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AmeriScan: November 25, 2005

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Global Warming Appears to Double Rate of Sea Level Rise

RUTGERS, New Jersey, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - Global ocean levels are rising twice as fast today as they were 150 years ago, and warming caused by human activities appears to be responsible, say scientists at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and collaborating institutions.

The ocean is rising almost two millimeters per year today compared to one millimeter annually for the past several thousand years, according to an article published in today's issue of the journal "Science," by Rutgers professor of geological sciences Kenneth Miller.

Miller reports a new record of sea level change during the past 100 million years based on drilling studies along the New Jersey coast. The findings establish a steady millimeter-per-year rise from 5,000 years ago until about 200 years ago.

By contrast, sea level measurements since 1850 from tidal gauges and more recently from satellite images, when corrected for land settling along the shoreline, reveal the current two-millimeter annual rise.

"Without reliable information on how sea levels had changed before we had our new measures, we couldn't be sure the current rate wasn't happening all along," said Miller. "Now, with solid historical data, we know it is definitely a recent phenomenon.

"The main thing that's changed since the 19th century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," Miller said. "Our record, therefore, provides a new and reliable baseline to use in addressing global warming."

The new sea level record spanning 100 million years of geologic time is the first comprehensive one scientists have produced since a commercial research endeavor in 1987, which, according to Miller, was not fully documented and verifiable.

The findings by Miller's team run contrary to some widely held beliefs about geological science.

Miller claims that ocean heights 100 million years ago and earlier were 150 to 200 meters lower than scientists had previously thought.

Changes at these levels can only be caused by the Earth's crust shifting on the ocean floor. Miller's findings imply less ocean-crust production than scientists had widely assumed.

During the Late Cretaceous period (the most recent age of dinosaurs), frequent sea-level fluctuations of tens of meters suggest that the Earth was not always ice-free as previously assumed.

Ice volume changes are the only way that sea levels could change at these rates and levels, Miller claims, suggesting that small to medium sized but short-lived ice sheets existed in the Antarctic region. His findings indicated that none of the Earth's warmer eras were fully ice-free.

Miller's team took five 500 meter deep core samples of sediments onshore along New Jersey's coastline from Cape May to Sandy Hook.

The scientists examined the sediment type, fossils, and variations in isotopes, or different forms of the same elements, at different levels in the cores they extracted. Miller correlated these measurements with others from throughout the world to substantiate the global nature of their record.

The Rutgers study included participants from the New Jersey Geological Survey, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Western Michigan University, the University of Oregon and Queens College in Flushing, New York. The National Science Foundation provided major funding for the study.

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Chinese, EPA Study Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Cuts for Olympics

WASHINGTON, DC, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - A team of Chinese researchers supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have outlined strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and local air pollutants in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics and afterward.

With clean energy technologies and policies in Beijing the city could reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide by up to 22 percent in 2010, the study found. Output of particulate matter that is harmful to respiratory health could be cut by up to 40 percent each year.

The Beijing project is part of a larger effort by the EPA to work with China and other developing countries to promote environmental sustainability.

"This landmark study shows the effectiveness of international cooperation in promoting sustainable growth while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and local air pollutants," said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum.

"Our ongoing cooperation with national and local governments in China proves that by working together, we can promote ways to make a real difference in people's lives. We will soon be building on and expanding these efforts through our new Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.''

The partnership, to be formally launched in January at a ministerial conference in Sydney, Australia, will include China, India, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

With support from the EPA, a Chinese research team has completed an in-depth analysis of co-benefits in support of the Beijing Olympic Air Quality Action Plan.

The study examined measures to improve air quality in Beijing before the 2008 Summer Olympics - expanded natural gas use, energy efficiency, cleaner fuels for taxis, and expanded public transport.

If the analyzed measures are implemented, this growing city of nearly 14 million people will benefit from improved public health and reduced growth in carbon dioxide emissions. The results of the study will be sent to a wide range of senior policymakers in China.

The report, sponsored by EPA's Integrated Environmental Strategies (IES) Program, was released during an international workshop in Beijing on greenhouse gas and air pollution control policies.

The IES Program works with teams of researchers and policymakers in developing countries to analyze and quantify the environmental, public health, and economic co-benefits of policies that reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.

For more information about the IES-Beijing Project and the new study, "Energy Options and Health Benefit Beijing Case Study," visit: http://www.epa.gov/ies

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U.S. Equipment in Chinese Ports Will Detect Nuclear Smuggling

WASHINGTON, DC, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - The United States and China have agreed to cooperate on installing special equipment at Chinese ports to detect smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials, according to the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The equipment will help thwart attempts to smuggle material for nuclear weapons and dirty bombs, which use conventional explosives to spread radioactive material.

