AmeriScan: July 24, 2007

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Pilot of Firefighting Chopper Killed in Crash

BOISE, Idaho, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - A helicopter carrying water to firefighters in the Klamath National Forest crashed Monday morning, killing the pilot, U.S. Forest Service officials said. The pilot, whose identity was withheld until the family can be notified, was under contract to the Forest Service and was not a government employee.

Some of the firefighters saw the helicopter crash, reported it to emergency dispatchers, and battled the blaze caused by the crash.

The cause of the crash is under investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified. Investigators want to know why the chopper went down in "extremely rugged" mountain territory 12 miles southeast of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County, California.

The helicopter was carrying a large water container to refill hand-pump backpacks carried by firefighters battling the Elk Fire, one of a complex of 30 lightning fires covering about 14 square miles near the Oregon border. The fires, which July 10, had threatened up to 550 homes near the town of Happy Camp, but none were burned.

More than 1,100 firefighters are struggling to contain six of the worst fires, which are burning in mature heavy timber with brush underneath and large quantities of dead fuels and snags.

These fires are highly likely to grow before they are contained as fuels dry out and flare up, officials said today. Containment is now at 28 percent and is not expected to be complete until Saturday.

Fire crews attacked dozens of huge wildfires across the West on Monday in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Fire crews struggled with a huge wildfire on the Unita National Forest that forced the evacuation of several small communities in central Utah.

Rain showers and increased humidity over the weekend had helped crews keep the 33 square mile fire from spreading. But Monday afternoon thunderstorms produced winds gusting to 50 mph, a fire information officer said. Smoke from the blaze was blown 90 miles north to Salt Lake City. The fire started last Thursday and is only about 15 percent contained.

In northern Idaho, a lightning fire had raced across 31 square miles and destroyed nine buildings at a hunting outfitter's ranch, a fire spokesman said.

In Montana, a nearly 14 square mile fire burning on the edge of Lewis and Clark National Forest prompted an evacuation order for 40 summer homes. Many were unoccupied, said a Lewis and Clark County Sheriff.

Fire managers are looking to the summer monsoon conditions that have just begun for moisture to help dampen the parched forests and grasslands.

The number and coverage of thunderstorms will be on the increase as monsoon moisture spreads into the West, increasing relative humidity in many locations, the National Interagency Fire Center said today.

Thunderstorms are expected to be mostly wet today and will develop over the Four Corners states, the Great Basin, southern California, the Sierra Nevada mountains, southeast Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming.

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Castleberry's Botulism Recall Expanded to 77 Canned Products

WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - The list of canned goods being recalled by Castleberry's Food Company for botulism contamination has been expanded ot include nine more products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, originally warned consumers and pet owners Thursday about cans of Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce that contained the deadly botulinum toxin.

Exposure to botulinum toxin can be fatal and two people in Texas and two people in Indiana remain seriously ill and hospitalized with botulism poisoning associated with eating Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce.

The agency is expanding its warning based in part on FDA test results and information obtained during a joint FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of the Castleberry's facility in Augusta.

Now the Augusta, Georgia company, owned by Bumble Bee Foods, LLC, is expanding the recall to include 77 different canned products with all "best by" and code dates, and the FDA is warning consumers not to purchase or eat any of these canned products.

Find the entire recall list at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_033_2007_expanded/index.asp

Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should throw them away immediately, the FDA advises. Double bag the cans in plastic bags that are tightly closed then place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside of the home.

Additional instructions for safe disposal can be found at www.cdc.gov/botulism/botulism_faq.htm

Retailers that have any of these products are asked to assure that they are removed from use and do not accidentally get reintroduced for sale, service or donation.

Symptoms of botulism poisoning in humans can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating food that contains the toxin.

Symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness that moves progressively down the body, affecting the shoulders first then descending to the upper arms, lower arms, thighs, calves, etc.

Botulism poisoning can also cause paralysis of the breathing muscles which can result in death unless mechanical ventilation is provided. People who show these symptoms and who may have recently eaten one of the Castleberry's products currently under recall should seek immediate medical attention.

The disease has only been seen occasionally in dogs and has not been reported in cats. Ferrets are highly susceptible to botulinum toxin. In most cases, the symptoms appear after 12 to 24 hours. Pet owners who have used these products and whose pets have these symptoms should contact their veterinarian immediately.

At this time the FDA is not aware of pet illnesses associated with these products although the agency recommends that all these products should be discarded.

Castleberry's recommends consumers with any questions or concerns about this recall should go to www.castleberrys.com or call Castleberry's consumer hotline at 1-800-203-4412 or 1-888-203-8446. Consumers with questions can call the FDA at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

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Toxics Found in Tap Water at U.S. Capitol, EPA

WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - Toxic by-products of the chemicals used to purify Potomac River water have been found in District of Columbia tap water at levels above annual federal health limits by a nonprofit research organization with offices in the nation's capital.

The Environmental Working Group collected tap water samples from 18 locations across the city, including the U.S. Capitol, headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, parks, schools, and residences of pregnant women and other groups susceptible to health problems from exposures to disinfection byproducts.

Tests were commissioned from an accredited lab for two classes of disinfection byproducts - total trihalomethanes, or THMs, and haloacetic acids, or HAAs.

More than 40 percent of the tap water samples contained these chemical byproducts above annual federal health limits.

The HAAs were found at their highest levels since 2001, the last year before the District of Columbia's public water system, the Washington Aqueduct, modified its treatment techniques to reduce levels of THMs.

"These results illustrate the tremendous difficulties that water utilities face when trying to provide tap water that is free of potentially deadly bacteria and pathogens, yet not contaminated with toxic by-products of the chemicals used to kill these same microbes," the Environmental Working Group said, releasing the results of its tests.

"These toxic byproducts will continue to persist until the Potomac River is adequately cleaned up," said EWG Executive Director Richard Wiles.

"Until that happens residents of Washington and Northern Virginia should use carbon filters that can reduce these contaminants dramatically at one tenth the cost of bottled water," he said.

The EPA classifies HAAs as possible human carcinogens, and peer-reviewed studies have identified adverse reproductive and developmental effects, and the ability to damage DNA.

Wiles says the by-products of chlorination present a significant health issue that is not well addressed by current drinking water health standards.

EPA scientists have identified a total of 600 disinfection byproducts in tap water but EPA has set legal limits in tap water for only 11 of them.

These legal limits, such as those for HAAs and THMs, are established as a balance between health, treatment cost and feasibility.

Wiles warned, "These results represent the tip of the iceberg for chemical contamination of DC tap water."

The Washington Aqueduct produces drinking water for one million people in the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Virginia, and the City of Falls Church, Virginia.

A division of the Baltimore District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Aqueduct is a federally owned and operated public water supply agency that produces an average of 180 million gallons of water per day at two treatment plants located in the District of Columbia.

For more on how the Washington Aqueduct treats drinking water, click here.

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Onshore Sewage Fouls Offshore Reefs in the Florida Keys

MARATHON, Florida, July 24, 2007 (ENS) Groundwater contaminated with sewage is reaching the offshore reefs of the Upper Florida Keys, possibly threatening corals and human health, new University of Georgia, UGA, research has found.

"The widespread use of in-ground waste disposal through septic tanks and injection wells appears to be leading to the contamination of submarine groundwater even up to six miles offshore," said study author Erin Lipp, associate professor at the UGA College of Public Health.

"When the contaminated groundwater mixes with surface water and reaches the reef, the corals as well as human health might be harmed, said Lipp, whose research was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lipp's findings were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program Steering Committee in Marathon, Florida.

Lipp and her team sampled surface water, groundwater and corals from five sites from nearshore to offshore beginning outside of Port Largo Canal and ending near Molasses Reef.

Their three year study revealed common fecal indicator bacteria and human viruses.

The fecal indicator bacteria declined with distance from shore but tended to be elevated in the surface layers of coral by comparison with the surrounding water.

High levels of fecal indicator bacteria from canals also were shown to move into the nearshore environment on outgoing tides.

Lipp said the detection of these bacteria in nearshore stations suggests the contamination originates with land-based sources such as cesspits and septic systems.

Genetic material from enteric viruses, which cause disease in humans, also were commonly found throughout the sampled area, even in groundwater more than six miles offshore.

Viruses were found most often associated with summer rainfall, when they are part of runoff to the sea.

Lipp cautioned that the test used to identify the enteric viruses was not designed to determine whether the viruses were alive or dead.

"Until we actually know the level of risk, our findings are just an indication that there could be some level of sewage contamination offshore," she said. "It doesn't indicate that people need to change their behavior, but does show that the appropriate treatment of water through centralized sewage is needed."

Bill Kruczynski, Florida Keys Program Scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the installation of new wastewater management systems such as centralized collection and advanced wastewater treatment facilities is essential to restore and maintain water quality in the Florida Keys.

The new wastewater management systems are required by Florida State Law 99-395, and in addition are recommended by the Water Quality Protection Program for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The Water Quality Protection Program also recommended improved stormwater treatment practices to further reduce pollutant loading to nearshore waters.

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Arizona Dam Operator Would "Take" Protected Species

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - One of Arizona's largest utilities, the Salt River Project, SRP, has requested a permit to "take" sensitive and federally protected species and damage their habitat by its continued operation of the Horseshoe and Bartlett dams on the Verde River to provide water to the Phoenix area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating the issuance of such a permit in light of the Salt River Project's draft habitat conservation plan that commits to reducing, minimizing and offsetting effects to species covered by the plan for 50 years. Public comments are welcome by September 18.

Species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act are protected from "take," including killing, harassment or harm resulting from altering or destroying their habitat.

The Service may however, under limited circumstances, issue permits to take federally listed species when such a taking is incidental to - and not the purpose of - otherwise lawful activities and the taking does not jeopardize the continued existence of the species.

The Service is evaluating the Salt River Project's draft Habitat Conservation Plan and considering issuing a permit for the incidental take of endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and Gila topminnow; threatened spikedace and loach minnow, and bald eagle.

Reservoir operations can also favor nonnative fish species that prey upon or compete with the Verde River's native fishes, leopard frogs, and gartersnakes.

The plan also addresses nine unlisted species, the yellow-billed cuckoo, roundtail chub, longfin and speckled daces, Sonora and desert suckers, northern Mexican and narrow-headed gartersnakes and lowland leopard frog, and seeks permits should those species be federally listed in the future.

In its draft Environmental Impact Statement, EIS, the Service supports issuance of the permit with the addition of operating objectives to support stands of tall riparian vegetation at the upper end of Horseshoe to minimize impacts to covered bird species, and management of Horseshoe Reservoir levels to minimize impacts to covered native fish, frog, and gartersnake species.

Steve Spangle, the Service's Arizona Field Office Supervisor, said, "SRP has developed a flexible dam operation program that will benefit and rejuvenate riparian habitat at Horseshoe Reservoir and give native fishes, frogs and gartersnakes of the lower Verde basin a real recovery opportunity."

Salt River Project is committing to manage reservoir levels to favor willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo habitat, while minimizing the production of nonnative fishes that threaten sensitive aquatic species.

Additionally, riverside habitat will be acquired along the Verde and Gila rivers for covered bird species, a fish barrier will be constructed to exclude nonnative fish from Lime Creek to protect native fish and leopard frogs, and a State native fish hatchery will be expanded for the production and stocking of native fish.

In total, Salt River Project and the City of Phoenix are committing up to $8.8 million in habitat acquisition and management, native fish production and stocking, and monitoring over the 50 year period.

The Service and Salt River Project will hold a public meeting to accept oral and written comments on August 29 from 6-9 p.m., at the administration offices of the Salt River Project, 1521 N. Project Drive, Tempe, Arizona.

Written comments on the draft EIS and HCP should be received by September 18, 2007. Email: Horseshoe-BartlettHCP@fws.gov.

The draft EIS, SRP's draft HCP and supporting documents are online at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/HCPs.htm.

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Greek Shipper Fined $1 Million for Wastewater Dumping

WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - Greek shipping company Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd. pleaded guilty Monday to maintaining a false record to conceal the illegal dumping bilge and wastewater and waste oil into the ocean from the M/V North Princess. The cargo ship travels to ports in the United States.

Under the plea agreement, the company will pay a criminal fine $1 million, serve a term of probation of 30 months, and pay $300,000 to fund community service projects through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In addition, Kassian will implement an environmental compliance program prevent such violations in the future.

According to the plea agreement, on November 20, 2006, the North Princess arrived in port in Jacksonville, Florida, and was boarded by Coast Guard officials who conducted an inspection to determine the vessel's compliance with national and international environmental laws.

The inspection uncovered evidence that Kassian agents and employees knowingly failed to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book recording all disposals of oil residue and discharges overboard, in violation of federal law.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the North Princess generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oil water separator.

The law also requires that all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

Second Engineer Spyridon Markou admitted, as part of his plea, that he made false statements to the Coast Guard regarding his knowledge of the ship's use of an illegal bypass pipe to transfer oil-contaminated waste overboard.

Markou faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. A sentencing date has not yet been determined.

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Florida Coal Power Plant Plans Carbon Capture Demo

TAMPA, Florida, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc. today announced plans to solicit proposals for a carbon dioxide capture demonstration project at its proposed coal-fired Seminole Generating Station SGS, Unit 3 facility.

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, is produced when coal is burned. It accumulates in the atmosphere, trapping the Sun's ray's close to the planet and raising the global temperature.

This project would make SGS Unit 3 the first electric generating unit in Florida to propose installing a carbon dioxide capture demonstration project. Seminole will solicit bids for the project in September.

The SGS Unit 3 project is a 750 megawatt state-of-the-art clean coal generating unit, with a scheduled in-service date of May 1, 2012.

Unit 3 will be located at the existing SGS site in Putnam County, Florida, where two 650 MW pulverized coal units are now generating electricity.

The Unit 3 project was approved in July 2006 by the Florida Public Service Commission, and final state site certification by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, is pending.

Seminole, the DEP staff, and all other parties to the state permitting process, executed an agreement in February 2007, stipulating that Seminole Unit 3 meets all certification criteria.

Seminole agreed to undertake a $300 million project to make significant pollution control improvements to SGS Units 1 and 2.

These improvements, along with Unit 3, will allow SGS to provide 60 percent more electricity than it does today while reducing facility-wide air emissions and wastewater discharges below current emission levels.

Seminole also agreed to distribute more than 100,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs, CFLs, to its 10 member distribution cooperatives. To date, more than 30,000 CFLs have been distributed to member consumers through this initiative.

Seminole has one of the largest in-state portfolios of renewable energy, nearly 75 MW, which meets about four percent of its members' energy needs. Seminole is currently negotiating with several renewable suppliers, which may result in additions to its renewable portfolio.

The second largest nonprofit generation and transmission cooperative in the country, Seminole is trying to work with Governor Charlie Crist to reduce greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

Seminole General Manager Tim Woodbury said, "Seminole realizes that the governor is attempting to find a middle ground to allow the state to fulfill its obligation to the public to maintain fuel diversity in electric generation while at the same time addressing concerns over climate change."

He said, "We believe that this initiative shows Seminole's desire to be a leader in addressing these issues while also recognizing practical realities that Florida consumers need a diverse portfolio of generation to assure reliability and affordable energy."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.