AmeriScan: September 6, 2005

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Hurricane Watchers in the Eye of the Storm

MIAMI, Florida, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - Weather forecasters are watching the progress of another tropical storm today. The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a Tropical Storm warning across the southwest and tropical North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea for a weather system called Nate.

The strongest winds of about 50 miles per hour are forecast for Wednesday, both day and night, out in the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina and Virginia, tapering off towards next weekend.

NOAA hurricane hunter WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IV aircraft conducted 10 long flights into and around the eye of Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. Mike Silah, a P-3 pilot, saw Hurricane Katrina up close, especially when she was an extremely dangerous Category Five storm in the Gulf of Mexico. The day before the powerful and destructive storm made landfall on the USA Gulf Coast, Silah snapped a series of images capturing the eyewall of Katrina.

View Lt. Silah's images here.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has posted satellite images acquired by the NOAA Remote Sensing Division to support NOAA national security and emergency response requirements.

The images are up close and detailed. View them at: http://ngs.woc.noaa.gov/katrina/KATRINA0000.HTM

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Maryland Water Standards OK'd, Triggering Chesapeake Cleanup

WASHINGTON, DC, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved new water quality standards for Maryland, setting in motion an interstate effort to control nutrients by regulating nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“Maryland’s new water quality standards are a pivotal piece in our multi-state effort to increase nutrient controls across the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.

“Taking actions like these in collaboration with our Bay partners will help to provide the highest levels of protection and restoration for the nation’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary.”

EPA announced an unprecedented agreement with six states and the District of Columbia on December 29, 2004 to begin a coordinated permitting approach that will set permit limits on nutrients being discharged from more than 400 treatment facilities throughout the 64,000 square-mile watershed.

The permit limits are expected to annually reduce the discharge of 25 million pounds of nitrogen and 1.2 million pounds of phosphorus. The Maryland water quality standards trigger full implementation of the permitting agreement.

The discharge of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater treatment is one of the most serious problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

Excessive nutrients in the Bay cause algae blooms in the water, which leads to oxygen depletion and other adverse impacts on water quality. Excessive algae growth can also block sunlight that is critical to support plant and aquatic life.

“Maryland’s new state-of-the-art Enhanced Nutrient Removal based loading limits are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and will ensure that Maryland can achieve and maintain its nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Kendl Philbrick, secretary of the Maryland Department of Environment.

“Maryland’s water quality standards are vital in our effort to preserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its irreplaceable cultural, economic and recreational resources. They are the basis of our water pollution control efforts and improve our ability to effectively regulate water quality in a scientifically sound manner.”

For years, permits have required nutrient removal to achieve localized water quality standards. However, the lack of science-based and achievable water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay has made it difficult for the states and EPA to regulate nutrient reductions needed to protect the Bay. The EPA has been working with states for several years to develop a basin-wide strategy for these nutrient permit limits.

The new strategy covers the entire watershed and describes how states and the EPA plan to develop permit limits based on the living resource needs of the Bay. States participating in the strategy include Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Chesapeake watershed already has about 100 municipal and six industrial facilities treating wastewater with nutrient removal technology to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus. No other watershed in the country has more treatment facilities using this technology.

More information on Maryland’s water quality standards can be viewed online at: http://www.mde.state.md.us/Programs/WaterPrograms/TMDL/wqstandards/index.asp.

A document outlining the permitting approach can be found on EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/index.htm

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Wood Treatment Site Needs Multi-Million Dollar Remediation

BELLINGHAM, Washington, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - The Oeser Company will complete cleanup of the Oeser Superfund site and will reimburse the government at least $8.6 million in cleanup costs, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said after settling with the company on Wednesday.

Estimates for the cost of continued cleanup of the 26 acre Superfund site, located in Whatcom County and Bellingham, Washington, range from $3.8 to $6 million.

"This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste sites are cleaned up and that public funds used for cleanups are paid back into the Superfund, enabling the EPA to continue its cleanup work at other sites," said Kelly Johnson, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The Oeser site is a 26 acre active wood-treating facility located in Whatcom County, and partially in the City of Bellingham, in northwest Washington state. The facility has been used for wood-treating operations, including treatment of utility and transmission poles, since the late 1940s. Most of the wood-treating process occurs within a 3-acre wood-treating area near the center of the property.

The company used creosote as a wood preservative until the mid-1980s. Creosote is composed of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and phenol compounds. The company now uses pentachlorophenol (PCP or Penta). Both compounds are hazardous substances.

Over 60 years of operations, the soil and groundwater at the Oeser facility became contaminated with hazardous substances including creosote, PCP, PAHs and dioxin. In 1997, EPA listed the Oeser site on the Superfund list of the nation's most contaminated hazardous waste sites.

