AmeriScan: November 10, 2004

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EPA Pesticide Baby Study to Undergo Internal Ethical Review

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is delaying a controversial study to measure pesticide exposure in babies, from birth to age three, who have pesticides sprayed in their homes.

EPA is paying families in Jacksonville, Florida who “spray or have pesticides sprayed inside your home routinely” to study the resulting chemical exposure in their infant children.

In a memo dated Monday and distributed to EPA employees, William McFarland, the acting deputy assistant administrator for science, wrote that the agency would subject the study to further review that “may refine the study design” but that the study would proceed in the spring.

The EPA is sending the study design for review by an expert panel made up of members of the EPA Science Advisory Board, the EPA Science Advisory Panel and the EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee. It is anticipated that this review will be completed, and that a report will be forwarded to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt, in the spring of 2005.

The study has already been reviewed on ethical grounds and approved by three Institutional Review Boards for the Protection of Human Subjects - the University of Florida in May, Battelle Memorial Institute in August, and the University of North Carolina in September. "These boards include outside, independent experts in the fields of medicine, ethics and community advocacy," McFarland said in the memo. A fourth decision by the Florida Department of Health is pending.

Critics of the study point out that Battelle is the primary contractor for the study and therefore could not be independent in its assessment.

The study, called the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), pays participating families $970 for participating throughout the two year study period. Families who complete the study get to keep the camcorder they are provided to record their babies’ behavior, plus bibs, t-shirts and other promotional items.

The families are recruited from public clinics and hospitals. EPA selects infants based upon pesticide residue levels detected in “a surface wipe sample in the primary room where the child spends time.”

Citing “recent news articles" that have "mischaracterized the study,” McFarland said the further review “will ultimately enable us to be more protective of children’s health,” according to memo.

“EPA seems to think that the problem with this study is one of public relations, not morality,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), whose organization is working with agency scientists who are questioning the ethics of the study. “Regardless of the number of reviews, paying poor parents to dose their babies with commercial poisons to measure their exposure is just plain wrong.”

Conducted with funding from the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies including pesticide manufacturers, the study looks at 60 infants and toddlers.

Pesticide companies want data on actual infant exposure levels to persuade the EPA to drop its rules requiring that pesticide exposures to small children must be ten times more protective than adults, Ruch says.

According to published reports, the Bush administration will soon announce the repeal of the Clinton-era rules against testing pesticides on humans. "EPA wants to use CHEERS as the opening for a new policy on accepting testing on humans to determine pesticide toxicity," says Ruch.

EPA scientists are also expressing concern that corporations are now influencing EPA research through direct financial contributions. The American Chemistry Council, which contributed $2 million to CHEERS, successfully lobbied to include exposure to flame retardants and other household chemicals in the study. The EPA now has 80 similar research agreements with industry, including three with the American Chemistry Council.

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Teck Cominco Will Appeal Columbia River Pollution Ruling

YAKIMA, Washington, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - A British Columbia mining company says it will appeal a Washington state judge's decision Monday to press pollution charges against it. Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. is charged with polluting the Columbia River with heavy metals for decades.

"We're disappointed with the ruling and we will be moving forward with an appeal," said David Parker, a spokesman for Teck Cominco. "We prefer to move forward with a negotiated, cooperative approach and favor a bilateral solution reached between Canada and the U.S."

Teck Cominco contends the lawsuit should be dismissed because the U.S. government cannot impose rules on Canadian companies that operate on Canadian soil. The company's giant lead-zinc smelter is about 10 miles north of the border in Trail, British Columbia.

The company has the backing of the Canadian government, which also spoke out against the ruling Tuesday. International Trade Canada spokesman Andre Lemay said Canada has struck bilateral agreements with the U.S. on other issues such as this and has doubled its efforts to help Teck Cominco achieve an out of court solution.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald refused to dismiss the case, saying the United States' environmental laws are intended to clean up pollution inside U.S. borders, regardless of where it originates.

