AmeriScan: May 6, 2005

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San Diego Agrees to $187 Million Sewage Collection Upgrade

SAN DIEGO, California, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - A consent decree has been signed with the city of San Diego, Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Baykeeper that requires $187 million worth of improvements in the city's sewage collection system, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced.

The consent decree was lodged Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and is open for comment for 30 days. This consent decree specifies measures that San Diego will undertake during the next year, while the parties continue to work on a long-term agreement to prevent future spills of raw sewage from San Diego's system.

According to the terms of the decree, the city of San Diego will continue their enhanced inspection and maintenance programs in the city's wastewater collection system; systemwide cleaning, root control, sewer pipe inspection, repair or replacement; and, grease control blockage programs.

The EPA and the city of San Diego signed the agreement despite a unique series of political, legal and financial challenges facing the city. The parties will meet later this year to complete a comprehensive long-term strategy to remedy San Diego's sewage and wastewater problems.

If the parties can agree to such a strategy, it would be the culmination of a multi-year effort by the EPA to address San Diego's sewage collection system spills.

The agency issued an administrative order three years ago that has resulted in the city enhancing its sewer collection system maintenance and capital improvement programs.

Later, the EPA filed a complaint, seeking a long-term court sanctioned resolution to the problems, and joining forces with the environmental groups who had already filed a Clean Water Act citizens' lawsuit against the city of San Diego.

"We are pleased to see that the city of San Diego's spill rate has been reduced in recent years. We will continue to work with the city of San Diego to ensure all commitments, including repair of the sewage collection system, are met," said Alexis Strauss, director of water programs in the EPA's Pacific Southwest office.

San Diego's Municipal Wastewater Collection System collects wastewater from approximately 1.2 million residents over 330 square miles. The system has an estimated 2,800 miles of sewer lines and 84 pumping stations.

Untreated sewage is hazardous to human health because it carries microbiological contamination. Exposure to sewage can cause gastroenteritis, salmonella infection, dysentery, or hepatitis.

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Dallas/Fort Worth Air Quality Settlement Filed

DALLAS, Texas, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - Government agencies, local officials and citizen groups have reached a series of agreements on plans to achieve health-based air quality standards in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, one of the most polluted areas in the nation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to settle a lawsuit over the expiring one-hour ozone standard. The EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and local governments have committed themselves to take additional steps for ensuring progress in meeting the new eight-hour ozone standard.

"I am pleased that we and the local citizen groups were able to reach an agreement that moves us toward our goal of cleaner, healthier air for residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth area," said EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene.

Four citizen groups - Blue Skies Alliance, Downwinders at Risk, Public Citizen's Texas Office and the Sierra Club - sued the EPA, alleging that insufficient action had taken place to approve and implement the State Implementation Plan for meeting the old 1-hour standard for ozone, due to expire next month.

A number of organizations intervened in the litigation supporting EPA, including the TCEQ, Collin County, Tarrant County and some industry representatives.

"This settlement marks a new era of action to improve Dallas/Fort Worth's air quality as quickly as possible. For the first time since the Clean Air Act was passed, we think we have an outline of a plan that can finally deliver clean air for Dallas/Fort Worth residents to breathe," said Wendi Hammond, director of Blue Skies Alliance. "And we believe that if all the parties continue to cooperate as they have during these negotiations, we'll arrive at that goal sooner than we would have without this agreement."

The EPA agreed to a schedule to complete action on a number of 1-hour ozone standard planning requirements including a program for cleaner engines and traffic congestion prevention measures. Parties went beyond the lawsuit and made voluntary commitments focused on making progress to achieve the new eight-hour standard. EPA also agreed to evaluate the most significant toxic air pollutants for additional monitoring.

TCEQ agreed to a cement industry study to evaluate the potential availability of new air pollution control technologies for cement kilns in the Dallas/Fort Worth eight-hour ozone nonattainment area.

Local officials agreed to implement local pollution control measures earlier than required by state and federal regulations.

"Clean air has been my goal for some time," Collin County Judge Ron Harris said. "These measures will help us bring relief faster to children and families suffering from the effects of poor air quality."

Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff said, "Besides making us healthier, clean air will make our area more attractive to businesses and spur economic development. It's a problem we created together and one we must solve together."

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New Jersey Foundry to Install $9.3 Million Mercury Controls

TRENTON, New Jersey, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey has signed an Administrative Consent Order with Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Company that settles air emission and water violations at its Phillipsburg foundry that occurred since 2003.

Atlantic States has agreed to install and begin operation of a state-of-the-art, $9.3 million emissions control system, which will be the first of its kind in North America, by January 6, 2006.

