AmeriScan: February 4, 2005

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Allegheny Ludlum to Pay $2.37 Million for Toxic Discharges

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - After court ordered mediation, Allegheny Ludlum Corp. has agreed to pay a $2.37 million penalty to settle alleged Clean Water Act violations at the companyís Pittsburgh area steel mills and finishing plants. The fine is reduced from the original $8.24 million awarded after a jury trial in 2001.

The settlement will conclude more than nine years of litigation over water pollution from the Allegheny Ludlum plants. Filed Tuesday in federal district court in Pittsburgh, it is still subject to final court approval.

A specialty materials company, Allegheny Ludlum manufacturers stainless steel, silicon electrical steels, tool steels, titanium, nickel alloys and armour materials.

The federal governmentís lawsuit, filed in 1995, cited the company for unlawful discharges of oil and toxic pollutants, including chromium, copper, zinc, and nickel.

The Justice Department alleged that Allegheny Ludlum violated state issued Clean Water Act permits for three facilities by discharging pollutants to two rivers - the Allegheny and the Kiskiminetas.

The government alleged that the company discharged the toxics from:

Following a month long jury trial in early 2001, the federal district court imposed a $8.24 million penalty against Allegheny Ludlum for more than 1,100 days of Clean Water Act permit violations from July 1990 through February 1997.

In a February 19, 2002 ruling, the district court noted the substantial number, magnitude, and environmental and public health threat of these violations, which included 893 violations of toxic pollutant limits, 180 days when the company exceeded permit limits by at least 1,000 percent and a "notorious" July 1994 oil spill from West Leechburg, which spread 30 miles downstream.

The court recognized that Allegheny Ludlum had improved its environmental compliance during the litigation, but observed that "this form of good faith sprung not from internal willingness to comply with its statutory obligations," but from "more intense government enforcement."

The court noted that Allegheny Ludlum paid fines totaling $200,000 to Pennsylvania in 1992 and 1993 for 990 prior water pollution violations.

Allegheny Ludlum appealed, and on April 28, 2004 The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district courtís finding that Allegheny Ludlum had violated the Clean Water Act.

Still, the appellate court sent the case back to the district court to consider the companyís claim that it had overstated pollution discharges in water monitoring reports due to its own "laboratory error." The Court of Appeals also directed the district court to reassess the penalty, in light of the appropriate interest rate and "economic benefit of non-compliance" and to further evaluate supporting evidence of violations of monthly average limits.

The settlement announced today was reached during court-ordered mediation. The settlement reflects that Allegheny Ludlum has generally complied with its permits for several years, resulting in reduced adverse environmental impacts.

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Electronics Recycling Attracts Congressional Attention

WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - Two bills have come up in the House of Representatives that each attempt to address the growing mountain of electronic waste in the United States.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Duke Cunningham of California, Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Darrell Issa of California are sponsoring the Tax Incentives to Encourage Recycling Act of 2005.

This measure would amend the Tax Code provide tax incentives to encourage manufacturers of computer, cell phone, and television equipment to operate an environmentally sound recycling program for use by consumers who want to discard the equipment.

A computer central processing unit, a monitor, a printer or a television set would each qualify for a $4 tax credit to the manufacturer, while a cell phone or a mouse and keyboard together would be worth a $1 tax credit.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, Representatives Mike Thompson of California and Louise Slaughter of New York have introduced the National Computer Recycling Act, a bill that would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and implement a national electronic scrap recycling program.

"Over 3,000 tons of electronics are discarded everyday in our country," Thompson says. "Obsolete computers are taking up space in closets, warehouses and landfills and each of these computers contains dangerous materials such as lead and chromium which pose a significant risk to human health and the environment."

Slaughter says, "Electronic waste is growing exponentially as more Americans are upgrading their computer equipment every few years. But with federal regulators slow to implement a comprehensive e-waste reduction program, Congressional action is necessary to curb the rising tide of this toxic waste."

