Enviros, Wastewater Agencies Agree on Sewage-Laden Storm WaterWASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - Wastewater facilities must upgrade and repair their leaky sewage systems to protect public health, under a new plan announced jointly today by a U.S. environmental group and a national wastewater utility trade association.
The plan is aimed at protecting the public from exposure to inadequately treated sewage when storms dump large amounts of water into wastewater systems.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) drafted the plan as an alternative to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal that would have allowed wastewater facilities to discharge untreated sewage into waterways whenever it rains.
The agency’s so-called "blending" proposal would have let sewer operators routinely mix incompletely treated sewage with fully treated sewage before discharging it downstream.
The Clean Water Act allows facilities to release partially treated sewage only during extreme weather events when it is not possible for a system to fully treat the entire flow. But the EPA’s proposal would have allowed sewage dumping even if full treatment were feasible.
The EPA’s proposal only would have required primary treatment, which screens out solids from sewage.
Environmentalists and citizens groups objected that blending would allow facilities to bypass the secondary treatment step that removes most of the viruses, parasites and other pathogens, as well as toxic chemicals, from sewage.
Last April, the EPA encouraged NRDC and NACWA to work together to solve the problem.
In May, EPA withdrew the proposal just hours before Congress prohibited the agency from finalizing it, setting the stage for the two groups to devise a better approach.
“We put our heads together and came up with a workable plan that will protect public health,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project. “Now the EPA should endorse it and put it in place.”
Health experts estimate that there are 7.1 million mild-to-moderate cases and 560,000 moderate-to-severe cases of infectious waterborne disease in the United States every year, some caused by exposure to sewage.
Untreated sewage contains bacteria such as E coli, viruses such as hepatitis A, protozoa such as cryptosporidium and giardia, and helminth worms.
The pathogens in sewage can cause illnesses ranging from diarrhea and vomiting and respiratory infections to hepatitis and dysentery. Small children, the elderly, cancer patients, and others with impaired immune systems are the most likely to get sick.
Besides the obvious health threat, EPA’s original proposal would have had serious long-term environmental and economic consequences, said Stoner. More sewage in waterways would close beaches, kill fish and destroy shellfish beds.
The plan that NRDC and NACWA negotiated would require wastewater facilities to upgrade and repair their leaky sewage systems to protect public health.
It would require facilities to fully treat sewage unless the EPA and a state environmental agency determine there is no feasible way to do so.
It also will require facilities to notify the public and environmental agencies every time they discharge inadequately treated sewage.
“The public must be warned when treatment facilities dump sewage into their local waterways,” said Stoner. “This plan will make sure that happens.”
The plan also would require EPA to take enforcement actions, including levying fines and penalties, against sewer authorities that fail to fix their leaky systems or upgrades their facilities.
FDA Petitioned to Pull Common Products Containing Anti-BacterialWASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - Public health and environmental groups Tuesday asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pull from the market widely used household and personal care products that contain the germ fighting chemical triclosan.
An FDA advisory panel found last week that the chemical provides no health protection above and beyond what soap and water provides.
Scientific studies dispute the need for the chemical and link its widespread use to health and environmental effects and the development of stronger bacteria that are increasingly difficult to control.
The groups are asking the FDA to recognize the urgency of the problem and expedite action to ban household triclosan use.
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, the lead petitioner, said, "The failure to regulate triclosan as the law requires puts millions of people and the environment at unnecessary risk to toxic effects and elevated risk to other bacterial diseases."
Retired senior scientist in microbiology and immunology with the National Institutes for Health, Cecil Fox, Ph.D., said, "I am troubled that governmental review of triclosan has failed to scrutinize the development of resistant microorganisms - and the by-product, antibiotic- resistant microbial populations - and the transport and accumulation of triclosan residues through skin and mucosal absorption.
"FDA's failure is a national scandal," Dr. Fox said.
"With enormous medical concern about antibiotic resistant disease, doctors will tell you that nothing beats good old soap and water," said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health.
"FDA's inaction on triclosan is short-sighted; the agency needs to take a longer view towards protecting public health and the environment," Green said.
The household use of triclosan results in contamination of the nation's waterways, according to the petition, with triclosan among the most prevalent contaminants not removed by typical wastewater treatment plants.
According to a list published by Beyond Pesticides, some of the well known brands that contain triclosan include: Dial Liquid Soap, Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap, Clearasil Daily Face Wash, pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser, Colgate Total mouthwash, Jason Natural Cosmetics, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant, and Right Guard Sport Deodorant.
