AmeriScan: October 31, 2005

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EPA Collects Million Pounds of Household Toxics After Hurricanes

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - About one million pounds of household hazardous waste has been collected in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said today.

Household hazardous waste consists of cleaning products, lawn and garden products, pesticides and herbicides, fuels and paints as well as batteries.

"This collection milestone underscores our pledge to the people in the Gulf Coast region," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. "EPA will continue its efforts to dispose of hazardous materials and protect public health."

Most of these ordinary household products are safe when stored and used under normal circumstances in the home, but can endanger the public when co-mingled. When disposed along with ordinary household garbage and then taken to a landfill for final disposal, these products can cause long term damage to the environment, the EPA said.

EPA has worked with local agencies and parishes to establish household hazardous waste collection centers in the following parishes in Louisiana - St. Tammany, Lafourche, Plaquemines, Orleans, St. Bernard, Vermillion, Cameron, and two collection centers in Jefferson Parish.

EPA and its contractors have distributed flyers announcing the collection system and then returning several days later to pick up all materials left in front of homes. After pickup and delivery to the various collection centers, the products are segregated into different waste streams for proper transportation and disposal.

These efforts will protect human health as well as prevent hazardous substances from contaminating soil and groundwater if not disposed of properly, the agency said.

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Corporate Polluters Pay $14.9 Million to Clean California Water

LOS ANGELES, California, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - Some of the largest corporations in the United States are among 16 firms that will pay $14.9 million for cleanup costs at the San Gabriel Valley Area 2 Superfund site, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced.

The EPA’s cleanup calls for removing contaminants from 30 million gallons per day of contaminated groundwater in and near Baldwin Park, California, just east of Los Angeles. The agencies said the cleanup will benefit some 85,000 households.

The 16 companies are: Aerojet-General Corporation; Allegiance Healthcare Corporation; Azusa Land Reclamation Co. Inc.; Fairchild Holding Corp.; Hartwell Corporation; Huffy Corporation; Leach International Corporation; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Mobil Oil Corporation; Oil & Solvent Process Company; Phaostron Instrument and Electronic Company; Philip Morris USA Inc.; Reichhold Inc.; the Valspar Corporation; White & White Properties; and Winco Enterprises Inc.

The Baldwin Park area and three adjoining areas of groundwater contamination were declared Superfund sites in 1984. The Baldwin Park cleanup addresses an area of groundwater contamination more than eight miles long and 1,000 feet deep.

Beginning in the 1940s, companies started using various chemicals at the site, substances that have now contaminated the area’s groundwater. Contaminants include trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, volatile organic compounds that can affect breathing and nervous systems, and perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that may affect the thyroid.

The 16 companies will pay $14.5 million to the U.S. and $346,000 to the State of California. The settlements follow an earlier agreement between nine of the 16 companies and seven local water agencies that is helping to guide the cleanup.

More than $100 million has been spent in the last three years on the construction and operation of four large water treatment systems to clean the groundwater and provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water to area residents and businesses.

The groundwater cleanup, one of the largest in the country, has been a cooperative effort involving the EPA, the State of California, and seven local water agencies.

“As a result of the cleanup efforts, hundreds of thousands of residents will be able to take comfort in the knowledge that their drinking water is safe and clean,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly Johnson of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“The EPA will continue to oversee cleanup work at this and the other San Gabriel Valley Superfund sites to protect and restore the San Gabriel Basin as a vital source of drinking water for Southern California,” said Keith Takata, director of the EPA’s Superfund Division for the Southwest Region.

The San Gabriel Valley Superfund site settlements are described in seven consent decrees lodged Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and one bankruptcy settlement lodged with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Ohio on September 20, 2005.

The settlements accomplish three goals the federal agencies said - to reimburse state and federal government for their initial efforts to investigate and clean up the contamination; to obtain cash payments from seven of the companies that had not participated in the earlier agreement with the water agencies; and to provide commitments to pay future EPA costs of overseeing the cleanup.