Atlantic States' mercury reduction project will remove about 160 pounds of mercury from the environment four years before New Jersey's new mercury restrictions take effect in 2010. The company has agreed to allow its technology to be studied and used as a model for mercury control at other foundries throughout the United States.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell said, "The technology to be installed under this agreement will set the industry standard for restricting mercury emissions from foundries."

"Today's settlement will protect public health and the environment in New Jersey by significantly reducing mercury emissions," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. "It reinforces New Jersey's commitment to reducing mercury exposure through the mercury switch legislation and DEP's 2004 mercury air emissions rules."

In 2004, the DEP published mercury air emissions standards under which foundries and steel mills by January 1, 2010 must reduce mercury emissions to a rate of 35 mg per ton of steel produced.

The company also will pay a fine in the amount of $51,520 and contribute $85,000 toward an ambient air mercury monitoring project in Warren County. In addition, Atlantic States will undertake several projects to minimize fugitive emissions from the foundry operations and install and operate a continuous emission monitoring system to monitor mercury emissions.

"We are extremely proud of the fact that Atlantic States will be introducing mercury control technology that will result in significant benefits to the environment, and can serve as the model for other foundries throughout North America," said Mitchell Kidd, vice president and general manager of Atlantic States. "We sincerely appreciate the cooperation of the DEP and we will continue to work closely with regulators and regional organizations towards environmental protection for our community."

Atlantic States' emissions control system will be comprised of a baghouse with activated carbon injection. In addition to mercury emission reductions, the emission control system is expected to yield additional environmental benefits including the following:

Mercury is a highly toxic pollutant. Exposure to the most toxic form of mercury comes primarily from eating contaminated fish and shellfish, which absorb mercury from the water where it is deposited when emitted into the air by industrial facilities.

Children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to mercury contamination, which can cause permanent brain damage to the fetus, infants, and young children. Mercury exposure has been shown to affect the ability of children to concentrate and to remember.

Even exposure to low levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain and nervous system and cause behavioral changes. At least one in 10 pregnant women in New Jersey have concentrations of mercury in their hair samples that exceed safe levels.

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National Animal Identification System Inches Forward

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is providing more time for the development of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), needed to locate animals that may have mad cow disease.

Thursday he released a "thinking paper and timeline" on the system and called on agriculture producers and industry partners to provide feedback. Johanns proposes requiring stakeholders to identify premises and animals according to NAIS standards by January 2008. Requiring full recording of defined animal movements is proposed by January 2009.

Administered by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the NAIS is a cooperative state-federal-industry program being created to monitor animal movements from birth to death for the purpose of disease tracking.

Johanns said it will be established "over time" through the integration of three key components: premises identification, animal identification and animal tracking.

Need for this system was demonstrated by the discovery in December 2003 of a Washington state cow with mad cow disease. The identification system is viewed as a necessary component of U.S. efforts tocontrol the spread of the fatal brain wasting disease that has crippled the U.S. cattle industry.

"The documents we're releasing today offer a draft plan to move the public discussion forward on this important initiative," said Johanns on Thursday. "We created these documents with guidance from the NAIS advisory committee and with a great deal of input from producers. We're proposing answers to some of the key questions about how we envision this system moving forward.

"Now, I'm eager to hear from farmers and ranchers so we can develop a final plan."

Stakeholders have questioned funding for the system, confidentiality of data in the system and flexibility of the system, among other things.

Eventually, the NAIS will allow animal health officials to identify all animals and premises that have had contact with a foreign or domestic animal disease of concern within 48 hours of an initial presumptive-positive diagnosis. As an information system that provides for rapid tracing of infected and exposed animals during an outbreak situation, the NAIS will help limit the scope of such outbreaks and ensure that they are contained as quickly as possible.

The NAIS is designed to encompass the tracking of all animal species that could directly or indirectly impact the animal health status of our nation's food animal system. Currently, species working groups have been established for beef and dairy cattle, bison, camelids, cervids, equine, goats, poultry, sheep and swine.

APHIS received approximately $33 million for NAIS implementation in fiscal year 2005 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act. USDA also transferred $18.8 million from its Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS in FY 2004 to support the program.

Both documents are available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's NAIS Web site at http://www.usda.gov/nais and will be published in the Federal Register.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before June 6, 2005. Send an original and three copies of postal or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 050-15-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Online, a link to the NAIS docket and comment form will be available on the NAIS home page at http://www.usda.gov/nais.

Once USDA receives feedback on the documents, it will follow the normal rulemaking process before any aspects of the NAIS become mandatory. The public will have the opportunity to submit additional comments on any proposed regulations.