The effort is part of the Megaports Initiative, an NNSA program to enhance the capabilities of other maritime nations to detect, deter and interdict illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials through ocean shipping.

The NNSA initiative complements the Homeland Security Department's Container Security Initiative, in which Customs and Border Protection agents partner with countries operating major shipping ports to help safeguard the international supply chain, according to the Department of Energy.

"The United States and the People's Republic of China recognize the importance of joining forces against the threat posed by the trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials," said NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks.

"This agreement represents a significant step forward in the effort to improve the security of the global maritime shipping network," he said, "and furthers both nations' efforts to work cooperatively in hindering terrorism."

U.S. Embassy Beijing Deputy Chief of Mission David Sedney joined Deputy Director General Hao Chongfu from China's Department of Customs Control and Inspection, and Deputy Director General Fan Guozhen from China's Health Department of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine in signing the accord.

This is the 12th cooperative agreement and joins efforts currently underway in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Belgium, and Spain.

Other nations from Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and the Caribbean are also in active discussions with the United States to add the NNSA monitoring systems in key port facilities worldwide to further international nonproliferation efforts and provide useful evidence to support prosecution efforts.

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Lawsuit Would Make EPA Regulate Waste Incinerators Strictly

WASHINGTON, DC, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - The Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit in federal court that challenges a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve a rule that exempts tens of thousands of waste incinerators across the country from strong pollution protections.

The groups, represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit Monday in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that challenges EPA's decision to regulate waste incinerators as boilers, rather than incinerators.

Commercial industrial waste incinerators are used for tasks such as burning waste like used tires, treated wood, waste oils, biomass and garbage. Emissions from waste incinerators can include mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and lead.

In September, the EPA approved a rule that redefined many of these incinerators as boilers, saying that because they recapture heat they should be exempt from the stronger pollution reduction requirements under federal law that apply to incinerators.

"Louisianans are exposed to too much dirty air and polluted water. We want EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act," said Marylee Orr, executive director for Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

"The agency needs to protect our health with regulations that adhere to the law," said Orr. "These incinerators can be found in nearly every town and city across the country, making them a huge source of toxic pollution. We all the deserve the protections that Congress intended under the Clean Air Act and EPA should do its job to enforce these standards."

Conservation groups are calling upon EPA to reconsider its decision to exempt waste incinerators from the more rigorous pollution reduction requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The plaintiffs claim that while many of these individual incinerators emit pollutants in minute quantities, the cumulative impact of tens of thousands of incinerators is considerable.

"We all learned many years ago that burning our trash in the backyard was not a good idea," Orr said. "But with this rule, EPA says it's okay for these incinerators to continue burning trash and polluting the air. It's time the agency looks towards protecting our health and the environment with regulations that remind industries that it's not okay to burn their trash in our backyards."

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Storm Water Improvements to Benefit New Jersey's Largest Lake

NEW YORK, New York, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - New Jersey's largest inland body of water, Lake Hopatcong, has been selected to receive a $745,000 grant as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Targeted Watersheds Grants program.

Announcing the grant on Tuesday at his office in New York, EPA Region 2 Administrator Alan Steinberg said the money will be used to improve water quality in Lake Hopatcong and its watershed by reducing phosphorus that goes into the watershed from storm water and septic systems.

The grant will fund improvements to storm water systems, installation of innovative techniques to inactivate phosphorus, expanded public outreach and education campaigns, and a demonstration project for alternative wastewater treatment. Reducing phosphorus and effectively treating wastewater are essential for lake restoration, Steinberg said.

"Lake Hopatcong has enormous environmental and economic importance, and we are delighted to fund Lake Hopatcong Commission's efforts to implement these innovative technologies and take a more pro-active role in watershed protection," said Steinberg.

Lake Hopatcong is a major year-round recreational center for 500,000 annual visitors, and its watershed serves a population of over 65,000 in two counties and four municipalities.

The Lake Hopatcong Commission will build upon previously funded storm water activities to implement an approved phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL.

Total Maximum Daily Loads define the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. They are developed by states and approved by the EPA once it determines that the TMDL will indeed allow the waterbody to achieve federal water quality standards.

Phosphorus can promote the overgrowth of algae and other aquatic plants.

The grant will fund proposed projects that address storm water contributions through the installation of storm sewer retrofits and best management practices, apply measures to inactivate phosphorus, and demonstrate an alternative wastewater treatment system. The project will focus on quantifying the phosphorus removal to evaluate what works best.

Created in 2001, the Lake Hopatcong Commission, made up of representatives from state, county and local governments as well as local stakeholders, collaborates to monitor, protect and restore the lake and provide educational outreach on lake restoration efforts.

As the state's appointed steward for Lake Hopatcong, the commission oversees and safeguards the natural, scenic and recreational resources of the lake.

