- AmeriScan: September 25, 2003 AmeriScan: September 25, 2003

California Prohibits Cruise Ship Wastewater Discharges

SACRAMENTO, California, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - Governor Gray Davis has signed a package of new bills which will provide additional protections for California's coastline and ecosystem through a variety of measures, from regulation of cruise ship discharges to motorboat noise abatement. Environmentalists were pleased with the new legislation.

"California's coast is an irreplaceable state treasure," said Davis as he signed the bills on Wednesday. "These new bills build upon existing law. Importantly, we are employing a common sense approach to assure that people can enjoy the coast without damaging it. Among the bills are some of the strongest laws in the nation dealing with discharges from passenger ships.“

"Cruise ships will no longer be able to freely use our precious coastline as a dumping ground,” said Teri Shore, clean vessels campaign director for Bluewater Network, a San Francisco based advocacy group. “The dumping bans will prevent the most toxic materials produced by luxury cruise liners from going overboard.”

Two of the bills protect marine waters from the release of sewage sludge and oily bilge water by passenger vessels and prohibit cruise ships from releasing wastewater or hazardous wastes into state waters or national marine sanctuaries.

"AB 121 protects our economy, our environment, and our public health," said Assemblymember Joe Simitian, author of the bill. "Our coastal waters and marine sanctuaries ought not be used as a dumping ground."

California is a top travel destination because of its pristine coasts, and Davis says the measures are good for cruise lines too, because they will ensure the coastline continues to be attractive to tourists.

The legislative package includes several other environmental protection bills. One requires that all oil produced offshore from new or expanded oil extractions be transported onshore by pipeline only.

Another requires that the California Department of Transportation assign a high priority to dealing with litter deposited along segments of state highways that adjoin storm drains, streams, rivers, waterways, beaches, the ocean, and other environmentally sensitive areas.

One measure continues a program signed into law by Davis in 1999, extending until January 1, 2010, the end of the California Ballast Water Management Program to control and reduce the release of non-native aquatic species and organisms into state waters by ships arriving in California from foreign ports. Ballast waters can contain foreign shellfish, toxic algae, bacteria and viruses.

The legislative package includes a measure extending existing motorboat noise limits to include coastal waters within one mile of the California coastline, rather than only in inland waters.

Another measure authorizes the State Coastal Conservancy to use bond funds for projects that improve coastal water quality and protect marine resources in sensitive habitat areas.

One bill creates the San Diego Bay Advisory Committee for Ecological Assessment to evaluate and report on trends related to the health of San Diego Bay, identify habitat enhancement projects, and recommend storm water pollution control technology.

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Ultra Scientific Fined $1.3 Million for Dangerous Wastes

NORTH KINGSTOWN, Rhode Island, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - Extensive hazardous waste handling violations at a chemical standards company in North Kingstown have drawn a $1.3 million civil penalty from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA inspectors found dozens of violations during a two day visit last year to the Quonset Point Industrial Park facility used by Ultra Scientific Inc., a company that manufacturers chemical standards used by laboratories for quality control testing and instrument calibration.

The violations were discovered at Ultra Scientific's 18,000 square foot production building and seven large containers outside the building that are used to store hazardous wastes.

"The size and scope of this civil complaint reflects the extremely unsafe manner in which this company was handling and storing hazardous wastes," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

Varney said some of the violations were so serious that EPA inspectors were unable to complete an inventory of hundreds of types of hazardous waste in one of the containers.

Inspectors observed the co-storage of many incompatible wastes, including a container of waste acids and a container of waste cyanide which can interact to produce acutely toxic hydrogen cyanide gas.

"The situation we encountered last year could have resulted in a number of potentially dangerous scenarios, particularly for company employees who received inadequate training in handling these materials," Varney said.

The inspection was done jointly by EPA and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) employees on September 18 and 20, 2002. Local fire and building code officials accompanied the environmental inspectors.. The inspection was done at the request of the DEM after Ultra Scientific failed to correct the violations after an initial DEM inspection in August 2002.

North Kingstown fire department and building officials also found several code violations. As a result of the inspection and follow up activities by EPA and local officials, the most serious conditions have been corrected to reduce the immediate risks posed by the facility. Many of the hazardous materials were removed after the inspection, reducing the overall potential health threat at the site.

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Lead, Arsenic to Be Removed from Soil at 850 Denver Homes

DENVER, Colorado, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its final cleanup decision for residential soils in the Vasquez Boulevard/Interstate 70 (VB/I-70) Superfund site in northeast Denver. The cleanup is expected to cost $31 million and take up to five years to complete.

The EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment signed a Record of Decision Thursday, which is the formal document detailing the final cleanup plan. The final cleanup decision is based on Alternative 6 from EPA's Proposed Cleanup Plan issued in May 2003.

This decision affects nearly four square miles and homes in the neighborhoods of Cole, Clayton, Swansea, Elyria, southwest Globeville, and a newly added portion of Curtis Park.

The final cleanup decision authorizes the agency to remove and replace the soils at approximately 850 homes to protect residents from the potentially harmful health effects caused by elevated levels of lead and arsenic in yard soils at some residential properties in these neighborhoods.

The EPA will remove and replace yards with lead levels that measure above 400 parts per million (ppm) or arsenic levels above 70 ppm.

Since the EPA began investigating heavy metals in VB/I-70 site soils in 1998, the agency has considered these neighborhoods as environmental justice areas because the majority of the residents are low income and minority. The area is affected by many sources of environmental pollution, including industry, other Superfund sites and transportation corridors.

The investigation produced numerous studies on the nature and extent of the soil contamination as well as the risks posed to human health and the environment.

This final decision is the result of a collaborative process that included input from community representatives and various federal and local agencies.

EPA has already removed and replaced soil at 48 homes that required emergency attention due to high lead or arsenic levels.

Before the end of the year, EPA plans to remove and replace an additional 141 yards that have the highest contaminant levels measured.

Thursday's final decision affects those yards that will need a cleanup but have lower levels of contaminants than the yards being cleaned up this year. The agency will continue to sample yards in that area and throughout the site that have not yet been sampled.

The selected remedy also includes providing funding for a Community Health Program that will continue as long as soils are being removed in the neighborhoods.

The program is designed to inform area residents about the health effects of lead and arsenic, as well as to provide information on a variety of environmental health issues. The program will offer free monitoring for children who live within the VB/I-70 site boundaries and clinical follow up when necessary.

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Former Nuclear Weapons Plant Awarded Conversion Funds

TAMPA, Florida, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - The conversion of a government nuclear weapons plant to a private industry high tech campus has attracted an additional $2 million in funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). The agency announced today that it will award the funds to the Pinellas Plant Community Reuse Organization (CRO) located at the department's former Pinellas Plant near Tampa, Florida.

A CRO is an organization recognized by the Energy Department that can apply for funding for programs that can modify the impacts of workforce restructuring at its facilities and reduce community dependence on the department's activities. The Pinellas Plant CRO has previously attracted millions in funding from the department.

"The department is proud to support the efforts of the Pinellas Plant Community Reuse Organization and the Young-Rainey STAR Center in bringing additional jobs to the department's former plant," Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. "We will continue to work with the Pinellas Plant Community Reuse Organization and other community reuse organizations around the country to retain, expand or create jobs for workers affected by restructuring efforts."

The Energy Department previously developed and produced nuclear weapons components at the Pinellas Plant. Closed in the fall of 1993 in response to a reduction in the need for nuclear weapons components, the facility was sold to the Pinellas County Industry Council in 1995, and the Energy Department leased back space to complete clean up and transition of the facility to the county.

Within 18 months a Pinellas County, agency agreed to buy the plant site and transition it into a commercially viable high tech center, now known as the Young-Rainey STAR Center. Center officials and community leaders coordinated support from DOE headquarters and site officials, the U.S. Congress representative, state, county and local officials and businessmen.

Today, with the facility 95 percent leased, the CRO continues to focus on seeking high tech organizations to relocate, or start operations at the Young-Rainey STAR Center. The center has attracted a diverse group of technology companies including firms providing electronics manufacturing for command control and communication; hybrid circuitry;,microelectromechanical systems for nuclear, biological and chemical sensors; and digital imaging of ballistics for storage in a database for forensics technology.

Seventeen of the 18 defense technologies developed at the Pinellas Plant are now being used commercially by tenants at the center.

The $2 million grant announced today will be used to help complete the infrastructure improvements at the Young-Rainey STAR Center.

The funds will be used to complete required roof repair on the main building. Funds also will be used to renovate space to provide modern office suites to better attract new tenants and other infrastructure improvements. Once the renovations are completed, the space will accommodate an additional 250 employees with 96 percent of the STAR Center's total available space being leased.

At the time the DOE and its management and operating contractor left the plant on December 31, 1997, there were only 200 workers remaining. As of May 1, 2003, there were approximately 1,500 employed at the STAR Center. By the end of 2005, the Young-Rainey STAR Center will employ approximately 1,750.

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Chesapeake Bay Protection Hurt by Taxes in Nearby States

WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - Changes in tax policies in three states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay could contribute to the better conservation practices promoted by the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, according to a new report released by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). The institute is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization based in Washington, DC.

The report, "Chesapeake 2000 Tax Policy Study" offers an analysis of how tax policies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia affect land use in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which runs off into Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States.

State and local taxes are analyzed, and the authors assesses how each state could improve upon its current tax policies and consider new ones that support the land use commitments in the Chesapeake 2000 pact.

More than 15 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the population is forecast to include 18 million people by 2020. Population growth is a major stressor on the bay ecosystem. All daily activities, from fertilizing lawns to driving cars, have an impact on the environment. As the population in the bay watershed grows, so do human impacts on the environment.

In 2000, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the federal government signed the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, pledging further actions to improve and sustain several areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed with an emphasis on new land use commitments.

The signatories committed to reduce the rate of sprawl in the watershed by 30 percent, to promote redevelopment by removing economic barriers to investment in underutilized communities, and to strengthen preservation programs and preserve 20 percent of the land area in the watershed.

Staffers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who work with the Chesapeake Bay Program came to ELI to fulfill yet another commitment of the agreement.

The signatory governments agreed to review their tax policies to identify those that encourage undesirable growth, and then, armed with this information, to modify tax policies and create tax incentives that promote conservation of resource lands.

The ELI analysis found that some current policies promote sprawl by discouraging the use of older urban areas and encouraging municipal governments to seek forms of development that increase local tax receipts.

Higher taxes in older jurisdictions lead to urban sprawl, since businesses prefer to build in non-developed areas with lower tax rates rather than reconstruct or retrofit in older areas.

Business tax incentives and exemptions that do not limit the location for development may lead to negative impacts on land use, the ELI report concludes.

All three states should implement fiscal impact analyses, which would examine the potential tax revenues, infrastructure, and service demands of differing patterns of development planning, ELI advises.

Such analyses are useful in assisting governments in decisions about development plans and can advance understanding in land allocations for residential, commercial, mixed-use, and open space uses.

The report also recommends consideration of several forms of local tax base sharing, impact fees, and tax incentives for rehabilitation of older buildings and communities.

The Chesapeake Bay Program's Land, Growth, and Stewardship Committee will consider the ELI recommendations this fall and will advise the states on reevaluating their tax policies and revitalizing them in accordance with the Chesapeake 2000 goals.

The ELI tax report is available at: http://www.elistore.org/reports_detail.asp?ID=10894&topic=Conservation.

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Project WET Makes a Splash

WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - Students in every state and the District of Columbia are involved in watershed education activities today to mark the nationwide Make a Splash with Project WET Water Quality Festival. Water festivals are being held at over 125 locations, and more than 50,000 students are scheduled to participate in this year's event.

Established in 1984, Project WET - Water Education for Teachers - is an international water science and education program dedicated to teaching children around the world about water stewardship and conservation.

"The quality of water in ground water and springs is often a reflection of the health of a watershed," said Dennis Nelson, Project WET's founder and executive director. "A healthy watershed is no accident. Our festivals encourage teachers and children to be good watershed neighbors."

Arizona, one of the nation's most arid states, is one of the state most involved in Project WET this year. In Phoenix, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens joined 1,000 fourth grade students from the Dysart and Peoria Unified School Districts to promote water quality education at the fourth annual Make a Splash with Project WET festival at the Surprise Recreation Campus.

"Each year we look forward to this event as an opportunity to share with students the importance of protecting water quality and the need to use water wisely," Owens said. "The festival setting provides a fun and interesting educational opportunity for teachers and students."

In Connecticut, Governor John Rowland proclaimed September 26, 2003 a day when "Every Drop Counts." To celebrate, 150 school children participated in the fourth annual Make a Splash with Project WET festival at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport.

Although most water festivals are taking place today, in Oregon the celebrations will be held from October 7 to 9. Some 1,200 area school children will learn what it takes to be a good watershed neighbor at High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

Project WET provides a complete curriculum of water education teaching materials, books and training opportunities, as well as a network of coordinators in every state of the continental U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines.