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Clean Diesel Campaign Offers Nonroad Technology Grants

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced under its National Clean Diesel Campaign that it will be accepting applications for projects that will reduce emissions from nonroad vehicles and equipment.

These projects would reduce diesel emissions through the use of retrofit technologies on various types of vehicles, such as construction, agriculture and port-related equipment.

The agency says it will award between eight and 12 cooperative agreements, ranging in from $50,000 to $150,000.

The deadline for receipt of applications is July 1, 2005.

"Reducing emissions from diesel engines is one of the most important air quality challenges facing the country," the EPA says.

Even with tougher heavy-duty highway engine standards set to take effect over the next decade, over the next 20 years millions of diesel engines already in use will continue to emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, both of which contribute to serious public health problems.

Diesel exhaust is responsible for "thousands of instances of premature mortality, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, millions of lost work days, and numerous other health impacts," the agency says.

The EPA' National Clean Diesel Campaign is the agency's vehicle for reducing the pollution emitted from diesel engines across the country through the implementation of varied control strategies and the involvement of national, state, and local partners.

For additional information on the grant applications, visit: http://www.epa.gov/air/grants_funding.html#trans, and for information on EPA's National Clean Diesel Campaign, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/.

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Cranberries Protect Pigs Against Heart Attacks, Strokes

MADISON, Wisconsin, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - Compounds that occur naturally in cranberries have been found to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in pigs and may do the same for humans, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found.

Early results from studies indicate that feeding cranberry juice powder seems to relax and open blood vessels in pigs that are genetically susceptible to developing atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries.

Kris Kruse-Elliott, a veterinary anesthesiologist at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, presented her results at the American Physiological Society's annual meeting in San Diego in April.

Kruse-Elliott and co-researcher Jess Reed, a nutritionist in the Department of Animal Sciences, set out to evaluate various whole foods that contain antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols, all compounds that may protect against heart disease.

Cranberries contain all three, so they fed cranberry juice powder to pigs that were genetically predisposed to develop high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, just as some humans are.

"When these pigs were fed cranberry juice powder made from whole cranberries for six months, their vessels acted more like normal pigs," Kruse-Elliott says, meaning that the pigs' blood vessels relaxed and opened more.

Abnormal blood vessel function is an important component of heart disease. Finding ways to improve vessel function in patients with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis is critical to helping protect these patients from heart attacks or strokes.

"The next step is to determine what specific components of cranberries are most important to the improvements in vascular function that we observed, exactly how they modify blood vessel relaxation, and how they can be most easily consumed as part of the diet," Kruse-Elliott says.

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Las Vegas Turns to TV to Teach Storm Water Lessons

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, May 6, 2005 (ENS) - Creating television programs to teach the public about storm water pollution is a new feature of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District Stormwater Quality Management Committee's responsibility.

In cooperation with the local municipalities, the Stormwater Quality Management Committee has produced several Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for television and radio about stormwater pollution.

These PSAs have been featured on the local TV channels as well as the Clark County Community Channel, Cable Channel 4.

The latest PSA, on spring cleaning, aims to promote the proper disposal of household chemicals including paint, paint thinner, herbicides, and pesticides that, due to their chemical nature, can be hazardous to the environment if not properly disposed.

This year the committee has produced PSAs about car washing, fertilizer and pet waste and how to keep them from entering the storm water and ending up in Lake Mead, which supplies the drinking water for the city of Las Vegas and surrounding communities.

The committee hopes to promote the use of commercial car washes that capture and recycle waste water. Water runoff from washing cars on streets allows soap and oil residue to flow into storm drains via streets and gutters.

The largest source of stormwater pollution in Southern Nevada results from everyday activities, the committee says. Anything dumped or dropped on the ground or in the gutter contributes to stormwater pollution, so the Clark County Regional Flood Control District hopes to teach the public not to discard pollutants.

The most common pollutants are trash, such as fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts, and styrofoam containers as well as toxins such as used motor oil, antifreeze, fertilizer, pesticides, and sewage overflow.

These pollutants are picked up as water from rain, hoses, and sprinklers, drains from streets, parking lots, and lawns and enters the 66,000 catch basins throughout Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

From there, this untreated "toxic soup" flows through a massive system of pipes and open channels straight to the Las Vegas Wash.

During a storm event, water runoff is carried by the Las Vegas storm drain system directly into the Las Vegas Wash, which drains to Lake Mead.

Contaminated stormwater receives no treatment because of the sheer volume of runoff from an area encompassing 1,600 square miles. The committee says that the cost of treating Clark County's storm water would be so high that it would exceed available resources.

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