"Lake Hopatcong is New Jersey's largest inland lake. It supports a full range of recreational activities and is considered one of the best freshwater fisheries in the state," said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell. "I commend EPA for awarding such a substantial grant to assist New Jersey's efforts to further improve and protect the valuable water resources of Lake Hopatcong."

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Portland, Oregon Fined for Repeated Sewage Overflows

PORTLAND, Oregon, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued fines totaling $449,800 against the City of Portland for numerous raw sewage overflows into the Willamette River and several streams that flow into the Willamette.

A total of 67 discharges over a period of about four and a half years occurred from the city’s sewage collection system at multiple locations throughout Portland. Discharges also were reported to the Columbia River and Columbia Slough. The 67 discharges totaled about 1.875 million gallons of sewage.

Most of the overflows were caused by blockages in pipes carrying sewage to treatment plants, DEQ water quality officials said.

“While we appreciate the progress made by the city in constructing a new system to control pollution, it is essential that the city make every effort to prevent raw sewage discharges to the Willamette and its tributaries,” said DEQ Director Stephanie Hallock.

The discharges occurred between March 2001 and November 2005 into the Willamette River and several of its tributaries, including Stephens, Fanno, Johnson and Cedar Mill creeks, as well as the Columbia Slough and Columbia River. Most of the discharges ranged between 1,000 and 10,000 gallons.

The largest discharges included a 660,000 gallon discharge into the Willamette near 3001 SW Moody St. on September 8, 2005 and a 511,714 gallon discharge to Fanno Creek near 6900 SW Railroad on October 4, 2005.

Since 1998, DEQ has fined the city seven times for water quality violations.

Many of these discharges occurred during dry weather, when there was a greater likelihood of human contact with sewage in local streams and the Willamette. Sewage is also a significant water pollutant that can harm aquatic life and cause public waters to be unsuitable for recreation, commercial and agricultural uses.

DEQ officials noted that the Willamette River is already significantly polluted by wet-weather discharge of raw sewage from the city’s combined sewers. These combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are not subject to DEQ enforcement action, as outlined in an agreement between DEQ and the city to allow the city to complete timely construction of its updated CSO facilities.

The DEQ has worked closely with the city to take a holistic look at its CSOs, storm water management, and sewage collection system maintenance problems to address water qualty issues. The city has responded to individual overflows in a timely manner, DEQ water quality officials noted. The city has until December 12 to either pay the fine or appeal the penalty.

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Nevada Firm Honored for Turning Photo Waste to Fertilizer, Silver

RENO, Nevada, November 25, 2005 (ENS) - The Nevada company Itronics Inc. has won the USA Gold Award, presented at The House of Commons, London, England, as part of the International Green Apple Environmental Awards contest, one of the largest and most prestigious of its kind in the world.

In recognizing Itronics the judges said, “More than 100 million gallons of potentially toxic photographic waste are generated by America’s laboratories, printers, copiers and X-ray machines each year. Dr. John Whitney set up Itronics not only to solve the problem but also to turn an environmental negative into a plus."

"The silver element is a hazard to marine life, but the heavy metals are now stripped from the waste and recycled," the judges said. "What remains is then converted into environmentally beneficial fertilizers that are now on sale across America.”

Itronics, through its subsidiary, Itronics Metallurgical, Inc., is the only company in the world with a "beneficial use photochemical, silver, and water recycling" facility that extracts more than 99 percent of the silver and virtually all the other toxic heavy metals from used photoliquids.

The Itronics facility converts the resulting liquids into environmentally beneficial, chelated, multinutrient liquid fertilizer products sold under the GOLD'n GRO trademark, and five troy ounce, 0.999 pure, Silver Nevada Miner numismatic bars.

The Green Apple Environment Awards based in Northampton, UK is an annual, international campaign to recognize, reward and promote environmental best practice around the world. The awards are now in their 11th year and well established as one of the major environmental recognition schemes, both in the UK and internationally.

There were more than 1,000 entries this year from industry and other groups making an effort to protect or enhance the environment.

The Green Apple award was presented to Itronics President Dr. John Whitney who was named as Nevada’s Inventor of the Year for 2000 and is a member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“This is the second major environmental award we’ve received in London in recent weeks, Dr. Whitney said. "The previous award was from the Institution of Chemical Engineers as part of its Worldwide Environmental Award ceremonies. We are pleased by the recognition Itronics is now receiving from those who care deeply about the world’s environment."

Itronics was one of five finalists for the 2001 Kirkpatrick Chemical Engineering Award, the most prestigious worldwide award in chemical engineering technologies. Itronics was awarded second place, Highly Commended in the Environmental Technology category, at the prestigious Institution of Chemical Engineers 2005 Worldwide Environmental Award ceremonies at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, England.

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