AmeriScan: January 20, 2005

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Lead Levels Diminishing in Capital District Water

WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - Lead levels in the tap water are decreasing in Washington, DC and surrounding suburbs, according to the last six months of testing done by DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA).

“While results are still above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action level of 15 parts per billion, the latest figures are encouraging,” said Jerry Johnson, general manager of WASA. “Coupled with our lead service pipeline replacement program, this is good news.”

Last year at this time, WASA became aware that elevated levels of lead were showing up in water from the tap in Washington, DC and several surrounding suburbs. Technicians found that lead was leaching into the drinking water from old lead pipes still used in many homes.

A technical team including federal, state and independent experts and contractors submitted a plan to fix the problem, which resulted in the decision last summer to add orthophosphate to the Washington Aqueduct six months ago. Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Aqueduct produces and supplies the water WASA distributes through its pipes to District residents.

Orthophosphate works as a corrosion inhibitor that forms a protective coating inside lead service line pipes and fixtures to prevent lead from leaching into the drinking water. The EPA authorized the addition of orthophosphate to the full water system last August.

During the last six months of 2004, lead levels in all of the compliance samples averaged 19.2 ppb.

From October to the end of December, the average lead concentration dropped to 10.6 ppb, which is below the EPA action level of 15 ppb.

Since 10 percent of the samples are still above the action level, WASA is still considered to be in non-compliance with the federal standard. WASA says that the orthophosphate could take up to a year or more to provide maximum protection from lead leaching.

Despite these encouraging results, residents are advised to continue following WASA guidelines for running their water to flush the lead from pipes while lead levels remain elevated.

The city is getting rid of the all lead pipes in public areas to eliminate the lead hazard from this source. On July 1, 2004, the WASA Board of Directors approved a plan to replace all of the city’s lead service line pipes in public space by 2010.

“Replacing all D.C. public lead service lines is part of WASA’s long-term pledge to improve the water distribution system,” said WASA’s Chairman of the Board Glenn S. Gerstell. “Even though we know the Washington Aqueduct is trying to fix the problem that appears to have been created by their switch in disinfectants, as the water utility for the nation’s capital, we will take the extra step and remove the lead lines.”

So far, WASA has mailed more than 4,000 informational packets explaining the lead line replacement program to customers scheduled to have the lead line in public space replaced this year.

To date, only 401 property owners, about 16 percent, of the who received block replacement mailings have signed up to replace the lead service lines on their private property.

Twenty-four percent of the 775 businesses and residents receiving the priority replacement mailings, a total of 187, have agreed to have their service lines replaced.

The number of residents requesting replacement of the private portion of the lead service line is increasing. WASA urges everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to replace the line on their private property.

The data on water testing will shortly be available on WASA’s website, The site also has other information about lead.

Lead can adversely affect almost every organ and system in the body. The most sensitive is the central nervous system, particularly in children. Lead also damages kidneys and the reproductive system. The effects are the same whether it is breathed or swallowed.

At high levels, lead may decrease reaction time, cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles, and possibly affect the memory. Lead may cause anemia, a disorder of the blood. It can also damage the male reproductive system. The connection between these effects and exposure to low levels of lead is uncertain.

The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that lead acetate and lead phosphate "may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens" based on studies in animals. There is inadequate evidence to clearly determine lead's carcinogenicity in people.

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Alaskans Join With Hawaiians to Avert Arctic Drilling

HONOLULU, Hawaii, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - The maker of a new documentary film about the environmental dangers of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is showing his production in Hawaii this week in an attempt to strengthen the public resolve to leave the pristine wilderness alone.

Co-producer Bo Boudart, along with men and women from the Arctic, Wednesday visited the offices of Hawaii's Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, both Democrats, to persuade them to withdraw their support for drilling in the refuge when the issue comes to a vote in Congress, sometime early this year. They met with staff members, the senators were not available and made no statements about how they would vote on the issue.

A grassroots organizing effort to avert the drilling plan led by environmental and Native Hawaiian organizations is ongoing.

Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, the film "Oil on Ice" takes the viewer into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, showing that it is inhabited a wide variety of wildlife and and enriched with centuries of native culture.

