AmeriScan: January 2, 2002


LOS ANGELES, California, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - A $340 million settlement between 161 companies and the state of California will fund the final cleanup of the 190 acre Operating Industries Inc. landfill in Monterey Park in Los Angeles County, California.

The settlement is the eighth since 1986 aimed at cleaning up the Superfund listed site. To date, settlements between all involved parties have totaled more than $600 million.

"Old landfill sites are a problem both in terms of their harm to the environment and the cost of cleaning up and containing them," said Jane Diamond, acting director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund in the Pacific Southwest. "Today's settlement is another important step bringing in needed funds to this ongoing clean up project."

The Operating Industries, Inc. landfill site is located approximately 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The Pomona Freeway divides the 190-acre site into two parcels. The landfill operated from 1948 to 1984 and accepted industrial and municipal wastes. More than 12 years of non-stop construction have nearly contained the contamination, the EPA says.

When completed, the cleanup will protect human health and the environment from the release and migration of contaminants from the landfill. A leachate treatment system, landfill gas collection system and a landfill cover have been constructed. Additional systems will treat landfill liquids collected from extraction wells on site.

The United States has entered into seven prior consent decrees and the EPA has issued two unilateral orders for site cleanup. This settlement reserves some remaining items of clean up work for which the EPA expects to issue orders to responsible parties who have yet to contribute to the cleanup.

"This exceptional settlement will provide the necessary money and work commitments to assure the full implementation of the EPA remedy for the Operating Industries Site," said acting assistant attorney general John Cruden. "This is a tribute to the hard work of all of the parties involved, and the willingness of the companies to accept responsibility and assure the protection of human health and the environment."

* * *


LOS ANGELES, California, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - Exposure to two common air pollutants may increase the chance that a pregnant woman will give birth to a child with certain heart defects.

A study by researchers at the University of California - Los Angeles provides the first compelling evidence that air pollution may play a role in causing some birth defects.

Pregnant Los Angeles area women living in regions with higher levels of ozone and carbon monoxide pollution were as much as three times as likely to give birth to children who suffered from serious heart defects, shows the study, published in the January 1 edition of the "American Journal of Epidemiology."

Researchers from the UCLA School of Public Health and the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program found the risk for the birth defects increased among women exposed to elevated amounts of the pollutants in the second month of their pregnancy, a period when the heart and other organs begin developing.

"The greater a woman's exposure to one of these two pollutants in the critical second month of pregnancy, the greater the chance that her child would have one of these serious cardiac birth defects," said Beate Ritz, a UCLA epidemiologist who headed the study. "More research needs to be done, but these results present the first compelling evidence that air pollution may play a role in causing some birth defects."

Ritz said she was surprised that the study found an effect at the pollution levels researchers studied.

"These findings show that there are more health problems caused by air pollution than solely asthma and other respiratory illnesses," Ritz said. "There seems to be something in the air that can harm developing fetuses."

The study also suggests that despite a significant decrease in urban air pollution across the nation, there may be pollution problems that are not yet understood.

"There has been a big reduction in the levels of criteria air pollutants like ozone and carbon monoxide over the years," Ritz said. "But there still may be air toxics and fine particles or other secondary pollutants that occur alongside carbon monoxide and ozone, but which we don't measure routinely or know about, and those things may pose health risks we don't yet understand."

Researchers conducted the study by matching air pollution monitoring information collected by regional air quality officials with information from the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program.

"The birth defects registry is an exquisite investigational tool. Because of this resource we are able to intensify the search for causes of birth defects," said John Harris, chief of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program. "One in 33 babies in the United States is born with a serious birth defect - the leading cause of infant death. This kind of research is not a luxury. Studies like this one on air pollution give us critical leads to follow up with further research."

* * *


ALBANY, New York, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - New York State plans to spend $4.2 million in Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act funds to help purchase 163 new clean fueled buses throughout the state.

The $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act was proposed by Governor Pataki and approved by voters in November 1996. It provides $230 million for clean air projects. To date, $25 million has been committed to clean fuel buses.

The latest round of the Bond Acts Clean Fueled Bus Program will assist in purchasing 35 hybrid-electric buses and 128 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that will be used in New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Long Island.

"New York State continues to play a leadership role in promoting the use of clean energy and alternative fuel vehicles," said Governor George Pataki. "This Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act funding will help protect New Yorks environment, reduce pollution in urban areas and provide significant economic benefits for a number of upstate manufacturers."

To date, the Clean Fueled Bus program has provided almost $25 million to purchase 538 buses throughout the state. These buses are reducing the transportation sectors reliance on petroleum products by replacing the use of more than 85 million gallons of diesel fuel, while reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 10,000 tons and particulate matter emissions by almost 600 tons over the lives of the buses.

Studies have demonstrated that these pollutants contribute to smog formation and respiratory ailments.

"The environmental and public health benefits of these buses are tremendous," said New York State Energy Research and Development Authority chair Vincent DeIorio. "But what is really encouraging, is how they help us achieve the Governor's mission of using technology to preserve the environment, while creating economic development opportunities."

Recipients of the new buses will include:

* * *


BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - A female lion at a zoo in Boston was killed in November by a newly acquired male lion - within minutes of their introduction.

The Franklin Park Zoo did not publicize the death of the African lioness, named Binti Mafuta, until the "Boston Globe" published an account of the incident on Tuesday. Zoo officials said that they chose not to announce the accident because it came as the zoo fought to retain crucial state funding.

Three valuable animals have died or been killed at the Franklin Park Zoo in the past four years, including Binti Mafuta's mate Ndugu, who died in March 2001 while under general anesthesia for a routine physical. Four years ago, a healthy gorilla also died under anesthesia, the "Globe" reported.

To replace Ndugu, the zoo acquired two new male lions, Cliff and Chris, from Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, Florida. Acting zoo president John Linehan said zoo officials thought Binti Mafuta would not encourage aggression between the two young males, because she had been spayed.

The two male lions seemed "well bonded and sociable," said a report by Linehan. Zookeepers spent a week gradually introducing the males to the female's scent, sight and voice.

"We were pleased with the behavior we had seen between Cliff and the female," the report said. "It made sense to introduce them first."

On November 16, Cliff and Binto Mafuta were released in the same holding yard, where Cliff pursued the female and "went for a bite," the report says.

Within four minutes, Cliff had suffocated Binti Mafuta. Zoo staff used air horns, high pressure water hoses, dart guns, pepper spray and fire extinguishers to try to drive Cliff away, but were unsuccessful.

"I've never seen anything like it, just the overwhelming instinct, the awesome display of primal force," Linehan told the "Boston Globe." "He just busted her windpipe. There were a lot of tears shed."

The Franklin Park Zoo said the incident was an embarrassment to a facility fighting to restore a 25 percent funding cut ordered by state legislators.

"We didn't want to muddy the waters with another story," said Linehan. "It gives the feeling that things are not going well."

Zoo spokeswoman Jean Bochnowski said that it is a policy of Zoo New England, the nonprofit group that runs both local zoos, not to publicize births, deaths and new animal acquisitions.

"We didn't feel it had a particularly newsworthy value to it," Bochnowski told the "Globe." "We have no interest in hiding information. Anyone who came to the zoo and asked about the status of the female lion was told exactly what happened."

* * *


MADISON, Wisconsin, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - Wisconsin environmental officials have dropped proposed regulations which would have required farmers to leave at least a 10 foot buffer between a stream or lake and their fields.

The item was dropped from proposed runoff control rules to avoid losing federal funds for such buffers strips and other farming conservation practices and to focus limited state dollars on more effective measures, state water quality officials say.

Instead, farmers can continue to receive state funding to voluntarily install buffers strips of at least 35 feet - the minimum width research suggests is needed to trap phosphorus and sediment from fields, the officials say.

"The federal government has informed us that if we put mandatory buffers in place we would be ineligible for part of the $200 million in federal funding available through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program," said Al Shea, who leads the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' watershed management bureau. "We didn't want to put anything in place that would jeopardize that critical federal funding for buffer strips."

Under an agreement which Governor Scott McCallum signed last October with the federal government, Wisconsin will receive $200 million in federal funds and add in $40 million of state funds for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). That program will pay landowners to install buffers or filter strips to keep soil from washing or blowing into lakes or streams.

Shea said water quality officials also removed the mandatory buffer strips from the proposed polluted runoff rules to focus limited state dollars on the most effective measures for controlling polluted farm runoff.

"Most research suggests that to start getting the benefits of filtering out phosphorus and sediment running off farm fields, you need to have a minimum buffer of 35 feet," instead of the 10 feet mandated by Wisconsin's proposed rules, Shea said.

The proposed runoff rules, advanced by agricultural interests, would have made buffer strips mandatory and allowed buffers of 10 and 20 feet in addition to 35 feet. Farmers would have been paid to install the strips and maintain them, and offered an annual amount to cover potential losses incurred by not raising crops on those strips of land.

Traditional conservation methods, including contour farming, no tillage farming and leaving corn stalks and other crop residue on the land, can be cheaper and more effective per acre than a narrow buffer in reducing the amount of soil and fertilizer running off from fields, Shea said.

"We anticipate tens of thousands of acres of buffers being installed in the next five years whether the buffers are made mandatory or not," Shea said. "Given the state budget picture and the availability of CREP funding for buffer strips, we think we should focus the limited state dollars available on other cost- effective ways of reducing runoff from farm fields."

* * *


ASHLAND, Oregon, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - Roadless areas in the 10 million acre Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northwest California provide essential habitat for rare and threatened species, shows a study in the journal "Conservation Biology."

The research, which documents old growth forests and salmon spawning areas in the roadless areas, contradicts published opinions that these regions contain little more than "rock and ice." A similar analysis will soon be available for the other national forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The study comes a week after the U.S. Forest Service issued a directive that weakens a Clinton administration rule banning logging and most new road building in roadless areas of national forests. Among other things, the changes will remove protections for smaller roadless areas.

"We found that roadless areas are much more valuable for biodiversity than previously thought," said Dr. Dominick DellaSala, director of World Wildlife Fund's Klamath-Siskiyou program. "Our research shows that even roadless areas as small as 1,000 acres can be a 'lifeboat' for rare species."

The Siskiyou Mountains contain the most diverse temperate conifer forests in the world, as many as 154 threatened species, and the largest block of unprotected roadless areas along the Pacific Coast between the Olympic Mountains and Mexico.

"Our study found that smaller roadless areas can contain critically important habitat for wildlife," said Dr. James Strittholt, executive director of the Conservation Biology Institute in Corvallis and co-author of the study. "Small roadless areas are often the corridors fish and wildlife use to move across landscapes that are otherwise heavily roaded and fragmented."

More than two-thirds of the U.S. national forest system are criss-crossed by 380,000 miles of roads. The Klamath-Siskiyou region includes about 30,000 miles of roads.

* * *


BOULDER, Colorado, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - Coors Brewing Company has agreed to build a half-million dollar wetlands project to help filter discharge from its Golden, Colorado brewery.

The project is part of a settlement between the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DoW) and Coors over an accidental beer spill into Clear Creek in 2000.

The artificial wetlands project could become a model for wetlands designed to improve water quality and wildlife habitat, DoW said.

Coors will design, build, manage and help evaluate the new wetland for at least two years. The wetland will be located at the point where treated wastewater is released from the brewery into Clear Creek.

Coors will monitor the wetland to determine its effectiveness and ability to improve water quality, and provide information to state biologists. That information could be made available for use in the design of future wetlands projects in other areas.

After evaluating the pilot wetlands with Division biologists, Coors will also determine if the wetland should be maintained and expanded as part of the company's wastewater treatment facility.

Coors has also agreed to provide thousands of fish for stocking in Denver area waters to improve urban fishing opportunities. The Division and Coors will decide on the number and species of fish next year.

The total value of the settlement to Colorado is expected to be at least $500,000, and could be much higher if the constructed wetlands project proves to be a model for efforts by others beyond the scope of the Coors pilot.

"We're pleased with this agreement, especially the opportunity to work with Coors on a wetlands project that has the potential to improve stream quality for Clear Creek and other streams," said DoW director Russ George. "The wetlands project has the potential to benefit Colorado's waterways and fisheries for decades to come. In addition, this agreement will provide more fish for urban waters by next year."

In August 2000, high gravity beer was released from the brewery to the Coors wastewater treatment facility and then into Clear Creek, removing oxygen from the stream and killing thousands of fish. DoW biologists determined that the spill had a short term impact on Clear Creek and did not cause permanent harm.

"As a Colorado company with roots in this state, we believe this agreement will benefit Colorado's natural resources, our company and Coloradans," said John Schallenkamp, Coors vice-president of Engineering and Technical Services. "Coors recognizes the importance of wetlands to the Division, particularly because of the wildlife habitat they provide and because of environmental benefits associated with the possible use of constructed wetlands in place of alternative treatments of wastewater effluent."