AmeriScan: September 7, 2005

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New Orleans Floodwaters Contaminated

WASHINGTON, DC, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - Bacteria counts for E. coli in New Orleans floodwaters "greatly exceed EPA's recommended levels for contact," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today after sampling water in multiple locations and analyzing the samples for chemicals and bacteria.

"At these levels, human contact with water should be avoided," the agency said.

The EPA is coordinating all sampling activities and data analyses with federal, state, and local agencies. These initial results are just the beginning of extensive sampling efforts and do not represent the condition of all flood waters throughout the area, the agency said.

Due to the priority of the search and rescue mission, EPA testing has focused on neighborhoods and not in heavily industrialized areas.

Additional chemical sampling was performed for priority pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, semivolatile organic compounds, total metals, pesticides, herbicides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Results from these analyses were compared to health levels set by the EPA and by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances.

Lead concentrations in water exceeded drinking water action levels, the EPA found. These levels are a concern if a child ingests large amounts of flood water.

For the additional chemicals tested, the EPA says it has yet to detect contaminant levels that would pose human health risks.

The EPA advises emergency response personnel and the public to avoid direct contact with standing water when possible. In the event contact occurs, EPA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly advise the use of soap and water to clean exposed areas if available.

Flood water should not be swallowed and all mouth contact should be avoided, the EPA warned. People should immediately report any symptoms to health professionals. The most likely symptoms are stomachache, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Preliminary water testing data will be confirmed through additional EPA testing and data analyses to ensure that all data is of the highest quality. EPA says it is "implementing a rigorous scientific process" to ensure that the flood waters of New Orleans are thoroughly sampled for multiple types of key contaminants.

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Multi-Million Dollar Donations Offered for Hurricane Relief

WASHINGTON, DC, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - In response to the escalating need for aid and assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina, BP Foundation has increased its contribution to relief efforts to a total of $10 million. This builds on the $5 million commitment to hurricane relief announced by the Foundation last week.

The giant energy company BP has more than 1,000 employees who live and work in the Gulf Coast states affected by the hurricane.

The donation includes $2 million to American Red Cross, $1.5 million to Houston area hurricane relief programs, $2 million for matching contributions to Red Cross from employees, dealers and jobbers, $4 million to local community efforts in impacted communities, and the remainder in diesel fuel donations in Louisiana and Mississippi.

BP has established a 24-hour hotline at 1-866-850-7768 to assist those employees in urgent need of assistance. The company has also established a program to provide displaced employees with financial aid for housing and food and other essential needs.

ExxonMobil today announced a Hurricane Katrina Matching Program for contributions by employees, retirees, surviving spouses, dealers and distributors worldwide, in addition to the $7 million already provided by the company.

ExxonMobil will provide a one-to-one match of individual contributions up to $50,000 made through December 31, 2005, to American Red Cross, Americares, America's Second Harvest, and the Bush-clinton Katrina Fund.

Shell and Motiva are dedicating $2 million to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and matching employee donations up to another $1 million.

Food retailers and wholesalers across America are donating more than $20 million in financial support alone for Hurricane Katrina relief, according to the Food Marketing Institute. In addition, they are giving more than $10 million more in aid, including truckloads of food, bottled water, ice, baby formula, diapers, paper towels, cleaning supplies, disinfectant and personal hygiene items.

They are using their distribution centers near the disaster areas to collect and deliver materials, dedicating trucks, drivers, transportation executives and other employees to the relief effort.

As part of the grocers' support Albertsons, Inc., is donating $10 million, including $9 million in water, ice, food and other essentials, and a $1 million fund matching customer donations. The company is collecting donations in checkout canisters at all of its 2,500 stores.

Target has announced a $1.5 million donation to the American Red Cross, with $500,000 going for immediate relief efforts for the hurricane, and an additional $1 million for ongoing disaster relief and preparedness. In addition to cash contributions, Target is offering real estate in Louisiana to the Red Cross to establish a central command center supporting the most heavily impacted areas of the storm.

Retailers are collecting millions more in contributions from customers through fundraising events, auctions and checkout donations at more than 15,000 stores. Most of the contributions are going to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund and America's Second Harvest.

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Jazz at Lincoln Center Stages Hurricane Benefit Concert

NEW YORK, New York, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - Live From Lincoln Center, the Emmy-Award winning PBS series, is presenting a special nationwide broadcast of jazz September 17 as a benefit for hurricane relief.

The Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert, live from Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, will feature Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Cyrus Chestnut, Peter Cincotti, Bill Cosby, Elvis Costello, Robert De Niro, Paquito D'Rivera, Jon Hendricks, Diana Krall, Abbey Lincoln, Bette Midler, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Roberts, Paul Simon, Meryl Streep, James Taylor, McCoy Tyner, Cassandra Wilson, Buckwheat Zydeco, and many others.

President of Lincoln Center Reynold Levy said, "In this time of enormous humanitarian need, the thousands of us who work and study at Lincoln Center want to use our resources to support Wynton Marsalis and his team at Jazz at Lincoln Center to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina."

Proceeds from the concert and auction of items including a Gibson guitar autographed by Eric Clapton will be donated to relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

"Since Live From Lincoln Center has been bringing the finest performances to millions of people around the country for over 29 years," said Levy, "it is an ideal collaborative vehicle to reach those viewers whom we hope will provide further assistance in the form of donations."

Tickets are priced at $50, $100, $500, $1000, $5000, and $10,000. They will be available beginning September 8th at the Jazz at Lincoln Center box office at Broadway at 60th Street, by calling CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500, or visiting www.jalc.org. Lincoln Center will be donating all CenterCharge fees for this concert to the relief efforts.

The broadcast will be shown on PBS stations 8:00-11:00 p.m. ET, in cooperation with WNET. Lincoln Center will make the broadcast feed available to other stations and networks.

Concert Broadcast on National Public Radio and WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM. XM Satellite Radio will carry this concert live on its network from coast to coast on channel 70, the Real Jazz channel.

A CD will be produced and released by Blue Note Records with all profits going to hurricane relief funds.

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Energy Agency Adds 800 Number to Gas Gouging Reporting System

WASHINGTON, DC, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Energy has expanded its gas gouging reporting system to include a toll-free telephone hotline in response to soaring gasoline prices across the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The hotline at 1-800-244-3301 is available to American consumers starting today.

"While we’ve largely seen the best of American generosity and unity throughout the recovery effort," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, "we recognize that there are some bad actors that may try to take advantage of the situation."

"Consumers are our first line of defense in guarding against gas price gouging," said Bodman. "I can assure you, our Administration - from the President down - takes this issue very seriously. We encourage Americans to report those who are trying to profiteer in this time of national crisis."

"Over the past week, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints registered through our gas gouging website," Bodman said. "By expanding the system to include a toll-free phone line, we hope to make it easier for Americans without ready access to the Internet to take action."

In addition to calling 1-800-244-3301 consumers will still be able to register complaints at http://gaswatch.energy.gov/.

All complaints registered with the Department of Energy will be collated and transmitted to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice and individual state attorneys general for investigation and prosecution where appropriate.

In addition, the administration has used every tool at its disposal to mitigate any disruption in fuel supply.

As part of the recovery effort:

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Great Lakes States Sue for Ballast Water Regulations

LANSING, Michigan, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced Tuesday that he and five other Great Lakes attorneys general have filed a brief in federal court proposing several remedies to better regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act.

When large oceangoing vessels enter the Great Lakes and load their cargo, they discharge ballast water carried from other ports. This water may contain aquatic nuisance species, such as the zebra mussel, sea lamprey, ruffe and goby, which reproduce rapidly in the absence of natural predators and harm their new environment.

In March 2005, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must regulate these discharges

"In this brief, there are proposed permit structures, regulations, and prompt, timely deadlines to comply with the court's order to better regulate the discharge of ballast water into our Great Lakes," said Cox. "The Great Lakes are Michigan's most valuable natural resource, and I will continue to fight for the state and region's ability to safeguard these waters."

In March of 2005, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco declared that the EPA must begin regulating ballast water discharges. In their brief, the attorneys general of Michigan, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ask the court to order the EPA to promptly repeal the rule, that exempts Aquatic Nuisance Species from regulation under the Clean Water Act.

The states are asking the court to establish interim regulatory controls by April 1, 2006, which marks the start of the next shipping season on the Great Lakes.

They are seeking final regulatory controls in place by October 1, 2007 that include strict standards for vessel ballast water discharges.

Today's filing is the latest action taken by Michigan and other states to curtail what Cox calls "the economic, social and ecological havoc caused by the introduction of aquatic invasive species through ballast water discharges."

In July, the six Great Lakes states sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing Senate Bill 363, the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2005," which would place sole responsibility for regulating ballast water discharges on the U.S. Coast Guard, rather than the EPA.

According to the July 20 letter, "the bill unacceptably: removes the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to control pollutant discharges in ballast water; preempts states' ability to enact laws necessary to protect themselves from these harmful pollutants; and perpetuates an ineffectual regulatory regime and fails to replace it with any timely, environmentally protective standards."

Complementing the federal court action, Cox also backed passage of state legislation, Public Act 33 of 2005, which requires the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to regulate ballast water discharges into the Great Lakes starting January 1, 2007.

The law also requires the department to pursue formation of a cooperative coalition among the Great Lakes states.

Aquatic nuisance species pose a threat to Michigan's economy as well as its environment. Commercial and recreational fishing, boating, beaches, tourism and facilities, such as power plants that use water from the Great Lakes, all suffer from the effects of these species.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that controlling zebra mussels and sea lampreys - two of the most harmful aquatic nuisance species - costs $45 million each year.

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Foundry Worker Died, McWane Division Fined $4.25 Million

ANNISTON, Alabama, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - Union Foundry Company, a division of iron foundry giant McWane, Inc., was sentenced yesterday to $4.25 million in criminal fines and community service after pleading guilty to two charges in federal court for the Northern District of Alabama.

The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the crimes related to the operation of Union Foundry in Anniston from December 1997 to August 2000.

McWane’s Union Foundry division pleaded guilty to count one of the information, admitting to the willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulation that resulted in the death of an employee.

From March 17 until August 22, 2000, the corporation allowed its employees to work on a conveyor belt that did not have a safety guard mandated in OSHA’s safety regulations. On August 22, 2000, maintenance employee Reginald Elston became caught in a pulley of the conveyor belt and was crushed to death.

McWane’s Union Foundry division also pleaded guilty to count two, admitting that it knowingly violated the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by allowing employees to illegally treat hazardous waste at its facility without a permit.

The manufacturing process at the facility involved melting ferrous scrap metal in a water-cooled cupola furnace. The melting process generated significant amounts of dust, containing lead and cadmium, which were emitted into the air and are considered hazardous waste under the RCRA.

The dust was captured in large filtration structures known as “baghouses.” McWane, then allowed its employees to treat the contaminated dust at the Union Foundry without a permit.

“This is the second time that a McWane division has pleaded guilty to charges that allege systematic indifference to safety and environmental laws,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Kelly Johnson. “This case is especially egregious as it involves the death of an employee."

"We are committed to ensuring that environmental crimes in the workplace, particularly those that endanger employees, receive harsh punishments that will deter others from such practices,” said Johnson.

McWane’s Union Foundry division was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $3.5 million and serve a period of probation of three years.

The Union Foundry facility is currently subject to a number of consent decrees issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Violations of any of these consent decrees or environmental regulations and laws could constitute a violation of probation for the parent company.

In addition, McWane’s Union Foundry division was sentenced to pay $750,000 for a community service project approved by the Justice Department and directed towards worker safety or environmental remediation in the Anniston area. If approval is not given by the Department, McWane’s Union Foundry division will be required to forfeit the $750,000 as an additional criminal fine.

In March, Tyler Pipe Company, also a division of McWane, Inc., pleaded guilty to submitting a false statement and violating the Clean Air Act and was fined $4.5 million and given five years probation. As part of its settlement, Tyler Pipe must also undertake improvements at the facility that are estimated to cost as much as $24 million.

In June 2005, in Birmingham, Alabama, McWane, Inc. and former Vice President and General Manager of the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company James Delk were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and of violating the Clean Water Act by allowing discharges of industrial process wastewater into Avondale Creek in Birmingham through storm drains in violation of their permit.

Charles “Barry” Robison, the vice president for environmental affairs at McWane, Inc., was also convicted of submitting a false statement to the EPA. Sentencing for this case is scheduled for October 25, 2005.

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Ohio River City Gets $4.8 Million to Stop Storm Water Overflow

PARKERSBURG, West Virginia, September 7, 2005 (ENS) - During storms, the aging wastewater pipes overflow in the Ohio River town of Parkersburg, dumping raw sewage into the river.

But by October 31, 2020, about 15 years from now, the Parkersburg Utility Board is legally bound to eliminate all overflows.

Now, the Parkersburg Utility Board is getting some help to accomplish this task. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $4.8 grant to the Board to help expand and upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“Old, inadequate wastewater treatment and collection systems are a major cause of water pollution, and this grant will help to improve water quality in the Ohio River and protect public health in Parkersburg,” said Donald Welsh, EPA regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

The upgrades will include increasing the treatment capacity at the plant, which will help reduce sewage overflows.

The Parkersburg Utility Board is under a court registered consent agreement with the state to make repairs and eliminate all overflows by October 31, 2020.

Parkersburg is the seat of Wood County, with a population of 33,100 residents, one of the largest cities in the small state of West Virginia. Industries such as glass and ferrous metal manufacturing are joined by producers of chemicals, plastics and laboratory equipment.

The difficulties of dealing with storm water are lodged deep in the history of Parkersburg. More than 70 times since 1832, flood waters have reached "damage" stage in the town. After a particularly damaging flood in 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at a cost of $6.8 million, made the potential flooding of Parkersburg finally disappear behind a 22 foot high concrete floodwall.

Some dislike the wall because they say it blocks their view of the Ohio River, others wish it had not discolored over time. It displays no artist's murals, no recognizable architectural style, nor does it offer indication of the good nature of the people beyond it, save for a single, "Let's Be Friends" message at Point Park.

But Parkersburg no longer experiences floodwaters during spring storms, and few people remember the worst recorded flood in March of 1913 when flood waters rose to 59 feet in town.

Parkersburg also has a history of caring for its water supply. Two years ago, the EPA selected Parkersburg as the West Virginia recipient of the agency's source water protection award.

The county’s water protection efforts emphasize the protection of public ground water wells, and include public education, awareness and recommendations to protect the ground water recharge areas.

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