AmeriScan: August 29, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Interior Department has shelved plans to designate a California landfill as a historic landmark, after learning that the dump is a former Superfund site.

The Fresno Sanitary Landfill, the nation's oldest sanitary landfill, was one of 15 sites across the nation included on a list of new historic landmarks released by the Department of Interior on Monday.

The landfill opened in 1937 and closed in 1987. In 1989, the dump was added to the federal Superfund list, the national priority list of contaminated sites requiring cleanup, due to the pollutants leaking from the unlined landfill into groundwater.

The site has since been cleaned and capped at a cost of almost $38 million, and the city of Fresno plans to place a sports complex and a park on the former dump and surrounding land.

The Department of Interior said it was unaware of the landfill's former status, and would withdraw the site's inclusion on the historic landmark list while it reviewed its suitability. The National Park Service, which nominated the Fresno landfill to the list, said the site still warrants landmark status due to its importance in the nation's history of civil engineering.

"These landmarks guide us in comprehending important trends and patterns in American history," said NPS director Fran Mainella in a statement. "This landfill has those qualities that help us as a nation understand trends in emerging and developing technology."

The landfill is the oldest true sanitary landfill in the nation, and the oldest compartmentalized municipal landfill in the western U.S., holding the service record of more than 50 years of continuous operation. It was the first landfill to have employed the trench method of disposal and the first to compact refuse to increase storage capacity.

Techniques used at the Fresno site were later adopted by the builders of all modern sanitary landfills.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - Two pilots fighting a wildfire in California were killed Monday when their planes collided in midair.

The incident has led to murder charges against the man believed to have sparked the fire.

Pilots Larry Groff and Lars Stratte were killed while trying to dump fire retardant chemicals on a blaze that started Monday in a wilderness area of Mendocino County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. The two pilots worked for San Joaquin Helicopters, which supplied the two Grumman S-3 tanker planes under a contract to the California Department of Forestry.

The fire was believed to have been started by a campfire that got out of control - either accidentally or deliberately. Campfires are banned in the region.

Suspect Frank Brady was arrested Monday afternoon on several charges, including arson, drug charges and murder. Brady has been linked to a lab producing illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, in the region burned over by the fire. Officials suspect the fire may have been set to cover up the lab.

A second man, Richard Mortensen, may also be charged in connection with the drug lab and the deaths.

The "Los Angeles Times" reported that Jim Wattenburger, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry, saw the planes collide and was only yards from one of the planes when it crashed into the ground.

"One of the planes was coming right at us," Wattenburger said in a telephone interview with the newspaper. "His tail had been sliced off by the other plane. He nosed over and went into a death dive, headed right at me. As he was going into the dive he made eye contact with me and I made eye contact with him. He was mouthing words and I was praying for him."

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WASHINGTON, DC, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new guidelines to bar blood donations from individuals who spent significant amounts of time in the United Kingdom and Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.

The regulations are intended to lessen the chance of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), related to mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Both the human and animal forms of the disease are marked by a progressive and fatal neurological degeneration.

BSE has occurred in Europe and the United Kingdom, but not in the United States. Cases of the related human condition vCJD have appeared almost exclusively in Britain.

The means of transmission from animals to humans is not proven, but consumption of tainted meat is thought to be a route. The FDA says transmission of vCJD through blood transfusion is not known to have occurred, but research indicates it is possible.

Potential blood donors who traveled or lived in the United Kingdom have been restricted from donations since August 1999, but the proposed new guidelines would be broadened to include people who spent five or more years in France, received a blood transfusion in the United Kingdom from 1980 to the present, or served on U.S. military bases in Europe through the 1980s and 1990s.

On August 23, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services outlined a plan to strengthen efforts to prevent the entry of BSE into the United States, and to increase research into the disease.

FDA is accepting public comment on the proposed changes, and expects to issue a final decision by the end of this year. The new guidelines, if adopted, would be phased in through 2002.

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BOISE, Idaho, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Hecla Mining Company has reached an agreement in principle with several federal agencies over unresolved claims against the company for cleanup costs associated with mine waste contamination in the Coeur d'Alene Basin and two other sites in Idaho.

While the agreement is not final, it contains specific terms that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Hecla intend to include in a settlement document that they will now begin negotiating.

The agreement in principle calls for Hecla to make, at a minimum, fixed annual payments of $5 million for the first two years; $6 million for next eight years; and $4 million for the next 20 years. The agreement also calls for Helcla to provide a guarantee of the fixed payments for the first eight years and to make additional, variable payments over 30 years, in amounts tied to the company's financial performance.

The total amount paid by Hecla, which is expected to be in excess of $138 million and could be much more, will be allocated by government agencies to undertake cleanup or restoration activities at the Bunker Hill Superfund site and the surrounding Coeur d'Alene basin, as well as at the company's Stibnite and Grouse Creek mines in central Idaho.