Lockheed Martin Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation, the Valspar Corporation, and Phaostron Instrument and Electronic Company will pay additional amounts for their failure to perform work required by a June 2000 EPA order. The additional amounts make up $1.5 million of the $14.5 million to be paid to the federal government.

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U.S. Bans Personal Beluga Caviar Imports from Black Sea

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - Until today, international travelers entering the United States could legally carry up to 250 grams of beluga sturgeon caviar for personal use without permits. But, these personal imports will no longer be allowed for beluga caviar from Black Sea countries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced.

Effective immediately, the Service is suspending import and re-export of caviar and meat from the threatened beluga sturgeon, Huso huso, if it originates in the Black Sea basin.

In addition to caviar or meat imported as personal effects, the suspension also applies to commercial shipments that have been exported directly from Black Sea countries or re-exported through an intermediary country.

The suspension does not apply to caviar and meat from other overseas sturgeon species such as osetra and sevruga, or to domestic white sturgeon caviar.

Domestic interstate commerce in beluga sturgeon caviar and meat from the Black Sea basin that was legally imported before the trade suspension will continue to be authorized under the special rule without a threatened species permit. But because of the perishable nature of sturgeon caviar and meat, this exemption expires 18 months from the date of the original export permit from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Countries covered under the suspension include Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The Service listed all beluga sturgeon populations as threatened under the Endangered Species Act effective October 21, 2004.

To provide economic incentives for conservation efforts by Caspian Sea and Black Sea countries harvesting beluga sturgeon, the Service issued a special rule on March 4, 2005, setting conditions for exempting foreign and U.S. domestic commerce in beluga sturgeon products from the act's permit requirements.

The terms of the special rule parallel recent decisions on beluga sturgeon and other sturgeon species under CITES, a global agreement under which nearly 170 countries, including the United States, seek to regulate and monitor international wildlife trade through a system of permits.

"With today's action," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton, "the range countries of both the Caspian and Black Sea regions will not be allowed to import beluga sturgeon products into the United States until there is significant progress in the implementation of regional conservation programs. That's the key to the ultimate recovery of this threatened species."

The special rule required Black Sea countries wishing to import beluga sturgeon caviar and meat into the United States to submit, by September 6, 2005, copies of their laws and management plans for the protection and conservation of the species.

Three countries - Bulgaria, Georgia, and Serbia and Montenegro - provided some documentation, but did not meet the minimum requirements established in the special rule; no information has been received from the remaining countries.

As a result, beluga sturgeon caviar, including products containing caviar, such as cosmetics, and meat from the Black Sea basin are no longer eligible for the exemption provided by the special rule.

The trade suspension can be lifted if Black Sea countries submit satisfactory information at a later time.

"We're hopeful that this action will bring renewed attention to the plight of the beluga sturgeon," said Norton, "and that it will encourage the range countries to work to ensure its conservation."

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Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Subject to Special Inspections

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will conduct additional inspections at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York. Through specialized inspections the NRC will oversee Entergy's efforts to address leakage from the Unit 2 spent fuel pool and reliability issues with the site's siren system for alert and notification in case of an emergency.

The two unit nuclear power plant is operated by Entergy Nuclear using two pressurized water reactors manufactured by Westinghouse.

In late September, the NRC began a special inspection at Indian Point into apparent leakage from the spent fuel pool area at the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant. But the leakage is "minimal" and "does not pose any immediate health or safety concern for members of the public or plant workers," the Commission said.

The NRC inspectors will also examine why the radioactive substance tritium was detected in six of nine on-site locations earlier this month. No tritium has been detected off-site, the Commission said.

The Special Inspection is expected to continue for several weeks as the NRC is monitoring and evaluating Entergy’s ongoing characterization and mitigation activities.

The NRC also has been overseeing Entergy's actions to address recent siren issues and improve overall system reliability. The Indian Point siren system has experienced performance problems in the recent past including: primary and back-up actuation system problems, siren monitoring system failures, and some actual siren failures.

Entergy has indicated that it plans to replace the entire siren system in response to the new requirement for backup power that was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

NRC Region I Administrator Samuel Collins, said, "In the case of Indian Point, the staff considers it prudent to apply additional inspection focus to specific areas, even though licensee performance in these areas has not crossed any specific thresholds mandating additional regulatory oversight."

Citizens' groups and most nearby county, town and village governments in New York and New Jersey want to close Indian Point, saying it is a terrorist target endangered in the 20 million people who live within 40 miles of the power plant.

The Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), formed shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, includes 70 environmental, health, and public policy organizations concerned with the vulnerability of the Indian Point Nuclear Facility and the radioactive waste it produces, both to internal incidents and to external accidents or acts of terrorism. IPSEC has mobilized to call for its closure, orderly decommissioning, and securing of the irradiated fuel pools.

Located 40 miles from Ground Zero in the most densely populated region of the country, the nuclear plant is a risk to women, men, children, the environment, and the financial stability of the United States, IPSEC says. The purpose of their campaign is to stop Entergy’s anticipated bid to re-license Indian Point for another 20 years.

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Tribes Should Get Faster Decisions on Managing Tribal Environment

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - The Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, and Clean Air Acts authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to treat eligible Indian tribes in the same manner as a state (Treat as State, or TAS) for implementing and managing environmental programs on Indian lands.

But some states fear that tribes receiving authority to manage these programs may set standards that exceed the state standards and hinder states’ economic development.

The investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), was asked to report on the extent to which the EPA has followed its processes for reviewing and approving tribal applications for TAS and program authorization under the three laws.

The GAO also reviewed programs EPA uses to fund tribal environmental activities and the amount of funds provided to tribes between fiscal years 2002 and 2004, and the types of disagreements between parties over EPA’s approval of TAS status and program authorization and methods used to address these disagreements.

GAO investigators concluded that the EPA should reduce the review time for tribal requests to manage environmental programs.

The EPA provided Indian tribes about $360 million in grants to fund a broad range of tribal environmental activities from fiscal years 2002 through 2004, the GAO found.

About half of these funds were distributed through two acts - the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program Act, which received about $114 million to help build capacity to administer environmental programs, and the Clean Water Act, which received about $66 million to help prevent and reduce water pollution.

The EPA generally followed its established processes for reviewing and approving tribal requests for TAS and program authority under the three acts, according to GAO’s analysis of approved requests, but the review time for approving these requests took up to four years.

In addition, nearly all of the requests currently under review were submitted more than one year ago.

Key factors contributing to the lengthy reviews include the multiple reviews required by the agency’s regional and headquarters offices, a lack of emphasis within the agency to complete the reviews in a timely manner, and turnover of tribal and EPA staff.

Moreover, the EPA has not developed a written strategy that establishes overall time frames for reviewing requests.

EPA officials agreed that more could be done to improve the timeliness of the review process but said that complex issues, including evolving Indian case law and jurisdictional issues, may have contributed to the lengthy reviews.

Since 1986, when Congress began amending the three environmental acts to allow TAS for tribes, disagreements over land boundaries and environmental standards have arisen between tribes, states, and others. Disagreements have been addressed through litigation, collaboration, and federal laws.

The investigators found that the EPA’s review process is not always transparent on the status of tribes’ TAS requests. Lack of transparency limits tribes’ understanding of what issues may be delaying EPA’s approval and what actions, if any, may be needed to address the issues.

The GAO recommends that the environmental agency develop a written strategy, including estimated time frames, for reviewing tribes’ TAS applications for program authority and updating the tribes on the review status. In commenting on a draft of this report, EPA agreed with the GAO’s findings and emphasized its commitment to addressing the issues raised in the report.

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New Jersey Replaces Trees Cut to Kill Asian Longhorned Beetles

TRENTON, New Jersey, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - Thousands of trees in New Jersey that were removed when they were infested with Asian longhorned beetles will now be replaced. The reforestation will take place on streets and residential properties Carteret, Rahway, Linden and Woodbridge.

