under the settlement, filed with the agency's Environmental Appeals Board, Dupont is also committing to $6.25 million for Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), for a total of $16.5 million.

The fine is the largest civil administrative penalty ever obtained by the EPA under any federal environmental statute, the agency said, announcing the settlement Wednesday.

"This is the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any environmental statue. Not by a little, by a lot," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This settlement sends a strong message that companies are responsible for promptly informing EPA about risk information associated with their chemicals."

The settlement, which still must be approved by the Appeals Board, would resolve violations at DuPont's Washington Works facility in Washington, West Virginia related to the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) under provisions of both the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The settlement resolves the four violations alleged in the EPA's two complaints filed against DuPont in July and December 2004, and settles four additional counts involving information about PFOA that EPA obtained after initiating its action against DuPont.

As part of this settlement, DuPont has agreed to undertake two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) valued at $6.25 million.

The first SEP, valued at $5 million and to be completed in three years, is a project designed to investigate the potential of nine of DuPont's fluorotelomer products to break down to form PFOA.

This SEP will help industry, scientists, the public and the EPA examine the potential sources of PFOA in the environment and potential routes of human exposure to PFOA.

The public will have an opportunity to nominate members to a Peer Consultation Panel, an independent group of scientists who will address specific charges identified in the SEP. For the second SEP, DuPont will spend $1.25 million to implement the Microscale and Green Chemistry Project at schools in Wood County, West Virginia. This three year long SEP will foster science laboratory curriculum changes to reduce risks posed by chemicals in schools.

Using microscale chemistry, which reduces exposure to chemicals, and green chemistry, an approach that uses safer chemicals, the project will reduce risks to children's health and enhance science safety in all of the participating schools.

"We are pleased that as a direct result of this settlement with DuPont, valuable information will be produced for the scientific community to better understand the presence of PFOA in the environment and any potential risks it poses to the public," said Susan Hazen, EPA's principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.

The EPA began its investigation because PFOA is very persistent in the environment, was being found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, and caused developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

DuPont violated the Toxic Substances Control Act through multiple failures to report information to EPA about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment that DuPont obtained about PFOA from as early as 1981 and as recently as 2004 on human health, environmental contamination, and animal toxicity studies.

Additional information on PFOA is available at: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/pfoa

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New Jersey Sues Three Companies for Passaic River Dioxin Pollution

TRENTON, New Jersey, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey filed suit Wednesday against Occidental Chemical Corporation, Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. for the intentional discharge of dioxins and other contaminants into the Passaic River. Dioxin concentrations in Passaic River fish and crabs are among the highest reported in the world and present an imminent and substantial danger to the public and wildlife, state officials said.

New Jersey also directed the three companies to pay the state $2.3 million to develop a plan to dredge contaminated sediments in a six mile stretch of the Lower Passaic River, the first step in reducing dioxin contamination levels, said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell and Attorney General Peter Harvey.

The six mile stretch is located in Essex County in the municipality of Newark, and in Hudson County in the municipalities of Harrison, East Newark, and Kearny.

"The owners of this chemical plant poisoned the Passaic River and Newark Bay with dioxin that put the health of the public at serious risk," said Harvey. "Our suit and directive demand payment for the cleanup of this dangerous contamination and compensation for the severe damage done to these major waterways."

Occidental Chemical Corporation discharged a particular form of dioxin known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and other contaminants from a Newark plant within this six mile area.

Because of tidal movement, the high concentrations of dioxin in sediment within the six mile area is an ongoing source of contamination to other areas of the river and the New Jersey-New York harbor estuary.

"Lower Passaic River communities already have waited too long for a cleanup of dioxin that is an immediate threat to public health," said Campbell. "We have gathered enough data and completed enough studies to know where the most significant source of dioxin is in the river. The time for New Jersey to act is now, and our actions will complement those of the federal-state partnership addressing long-term restoration of the river. "

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies have determined that dioxins, TCDD in particular, are some of the most toxic chemicals ever developed. Human exposure to dioxin at extremely low concentrations can cause severe health effects, including cancer and reproductive damage.

Dioxin (TCDD) contamination associated with Occidental Chemical Corporation’s operations has been found in the sediment of the six mile stretch of the Lower Passaic River at concentrations of up to 5,300,000 parts per trillion (ppt) and its continued migration has created one of the largest and most toxic contaminant discharges in the world.

As a result of the dioxin released by Occidental Chemical Corporation, the state has been forced to impose fishing and crabbing bans in the Passaic River for more than 20 years. Despite the state’s ongoing efforts to alert the public of the dangers of eating these fish and crab, New Jersey residents are still catching and consuming them.

The DEP will develop a source control dredge plan to prevent the ongoing spread of dioxin contamination coming from sediments in the six-mile stretch. By removing and/or controlling the spread of dioxin concentrations in sediment above 17 parts per trillion, the source control dredge plan will begin and accelerate the reduction of TCDD concentrations in fish and shellfish tissue to levels considered safe for both human consumption and a healthy ecosystem.

Under the directive, Occidental Chemical Corporation, Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. must pay the state $2.29 million within 30 days. If the companies fail to pay DEP for the source control dredge plan, the state has the authority to sue them for reimbursement of all costs, including an amount equal to three times the actual cleanup and removal cost.

In addition to the "imminent and substantial danger" that the officials say dioxin poses to human and animal populations, the presence of dioxin in the sediment has an ongoing adverse economic impact on New Jersey’s commerce and port industry. The high levels of dioxin in sediment increase the dredge disposal costs in Newark Bay and surrounding areas, state officials said.

For more than two decades, Occidental Chemical Corporation and its predecessors, the Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company and others, intentionally discharged TCDD, DDT and various other pesticides and chemicals from their manufacturing plant at the Diamond Alkali site at 80 Lister Avenue and the adjacent property at 120 Lister Avenue on the banks of the Passaic River in Newark.

While no cleanup work has been done to address the TCDD contamination in the river, under the Superfund program the EPA has completed interim work on land at the Diamond Alkali site.

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Water Utilities Must Reduce Pathogens, Disinfection Chemicals

WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - Two related drinking water protection rules were finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today. One reduces the risk of disease-causing microorganisms entering water supplies and the other requires water systems to limit the amount of potentially harmful disinfection byproducts that end up in drinking water.

The rules were proposed in August 2003, and were developed from consensus recommendations from a federal advisory committee comprised of state and local governments, tribes, environmental, public health and water industry groups.

"Clean drinking water is a key ingredient to keeping people healthy and our economy strong," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. "Over the past seven years EPA has worked collaboratively with stakeholders to develop regulations that will provide a balance between the need to disinfect drinking water and protect citizens from potentially harmful contaminants."

"Today's signing represents the latest step in an extensive stakeholder-based rulemaking process," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), an industry organization that served on a federal advisory committee providing input during the rule's development.

"The purpose of the standards is to maintain strong disinfection of drinking water while continuing efforts to reduce levels of disinfection byproducts," said Hoffbuhr. "We look forward to reviewing the final rules, and working with drinking water utilities to implement their contents."

The rules are intended to decrease the incidence of gastrointestinal illnesses caused by microbial contaminants and reduce potential cancer risks associated with disinfectant byproducts in drinking water, Johnson said.

The "Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule" (LT2), increases monitoring and treatment requirements for water systems that are prone to outbreaks of Cryptosporidium, a waterborne pathogen.

The LT2 rule requires that public water systems that are supplied by surface water sources monitor for Cryptosporidium. Those water systems that measure higher levels of Cryptosporidium or do not filter their water must provide additional protection by using options from a "microbial toolbox" of treatment and management processes, such as ultraviolet disinfection, and watershed control programs.

The rule also addresses risks of contamination in systems that store treated drinking water in open reservoirs, where water quality can be compromised by exposure to outdoor elements. The rule requires open reservoirs to either be covered or receive added treatment.

Consuming water contaminated with Cryptosporidium causes gastrointestinal illness which can be severe in people with weakened immune systems, such as infants or the elderly and could be fatal in people with severely compromised immune systems, such as cancer and AIDS patients, the EPA said.

The second rule, known as the "Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule" (Stage 2 DBP), was developed to balance the benefits and risks posed by drinking water disinfection.

While the EPA calls disinfection "one of the major public health advances of the 20th century," it also creates harmful byproducts that are formed when disinfectants, such as chlorine, combine with naturally occurring materials in water.

The final rule targets water systems that have the greatest risk of high DBPs by using more stringent methods for determining compliance.

Under the rule, water systems are required to find monitoring sites where higher levels of DBPs are likely to occur and use these new locations for compliance monitoring. If DBPs are found to exceed drinking water standards at any of these new monitoring locations, water systems must begin to take corrective action.

Hoffbuhr warned of the costs associated with implementing the new rules. "These rules may require dramatic treatment changes at significant costs in some communities," he said. "In small communities, these new costs will sometimes be borne by a small pool of ratepayers."

Finalizing the two rules represents the last phase of a congressionally required rulemaking strategy under the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The final rules will be published in the Federal Register in January. Pre-publication copies and additional information can be found on the EPA web site at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/disinfection/

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Earth First! Activists Found Guilty in Mountain Lion Trial

TUCSON, Arizona, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - Earth First! activists charged with removing traps intended to catch mountain lions in Arizona's Sabino Canyon were found guilty Tuesday.

A Tucson jury found Rod Coronado and Matt Crozier guilty of felony conspiracy to impede or injure an officer of the United States, and two misdemeanors - interfering with a Forest Service officer, and destruction of government property.

Mountain lions were reported to have been wandering near the Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area's visitor center and into surrounding neighborhoods.

Coronado, 39, of Tucson, was arrested March 24, 2004 along with Esquire writer John H. Richardson in Sabino Canyon during an Arizona Game and Fish operation to remove mountain lions from the recreation area.

Crozier, 33, of Sedona, was arrested by FBI agents nine months later, allegedly for also being in the canyon.

The two could be imprisoned for more than six years if maximum sentences are imposed.

Coronado's attorney, Antonio Felix, argued that free speech is on trial as much as his client because the government used statements made to the media as proof of the conspiracy charge.

Felix argued that much of the prosecution's case relied on emotional appeals to the jury about the danger of mountain lions. "Prosecution led a campaign to get the jury to say 'Arizona Game and Fish did a good job'," he said during closing arguments.

After the verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst called Coronado "a terrorist," and asked Judge David Bury to order Coronado jailed until his March 8 sentencing. But the judge said he had to rely on the only report before him, which described Coronado as "a model released defendant" following his indictment in this case. He allowed Coronado to remain free.

An Earth First! spokesperson stated "while we may be reassessing our specific strategy in light of this conviction, our commitment to defending Arizona's wildlife with effective direct action will not change."

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Fired U.S. Park Police Chief Sues Park Service for $2.2 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2005 (ENS) - Citing attempts by the National Park Service to destroy documents that would exonerate her, former chief of the U.S. Park Police, Teresa Chambers, is seeking monetary damages for wrongful acts by top officials, according to legal documents released Wednesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Two years ago, in December 2003, Chambers was stripped of her badge and law enforcement credentials and suspended from duties as chief, following an interview she gave to the "Washington Post" concerning a shortage of officers to patrol parks and parkways.

"I want and fully expect to be restored as chief of the United States Park Police," said Chambers. "As the second anniversary of these events loomed, I was forced to file a compensation claim or waive that option forever."

One year ago today, Chambers filed an appeal with the civil service court, called the Merit Systems Protection Board, asking for a review of a recommended decision upholding her termination in July 2004.

That recommended decision threw out two of the six administrative charges lodged against her. During the ensuing months, no decision has been reached on her appeal. The board is under no deadline for issuing a decision.

Meanwhile, Chambers’ lawyers have opened two new challenges. One is a federal lawsuit under the Privacy Act seeking to force the production of a positive performance evaluation covering the period during which she was later charged with substandard performance and conduct.

Testimony from the former head of Park Service’s human resources department indicates that a positive evaluation of Chief Chambers was prepared just weeks before she was suspended. The Park Service has yet to produce that document.

The other is a filing this month for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The initial claim is for $1.4 million in compensatory damages and another $750,000 for damaged reputation and emotional distress.

In addition, Chambers may bring damage claims against named individual officials for actions taken beyond their authority. Without access to her evaluation and other records of her performance, Chambers contends that she is, in essence, blackballed from future law enforcement work.

s "The case of Teresa Chambers will determine whether federal civil servants can be fired by political appointees simply for telling the truth," said PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who filed both of the new federal claims on Chambers’ behalf.

Chambers’ damage claim will be filed in federal court if the Park Service refuses to pay damages or provide reinstatement within six months.

"No matter how long it takes," Condit said, "we will leave no stone unturned in restoring Teresa Chambers as the chief of the U.S. Park Police."

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