The centerpiece of the Project WET program is the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide. This guide contains over 90 water resource activities that were developed and field-tested by over 600 educators and resource managers working with 34,000 students nationwide.

Project WET is based at and affiliated with Montana State University. National support for Project WET is provided by Nestlé Waters North America.

Visit Project WET online at: http://www.projectwet.org/

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National Estuaries Day Features Online Field Trips

SILVER SPRING, Maryland, September 26, 2003 (ENS) - An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where saltwater from the sea mixes with freshwater from rivers, streams and creeks. Today and Thursday, thousands of Americans are visiting some of the country's most unique estuaries to celebrate National Estuaries Day - without getting their feet wet.

The feature event for National Estuaries Day 2003 is taking place online. EstuaryLive offers an interactive field trip to eight estuaries from around the country - Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, in North Carolina; South Slough, in Oregon; Charlotte Harbor, in Florida; Galveston Bay, in Texas; Great Bay, in New Jersey; Puget Sound, in Washington; North Inlet, in South Carolina; and Elmer’s Island, in Louisiana.

People can participate by logging onto: http://www.estuaries.gov/. Once online and in the program, participants can interact with the tour guides by emailing questions during the field trips. Most questions will be answered live during the broadcast. An educator will respond to any questions not answered live during the Internet broadcast by emailing the recipient directly.

Educator Susan Lovelace and Producer Bill Lovin teamed up in 1998 to develop EstuaryLive as an education offering through the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Over the past five years, they have cultivated this program into a national event, taking participants on field trips through more than 20 American estuaries. Some one million viewers logged on to EstuaryLive in 2002.

Many estuaries are hosting in person celebrations. The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve is hosting an open house on Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in celebration of National Estuaries Day. Visitors can explore the St. Jones Reserve near Dover and hike along the two mile trail over and around the salt marsh.

Every estuary is unique - they can be sloughs, bays, harbors, sounds, inlets or bayous. One estuary may be enclosed by marshes and barrier islands, while another estuary's borders are the coastline and reefs. Some familiar examples of estuaries include Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, Boston Harbor, Tampa Bay and Puget Sound.

There are also wetlands in the Great Lakes with estuarine-like functions. These ecosystems have a strong tidal force and are protected from the open water of the Great Lakes by a natural barrier, such as a mud flat.

Estuaries are among the most biologically productive ecosystems on the planet. More than two thirds of the fish and shellfish we eat spend some part of their lives in estuaries. These ecosystems also provide many other important ecological functions; they act as filters for terrestrial pollutants and provide protection from flooding.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 25 protected areas that provide research and education to promote informed coastal resource management. These reserves are managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Find out more online at: http://nerrs.noaa.gov/

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Texas Scientist Studies Polluted Mexican Lake

GALVESTON, Texas, September 26, 2003 (ENS) – The lake that supplies some 30 percent of Mexico City's drinking water is heavily polluted, and a researcher from Texas A&M University at Galveston is trying to help by conducting an extensive study of the body of water - the Valle de Bravo reservoir.

Ayal Anis, professor of oceanography at Texas A&M-Galveston says the results of his work could help the Mexican authorities better manage their water resources and could provide information that may be useful in addressing other polluted waters around the world.

"It's an important lake because people depend on it for water, but the water in it is highly polluted and must be filtered and treated before it can be used by humans," Anis explains.

Anis and his research team of students Gaurav Singhal, Keith Dupuis and Newt Scott, and researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, studied the lake this summer. They found that it shows signs of eutrophication, pollution caused by excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that causes algae blooms.

There are several forms of algae in the lake that are so toxic that swimming in the lake is discouraged.

Anis and his team investigated meteorological conditions, seasonal changes in the water flow, different layers of the lake from the bottom to the surface, water flowing into the lake, and various pollutants found in the water.

The collected data from the study is being analyzed and when complete will be sent to Mexican officials. "We hope the results will help the Mexican government solve some pollution problems of its water supply," Anis says.

"We also hope the study will provide useful information that could be used in other areas of the world that have similar reservoirs that provide drinking water. The ultimate goal is to reduce health hazards, restore environmental quality and if possible, minimize unwanted economic impacts of such polluted bodies of water."

The study is co-funded by Texas A&M and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Technologia, the Mexican equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation.