AmeriScan: May 31, 2005

* * *

Railroads Work Towards Fuel Efficiency, Clean Air

WASHINGTON, DC, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - The nation's major freight railroads are joining with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a partnership aimed at reducing locomotive fuel consumption and emissions.

These freight railroads - BNSF Railway Company, Canadian National Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad - transport more than 90 percent of all domestic rail freight.

The agreement was announced May 25 in the U.S. Capitol building by Jeffrey Holmstead, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "The rail companies joining the SmartWay Partnership are helping to clean the air, improve our nation's energy security, and continue to ensure the strength of the U.S. economy," he said.

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward Hamberger said, "This agreement is a sign of our commitment to build on that strong foundation so that we become even greener."

"Railroads are already the most fuel efficient way to move freight across the country, and are continually working to make the industry even greener," according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

SmartWay is a voluntary partnership that establishes incentives for fuel efficiency improvements and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2012, this initiative aims to reduce annual fuel consumption by as much as 150 million barrels of oil and emissions by as much as 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides.

There are three elements to the SmartWay program. The first is a set of partnerships between EPA, freight transportation companies and shippers to improve the environmental performance of freight operations.

The second element is the reduction of engine idling at such locations as truck stops, ports, rail yards and distribution hubs; and the third aims for increased efficiency and use of rail and intermodal operations.

As part of the SmartWay Transport Partnership, each railroad will develop a plan to identify fuel savings and emission reduction strategies. Strategies include reducing idling, improving aerodynamics, applying new fuel-saving technologies, and installing emissions control devices.

Union Pacific Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and BNSF Railway all are operating or have ordered Green Goat® locomotives, a hybrid locomotive that reduces fuel consumption and atmospheric emissions by 60 percent and emits 80 to 90 percent fewer pollutants than conventional train engines.

BNSF also operates four environmentally friendly liquid natural gas locomotives that reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

CSX Transportation, BNSF, CN Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway, Kansas City Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad are all investing idle reduction technology that can reduce non-productive fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 80 percent.

A variety of other technologies - including on-board computers, distributed power, and low friction bearings - are being utilized to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

"This is just the beginning," said Hamberger. "We will further improve fuel efficiency and make further reductions in atmospheric emissions. That is our commitment to the nation."

* * *

Thick Rockies Snowpack Melts Fast in Record Heat

SANTA FE, New Mexico, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - Record hot weather is melting the Rocky Mountain snowpack quickly, swelling rivers and streams in western Colorado and central and eastern New Mexico, including the Animas, the La Plata River and all waterways in the San Juan River Basin.

A reging Animas River forced the city of Farmington, New Mexico and Riverfest organizers to scale back this year’s annual Memorial Day weekend Riverfest celebration. The Animas river overflowed its bank Saturday for the first time in at least 15 years.

On May 25, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson surveyed areas and communities of northern New Mexico threatened by potential flooding due to extreme spring runoff levels. The governor toured the San Juan River Basin, Animas River, and the La Plata River near Farmington and Cabresto Creek, Cabresto Lake dam, and the communities near Questa.

Governor Richardson met with local officials and emergency personnel from Farmington, Questa, and surrounding communities, who briefed him on the current situation.

“I am very impressed by the cooperation and teamwork demonstrated by the different agencies working side-by-side to protect these communities,” said the governor.

Over 90,000 sandbags, provided by the state, have been distributed to fortify dams and levees and to protect homes and businesses. Twelve counties and 19 tribes and pueblos received these safety tools. Another 20,000 are on their way.

“Local efforts have been and will continue to be the key to getting through these extraordinary events without any loss of life, and with minimal damages,” said Governor Richardson. “We will continue to support those efforts. In addition, I want you to know that the state is prepared to respond swiftly to any emergency.”

An above average snowpack and warm temperatures that set records in Grand Junction, Colorado for three straight days raised the prospect for creeks and rivers to become more swollen.

Colorado snowpack levels statewide over the weekend were 106 percent of the 30 year average. The snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin in southwest Colorado was 166 percent of average.

Temperatures Sunday in Grand Junction hit a record 94 degrees for the date, breaking the previous record of 91 set in 1967, the National Weather Service said.

Water levels are running high along the Upper Rio Grande River at Del Norte and Alamosa in southcentral Colorado. The National Weather Service says river levels are expected to remain within their banks, but high flows can still be dangerous.

Tom Browning of the Colorado Water Conservation Board said areas being monitored for flooding include north and south Grand Mesa, the Rio Grande basin, the eastern San Luis Valley, the San Juan Mountains and the southern Arkansas River basin.

"The high water levels of the past several days increases the potential for significant bank erosion along flooded waterways. Even as water levels decrease the potential for bank erosion and failure will continue to be significant," the National Weather Service warned. "Trees falling to the creek and river due to bank erosioin could cause debris jams and potential for additional flooding."

* * *

New Mexico Aquifer to be Cleaned of Dry Cleaning Chemicals

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - AMEC's Earth & Environmental office in Albuquerque has signed a $3.6 million contract to develop and operate a system to clean up a federal Superfund site in northern New Mexico.

The North Railroad Avenue Superfund site, located north of Santa Fe in the city of Española and on the Santa Clara Indian Reservation, consists of a plume of contaminated groundwater three-quarters of a mile long, 800 feet wide and 260 feet below ground surface.

The contaminants, tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and its daughter products including trichloroethylene (TCE), are derived from dry cleaning solvents and are suspected cancer causing agents, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The cleanup plan calls for the use of a pumping system around now closed Norge Town Dry Cleaners to capture and flush out the highest concentrations of undissolved contamination.

Then, bioremediation will be used on dissolved contaminants at and near the source area, in the deep zone, and along State Route 201.

Removal of the highest concentration of undissolved contamination will be accomplished by surfactant enhanced aquifer restoration (SEAR).

SEAR technology uses a flushing technique with a surfactant to mobilize and capture the undissolved mass of contamination. Surfactants act as emulsifiers or dispersants - soap and detergent are common surfactants.

The second phase of the cleanup, bioremediation, involves the underground injection of a substance that is designed to encourage natural bacteria to degrade contaminants. The bioremediation plan calls for three carbon-source substances - whey, sodium benzoate and a compound that releases lactic acid - to be tested at the site to determine which works best.

The federally funded and state-contracted cleanup project "will help protect the health of citizens in Española and Santa Clara Pueblo as well as return millions of gallons of groundwater to constructive use," said Ron Curry, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).

The aquifer in which the plume is located is the only source of drinking water for the City of Española and Santa Clara Pueblo. The plume has affected about 280 million gallons of groundwater and has forced the closure of two municipal drinking water wells.

All other wells in the vicinity are being monitored and have shown no adverse impacts from the plume, according to NMED.

AMEC has designed, installed and operated SEAR and bioremediation systems across the world. The company is involved with two of the largest environmental cleanup projects in North America - the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state and the Sydney Tar Ponds project in Nova Scotia.

* * *

Dismantling Pennsylvania's Largest Tire Pile to Cost Millions

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania government has awarded two grants totalling $1.3 million to fund projects that will clean up the state’s largest waste tire pile and create markets for the use of more than six million tires now located at a dump site in Greenwood Township, Columbia County.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era at the Starr Tire Pile,” Secretary Kathleen McGinty said during an awards ceremony at the site last week. “The waste tires that have been accumulating on this site over the years will be removed."

"We began last year by forcing dozens of companies and individuals who dumped tens of thousands of tires there to begin removing them. The work will continue on a larger scale with these grants," McGinty said. "We are moving closer to eliminating this environmental and health hazard while creating jobs and spurring economic growth in Columbia County.”

The General Assembly appropriated $6.8 million in the 2004-05 budget to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the cleanup of scrap tires, including $2 million secured by the local state senator and representative specifically for work at the Starr Tire Pile.

The grants are part of the Starr Waste Tire Reuse Grant Program, which was launched last January. The DEP received 10 applications for the funding, and these are the first two grants to be awarded.

The Recycling Environmental Group from Bloomsburg received a $999,948 grant for a 12 month project that will process about one million tires into two to four inch shreds. The shreds will be processed further into crumb rubber at the company’s Bloomsburg facility, which will use the rubber to produce other usable and marketable products.

Carbon Services Corp., located in Lehighton, received $299,970 to remove about 2,000 large tires from the site. The tires, which are not suitable for conventional processing because each one can weigh more than half a ton, will be prepped in Philadelphia and deployed as a new artificial reef habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.

The two projects are expected to create a combined 15 full time jobs and generate economic development within the Commonwealth.

The DEP finalized terms of a legal agreement with Max and Martha Starr in March 2004 to clean up more than six million tires that accumulated at the property in the mid-1980s.

In addition to a $400,000 civil penalty for failing to remove waste tires from their property, the Starrs had to relinquish operational control of the pile to the DEP but maintain liability insurance.

The DEP already has contacted more than 40 businesses that sent tires to the property to request removal. Twenty-one tire generators have refused to remove waste tires taken from their businesses years ago to the Starr tire pile. On January 26, DEP filed a Complaint In Equity in Columbia County Court to require each generator to remove its share of waste tires.

Seven of the 21 generators have removed a total of 24,700 tires from the site and DEP’s Northcentral Regional Office’s Waste Management Program is negotiating agreements with three additional tire generators. The action could bring a civil penalty of $100 per day against any generator who fails to comply with the court’s order.

The DEP, with legislative support, has been seeking ways to hasten the removal of millions of waste tires in Pennsylvania.

Processed tires can be used for high value products, including mats, playground surfaces or carpet underlayments. Tires also can be used for fuel or civil engineering projects such as lightweight backfill for walls and bridge abutments or for approved on-lot septic system installations. Whole tires can be used for erosion control, crash barriers and artificial reefs.

* * *

Applications Open for Clean School Bus Grants Worth $7.5 Million

WASHINGTON, DC, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - Congress has allocated the Clean School Bus USA program $7.5 million for fiscal year 2005 for a cost-shared grant program to school districts to upgrade their diesel fleets, up $2.5 million from the 2004 budget.

Under EPA's Clean School Bus program, the agency expects to provide 20 to 30 grants to school districts across the country to upgrade their diesel school bus fleets. The upgrades would come from replacing older buses with new, cleaner ones, or by retrofitting existing buses with devices and cleaner fuels that reduce diesel air pollution.

As one of 20 projects funded in 2004, San Diego Air Pollution Control District established a sub-grant program for school districts throughout San Diego County to retrofit diesel school buses with particulate matter filters. The county includes many areas where environmental justice is a concern. The project was funded by a federal grant of $355,000.

Another 2004 project teamed the Chicago Public School System, the American Lung Association, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the City of Chicago to equip about 80 buses with diesel oxidation catalysts and 20 buses with particulate matter filters in combination with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. The federal funding amounted to $315,000.

There are roughly 440,000 school buses in the country. About 24 million students ride the school bus every day. On average, students spend an hour and a half each weekday in a school bus.

The EPA says reducing pollution from school buses helps improve local air quality and reduces children's exposure to diesel exhaust.

The application deadline for the EPA grants is July 1, 2005. The EPA expects to announce the awards in the fall of 2005.

For more information about the program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus.

For information on how to apply for funding under the Clean School Bus USA grant program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/air/grants_funding.html#0513.

* * *

Water, Transport Tunnel Under Cleveland National Forest Studied

LOS ANGELES, California, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has agreed to partner with Orange and Riverside counties in exploring a potential joint tunnel project under the Cleveland National Forest that would connect the counties.

Metropolitan’s Board of Directors May 10 authorized participation in a proposed joint powers agreement with the counties to investigate the feasibility of a transportation and utility corridor between the regions.

“This partnership would offer a common-sense approach to exploring innovative, cooperative solutions to Southern California’s infrastructure needs,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Wes Bannister.

A large diameter water line that would tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains was among the distribution system improvements Metropolitan identified in the early 1990s. In 1994, Metropolitan’s board approved environmental documentation for a new water treatment plant near Lake Mathews and accompanying pipeline/tunnel project from western Riverside County to southern Orange County.

In the meantime, a tunnel between Riverside and Orange counties has been suggested as a way of alleviating traffic congestion on local highways.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission and Orange County Transportation Authority have initiated a study of heavily congested freeways in an area outlined by State Route-91 on the north, SR-74 on the south, Interstate 5 and SR-55 on the west and I-15 on the east.

“By bringing agencies together with vastly different objectives to work cooperatively on a potential project that might offer mutual benefits, we are paving the way for out-of-the-box thinking to prepare Southern California for future water and transportation issues,” Bannister said.

As part of this effort, California Republican Congressmen Christopher Cox, Gary Miller, and Ken Calvert are attempting to secure $30 million in federal funds to study a multi-use tunnel and corridors that might accommodate individual tunnels.

In addition to the Metropolitan Water District and the counties, the proposed joint powers agreement may include the cities of Irvine and Corona, as well as county transportation agencies and telecommunications interests.

Metropolitan’s Chief Executive Officer Dennis Underwood said a joint effort among the district and the counties during the next two to five years would enable combined technical studies of a multi-use tunnel, including comprehensive geotechnical and geologic explorations, to be completed at reduced costs.

As part of the proposed partnership, the agencies would agree to cooperate in obtaining additional funding.

“In the end, it may prove to be more cost effective and cause fewer environmental disruptions to combine our efforts into a single transportation and utility corridor,” Underwood said.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage, and other resource management programs.

* * *

College of the Atlantic Conducts Nation's First Zero-Waste Graduation

BAR HARBOR, Maine, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - College of the Atlantic is conducting a zero-waste graduation on Saturday.

For a full year, the school's planning and purchasing has been so focused on the ultimate fate of everything from the containers in which shrimp are shipped to the plates from which it is eaten, that the school is confident of hosting the nation's first-ever zero waste graduation.

At graduation, all utensils, bowls and cups will be made from compostable starch based materials. These items, plus all food, will end up in a solar composter built on campus from recycled materials. The resulting compost will feed the college's formal gardens as well as the community garden plots worked by students and area residents. Bins will collect recyclable wastes.

Parents have been alerted to the college's efforts and have been asked to carry out any waste they may bring in. Before and after graduation, buses will make the rounds of local hotels picking up graduation guests and taking them back to the hotels, reducing the oil pollution from transporting the more than 1,000 visitors to and from the ceremonies.

Much of the effort has fallen upon the kitchen, which has been working with its distributor, North Center of Augusta, Maine to minimize waste. Strawberries for the school's traditional chocolate-dipped berries, for instance, were purchased from suppliers who agreed to pack the berries in large reusable wooden or plastic tubs.

The few parts of containers that are not recyclable - such as the plastic wrap covering chicken and the inner film protecting commercial yogurt containers - will become part of an ongoing zero-waste sculpture which students will begin creating this week. All other containers will either be recycled or reused by area organizations, says college chef Ken Sebelin, a 1994 graduate.

A small college of 280 students located on a wedge of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Acadia National Park, College of the Atlantic offers one degree, in human ecology. Knowledge from all academic disciplines and from personal experience guide all aspects of education and research.

The germ for the zero-waste graduation began two summers ago when Millard Dority, the college's director of campus planning, buildings and public safety met a representative of Annapolis Royale, Nova Scotia. This Canadian town is attempting to operate completely without waste.

If a whole town can do it, thought Dority, why not College of the Atlantic? Since then, he has realized that the college's efforts in waste reduction over the past 33 years have been so effective that the institution was already close to a zero-waste institution.

Appropriate food waste at the college has always been composted. Since the early 1980s, when then-student Glen Berkowitz started a local recycling center as part of his college work, College of the Atlantic has recycled all its paper and metal waste from offices, dorms and classrooms.

Only recyclable paper is used on campus, along with only biodegradable cleaning products. A college owned farm supplies the school's root vegetables. No pesticides are used on campus, nor is there any landscaping waste. But graduation goes several steps further.

"We're taking graduation to the extreme," says Dority. "By doing that, we've learned how well we already do things every day with composting and recycling. It's been a fun project, I can't wait to see the outcome - the sculpture the kids are making from the items we can't recycle, reuse or compost."

In the future, the college hopes that a zero-waste celebration won't be an unusual circumstance, that all events at the college will abide by zero-waste policies.

* * *