Maine and California have already enacted their own e-waste laws. Without a national law, states are creating a patchwork of different laws from coast-to-coast making it difficult and expensive for manufactures and retailers to adhere to 50 different laws.

The National Computer Recycling Act would direct the EPA to develop a grant program to encourage municipalities, individuals and organizations to start e-waste recycling programs.

It would require a comprehensive e-waste study to be conducted by the EPA that would make ongoing recommendations for addressing the problem; and direct the EPA to assess a fee of up to $10 on new computers to fund the grant program and exempt manufactures and retailers that have existing recycling programs from the fee.

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Comment Sought on Ocean Dumping of Dredged Sediment

LOS ANGELES, California, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requesting public comment on a draft environmental impact statement that proposes a deep water ocean disposal site located offshore of Newport Beach in Orange County.

The site is intended to supplement an ocean disposal site offshore of Los Angeles where dredgers have long disposed of dredged material from Southern California port deepening and maintenance projects.

The draft environmental impact statement proposes a permanent dredged material site to handle the needs of Orange County that will be jointly managed with the Los Angeles site, a permanent ocean dredged material disposal site designated primarily to handle the dredging needs of Los Angeles County.

The site offshore of Newport Beach, known as LA3, has been used as an interim ocean disposal site 1976; but now the site is proposed as a permanent alternative.

Under the draft environmental impact statement, the Los Angeles site, known as "LA2," would increase the amount of materials it receives to one million cubic yards per year while using the Orange County site to dispose of 2.5 million cubic yards per year.

Dredged material is expected to be released from split hull barges. No dumping of toxic materials or industrial or municipal waste would be allowed.

Dredging projects from ports in Southern California - the largest being Los Angeles/Long Beach - can generate millions of cubic yards of sediment annually; much of the suitable nontoxic material has been reused for area construction projects or habitat restoration.

The Orange County site is about 4.5 nautical miles offshore of Newport Beach in 1,500 feet of water. The Los Angeles site is located almost six nautical miles offshore of the Los Angeles Harbor in water depths ranging from 360 to 1,100 feet.

"In proposing this ocean disposal site, the EPA has completed extensive studies to ensure the location is best suited for dredged materials," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's Water Division in San Francisco. "We will continue to monitor all dredging operations to ensure protection of coastal resources, and make our findings available to the public."

Dredging maintains safe navigation in harbors and marinas in the Los Angeles County and Orange County region. In order for a dredging project to be authorized to dispose of dredged material, sediment evaluations - which include physical, chemical, and biological testing - are first evaluated by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Under the general sediment management strategy, all dredged material will be evaluated for pollutants, and, if suitable, will then be transported to the approved location(s). To ensure that dredgers are complying with the strategy, the EPA, the Corps of Engineers and others agencies have enforcement authority under the Clean Water Act, the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, and state statutes.

To view the draft environmental impact statement, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/la3

The public comment period ends March 7. Public meetings are scheduled for: February 9, 2 - 4 p.m. and 7 - 9 p.m. at the Upper Newport Bay Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center at the corner of University Drive and Irvine Avenue, 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, California.

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Removal of Cleaning Chemicals from Albuquerque Water Begins

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - A new groundwater treatment system at a Superfund site in the central business district of downtown Albuquerque began operating last week. Local officials and community leaders watched as the system began to extract and treat groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents from the aquifer underlying the site.

"It's wonderful to see this system in place and working to protect the drinking water supply for Albuquerque residents," EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene said. "I look forward to the day local leaders and future developers of the downtown business district are no longer distracted by this historic contamination."

EPA, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and local officials have been working together to coordinate construction activities, groundwater testing and planning for ongoing cleanup at the Fruit Avenue Plume Superfund site.

The suspected source of the groundwater contamination is a defunct dry cleaning facility that operated from 1940 to 1970. Although no wells are currently impacted, two municipal drinking water wells are less than two miles from the site.

Chlorinated solvents are heavier than water and readily sink in groundwater. An exact or calculated volume of the chlorinated solvent TCE released into the groundwater at the former site of Elite Cleaners is unknown at this time, said the EPA, but very small amounts of these chemicals can contaminate large volumes of soil and groundwater, the agency said.

There are 187,327 people who receive their drinking water from wells within a four mile radius of the source site. Within one mile of the site, the total population is approximately 6,000, a large percentage of which are workers, not full-time residents. There are two hospitals and two City of Albuquerque municipal wells located one to 1.75 miles from the source site.

NMED Secretary Ron Curry said, "We have taken action today to help protect and restore New Mexico's most precious resource. Ninety percent of our state's drinking water comes from groundwater. This cleanup will help ensure that future generations have a safe supply of clean water to drink."

Congresswoman Heather Wilson said, "We need to take care of our resources for future generations. Treating this water source is the responsible thing to do to protect our drinking water."

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez credits the cooperative effort between the city, state and federal government with the successful start of the $16 million project.

"We have a long road ahead of us on this very important groundwater protection initiative," he said. "We are taking the first step today in the actual cleanup and I am confident that we will see this project through to successful completion. It's important to Albuquerque - both present and future generations."

The Fruit Avenue Plume site was added to the Superfund List in October 1999.

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Wetlands Fill Near Indianapolis Airport Draws $157,500 Fine

CHICAGO, Illinois, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 recently cited the Indiana Department of Transportation, Atlas Excavating and Larry Fitzgerald doing business as Shrum Manufactured Housing, for illegally filling in wetlands near the Indianapolis International Airport.

The agency has proposed to fine the responsible parties $157,500.

EPA alleges that between August and December 1999, the three respondents illegally dumped 35,500 cubic yards of polluted construction debris as fill material on a two acre area southeast of U.S. Highway 40, near the intersection of West Washington Street and Raceway Boulevard.

Most of the two acres is owned by the airport. Fitzgerald owns the adjacent parcel where the material was originally supposed to be disposed of, though his property only received a small amount of the material.

As a result of the dumping, wildlife habitat has been destroyed and the East Fork of White Lick Creek can no longer provide flood storage for the watershed.

The fill, in turn, has now also become a source of additional pollution affecting White Lick Creek - which is already classified by the Indiana as an impaired water body. The creek flows into the White River, which leads to the Wabash River, an interstate stream.

The civil penalty is based on more than 1,900 continuous days of violation. The respondents have 30 days to request a hearing or file a response with EPA.

In 1997, the Indiana Department of Transportation paid $35,000 to resolve a similar administrative complaint for illegally filling in wetlands with debris from a U.S. Highway 23 construction project in St. Joseph County.

Wetlands are environmentally valuable because they filter pollutants from water, recharge water supplies, reduce flood risks and provide fish and wildlife habitat.

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Big Island Asphalt Ordered to Keep Oil Out of Storm Drains

HILO, Hawaii, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - A Hilo asphalt company has until February 10 to submit a work plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that shows how the company will prevent oil and and oily water from flowing into storm water drainage channels and into the ocean. Failure to comply could result in fines as high as $27,500 per day of violation.

In November 2004, an EPA inspector found oil and oily water discharges from containers at the Big Island Asphalt site located near the storm water drainage channels along Kalaneaneole Street that empty into Hilo Harbor.

The facility also lacked proper controls to prevent the discharge of oil into Hilo Harbor and Hilo Bay. While the facility has made some changes since the time of the inspection, a substantial threat of discharge remains.

"It is critical that facilities such as Big Island Asphalt take the necessary steps to prevent any oil spills that could possibly contaminate the environment," said Janet Yocum, on-scene coordinator of EPA Pacific Southwest Region's Emergency Response Section.

"Delicate coral reef ecosystems and all marine species are easily harmed by oil discharges that could be prevented with the proper containment," she said.

The work plan must a firm schedule for any improvements necessary to ensure the facility will provide adequate containment for the company's above ground storage tanks.