William Arnold, Ph.D. associate professor with the University of Minnesota Department of Civil Engineering, said, "Upon triclosan exposure to sunlight, two of the products generated are 2,8-diclorodibenzodioxin and 2,4-dichlorophenol. If triclosan was exposed to chlorine and then sunlight, there is the potential for more highly chlorinated products to be produced."
Beyond Pesticides cites a study by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute finding that triclosan reacts with chlorine molecules in tap water to form chlorinated dioxins, which are highly toxic forms of dioxin.
Because the study was conducted using triclosan-containing dishwashing soap, researchers believe that these chlorinated dioxins are forming in kitchen sinks across the country.
The same study found that the combination of tap water and triclosan produces chloroform, a probable human carcinogen. Production of chloroform and dioxins may also be a problem in pools, where there are high levels of chlorine that can react to triclosan residues on human skin.
Because triclosan has become so ubiquitous in soaps and toiletries, Beyond Pesticides advises consumers to read all ingredients when buying these products.
The petitioners include Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Breast Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Environmental Health Fund, Indigenous Environmental Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Maryland Pesticide Network, Northwest Indiana Toxics Action Project, San Diego Oceans Foundation, Women's Voices for the Earth, and the organic retailer Seventh Generation, Inc.
Remediation Gets Small Percent of Brownfields Grant SpendingWASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - Remediation activities conducted at brownfield sites funded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) appeared to be "incidental to the purpose of the overall project" and were supported by only 1.4 percent of the funding awarded to the projects, Congressional investigators said in a report issued today.
In a report to Congressional committees, the Goverment Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative branch of Congress, said the remediation activites that were conducted most often consisted of the removal and disposal of materials containing asbestos, underground storage tanks, or lead-based paint.
Instead, EDA grants to brownfield sites most often funded infrastructure improvements, such as upgrades to water and sewer lines, construction of streets and curbs, or installation of signage and lighting.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) Reauthorization Act of 2004 included a requirement that the GAO evaluate the agency's grants for the economic development of brownfield sites.
More than 450,000 brownfield sites - properties where redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination - are scattered across the United States.
The GAO estimates that remediation activities were conducted at just 54 percent of EDA funded brownfield sites from fiscal year 1998 through 2004.
"Overall, we estimate that EDA used $4.8 million or about 1.4 percent of its grant funds to pay for remediation activities at 28 percent of the brownfield sites during this period," the GAO says.
Grantees, former property owners, or other agencies generally were responsible for most environmental remediation costs at these sites.
Data were not available on the reported economic development impact for most of the grants that GAO reviewed. Where data were available, the reported economic development data "varied significantly" when compared with initial project estimates for some grants.
"In some instances, permanent jobs or private sector investment estimates for proposed projects did not appear to be verified," the GAO reports.
EDA regional environmental officers prepare environmental assessments to document a project’s compliance with federal environmental requirements.
In three of six EDA regional offices, the GAO investigators noted that the regional environmental officer routinely recommended various types of special conditions be added to grant awards concerning the remediation of hazardous substances that provide more specific assurance on a project’s compliance with environmental standards.
The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Commerce require all EDA regional offices to use special conditions concerning the remediation of hazardous substances and also ensure that EDA staff verify the estimated jobs and private-sector investment for proposed projects.
In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Commerce agreed with the report’s findings and provided technical comments on the recommendations.
Citizens' Petition Campaign Aims to Reinstate Roadless RuleWASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - Seventy-five environmental groups from across the United States have mounted a petition campaign to reinstate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule overturned by the Bush administration in one of its most controversial environmental decisions.
The change was announced in May, when the Bush administration reversed its own pledge to uphold the 2001 rule approved in the last month of the Clinton administration, to bar logging, development and roadbuilding on 58.5 roadless acres in the national forests.
Opponents of the Bush policy say the change is allowing deforestation of the shrinking portion of national forests that remain intact and wild.
Fiscal conservatives have complained that roadbuilding and maintenance costs increase the deficit with no benefit to taxpayers.
“Far from settling this issue, the Forest Service’s new policy has caused confusion, ambivalence and anger. With the exception of the logging industry, virtually no one is satisfied” said Robert Vandermark, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign. “This petition drive will give millions of Americans who have been shut out the of Administration’s new process an opportunity to get engaged in saving their last wild places.”
The petition will be made under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which allows citizens to request the government issue, amend or revoke federal rules.