The agreement is based on a balance between what is required for cleanup and what is possible given the economic reality of the mining industry in general, and Hecla in particular, said Chuck Findley, EPA's acting regional administrator in Seattle.

"The bottom line of this agreement is far short of what the actual cleanup costs will be," Findley said. "But due to metals markets and Hecla's current financial condition, we're faced with the reality of obtaining what we can in a way that enables Hecla to remain viable and producing a cleanup resource stream for the future. Our goal is to protect human health and the environment and we believe this agreement is a step in that direction."

A final settlement will be sent to a judge for approval this fall.

"The proposed settlement terms are the best outcome for the public, given the realistic limits on what Hecla can afford," said John Cruden, acting U.S. assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division of the Justice Department.

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LOS ANGELES, California, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - A federal court has upheld South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) rules requiring public agencies in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area to make a gradual transition to clean fueled trucks and buses to reduce human exposure to diesel soot.

The rules - adopted after a landmark SCAQMD study in 1999 showing that diesel soot is responsible for some 70 percent of the cancer risk from toxic air pollution in the region - require public agencies to purchase clean fueled trucks, buses, and other vehicles when replacing worn out ones or expanding their fleets.

The Engine Manufacturers Association challenged the rules, claiming the federal Clean Air Act pre-empted SCAQMD from imposing the requirements.

"The court's decision reaffirms the District's landmark fleet rules and allows us to continue to enforce the rules and reduce public exposure to toxic air pollution in the region," said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of SCAQMD. The requirements cover fleets of public transit buses, school buses, garbage trucks, street sweepers, shuttle buses and taxis serving airports, public works trucks, and other vehicles.

The trade association maintained that SCAQMD's fleet rules constituted a local vehicle emissions standard, which is prohibited under the federal Clean Air Act.

However, in her ruling, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California wrote that SCAQMD's fleet rules "regulate the purchasing and leasing of vehicles by fleet operators . . . The rules impose no new emissions requirements on manufacturers whatsoever, and therefore do not run afoul of Congress's purpose behind motor vehicle preemption: namely, the protection of manufacturers against having to build engines in compliance with a multiplicity of standards."

Cooper added that, "Rather than imposing any numerical control on new vehicles, the rules regulate the purchase of previously certified vehicles." She explained: "Where a state regulation does not compel manufacturers to meet a new emissions limit, but rather affects the purchase of vehicles, as the fleet rules do, that regulation is not a standard."

Therefore, the fleet rules do not violate the Clean Air Act.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the major metropolitan portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet have approved the purchase of 302 acres within the Ichetucknee Trace, which feeds into the world renowned Ichetucknee Springs.

The $10 million Columbia County purchase agreement names the Trust for Public Lands as the recipient of $1,250,000 from the sellers, Kirby Development, Inc./Kirby, to be used for acquiring additional properties within the Ichetucknee Trace, Florida Forever project.

Initial plans include restoring the damage and erosion caused by years of limerock mining. In addition to protecting the crystal clear springs, the purchase removes the threat of groundwater contamination by further mining. The remaining active mine must cease activities on September 2.

"People come from all over the world to visit this famous pristine spring, which is also a favorite recreation spot for Floridians," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretary David Struhs. "Now, they can be assured that their children and grandchildren to come will have the same opportunities to experience its natural beauty. The Governor and the Cabinet are to be commended for recognizing that the Ichetucknee is one of Florida's most valuable natural resources and must be protected. Today, it is undeniable that the Ichetucknee Spring and River are better off today than they were yesterday."

Environmentalists have long held that Anderson Columbia's Ichetucknee Trace Mine, which the state purchased last year, along with the Kirby mine posed the greatest threat of permanent damage to the Ichetucknee Spring and River. With the approval of the Kirby mine purchase, the dynamite blasting and rock drilling within the Ichetucknee Trace will stop forever.

The end result of this restoration will be a public park and fishing area that will be managed by Columbia County's Division of Recreation and Parks along with the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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HONOLULU, Hawaii, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - For the first time in 20 years, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) scientists will work with Hawaiian officials to gather recreational fishing data in Hawaii. Budget constraints have not allowed the agency to collect comprehensive marine recreational fishing data in that state since 1981.

"The Hawaii data is like a missing puzzle piece," said Dr. William Fox, director of the NMFS Office of Science and Technology. "With this new data, we will have a more complete picture of recreational fisheries in the U.S. Pacific. With the recent addition of the U.S. Caribbean, we are one step closer to achieving complete national coverage."

NMFS will be working closely with the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources to collect data from July 2001 through June 2002 using a new Hawaii Marine Recreational Fisheries Survey (HMRFS).

The HMRFS is a joint effort of the NMFS Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey program in coordination with ongoing state efforts to improve monitoring of Hawaii recreational fisheries. These data are essential for biological stock assessments and for understanding the biological impact and importance of marine angling in the state.

Using random telephone surveys, interviews of private and charter boat fishers, and telephone surveys targeting Hawaiian charter boat operators and captains, surveyors plan to collect data to provide federal and state fishery managers with the information they need to ensure quality marine recreational fishing resources in the state.

With the new data, experts will be able to generate estimates of recreational saltwater fishing effort, catch and participation on a bi-monthly basis. The information will allow marine recreational businesses and others within the recreational fishing industry to better plan for future saltwater anglers.

"Recreational fishing is an important activity to the residents of Hawaii, and also supports a significant tourism industry," said Mike Nelson, the Hawaiian project manager. "This will give all of us involved in Hawaii recreational fishing the opportunity to demonstrate its value and significant resource contribution."

More information is available at:

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MULBERRY, Florida, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - Florida has built a new water treatment system in record time to treat contaminated water from an abandoned phosphate plant

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) deputy secretary Allan Bedwell announced the start up of the treated process water pipeline system between the Mulberry Phosphate Facility and Cargill Fertilizer, Inc.'s nearby containment pond in Mulberry.

The new pipeline system, a result of cooperation among DEP, Cargill, IMC Phosphate, the Florida Phosphate Council, IT Corporation, Ardaman & Associates, CSX, and CF Industries was constructed in 35 days and is designed to transport partially treated process water from the Mulberry facility to a Cargill Fertilizer retention pond three miles east of Mulberry.

This process water, had it been allowed to remain at the now closed Mulberry facility, would have presented a serious environmental hazard. An uncontrolled release of this acidic water into surrounding streams and ditches that flow into Tampa Bay and the Alafia River would have harmed aquatic ecosystems.

The DEP and the phosphate industry came together in a combined effort to protect Florida's environment. Cargill Fertilizer agreed to take 300 million gallons of partially treated process water from Mulberry if it could be transported by pipeline to a retention pond.

In far less than the months such efforts often take, the pipeline was designed and bid upon, easements were negotiated and finalized, the pipeline was constructed and is now operational.

The pipeline will discharge more than 300 million gallons of the 3.5 billion gallons into a permitted surface pond owned by Cargill over the next 120 days. This multimillion gallon draw down will protect the surrounding area from a potential overflow of process water during the next rainy season.

If these 300 million gallons are not siphoned off, the rain could cause the holding tanks to overflow, affecting the groundwater, nearby rivers and Tampa Bay.

"We were not going to stand by and allow the difficulties facing Mulberry Corporation to create difficulties for the residents of the affected areas," said Bedwell. "We felt that it was vital to work with the phosphate industry and all those concerned to take immediate action to protect the environment."

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CHICAGO, Illinois, August 29, 2001 (ENS) - Low energy radio waves can help kill invasive zebra mussels which have caused millions of dollars in damage to boats and power plants in the United States, researchers said yesterday.

Zapping zebra mussels with these waves forces them to surrender essential minerals such as the calcium they need to maintain their shells, said Matthew Ryan, PhD, a chemist at Purdue University Calumet and principle investigator for the study.

Freshwater zebra mussels, not to be confused with saltwater mussels consumed by humans, suck in liters of water a day, absorbing large amounts of nutrients, as well as heavy metals and environmental toxins. They leave few nutrients behind for other lake dwellers such as crabs, crayfish and other species of freshwater mussels.

Zebra mussels lay their eggs near intake pipes of electric generating stations. Their dust sized larvae attach to the interior of the pipes, then grow to about the size of a lima bean, clogging the pipes to the point that they are unusable.

Zebra mussels immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-80s as stowaways on foreign ships. Although first discovered in the Great Lakes, they are now causing trouble in almost every body of fresh water from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to inland lakes in Wisconsin.

Chemicals such as chlorine and bromine have been used to remove zebra mussels. While they are effective, some ecologists are concerned that overuse of such chemicals might be polluting lakes and streams.

Another approach has been the use of molluscicides. But Ryan says they are not fully understood and may add to the growing list of environmental toxins.

The use of low energy radio waves appears promising. Ryan and coworkers exposed 1,100 zebra mussels in large fish tanks to low energy radio waves from a generator placed about a meter away.

All the exposed mussels died within 40 days. In the unexposed group, only 10 percent of the mussels died. Other exposed organisms like crabs, crayfish and other freshwater mussels were less affected, and fish were unharmed, Ryan said.

Moreover, the researchers measured a fourfold increase of calcium in the water compared to the unexposed group. "If you have an excess of calcium in the water, you know it can only be coming from the zebra mussels," said Ryan.

Ryan and coworkers plan field tests using low energy radio wave generators placed near intake pipes.

"We can't get the zebra mussels out of the Great Lakes, but we can certainly prevent them from settling into intake pipes," said Ryan.