AmeriScan: March 20, 2007

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Army Takes Responsibility for Explosives Found on Oahu Beaches

HONOLULU, Hawaii, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Army is investigating the source of propellant charges that have been washing up on West Oahu beaches.

Army officials believe they are highly flammable pellets used in rockets and artillery, but some people have made necklaces of the explosives that they thought were coral.

"We do accept responsibility for the pellet grains on the beaches and in the ocean as an overall military cleanup issue. We are working diligently with other agencies to determine what actions need to be taken next," said Troy Griffin, director of public affairs for U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, which oversees Army installations on the island.

The Army will work with the Navy on assembling a dive team to get a closer look at the pellets, and with the Army's Technical Center for Explosives Safety to determine the source of the debris.

The Army's Technical Center for Explosive Safety has handed out fliers along the coast advising residents not to touch the charges, and to contact police, fire or ocean safety officials if they are found.

The Army also put out an advisory saying the propellant is "highly flammable" and can ignite from static electricity.

Although the bead-like pieces of extruded propellant, with seven holes to ensure even burning, may have been underwater for decades, they burned faster than a flare when lit, said Waianae Boat Harbormaster William Aila Jr.

"We accept responsibility for those propellant grains as a military cleanup issue, and we're working diligently and urgently with other agencies to determine the next actions that need to be taken," said Griffin.

West Oahu residents say the charges may have been washing up for 30 years or more. Determining the origin of the propellant beads may be less of a challenge than recovering them from the ocean.

The propellant beads are part of a larger underwater munitions problem. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey in 2002 identified more than 2,000 military munitions dumped off Waianae.

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Kansas City Power & Light to Offset Carbon From New Coal Unit

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - Two environmental groups said today they will drop legal action against a new Midwest coal-fired power plant after the utility building the plant agreed to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Sierra Club and the Concerned Citizens of Platte County have agreed with Kansas City Power & Light, KCP&L, on a set of measures that will resolve four appeals pending before the courts.

KCP&L agreed to pursue offsets for all of the global warming emissions from the 850 megawatt Iatan 2 coal unit located near Weston, Missouri, which the company expects to open in 2010.

The company agreed to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy and cut pollution from its existing Iatan 1 and La Cygne plants to improve air quality in the Greater Kansas City metro area.

Full implementation of agreement will require either enabling legislative policy or regulatory approval.

"This agreement is a win for our climate, for the environment, and for the residents of the Kansas City area," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director. "It is the latest sign that smart energy solutions like wind power and energy efficiency are gathering steam."

Bill Downey, president and CEO of KCP&L said the agreement "reflects the ongoing atmosphere of collaboration we established in developing the CEP, and proactively resolves differences. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to secure a long-term energy supply for Kansas City while improving air quality."

The most significant element of the agreement is the unprecedented commitment by KCP&L to pursue the offset of carbon emissions from its proposed Iatan 2 generating station,

The estimated six million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions from the Iatan 2 generating unit will be offset by adding 400 megawatts of wind power; 300 MW of energy efficiency; and a yet to be determined combination of wind, efficiency, or the closing, altering, re-powering or efficiency improvements at any of its generating units.

These proposed offsets will be partly implemented by 2010 and fully implemented by 2012.

The parties also agreed to work together on a series of regulatory and legislative initiatives to achieve an overall reduction in KCP&Lís carbon dioxide emissions of 20 percent by 2020.

Within the next year, KCP&L will also work with the Sierra Club to study options, including retiring, re-powering or upgrading its Montrose power plant.

Finally, KCP&L will fund several community projects including, recommendations of the Kansas City Climate Protection Committee targeting global warming reduction measures; additional monitoring of soot and smog pollution; and an upgrade to the drinking water infrastructure in Weston.

KCP&L will also file for approval of a net metering program within six months. Net metering allows a utilityís customers to generate small amounts of electricity from rooftop solar panels or a small wind turbine and sell excess energy back to the utility.

Susan Brown, chairperson for Concerned Citizens of Platte County said, "The renewable energy investments in this agreement can revitalize the regionís manufacturing economy and offer rural landowners a new source of steady income from wind turbines located on their property. The large investment in energy efficiency will also help everyone use less energy, reducing emissions and saving consumers and businesses money each month."

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More New Jersey Businesses Must Review Chemical Safety

TRENTON, New Jersey, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - As part of a proposal to increase chemical security throughout the state, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has announced a new proposal to more than double the number of facilities required to conduct reviews for a chemical safety program.

"We have a solemn responsibility to protect the people of the state," said Corzine. ďAs governor, I will continue to go to whatever lengths necessary to do just that."

The program, entitled Inherently Safer Technology, conducts reviews to ensure that companies identify how they can reduce the potentially hazardous materials they use.

Companies are reviewed to determine how they could substitute safer materials, use the least dangerous process, or use equipment and processes that reduce danger to public safety and to the environment.

"Protecting the state's critical infrastructure is one of my office's central responsibilities," said Richard Canas, director of the New Jersy Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

"Today's initiative extends our efforts in working with the private sector to minimize vulnerabilities and the potential consequences of a terrorist attack or other disaster," he said.

Standards adopted by New Jersey's Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force currently apply to 42 chemical manufacturers.

With the newly proposed Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, TCPA, regulations, the number will be expanded to 94 facilities and will include petroleum refineries, water suppliers, major food distributors, wastewater treatment plants, pesticide and agricultural manufacturers, and other facilities covered by the TCPA.

"We have found that the technology reviews are not overly burdensome and have resulted in many facilities developing risk reduction measures that will not only make them safer in the event of terrorism, but will lead to safer day-to-day operations," said Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson.

Commissioner Jackson issued an Administrative Order this week to ensure that workers and union representatives are able to participate in Department of Environmental Protection inspections of both TCPA and Discharge Prevention Containment and Control program facilities.

Jackson said workers and union representatives will be encourage to point out potential hazards and vulnerabilities to management and to government representatives.

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Abuse of Yellowstone Bison Brought Before Congress

WASHINGTON, DC, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - Advocates for wild bison testified today before the House Natural Resources Committee that the government is wasting millions of dollars on a costly plan that threatens America's last wild bison herd in Yellowstone National Park.

Congressman Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, chaired the oversight hearing before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. He set the tone for the hearing by saying, "The slaughter of bison needs to stop."

Congressman Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the House Resources Committee said, "Slaughter is not management, it is the approach of a bygone era."

Josh Osher of Buffalo Field Campaign, BFC, asked for Congressional action to protect the last wild herd of American bison, the Yellowstone herd.

"In 1872, Congress played an instrumental role in the creation of Yellowstone National Park and the protection of the American bison from hunters and poachers," he said. "In 2007, Congress can play an equally important role in the protection of the Yellowstone bison from state and federal agencies operating under an inherently flawed management plan."

The multi-million dollar 15 year Interagency Bison Management Plan under which the Yellowstone bison are controlled sees wild bison hazed, captured and slaughtered when they leave the confines of Yellowstone National Park, and sometimes even within the park boundaries.

In the winter of 2005-06, 849 wild bison were captured and sent to slaughter from Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison capture facility.

Eight bison died while being held in captivity or as a result of injuries received while held in captivity. Eighty-seven bison calves were removed from their family groups within the herd to the Brogan quarantine facility at Corwin Springs.

An additional 59 wild bison were killed by the Montana Department of Livestock, including two bison that fell through the ice on Hebgen Lake during a bison hazing operation. Yellowstone National Park shot one wild bison.

Since 1985, the state of Montana and Yellowstone National Park have killed more than 5,000 Yellowstone bison.

The state of Montana argues that bison contol is necessary to keep the abortive disease brucellosis from infecting Montana cattle. But BFC says there has never been a case of transmission between wild bison and cattle, which do not use the same grazing lands near Yellowstone at the same times of year in any case.

The shortcomings of the Interagency Bison Management Plan led Rahall, and Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat,as well as former Congressman Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican, to request an investigation by the General Accounting Office. That investigation is now underway.

Also testifying at today's hearing were Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer; Mike Soukup, an associate director of the National Park Service; Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis; Robin Nazzaro, the Government Accountability Office's director of natural resources and environment; Tim Stevens of the National Parks Conservation Association; and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

American bison once numbered between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically and behaviorally unique and are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 4,000 animals. Wild bison are extinct everywhere outside Yellowstone National Park.

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Prions More Mobile in Alkaline Soils

MADISON, Wisconsin, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - Prions, the misfolded proteins that cause mad cow disease and similar illnesses, may be more mobile in soil that is more alkaline, suggests a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

That finding has implications for the safe disposal of carcasses of animals infected with mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, scrapie and other prion diseases.

Prions from those carcasses can remain infectious in the soil for at least three years. Soil alkalinity varies considerably but can be relatively high in older landfills, especially if lime is spread on the carcasses to speed decomposition.

The study is reported in the April 15 issue of the journal "Environmental Science and Technology."

The research team found that as alkalinity increases, prions are less likely to adhere to particles of quartz, a common soil mineral, and so are expected to be more mobile, explains Joel Pedersen, an assistant professor of soil science.

Movement of prions in the soil could be a good or bad thing, depending on the situation, Pedersen explains. For example, if they move away from the surface, they are less likely to be ingested by animals.

"Those that remain near the surface would more accessible to animals and might therefore lead to the spread of chronic wasting," he says.

On the other hand, prions that are more mobile might be more likely to migrate through a landfill.

"In a landfill, if prions are mobile, they could be transported down through the waste, where they could enter the landfill's leachate collection system, and from there be directed to wastewater treatment plants. If prions survive wastewater treatment, they would be released back into the environment in treated water or in the sludge," Pedersen says.

Pedersen cautions that his findings are from a simplified experimental system, and that any assessments about the safety of landfilling carcasses would have to be based on studies of how prions behave in municipal solid waste and the soils used in landfills. The research team is now undertaking such studies.

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Don't Flush Those Pills

ATLANTA, Georgia, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - More than 10 million women in the United States use oral contraceptives, which eventually find their way into the environment. A wide range of other human medicines - such as antibiotics and statins, acetominophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen - are produced and used, some in the range of thousands of tons per year.

Some of these medications are excreted and go through a water treatment plant before they impact the waterways, but many outdated or unused medications are disposed of in the trash or dropped into the toilet.

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmacists Association, APhA, signed an agreement to cooperate in building public awareness of the hazards posed by the improper disposal of unused and expired medications into the nation's waterways.

"Medications that are flushed down the toilet or thrown straight into the garbage can and do find their way into our nation's waterways every day. Those drugs are present in water that supports many species of fish and other wildlife," said H. Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We are concerned about reports of fish abnormalities possibly caused by improperly disposed prescription medications," said Hall. "That's why we are excited about this new partnership with the association and its ability to educate the public about simple things they can do to clean up our waters and help prevent fish, and people, from inadvertent exposure to prescription medication."

The initiative was unveiled at APhA's annual meeting in Atlanta, one of the largest gatherings of pharmacy professionals and health services providers in the country.

"Medications play a vital role in our society," said Dr. John Gans, executive vice president and CEO of APhA. "Consumers - and pharmacists - should be aware that it is important to take that extra step to protect our families and our natural resources, including our many waterways, fish and other aquatic organisms."

The two organizations are warning people not to flush unused medications. Consumers were once advised to flush their expired or unused medications; however, recent environmental impact studies report that this could be having an adverse impact on the environment.

While the rule of thumb is not to flush, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that certain medications should be flushed due to their abuse potential. Read the instructions on your medication and talk to your pharmacist is the new message.

When tossing unused medications, the APhA advises people to crush solid medications or dissolve them in water. This applies for liquid medications as well. Once they are crushed or dissolved, mix with kitty litter or sawdust, or any material that absorbs the dissolved medication and makes it less appealing for pets or children to eat, then place in a sealed plastic bag before tossing in the trash.

The consumer outreach campaign will feature educational brochures and a website with information for both consumers and medical professionals. There will also be promotional events held in several cities across the country designed to generate greater awareness of the importance of proper medication disposal and the harmful effects it can have on the environment and public health.

The initiative will begin with a pilot program in selected U.S. markets later this year and will be expanded in 2008.