Organizers of the drive say the APA’s formal petition process will require the Forest Service to respond to the public demand for forest protections, and will likely be the largest ever undertaken in the history of the APA.
The Forest Service ignored the 1.7 million people who opposed the Bush rule during the current policy’s comment period last year, petitioners say.
In recent months, three state attorneys general and a governor from three western states - California, New Mexico and Oregon - filed the first legal challenge to the administration's repeal of protections.
A second legal challenge was filed earlier this month on behalf of 20 conservation groups.
In July, 145 members of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation to codify the roadless rule into federal law. Preparations are also underway for introduction of a Senate bill.
Among the first citizens who have lined up to file a petition is Rebecca Giddens, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist kayaker. "National Forests are an important part of my lifestyle and I'm concerned our pristine forests and the unique recreational opportunities they provide are at risk," said Giddens, who trained for the 2004 Summer Games on California's Kern River, which runs through thousands of acres of roadless areas on the Sequoia National Forest.
National groups supporting the petition include American Lands Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Chapters in all 50 states representing the groups will mobilize their members, civic leaders and the general public via Internet and traditional grassroots methods to submit petitions.
An online petition submission form will be posted at: http://ga1.org/campaign/roadlesspetition.
The groups released a joint statement in support of the petition drive online at: http://www.ourforests.org.
Pennsylvania Lawmakers' Bid to Overturn Clean Car Regs ProtestedHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future is asking the Pennsylvania legislature to protect the health of one million Pennsylvanians with respiratory problems by defeating HB 2141, a bill introduced Monday, and passed by the House Transportation Committee with no public input and moved immediately to the House floor Tuesday.
The bill would overturn the recent unanimous vote of the state Environmental Quality Board vote to allow the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to move forward with regulations requiring cars sold in the Commonwealth to meet more protective pollution standards beginning with the 2008 model year.
The regulations were first proposed by the DEP under then Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, but were delayed. The administration of Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, planned to publish the rules for comment and adoption as law.
“This stealth attack against the clean car rules will hurt Pennsylvania - our public health, our competitiveness and the financial well-being our families and businesses,” said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture.
"With less pollution being released, we should see fewer asthma attacks, other breathing problems and cardiac problems, all of which are exacerbated by pollution from cars and trucks," said Hanger. "But if this new bill passes, the legislature will not only fail to protect the public health of Pennsylvanians, but will also stop a key component to lowering health care bills."
The disputed legislation was introduced by Republican Richard Allen Geist of Altoona and Democrat Keith McCall of Lansford. It seeks to restrict the authority of the Environmental Quality Board over fuel additives and abrogate the regulation permitting the clean cars program.
The clean cars program approved by the EQB requires automakers to reach an average pollution standard for vehicles offered for sale in Pennsylvania. Automakers must ensure that sales of vehicles that emit more pollution are balanced out by sales of those that emit much less pollution.
For new car sales beginning with the 2008 model year, only those vehicles certified by the California Air Resources Board could be sold and registered in Pennsylvania.
Hanger says, "The list of cars certified and available for sale this year makes a list 14-1/2 feet long in a tiny 7.5 font. It includes American made and foreign SUVs, luxury sedans and compacts."
In 1998 during the Ridge Administration, Pennsylvania adopted the California car program in order to be able to participate in the National Low Emission Vehicle (NLEV) Program. Under the terms of the NLEV program, which expires in 2006, the state was supposed to fully implement the program starting with model year 2006 - this year.
However, changes to the clean car program and other considerations made it necessary for Pennsylvania to move implementation back to the 2008 model year. Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California already have similar clean car programs.
Hanger says not putting cleaner, more efficient cars on the road will require that drives spend more on gas, and the added air pollution will hurt the state's changes to attract new business.
New Jersey Places New Value on Recycling
TRENTON, New Jersey, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - To boost recycling rates, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is awarding $3.4 million in municipal and county grants to support local recycling programs.
"Recycling programs in our towns and counties form the cornerstone of New Jersey's recycling efforts," said Acting Governor Richard Codey, making the announcement Wednesday. "This funding will help local programs to hopefully make New Jersey a leader again in recycling."
To highlight the value New Jersey places on recycling, DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell announced the recipients of eight recycling awards for their successful efforts to increase recycling in the state during the past year at the 25th Annual New Jersey Recycling Symposium and Awards Luncheon held last week in Monroe Township.