"The Upper Columbia River Site is a 'domestic condition' over which the United States has sovereignty and legislative control," McDonald ruled.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charges that heavy-metal pollutants have flowed into Washington state waters from the smelter for decades. Late last year, the EPA demanded that the company pay for a study of the pollution and possible remedies. An EPA spokesman said the agency was pleased with the ruling.

The Colville Confederated Tribes of Eastern Washington sued the company in July for failing to comply with that order, and the state of Washington joined the lawsuit in September.

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Snowmobiles Allowed in Yellowstone If They Are Quieter

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - The National Park Service today approved winter use plans for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway that settle the long-stanidng controversy over snowmobile access to the parks for the next three years.

Environmentalists objected to the snowmobiles that they said disturbed the wilderness character of the parks with loud motors and smoky exhaust. During the Clinton administration, plans were made to keep the snowmobiles out of these two parks, but the snowmobile industry lobbied the Interior Department to permit them on economic grounds.

“In 2000, the Clinton administration had developed a plan to eliminate snowmobile use in these parks,” said Fran Mainella, director of the National Park Service. “I commend the Park Service employees for coming up with an environmentally friendly, commonsense approach to winter use management that incorporates the use of cleaner and quieter snowmobile technology that reduces hydrocarbon emissions by at least 90 percent. "

"For 40 years families have had the opportunity to access the parks by snowmobiles and we want to continue to make a variety of winter activities available to American families,” Mainella said.

Under the decision and the implementing rule, 720 snowmobiles per day will be allowed to enter Yellowstone, all led by commercial guides. This is fewer than the historic peak day use levels in the park and is lower than the level of access allowed during the last half of the 2003-2004 winter season.

Commercial guides will not be required for the 140 snowmobiles per day allowed in Grand Teton National Park.

A Finding of No Significant Impact for the Temporary Winter Use Plans Environment Assessment was approved by National Park Service Intermountain Regional Director Steve Martin on Thursday. The plan will be in effect for the next three winter seasons, allowing snowmobile and snowcoach use through the winter of 2006-2007. A final rule implementing the decision will soon be published in the Federal Register.

Snowmobiles and snowcoaches will be allowed in the parks on roads that automobiles use in the summer. Some side roads will be closed to the machines.

All recreational snowmobiles entering Yellowstone National Park will be required to be four-stroke machines that meet the National Park Service Best Available Technology standards. A list of approved snowmobiles is available on the park’s website at: www.nps.gov/yell/planvisit/winteruse.

Still, environmentalists warn that visitors and employees will breathe unhealthy levels of toxic benzene in snowmobile exhaust, wearing ear plugs will be advisable to cope with snowmobile noise, protective thresholds for air pollution and noise will be exceeded regularly, and needless wildlife disturbance will continue. All these impacts were forecast in an August study produced by the National Park Service.

“Choosing to perpetuate these impacts when a better alternative is readily available is a sad departure from the history of the National Park Service,” said Chris Mehl, communications director in the Northern Rockies office of The Wilderness Society.

“From its beginning in 1916, the Park Service has grappled with tough decisions and consistently has chosen to curb activities that harm the parks or interfere with the enjoyment of other visitors," said Mehl. "Now, this Administration is authorizing continued snowmobile use despite multiple scientific conclusions that this will harm Yellowstone and detract from the experience sought by other visitors.”

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Federal Beach Bacteria Standards Set for Coastal States

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - The BEACH Act of 2000 required coastal states and states bordering the Great Lakes to adopt bacteria standards by April 2004 to protect beach bathers from harmful microorganisms.

For states that have not yet adopted those protective standards, the Act required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish standards.

On Monday, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signed a final regulation that imposes those standards.

“We're putting in place improved, health-based standards for pathogens in water to further protect the public, particularly children who are often more vulnerable to bacteria-causing illnesses in beach water,” Leavitt said Monday.

Of the 35 states and territories that have coastal or Great Lakes recreational waters, 14 have adopted water quality standards that are as protective of health as EPA’s recommended criteria for all their coastal recreation waters.

Five states have adopted the criteria for some of their coastal recreation waters, 13 states are in the process of fully adopting the criteria, and three have not begun the process.

Although the agency is establishing federal standards through this final rule, any state that adopts its own standards that are as protective as the EPA’s and receives the agency's approval will be removed from these federal requirements.

EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Ben Grumbles said, “The rule reflects our priorities of working with states and others to improve water quality monitoring, public health protection and coastal watersheds - all important recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in its recent report.”

The EPA will continue to grant funding to all BEACH Act states and territories regardless of their status under this action. The agency is committed to ensuring continued monitoring of the nation’s beaches and public notification of beach closures and advisories.

The agency estimates that Americans take a total of 910 million trips to coastal areas each year and spend about $44 billion at those beach locations. EPA has provided about $32 million in grants to help states implement this monitoring program.

For more information about the new criteria and the rule, see: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches/bacteria-rule-final-fs.htm

For more information in general about beaches and EPA's activities to protect them, see: http://www.epa.gov/beaches

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Loveland Pass Fuel Spill Cleanup Ordered

DENVER, Colorado, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered CSH Trucking of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, to clean up more than 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from a company tanker truck that overturned on Colorado's Loveland Pass Friday.

The was hauling 7,200 gallons of diesel when it plowed through a guardrail and rolled 250 feet down an embankment on Highway 6 Friday morning, spilling about two-thirds of its load, said Rachel Flood, the public affairs coordinator for the Lake Dillon and Snake River fire departments. The driver was seriously injured and was airlifted to a Denver hospital.

The spill occurred on U.S. Forest Service land approximately one-quarter mile from the North Fork of the Snake River on the west side of the pass. The spilled fuel spread as far as the area adjacent to US Highway 6 near the Arapahoe Basin ski area parking lot.

Under the order, the company will build catchment ponds to intercept any fuel oil that spreads down the slope and will clean up diesel-contaminated soils.

The order also requires the trucking company to drill four ground water monitoring wells to determine if the spilled fuel seeped into ground water. The EPA will oversee the cleanup and ground water monitoring in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service.

No streams or drinking water supplies are impacted to date. The cleanup will prevent the spread of the fuel and minimize impacts to sensitive environments such as streams and wetlands. The ground water monitoring will insure that there are no future impacts to underground water sources in the area.

Immediately following the spill, the company recovered an estimated 2,000 gallons from the overturned truck and used absorbent materials to catch and soak up some of the spilled fuel.

But on Saturday the ground thawed enough to allow the fuel to spread to the area near the Arapahoe Basin parking lot, requiring additional cleanup. The cause of this accident is under investigation.

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Sugar Company Fined for Syrupy Runoff

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - In a consent agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Sugar Refining Inc., which produces Domino Sugar, has agreed to pay a $37,500 penalty to settle Clean Water Act violations at its raw sugar refinery near Baltimore, Maryland.

The violations are related to storm water runoff containing sugar that flows from the refinery into the Northwest Harbor of the Patapsco River.

The agency explains that when sugar biodegrades in streams it can deplete water of the dissolved oxygen that supports aquatic life.

The Clean Water Act requires owners of certain industrial operations to obtain a permit before discharging storm water runoff into waterways. These permits require best management practices to reduce pollution such as spill prevention safeguards, material storage and coverage requirements, runoff reduction measures, and employee training.

A July 2003 inspection of the American Sugar refinery by personnel from the EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment revealed several site conditions that fell short of requirements in the facility's state issued permit.

The inspectors observed runoff leaking from open trash containers used for the disposal of sugar and manufacturing byproducts, and saw a syrupy substance outside the raw sugar shed.

Spillage of raw sugar at an unloading dock and pier was not cleaned up, and broken sugar boxes were found in open rolloff trash containers.

The company has cooperated with the EPA to resolve violations, and has taken prompt action to comply with Clean Water Act requirements, the agency said.

For more information about EPA’s storm water program, visit www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater

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New Jersey Revamps Ground Water Quality Standards

TRENTON, New Jersey, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection DEP is proposing to recodify and amend the Ground Water Quality Standards (GWQS) rules that govern the quantities of some 200 chemicals allowed in the state's ground water from acenaphthene to zinc.

Some pollutant standards will be stricter than existing standards, some will be less stringent, some are unchanged, and some substances are deleted from the list of regulated pollutants, based on current scientific information.

The proposed amendments that result in the standards being made less stringent are "not anticipated to have any adverse environmental impacts," the DEP said.

The DEP uses the Ground Water Quality Standards to protect pristine aquifers, set standards for discharges to ground water under the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) program, and to establish standards for ground water remediation under the Site Remediation and Waste Management Program. The proposed amendments will affect these regulatory programs.

Roughly 40 percent of the state’s drinking water is from ground water sources. About 2.2 million people - out of an estimated 8.4 million total population in New Jersey - rely on ground water from about 2,500 public supply wells.

An estimated 1.1 million others rely on ground water from private domestic wells.

The DEP has estimated that as of December 2003, 65 percent of all the known contaminated sites in New Jersey have some level of ground water contamination. Ground water contamination, in turn, can impact surface water quality and drinking water supplies.

Currently 967 facilities are regulated by the NJPDES program to discharge to ground water for activities other than ground water remediation. All new NJPDES permits for discharges to ground water will be based on the amended standards. For existing permits, the DEP will impose new effluent limitations when permits are renewed.

The DEP has identified approximately 12,000 known contaminated sites, of which 60 percent involve ground water contamination. About 2,000 new contaminated sites are expected to be added to the list of known contaminated sites each year.

The amended Ground Water Quality Standards may affect the remediation of contaminated sites to the extent that a remediator may have to modify a remediation plan to address previously unregulated ground water constituents or to remediate ground water to achieve a more restrictive standard.

New remediation standards will be applied to new cases and to cases for which the responsible party has not submitted a remedial action workplan or similar document at the time the amended GWQS become effective.

The DEP says the amendments will have a positive environmental benefit on the state's ground water. Applying these amended standards will ensure that New Jersey’s ground and surface water resources are protected from contamination. Protection of these resources is important to ensure the availability of ground and surface water for commercial, domestic, industrial and environmental uses, the agency said.

A copy of the proposed rule is online here.

A public hearing concerning the proposal is scheduled for Monday, November 15, 2004 from 3 pm to 5 pm or close of testimony whichever occurs first, and 6 pm to 8 pm or close of testimony, whichever occurs first at the Public Hearing Room, 1st Floor New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 401 East State Street, Trenton, New Jersey

Written comments may be submitted until December 3, 2004 to: NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Leslie W. Ledogar, Esq., ATTN: DEP Docket No. 16-04-09/405, Office of Legal Affairs, P.O. Box 402, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0402

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Satellite Shows that El Nino Drives Global Rain Patterns

PASADENA, California, November 10, 2004 (ENS) - American and Japanese scientists have found that the El Nino Southern Oscillation is the main force behind the change in global rain patterns, the National Aeronautics and Space Administratioin (NASA) said in a statement Monday.

To reach their conclusions, NASA researchers used data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite to identify areas where the year-to-year change in rainfall was greatest between 1998 and 2003. The TRMM is a joint mission of NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to study tropical rainfall.

By studying rain patterns in these areas over 50 years, the researchers established that the main component of the change in global rainfall is directly correlated with El Nino.

El Nino Southern Oscillation is a global event that arises from large-scale interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. El Nino is an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. Not all El Ninos are the same, and the atmosphere doe not always react in the same way from one El Nino to another.

The Southern Oscillation is the see-saw pattern of reversing surface air pressure between the eastern and western tropical Pacific; when surface pressure is high in the eastern tropical Pacific it is low in the western tropical Pacific, and vice-versa. Because the ocean warming and pressure reversals are nearly simultaneous, scientists call the phenomenon ENSO.

Ziad Haddad and colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory compared local changes in worldwide rainfall. Using TRMM measurements, they condensed the year-to-year change in rainfall patterns into a single rain-change index.

The index is a color-coded map that shows areas of rainfall around the world that are influenced somewhat to greatly during an ENSO event.

"The fact that the rain-change index, which comes directly from global measurements, tracks the ENSO indices from the 1950s to the present confirms that El Nino is the principal driver of global year-to-year rainfall change," Haddad said.

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