The EPA completed a priority cleanup of the site to address the areas of highest contamination in 1999 and a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the site in 2002. The EPA has incurred over $14 million in investigation and response costs.

In 2003 EPA selected a final remedial action for the site, which will consist of excavation and off-site disposal of some contaminated soil from the facility; capping of other soils in place at the facility; institutional controls restricting the property to industrial use and restricting the use of ground water under this site; and long-term ground water monitoring. This remedial action is expected to cost about $3.8 million, but costs could go as high as $6 million.

In the settlement, the Oeser Company agreed to conduct the final remedial action selected by the EPA. To secure the funds for the cleanup, Oeser will deposit about $6 million into two trust accounts that will be used first to pay for the cleanup and if any funds remain, to provide additional reimbursement of EPA's past costs.

In addition, the company agrees to contribute $500,000 to a trust account held by the City of Bellingham for performance of a cleanup of Little Squalicum Creek.

"The proposed consent decree for the Oeser site exemplifies Region 10's long-term commitment to the cleanup of contaminated properties by securing $6.5 million in trusts for the Oeser Company to complete the cleanup of both its property and Little Squalicum Creek, and by recovering over $8.6 million for reimbursement of EPA's past costs," said Michael Bogert, EPA Region 10 administrator.

"With this agreement we have secured the cleanup work necessary to protect human health and the environment while allowing for the company's continued use of the property," Bogert said. "EPA appreciates the work of the Justice Department in obtaining this proposed consent decree."

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Klamath Basin Irrigators Lose Water Fight

WASHINGTON, DC, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has recognized the interest of the American public in streams and ruled in favor of coastal communities, salmon fishermen, and others who depend on a healthy Klamath River for their livelihoods. The federal claims court deals with questions of monetary compensation from the federal government.

The court rejected the major claims in a lawsuit by Klamath Basin irrigators demanding $1 billion from the U.S. taxpayers, after they were denied access to water in 2001 that belongs to all the people of Oregon and California.

Earthjustice represented the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations in opposing what the Federation termed "extreme property rights advocates." They argued that, under federal law, private property is taken when water is left in rivers to protect threatened salmon and other species.

Calling such an argument “rootless,” “unrealistic,” and a “fantasy,” the court ruled that the Klamath irrigators have no property rights to specific water deliveries under federal or state law.

Water contracts between Klamath farmers and the federal government oblige the government to deliver water to farmers when it is available. This requirement is subject to the government's other legal obligations, including protecting endangered and threatened species. The irrigators attempted to circumvent these established standards and the court told them they would have an uphill battle to win such claims.

During the summer of 2001, in a near-record drought year, government officials reduced diversions of the Klamath River to irrigators in order to sustain federally protected coho salmon.

These irrigators claimed the lack of water caused them economic losses and filed a lawsuit seeking taxpayer compensation for a constitutional "taking." The irrigators claimed they were owed a billion dollars because of the curtailment of water during the summer of 2001.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) intervened to protect its members’ and their families’ interests in healthy fisheries that depend on adequate water flows in the Klamath River. The irrigators tried to block the fishermen from the case but failed.

In February 2005 the federal claims court ruled that commercial salmon fishermen have the right to participate fully in the case. This ruling marked the first time any group trying to protect fish and wildlife has been allowed to intervene as a full party in a Court of Federal Claims case.

“This shuts the door on water disputes from 2001. But those were only a symptom of the more fundamental problem of too many demands for too little water. People should look forward, not backward, and work to bring the water budget sheet back into balance through the whole basin to prevent these types of crises in the future,” said Glen Spain of PCFFA.

The Klamath irrigators’ claim was against the federal government, which opposed paying them.

“The Court of Federal Claims decision today rejects an extreme view of property right advanced by the irrigators. The decision is based on well-established legal precedent and should limit future claims like this,” said Todd True of Earthjustice. “This ruling is good news for fishermen, their families, and all our communities that depend on a fair and balanced allocation of our scarce water resources.”

While the court today rejected the irrigators’ claims that they had property rights in Klamath Basin water, it allowed further briefing on certain limited contractual claims against the government, even though it observed that on the claims, “plaintiffs face an uphill battle.”

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West Virgina Finds First Case of Chronic Wasting Disease

CHARLESTON, West Virginia, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Friday that it has received confirmation that a road-killed deer in Hampshire County tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The positive sample was collected from a two year old male deer in Hampshire County as part of a long-term statewide CWD surveillance effort. The Hampshire County deer tissue sample was first tested at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia, and then confirmed as positive for CWD by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

"This is the 1st known occurrence of CWD in West Virginia," said Director Frank Jezioro. "Upon receiving this confirmation, we initiated our CWD Response Plan, which is designed to effectively address this important wildlife disease issue."

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal brain wasting disease found in deer and elk, and, like mad cow disease, it belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

The disease is thought to be caused by abnormal protein particles, called prions, that slowly attack the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated and display abnormal behavior. There is no known treatment for chronic wasting disease.

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that the disease poses a risk for humans or for domestic animals.

The West Virginia CWD Response Plan is designed to determine the prevalence and the distribution of chronic wasting disease through enhanced surveillance efforts, and then make plans to wipe it out in the state.

The plan calls for communication and coordination with the public and other agencies on issues relating to chronic wasting disease and the steps being taken to respond to this disease.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study located at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, has tested 1,320 free ranging deer from West Virginia for chronic wasting disease since 2002, and the Hampshire County deer is the only animal found to be infected.

Chronic wasting disease was first recognized in 1967 in Colorado, and it has since been found in captive herds in nine states and in two Canadian provinces and in free-ranging deer or elk in nine states and one province. Earlier this year, the disease was found as far east as New York.

While it is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted, lateral spread from animal to animal through shedding of the infectious agent from the digestive tract appears important, and indirect transmission through environmental contamination with infective material is likely.

Jezioro said he is confident a solution will be found. "We are most fortunate to have scientists and veterinarians stationed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, including some of the foremost wildlife disease experts in the world, available to assist us in this effort."

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Secondhand Smoke at Home Undermines Kids' Lifelong Health

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - Early life exposure to second-hand smoke can produce lifelong respiratory problems like a dry, hacking cough, new research has confirmed.

Individuals 18 or younger, living with one or more smokers, were more than twice as likely to suffer from chronic dry cough as adults, according to a new study published by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, the University of Minnesota, and the National University of Singapore.

This paper, which appears online in the journal "Thorax," is the largest study to date on the effects of childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on later respiratory disease, and the first to include data on dietary intake.

The study of 35,000 adult non-smokers in Singapore found that those who lived with a smoker during childhood had more respiratory problems, including chronic cough.

But diet was found to make a difference. Study participants who reported eating more fruit and soy fiber as adults seemed to be protected against some of the negative health effects often associated with early tobacco exposure.

"This research adds to a growing body of evidence that exposure to second-hand smoke early in life has health consequences that can last a lifetime," said Dr. David Schwartz, director of the NIEHS.

"In addition to finding ways to reduce the exposure of children to tobacco smoke and other environmental pollutants, we also need to look for ways to reduce the disease burden," he said.

"Because we had previously found in this Singaporean population data suggesting that a diet high in fruit and soy fiber may reduce the incidence of chronic respiratory symptoms, we decided to study the impact of fiber on problems associated with early tobacco exposure," said NIEHS researcher Stephanie London, M.D. "We actually found that people who ate even a small amount of fruit fiber had less chronic cough related to environmental tobacco smoke."

Study participants who ate the equivalent of two apples a day had fewer negative health effects than those who did not.

"Fiber may have beneficial effects on the lung," said Dr. London. "However, the possible benefits of fiber should not lessen the importance of reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke."

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Hand Sanitizer Gel Works

BOSTON, Massachusetts, September 6, 2005 (ENS) - Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel reduces the spread of gastrointestinal infections in homes of children in day care, finds a study published in the September issue of "Pediatrics."

The alcohol-based gels, widely available in stores, do not require water and rapidly kill most bacteria and viruses on the skin. They are a convenient alternative for busy parents who are unable to get to a sink while caring for sick children.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7.5 million children under age 5 are enrolled in day care, placing them at high risk for respiratory and GI infections, which they readily transmit to household members.

A group of 292 Greater Boston families were divided in two and tracked for five months. Half of the families were given hand sanitizer, which was found to reduce infectious disease by 59 percent more than in the homes of the other group, who were not given sanitizer.

The families were recruited through day care centers, and all had a least one child in day care. Families already using hand sanitizer were excluded from the study.

Half the families were randomly assigned to receive hand sanitizer and educational materials on hand hygiene. They were told to place bottles of the gel around the house, including bathroom, kitchen and baby's room, and to apply it to their hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, after diaper changes, etc.

The remaining families, serving as controls, received only materials about nutrition, and were asked not to use hand sanitizer. The two groups reported similar rates of handwashing on an initial questionnaire.

"This is the first randomized trial to show that hand sanitizer reduces the spread of germs in the home," says Dr. Thomas Sandora, a physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital Boston and lead author of the study, dubbed "Healthy Hands, Healthy Families."

A related study from Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, published in the April issue of "Pediatrics," observed a protective effect against respiratory illness among families who used hand sanitizer gels at their own initiative.

Although handwashing with soap and water is effective in reducing the spread of most infections, it requires access to a sink. In addition, there is evidence that rotavirus, the most common gastrointestinal infection in the child-care setting, is not removed effectively by soap and water but is reliably killed by alcohol.

Founded in 1869 as a 20 bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts children, and the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

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