One of the three native people traveling with Boudart in Hawaii is George Edwardson, an Inupiaq from Barrow, Alaska. A geologist by education, he has worked for decades as a petroleum engineer and consultant. He is a member of the Restoration Advisory Board, which is in charge of cleaning up abandoned military sites on Alaska's North Slope.

"When you look at their Environmental Impact Statement," he says of the ANWR drilling proposal, "they guarantee us a major spill."

"With that small an oil reserve, the industry can't even get their money back for the development and for the construction of the line to take it out," Edwardson says. He looks to the nearby Canadian Mackenzie River Delta where the oil industry has been producing for years, and he looks to neighboring Prudhoe Bay, also an oil production center.

"For them to go into ANWR," says Edwardson of the United States, "their second motive can only be to directional drill offshore. And once they can find it out there, then my country can use the law of supply and demand. Then environmental regulations are not important, peoples' lives are not important. When you do that, then I am gone."

The Inupiaq and the inland Gwit'ichen are only 7,800 people in total, Edwardson says. "We become expendable. And I've been here as a people through more than half a dozen Ice Ages in the same spot. Why can't I continue being where I'm at?"

Edwardson says until renewable energy is further developed the world can get its oil from the Alberta Tar Sands with its trillions of barrels instead of destroying ANWR for what he says is about a two month supply of oil for the United States.

In December, The International Documentary Association awarded "Oil on Ice" the 2004 Pare Lorentz Award in the 20th annual Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards competition. The documentary is a presentation of Sierra Club Productions. Find it online at:

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Puget Sound Wildlife in Trouble

OLYMPIA, Washington, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - Less than a week after her inauguration last Wednesday, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, released a report showing evidence of pollution problems and habitat loss in Puget Sound. She said the report shows the need for increased efforts on the federal, state, local and individual level to protect and clean up one of Washington's premier waterways.

The State of the Sound 2004 report issued by the Puget Sound Action Team partnership highlighted steep declines in the salmon, orca, marine birds and rockfish populations as well as pollution requiring closure of shellfish beds, and a growing dead zone in Hood Canal.

"We have work to do," Gregoire said. "This report shows the need to recommit ourselves to the important tasks of cleaning up Puget Sound and other pollution problems in the state like Lake Roosevelt and the Spokane River." She said she would be working with legislators and others to take action on the Action Team partnership's proposed protection plan issued in November 2004.

The narrowly elected governor served as director of the Washington Department of Ecology from 1988 to 1992, and during her tenure, negotiated with the federal government for the safe cleanup and permanent storage of radioactive wastes at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington. She became the first female elected as state attorney general in 1992, and was re-elected twice.

State of the Sound 2004 provides data on the overall health of the Sound, as well as progress that state agencies are making to protect and improve the Sound. The Action Team and its predecessor agency have reported on the health of the Sound since 1986.

"People throughout the government and private sector are doing excellent work to improve the quality of water, protect and restore habitat, and recover species in the Sound," said Brad Ack, chair of the Action Team. "Unfortunately, this tremendous work is not yet equal to the scale of the problems or the pace of change in the region. We need more strategic and increased investments of human and financial resources."

"We've made progress in recent years on a number of fronts, from improving some salmon and herring populations, to combating noxious weeds and cleaning up contaminated shellfish beds," said Dr. Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "But much long-term work remains if we're truly going to restore the Puget Sound ecosystem to the healthy state Washington citizens want and expect."

The 2005 Legislature will decide on plans to fund actions to help the Sound, when it reviews the 2005-2007 Puget Sound Conservation and Recovery Plan, which the Action Team released in November 2004. The two-year plan and $31.5 million budget sets priorities to protect and restore the Sound and addresses some of the significant problems outlined in State of the Sound 2004.

For a copy of "State of the Sound 2004," visit or call (800) 54-SOUND.

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New Jersey Buys Princeton Nurseries for Preservation

TRENTON, New Jersey, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - New Jersey has invested nearly $2.8 million in a 60 acre property that was once a historic nursery and still features unique plants and historic buildings. The purchase is part of a larger 187 acre preservation partnership between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Green Acres Program, Princeton University and South Brunswick Township.

DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell Wednesday announced the deal while visiting the property, which is located within the State Princeton Nurseries Historic District adjacent to the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.

The DEP will manage a seven acre portion of the Princeton Nurseries property as an addition to the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. The headquarters building, which is located on this parcel, will serve as an interpretive center to be used by visitors to the park.

"The preservation of this property represents a true public-private partnership," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. The Princeton Nurseries property is especially important, given the contributions it made to our state's and our nation's nursery industry over the past nine decades."

Campbell announced the acquisition at the former headquarters of Princeton Nurseries, which began operating in 1911 and once was the largest commercial nursery business in the United States. In its 93 years of operation, Princeton Nurseries created plant varieties including the Princeton Elm and the Snow Queen Hydrangea.

Campbell said, "The protection of this parcel will provide recreation opportunities, protect the nursery's historic buildings and open fields and prevent future development at this site, which is located in a densely populated area."

The remaining 53 acres are co-owned by DEP and South Brunswick and will be managed by South Brunswick as a park to be used for passive recreation. This parcel includes warehouse buildings, the historic propagation house and eight greenhouses.

Using a $300,000 endowment provided by the former landowner and additional funding from Princeton University, DEP and South Brunswick will develop a preservation plan that will include the rehabilitation of these buildings for public education and recreation purposes.

"After five years of negotiation, I am pleased that this beautiful preserve will remain as open space," said South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese. "I am excited that this acreage will be transformed into an interpretive educational, horticultural and historic preservation center as well as a historic landscape greenway."

DEP also secured State Historic Preservation Easements to protect the facades of historic homes located on the property. These homes, which once housed employees of Princeton Nurseries, were built in the early 1900s.

In addition, Princeton University donated to the State of New Jersey and South Brunswick a 127 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Princeton Nurseries property.

"Princeton University is proud to be a partner in this important preservation effort," said Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman. These goals can be described as a commitment to both the economic vitality and the quality of life in Central New Jersey. With this project, Princeton University will have contributed to the preservation of 650 acres of permanent open space in the region."

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Science to Support Bio-refineries Finds Home in New Lab

GOLDEN, Colorado, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - Energy scientists developing bio-refineries now have a new lab that they hope will foster unprecedented insights into the chemical and biological reactions that transform plant and waste materials into energy. The new facility was dedicated yesterday at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden.

Called the Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory, the $2.85 million facility will support development of new technologies for bio-refineries to produce transportation fuels and a range of other products, the way a conventional oil refinery does today.

But bio-refineries will use renewable plant and waste materials instead of petroleum.

The new lab features an array of electron and optical microscopes and other advanced research tools, to probe biomass-to-energy processes at the most basic atomic and molecular levels.

"This unique laboratory will further enhance the capabilities of our world class biomass research team," said Michael Pacheco, director of the National Bioenergy Center, located at NREL. "It is our fervent hope that by assembling the best research equipment available within this new facility, we will hasten the day when our abundant biomass resources can be harnessed to cleanly and economically meet the nation's critical energy needs."

Officials from DOE's Office of Biomass Programs and NREL participated in a dedication event for the new laboratory, which is housed within the Field Test Laboratory Building on NREL's South Table Mountain campus.

"The leading edge tools, the advanced research and the skills and techniques that will be developed in this laboratory will allow technology developers to take biomass conversion technologies to the next level," said Douglas Kaempf, manager of DOE's Office of Biomass Programs.

Kaempf said the funds invested to develop the new lab are evidence of the DOE's commitment to integrating renewable energy into America's energy infrastructure.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.

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Developer Must Underwrite Storm Water Education Project

FITCHBURG, Massachusetts, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - A Massachusetts developer graded a wetland and a streambank incorrectly last August, and this week it cost him $10,000. Part of the penalty will fund public education to help people understand how to prevent non-point source pollution and why correct storm water management is important.

The developer of Bridle Cross Estates in Fitchburg – Bovenzi, Inc. – has agreed to pay a $2,500 penalty to the Department of Environmental Protection, and separately fund a $7,500 the environmental education project of the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition.

The Department of Environmental Protection DEP inspected the Fitchburg development site in August of 2004 and found violations of the Wetlands Protection Act.

The violations included grading activities within a bordering vegetated wetland and along the bank of an intermittent stream. Bovenzi’s actions were not approved in the permit issued for this site and resulted in alteration of about 65 linear feet of stream bank and 800 square feet of the wetland.

Under the Supplemental Environmental Project, the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition will use the $7,500 in funding to implement a public education project that promotes the protection of surrounding watersheds that contain reservoirs for water supplies in Leominster.

This project, which will be developed in consultation with the conservations commissions in Leominster and Fitchburg, will include a public education program to assist residents in preventing water quality impacts from fertilizers, car washing, pet wastes and other sources of household generated non-point pollution.

The project will provide assistance to area municipalities for water protection measures such as Low Impact Development techniques and Best Management Practices for storm water management.

Martin Suuberg, director for DEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester, said, “The restoration of affected wetlands, combined with a Supplemental Environmental Project that focuses on raising awareness of certain water quality issues in the local communities that were affected by the violations, is an appropriate remedy in this case."

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Hawksbill Sea Turtle Nest Numbers Down By Half

SAVANNAH, Georgia, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - Endangered hawksbill sea turtles are not recovering to the extent scientists thought. In fact, they are vanishing once again after a brief resurgence.

Research presented at a sea turtle symposium in Savannah this week has alarmed conservationists and prompted a call by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for the Mexican and all the Caribbean governments, as well as on the international scientific community to urgently restart regional dialogue and develop a joint strategy aimed at stopping the drastic decline of hawksbill turtle populations, and secure the species' recovery.

Scientific analysis of nest counts for the 2004 season showed that less than half the nests counted in 2000 were made on the beaches of the Mexican states of Veracrúz, Campeche, and Yucatán.

The nest count in 2000 was up to a total of 5,595, giving conservationists hope that the turtles might be recovering, but the study presented in Savannah this week shows levels reverting back to the mid-90s.

“These are alarming data, and unfortunately, we don’t know why there is such a dramatic decline. The trends are similar in each state, which may indicate that this is caused by a regional phenomenon,” said Carlos Drews, marine turtle coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean at WWF.

"Illegal trafficking persists, as well as hawksbill egg extraction, capture for meat consumption, and habitat destruction. It is therefore urgent that governments of Mexico and the entire Caribbean region renew their dialogue and move forward with concrete conservation measures before it is too late,” urged Drews.

This research first was presented by marine turtle conservation specialists at the recent XII Regional Workshop on Conservation Programs at the Yucatan Peninsula, and I for the Golf and the Caribbean in Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico.

Following that meeting, the Mexican Government requested a joint investigation to find the causes of the hawksbill nesting decline and its status, at the upcoming COP II of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles in Venezuela.

The hawksbill turtle is considered critically endangered. It lives close to coral reefs areas and feeds from sponges, and an adult hawksbill can grow up to 60 kilograms.

Their most important breeding site in the Caribbean is Yucatan, Mexico. From there they travel the Caribbean basin to foraging grounds throughout the region. No one knows exactly how long it takes the hawksbill to reach maturity, but the species all return to the same beach where they were hatched to nest their own their eggs.

Research data can be found in Spanish at This WWF portal, was developed with the collaboration of sea turtle specialist Didier Chacon. The English version is under development.

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EPA Launches New Spanish Website

WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a new consolidated Spanish Web site as part of its effort to provide environmental information both in Spanish and English.

The new site compiles EPA’s Spanish language materials on topics from lead poisoning prevention to controlling asthma triggers, recycling to proper management of pesticides.

The site was developed through a series of focus groups to respond to the environmental needs and interests of Hispanics.

In addition to environmental health information, the site also offers educational resources for students and teachers who often seek Spanish language learning tools on the environment. The site also provides information about EPA grants, small business opportunities and environmental jobs at EPA.

To view EPA’s Spanish site, visit: