AmeriScan: January 2, 2007

* * *

Oil Spill Hits Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument

HONOLULU, Hawaii, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - A Japanese fishing vessel has spilled oil within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Situated near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian Islands archipelago, Midway lies about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu and 2,200 miles east of Japan.

The response team, including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and ECM Maritime Services, estimate that 2,640 gallons were spilled during the incident Thursday, December 28 that damaged the vessel's fuel tank.

Dive surveys on the Kotobuki Maru No. 38 found scrapes and three holes in the fuel tank. The holes have been patched to eliminate the possibility of additional fuel escaping into the environment. The exact amount of fuel remaining has not yet been determined.

No commercial fishing is allowed within the monument.

The cause of the damage to the Kotobuki Maru No. 38 remains under investigation. The vessel apparently hit an obstruction near the entrance to the channel into Midway lagoon, but strong winds and heavy seas have precluded any investigation of the possible impact site, officials said.

Surveys from the shoreline of all three islets in the refuge by Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration personnel found no pollution or oiled wildlife.

The refuge is critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Nearly two million birds, including the world's largest population of Laysan albatrosses, inhabit the refuge. Green sea turtles and spinner dolphins frequent Midway's lagoon.

A professional marine surveyor is en route to the atoll. When the surveyor determines the vessel is seaworthy, it will proceed to a port for permanent repairs.

* * *

Gulf of Mexico Oil Pipeline Leak Plugged

GALVESTON, Texas, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - The ruptured High Island Pipeline located 30 miles south of Galveston was secured Sunday morning after leaking an estimated 44,500 gallons of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

A Unified Command consisting of Plains Pipeline LP, the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office personnel is overseeing the operation.

The spill occurred after a portion of the High Island Pipeline System ruptured early Sunday, December 24. The pipeline's owner, Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline LP, shut down the line after detecting a pressure loss in the system, the Coast Guard said.

By Wednesday, December 27, the spill had spread to a light sheen 4.7 miles long and 80 yards at its widest spot, the Coast Guard said.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Plains Pipeline spokesman Jordan Janak said it appears the pipeline broke when it was struck by the anchor of a ship trying to moor in the area, where the water is about 90 feet deep.

The divers sealed the shore side end of the breach by inflating rubber buoys inside the pipe at 11:20 pm Wednesday. Divers were unable to locate the platform end of the breach due to zero visibility caused by heavy silt conditions and deteriorating weather conditions.

On Wednesday, wtrong winds and large waves made working conditions unsafe, forcing the dive ship American Victory and the skimmer Ampol Recovery to stop operations. Another skimmer remained on the scene to monitor the oil sheen until the weather abated on Sunday when divers were able to secure the pipeline.

Plans to permanently repair the pipeline are being developed, and officials say overflights of the spill site will continue until a permanent repair has been made. A spill response boat will be on standby and ready to respond if needed.

The environmental impact is expected to be minimal due to the season, said Andy Tirpak of Texas Parks and Wildlife. "There is only a remote possibility of impact to spawning and other wildlife, as the oil is expected to dissipate quickly and leave no long-term effects," he said.

An overflight December 31 revealed only a very light sheen approximately .2 miles long by 10 feet wide on the surface of the water, the Coast Guard said. The oil continues to move away from shore and is quickly dispersing. None of the oil has washed ashore.

* * *

Feds Say Cloned Animals Fit to Eat

WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - The meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs and goats, and their offspring, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, said Thursday.

An animal clone is a genetic copy of a donor animal, similar to identical twins but born at different times. Cloning is not the same as genetic engineering, which involves altering, adding or deleting DNA; cloning does not change the gene sequence.

There are presently no food products from cloned animals and their offspring on store shelves in the United States.

In October 2006, a coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations filed a legal petition with the FDA seeking a moratorium on foods produced from cloned animals and establishment of mandatory rules for pre-market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods. The petition also requested that the Department of Health and Human Services establish a federal review committee to advise the FDA on the ethical issues raised by animal cloning.