The recycling award for a large business went to electronics giant Panasonic. With headquarters is located in Secaucus, the company employs 2,500 people. Through an aggressive recycling and reuse program, over the last four years they have increased their recycling rate from 55.12 percent to 86.87 percent and decreased their disposal from 525 tons to 231 tons annually.
Panasonic recycles cardboard, paper, metal, cans and bottles, pallets, kitchen grease, food waste, carpet, wire, stone, furniture, ceiling tiles, concrete, asphalt, grass and leaves, and construction debris. Builders working on construction projects for Panasonic are required to separate on-site construction debris for recycling. Panasonic has re-carpeted their facility in recycled carpet.
Panasonic maintains an ongoing education and re-education program. Recycling containers and posters are prominently displayed, and classes are held for new employees and vendors.
The recycling award for a small business was handed to the Basil Bandwagon Natural Market, a family-owned natural foods market in Flemington.
Established on Earth Day 1993, the market generates only 12.48 tons of waste per year, and reduces its environmental impact by recycling packaging materials, plastic, metal, glass, cardboard, produce and dated food.
The Basil Bandwagon Natural Market recycles 3.05 tons of commingled plastic, glass and metal, 17.23 tons of cardboard, 2.48 tons of less-than-perfect produce, and 5.72 tons of expired bread per year. A total of 14.4 tons of recycled paper is used annually for advertising by way of the Basil Bandwagon sale flyer.
The energy efficient, recycled and Earth friendly building materials used in the construction of the newly-expanded location include recycled floor tile, recycled fiber carpet, bathroom dividers made of recycled milk bottles, and recycled shelving and office furniture.
The market sells recycled and bulk paper personal care products, 100 percent recycled aluminum foil, cellulose sponges made with 50 percent post-consumer recycled materials and products made of recycled paper.
"Recycling is an important part of our everyday lives," Campbell said. "The recycling award winners have demonstrated innovative leadership in reducing the amount of solid and hazardous waste going to landfills and other facilities."
Since March 2005, DEP has held 20 public meetings and forums with local officials and residents to discuss increasing recycling rates in New Jersey. The agency plans to adopt a new statewide solid waste management plan, which focuses on increased recycling, later this year, the first update to the plan since 1993.
New Jersey is looking at specific measures to manage the state's 20 million tons of waste generated each year with waste reduction and recycling as the priority. In order to meet the state's goal of recycling 50 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, an additional 1.7 million tons of material must be recycled based on current statewide rates. Currently, the municipal solid waste recycling rate is 32 percent.
In 2003, New Jersey generated 19.9 million tons of solid waste, which includes construction debris and scrap iron. Of that total, 10.4 million tons or 52 percent was recycled with 9.5 million tons sent for disposal.
Of the 9.5 million tons disposed, 1.5 million or eight percent of the total waste generated went to resource recovery facilities, 3.8 million or 20 percent was disposed at landfills located in New Jersey and 3.7 million or 19 percent was sent for out-of-state disposal.
New Jersey's recycling industry employs more than 27,000 people in New Jersey with total receipts valued at $5.9 billion annually.
McDonald's New England Customers Will Drink Fair Trade Coffee
BOSTON, Massachusetts, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - McDonald's announced today that it will be serving Fair Trade Certified coffee in 658 of its restaurants in New England and Albany, New York Starting November 1.
Participating locations will be switching 100 percent of their coffee products over to Fair Trade Certified organic coffee from Newman's Own Organics, roasted by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
The announcement met with the approval of Oxfam America. "McDonald's commitment to fair trade is an important step," said Seth Petchers, coffee program manager for Oxfam America. "This is a sign that the fair trade market is growing in strength and numbers. Other retailers and coffee companies should see this as a wake-up call and follow their lead."
"We are excited about this regional launch, and we hope to see it spread across the country," said Petchers.
The market for Fair Trade Certified coffee has grown by an average of over 70 percent each year since 1999. Fair trade coffee is available from over 400 coffee companies at 20,000 retail locations across the country.
"Fair trade provides significant benefits to coffee farmers, including enough income to invest in their harvest and in quality improvements," said Lorenzo Castillo, head of the Junta Nacional del Cafe, an organization representing small coffee farmers in Peru.
Fluctuations in the price of coffee jeopardize small-scale coffee farmers' businesses. Fair trade, by providing a stable price, helps to mitigate the impact of the coffee crisis, which many farmers continue to suffer through.
Castillo said, "It's great that McDonald's has recognized that to secure the highest quality coffee they need to pay farmers a fair price."