The Big Island Asphalt Company, which stores asphalt and diesel fuel in above ground storage tanks, will need to design and implement measures to prevent the discharge of oil into the environment.

The facility must investigate the extent and concentrations of oil contamination from the facility that have entered or threaten to enter the storm drain.

And the company must take measures to clean up, remove and properly dispose all oil and petroleum contamination.

Oil spills and other contamination from onshore sources can pollute and harm coral and marine life. The EPA requires near shore oil storage facilities to have spill control and countermeasure plans approved, along with spill containment in place to prevent oil from being discharged into the ocean.

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$1 Million Available for New York City Water Quality Grants

ALBANY, New York, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - A million dollars is available to fund water quality improvement projects under the New York City Watershed Protection Program in fiscal year 2005.

Applicants are welcome to propose projects to control or abate non-point source, or storm water, pollution.

The state is placing the highest priority on projects that reduce pathogens and phosphorus in the watershed that supplies the drinking water to New York City, but grants will also be offered to projects that meet the secondary priority of reducing non-point source pollution.

The grant proposals will be evaluated and selected by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The source of funding is from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act Grant Program. In addition, projects may be funded from the enacted state budget for State Fiscal Year 2005-6, the DEC said.

The New York City watershed is a complex network of reservoirs, lakes, rivers and streams providing safe drinking water for more than nine million New Yorkers.

"It is one of the largest unfiltered surface drinking water systems in the world and work is ongoing to safeguard this critical resource for future generations," the DEC says.

The DEC has set forth special evaluation factors for non-point source abatement and control grant. They must:

In addition, projects must build on watershed protection efforts that help to improve water quality while enhancing and preserving the economy and rural character of local communities.

New York City Watershed Protection Program grant applications will be accepted through February 28, 2005. Information for applications is online at: http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/bondact/wqipinfo.pdf

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Georgia Governor Hunts With Highest Bidder

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Georgia, February 4, 2005 (ENS) - Oportunities to hunt and socialize with Governor Sonny Perdue, original artwork by renowned artist Peggy Everett and jewelry by Atlanta's Eddie Knox, one-of-a-kind vacation destinations and low-numbered wildlife license plates are just a few of the items that will be auctioned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) at the annual Weekend for Wildlife, scheduled for February 11 - 12, 2005 at The Cloister on Sea Island.

This year, all Georgians have an opportunity to join the auction and show their support for wildlife conservation by placing a bid on one of these items. Verbal auction item descriptions and guidelines are available on-line at http://www.georgiawildlife.com and clicking on "Nongame Animals and Plants" and then "2005 Weekend for Wildlife."

The opportunity to place bids on these items for consideration at the auction is only available through February 8, 2005.

The Weekend for Wildlife is an annual fundraiser to benefit nongame wildlife conservation in Georgia. Now in its 17th year, the Weekend for Wildlife has generated more than $3.5 million for wildlife conservation throughout the state. The event features guided tours of coastal destinations as well as a silent and verbal auctions.

"Funding for nongame wildlife conservation is one of the greatest challenges facing wildlife agencies in the United States," said DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb. "While DNR is charged with the management and protection of these species, which includes songbirds, sea turtles, right whales, bald eagles, and many others, the agency receives no state funding for these activities. One of the unique ways that our state generates funding for nongame wildlife conservation is through the annual Weekend for Wildlife."

One item on auction is an exclusive hunt for wild bobwhite quail at the privately owned Osceola Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia with Governor Perdue.

Another auction item is a weekend escape to the Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island for 10 guests, included a guided fishing excursion for redfish from the island's pristine beaches.

Limited space and sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling 770-918-6400. Signed bids will be accepted until 4:30 pm on Tuesday, February 8. Email bids to Robin Hill at: robin_hill@dnr.state.ga.us, or fax 706-557-3030.

All bids will be held confidentially until provided to the Weekend for Wildlife auctioneer for consideration at the event. Winning bidders who are not present at the Weekend for Wildlife will be notified by Tuesday, February 15, 2005.