"Instead of doing its job, the Bush FDA has ignored the science and fast-tracked this decision for the benefit of a few cloning companies,"said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, one of the petitioning groups. "This is a lose-lose situation for consumers and the dairy industry."

The agency says its draft risk assessment was peer-reviewed by a group of independent scientific experts in cloning and animal health who agreed with the methods FDA used to evaluate the data and the conclusions reached.

These conclusions agree with those of the National Academies of Sciences, released in a 2002 report.

Due to limited data on sheep clones, in the draft guidance FDA recommends that sheep clones not be used for human food.

"Based on FDA's analysis of hundreds of peer-reviewed publications and other studies on the health and food composition of clones and their offspring, the draft risk assessment has determined that meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day," said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

"Cloning poses no unique risks to animal health when compared to other assisted reproductive technologies currently in use in U.S. agriculture," Sundlof said.

Because of their cost and rarity, the FDA says clones will be used as are any other elite breeding stock - to pass on naturally occurring, desirable traits such as disease resistance and higher quality meat to production herds.

Almost all of the food from the cloning process is expected to be from sexually reproduced offspring and descendents of clones, and not the clones themselves.

Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, BIO, said his organization supports the FDA's conclusions.

"While there are currently no products from cloned animals and their offspring in the market, the publication of the FDA's draft risk assessment will begin an essential public discussion on the technology and how it can be successfully used by farmers and ranchers," Greenwood said.

"BIO supports the continued responsible use of this technology, and encourages the continued observance of the voluntary moratorium on the introduction of food products from cloned animals and their offspring into the marketplace," he said.

FDA is seeking comments from the public for the next 90 days. To submit electronic comments, click here.

Written comments may be sent to: Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD, 20852. Comments must be received by April 2, 2007 and should include the docket number 2003N-0573. For more information, visit: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/CloneRiskAssessment.htm.

* * *

Eastern Seaboard Nutrient Pollution on the Rise

WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - Nutrient pollution in estuaries, bays and harbors from the mid-Atlantic to New England is increasing, according to new research published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

The agency says the research shows that excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are a threat to coastal water quality nationwide.

Nutrients can enter the coastal waters from stormwater runoff, sewage treatment plants, septic systems, airborne dust, or agriculture.

The study's findings are compiled in a report, "Improving Methods and Indicators for Evaluating Coastal Water Eutrophication: A Pilot Study in the Gulf of Maine."

"Nutrient pollution is a pervasive problem that impacts ecosystems and human activities, particularly in highly developed areas," says co-author Suzanne Bricker, physical scientist at the NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment.

"Our study found that the problem is greater in the mid-Atlantic region, which has a higher population density and more intensive watershed development than coastal New England," Bricker said.

But New England's estuaries, bays and harbors are by no means clean. Nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Maine is higher than it was early 1990s, the study demonstrates, and conditions are expected to worsen as the coastal population in that region is expected to increase in the future.

NOAA scientists developed a "human use indicator" that examined the impact of nutrient pollution on recreational fish catches, making the study unique by including human activity as part of the ecosystem, improving traditional methods of assessing eutrophication.

"By including the socioeconomic impacts of pollution in coastal watersheds, we not only prove the value of applying integrated coastal and ocean observing technology in coastal management issues, but also in promoting a coastal stewardship that more fully evaluates the environmental impacts of development and other human activity," said John Dunnigan, director of the NOAA Ocean Service.

In many coastal ecosystems, future nutrient load increases of 10 percent to 25 percent are expected.

* * *

Lead Found in Plants, Animals at Ringwood Superfund Site

NEW YORK, New York, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found lead in plants, small mammals and frogs collected from the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund site in New Jersey.

The agency says the presence of the toxic metal may be related to decades of waste disposal at the 500 acre site located in a historic iron mining district in the Borough of Ringwood, Passaic County, New Jersey.

Abandoned mine shafts and pits, inactive landfills and open waste dumps, commercial and municipal wastes, abandoned cars, and appliances are found at the site.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the site was used for the disposal of paint sludge and other waste generated at the Ford Motor Company's Mahwah facility. The site was originally added to the National Priorities List of abandoned hazardous waste sites in 1983.

Under EPA orders, Ford removed over 29,000 tons of paint sludge and associated soils, and 60 drums of waste materials and disposed of this material off site. The EPA took the site off the Superfund list in November 1994.

In September 2006, the EPA restored the Ringwood Mines/Landfill site to the Superfund list because more contaminated material was discovered after the site was taken off the list.

EPA has since directed the Ford Motor Company to renew the cleanup and this has led to investigations of the ground water, surface water and sediment, and the removal of over 17,000 tons of waste.

EPA collected and sampled Queen Anne’s lace, small mammals including shrews, voles and mice, frogs and crayfish for metals, PCBs and semi-volatile chemicals, contaminants associated with the site. No PCBs or semi-volatile chemicals were detected in any of the plants or animals sampled.

Lead was found in Queen Anne’s lace, a wild carrot that can be consumed by people and wildlife. Lead was found in some of the shrews, voles, mice, and frogs but not in the crayfish sampled.

The small mammals, which are not eaten by people, were collected as ecological indicators to determine if they were affected by contaminants at the site. As a basis for comparison, plants and animals were collected from areas in which contamination is present and from outside the site.

This week, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection plans to collect deer at the Ringwood site as part of the EPA’s study. EPA is also working with federal and New Jersey health and environmental agencies to assess the risk to people of consuming squirrels at the Ringwood site, and will share that data when it is available.

Lead in area drinking water is a concern. Groundwater beneath the Ringwood site discharges to surface streams and the Wanaque Reservoir, located half a mile southeast of the on-site sludge disposal area. The Wanaque Reservoir provides drinking water to about two million people.

EPA is addressing continuing contamination at the Ringwood site through a comprehensive cleanup being conducted by Ford with EPA oversight.

* * *

Connecticut Seeks to Double Recycling Rate

HARTFORD, Connecticut, January 2, 2007 (ENS) - Connecticut is getting serious about recycling. The state's new solid waste management plan, announced Thursday, calls for nearly doubling the recycling rate from 30 percent to 58 percent by the year 2024.

The vision behind the plan is a shift from a throwaway society to one that reduces the amount and hazardousness of waste generated in the first place.

The new plan establishes a recycling program for electronics. It adds certain types of plastics as well as magazines to the list of mandated recyclables and expands the bottle bill to include plastic water bottles.

It continues to support environmentally preferable purchasing by state government.

Connecticut currently generates about 3.8 million tons of municipal solid waste a year - the equivalent of 1.09 tons per person per year or six pounds per person per day.

Of this trash:

Projections show that by 2024, if waste generation continues at the current rate, Connecticut will produce 5.2 million tons of municipal solid waste, MSW. That is the equivalent of 1.42 tons per person per year or 7.7 pound per person per day.

If the recycling rate remains at the current rate of 30 percent, Connecticut would need to dispose of almost 3.7 million tons of MSW – an increase of almost one million tons from current levels.

"Here’s the bottom line. Simply recycling that stray soda bottle and newspaper is no longer enough," said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy. "We must radically and quickly change the balance in favor of waste reduction, recycling, and reuse over disposal."

Through public meetings and hearings, Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, staff worked with the public and the specially created DEP Solid Waste Management Plan External Stakeholders Working Group in developing this plan.

The amended plan, the first major amendment since 1991, offers 75 comprehensive strategies for solid waste management in Connecticut and will serve as the basis for Connecticut’s solid waste management approach through 2024.

Through the new plan the DEP says it seeks to transform the state's system of waste management into one based on resource management through collective responsibility for the production, use, and end-of-life managements of products and materials.

* * *