"It is important that we keep the green in the Garden State," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. "More than 5,000 trees had to be removed because of infestation. The need to replant speaks for itself."

The tree planting project is part of the first phase of the $1.6 million reforestation effort to replace the 5,400 trees removed because of the beetle infestations. The project is funded through a grant supplied by the U. S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell said the Forest Service is managing the forest restoration, which began this month with the planting of 556 trees in Carteret, 307 trees in Rahway, 391 trees in Linden and 173 trees in Woodbridge. A total of 1,427 trees will be planted.

"The landscape of these cities and communities suffered a major blow from the invasive Asian longhorned beetle," Campbell said. "Replanting the trees will restore the natural canopy once enjoyed by the residents and area businesses."

Tree species available for residential and street tree plantings this fall include eastern redbud, ginkgo, Kentucky coffeetree, magnolia, Japanese tree lilac, dogwood, Douglas fir, littleleaf linden, Atlas cedar, serviceberry, American holly and arborvitae. The replacement trees are approximately 10 feet tall and two to three inches in diameter measured six inches above the root ball.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, along with APHIS, continues to remove beetle infected and host trees.

The Asian longhorned beetle is an exotic insect with a voracious appetite for hardwood trees including all species of maple, willow, elm, horsechestnut, ash, poplar, birch, hackberry, mountain ash, mimosa, London plane and sycamore. This insect poses a serious threat to hardwood forests in the Northeast, including trees in New Jersey's urban forests.

The only means of stopping the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle involves aggressive removal and chipping of all infested trees and high-risk host trees.

Asian longhorned beetles are about 1 to 1.5 inches long and have a shiny black exterior with white spots. Their name comes from their long antennae, which are banded black and white. The beetles typically attack one tree and migrate to others when their populations become too dense.

Asian longhorned beetles were first discovered in the United States in 1996 in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn and were found again in 2001 in Manhattan's Central Park. USDA officials have determined that they first entered the country inside wooden packing material from China.

In New Jersey, the beetle was first detected in 2002 in Jersey City. These infested trees were removed. The eradication and restoration efforts in Jersey City have proved successful with no new outbreaks identified to date.

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Lead Safe Babies Celebrated in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, October 31, 2005 (ENS) - The national Nursing Centers Consortium celebrated the fifth anniversary of their Lead Safe Babies program last week, with the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Temple Health Connection, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Lead Safe Babies is an educational program that aims to protect children’s health during pregnancy and infancy by providing new mothers with the necessary education and materials to keep their children free from lead poisoning. Since it began five years ago, the program has reached more than 4,500 new mothers.

“The National Nursing Centers Consortium is among the national organizations leading the way in protecting youth from environmental hazards,” said Donald Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “Lead Safe Babies exemplifies the commitment and dedication of this non-profit organization in protecting the health of our children.”

The EPA also presented a $497,000 check to the City of Philadelphia for lead poisoning prevention education, and outreach.

At the celebration held at the Norris Homes Community Center in North Philadelphia, as part of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, families were recognized for their success in preventing lead poisoning of children in the home.

The program opened in December 2000 with grants from the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the EPA. It was funded by additional grants from those same partners in subsequent years, which allowed the program to expand statewide.

Through the program, community outreach specialists were trained and paid home visits to new or pregnant mothers who were provided with lead poisoning prevention education, lead cleaning supplies, and lead safe cookbooks.

The outreach workers followed up with the new parents when babies were nine months old, and screened those children for lead poisoning.

The Temple Health Connection evaluation of the program found there was an increase in lead poisoning prevention knowledge after clients participated in the program.

Earlier this year, the National Nursing Centers Consortium was selected by the EPA as one of 15 programs nationwide to receive the agency's first Children’s Environmental Health Excellence award, which recognizes extraordinary efforts to protect children from environmental health risks.

During Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the EPA encourages parents who live in housing built before 1978 to have their homes tested for lead hazards and their children under the age of six tested for lead.

For more information about lead hazards and lead poisoning prevention, call the national lead hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or visit http://www.epa.gov/lead.

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