AmeriScan: January 9, 2002

CHLORINATED WATER COULD HARM PREGNANT WOMEN

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - The first ever nationwide assessment of chlorination byproducts (CBPs) in drinking water shows that more than 100,000 women are at elevated risk of miscarriage or of having children with birth defects because of CBPs in tap water.

Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington DC, leads the list for the number of pregnancies at risk in individual communities or water systems, while Texas tops the list for number of pregnancies at risk statewide.

CBPs are formed when chlorine reacts with organic material in the water. Chlorine is added to tap water to kill microbes. But chlorine also reacts with organic matter, including sewage, animal waste, and soil and plant material from polluted runoff to form harmful CBPs.

At least 10 major peer reviewed epidemiological studies have shown elevated risks of birth defects and miscarriages for women drinking chlorinated tap water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that CBPs cause 9,300 cases of bladder cancer nationwide every year.

The report estimates that from 1996 though 2001, more than 16 million people in 1,258 communities were served water contaminated with CBPs for at least 12 months at levels higher than a new legal limit that took effect January 1. A handful of large cities put the greatest number of people at risk - Washington DC suburbs, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs in Pennsylvania, and San Francisco, California - but more than 1,100 small water systems also reported potentially dangerous contaminant levels.

The highest levels of CBPs, from five to 10 times the level allowed by the new standard, were reported by small rural drinking water utilities.

"Dirty source water going into the treatment plant means water contaminated with chlorination byproducts coming out of your tap," said Jane Houlihan, research director at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which released the study with the Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). "The solution is cleaning up our lakes, rivers and streams, not just bombarding our water supply with chlorine."

C.T. Howlett, executive director of the Chlorine Chemistry Council, said the industry group is concerned that the groups' report may "unnecessarily alarm the public and, in particular, pregnant women, about risks that are not supported by scientific evidence."

Quoting reports by the EPA and the World Health Organization which found "no compelling evidence to indicate a reproductive or developmental hazard due to exposure to chlorinated water," Howlett noted that his organization and other industry groups are helping the EPA to develop new regulations that will lower exposure to chlorine while still protecting drinking water supplies from disease causing organisms.

EWG and U.S. PIRG called for immediate action to clean up the lakes and rivers that provide tap water by reducing the soil erosion and the nutrient and animal waste runoff from farms that increase the need for chlorination. The groups also recommended a more ambitious effort to address the long term health threats of chlorination byproducts.

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NEW SOURCE REVIEW ROLLBACK FACES RESISTANCE

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - After reports that federal regulators are considering rolling back a key clean air rule, two U.S. Senators plan to hold hearings regarding whether relaxing the Clean Air Act's New Source Review rule would worsen air pollution.

Senator Jim Jeffords, the Vermont Independent who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Tuesday that their two panels early this year will convene a joint hearing on the pending decision.

The Senators are concerned about media reports that the Bush administration plans to relax the New Source Review (NSR) rule, which requires federal review of companies that add or modify a source of air emissions, such as power plants. The regulation applies to power plants built prior to the Clean Air Act which were exempted from the Act's standards until the facility shut down or the owners made "significant modifications" to the sites.

"The Bush Administration will make a terrible mistake if it turns a bad 'grandfather clause' into an even worse 'Santa clause' for the big energy companies with the dirtiest powerplants," said Leahy. "This rollback would boost power plant pollution, and New England and other downwind regions would reap the worst of it."

Several multimillion dollar enforcement actions against coal fired power plants believed to have violated the NSR rule are now pending in the courts. These include several initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Clinton administration, as well as by the attorneys general of Vermont, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

At a press conference on Tuesday, nine state attorneys general warned the Bush administration that they would take legal action against the federal government if it seeks to overturn the NRS rule.

"The idea behind New Source Review is one of constant improvement to protect the public's health and the environment," said Senator Jeffords. "Polluters are supposed to reduce their total emissions as time goes by, not increase them. The administration should consider itself put on notice that it will be held accountable."

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NRC WEBSITE BROADCASTS COMMISSION MEETINGS LIVE

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has deployed a new website that offers live broadcasts of NRC meetings and other information.

The site is intended to improve the public's access to information, make navigation of the site easier, and give greater visibility to frequently accessed information. Starting in mid-January, the site will provide real time broadcasts over the internet of NRC meetings that are open to the public.

The NRC shut down its website soon after the terrorist attacks on September 11 to review posted material to make sure there was no sensitive information available to those who might seek to harm the nation. As those reviews are completed, the agency is restoring information to the website to encourage public participation in nuclear regulation activities, the NRC says.

The new website includes information on the NRC's mission, activities regarding reactors, nuclear materials and radioactive waste, public meeting schedules, news releases, NRC regulations and rulemakings, and information on how to report a safety concern. The What's New page will be updated as more information is added to the website.

The new website will allow visitors worldwide to view public NRC meetings live, starting with a briefing on the status of nuclear materials safety on January 15 at 9:30 am Eastern Standard Time. All meetings can be viewed live or retrieved from the archives at: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/webcast-live.html

To observe NRC meetings, users will need a computer equipped with a sound card and speakers, access to the Internet, and Real Networks Player software; a free version is available for download from NRC's webpage. Detailed instructions for accessing the meetings are provided at the website, where viewers are encouraged to provide comments on the broadcasts.

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WYOMING NATIVE APPOINTED TO INTERIOR DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - Paul Hoffman has been appointed as deputy assistant secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife and parks.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton appointed Hoffman last week, describing him as "a skilled consensus builder." Hoffman is currently the executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyoming. In his new position, Hoffman will help oversee two Interior agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

"Paul Hoffman has a long and impressive record as a Wyoming community leader and conservationist," Norton said. "He is an avid outdoorsman who has worked to improve the conservation and the recreational benefits of parks and other natural areas in Wyoming."

Hoffman's appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Norton also announced the appointment of Craig Manson, a California Superior Court judge and former general counsel of the California Department of Fish and Game, to be assistant secretary of fish and wildlife and parks, a position which does need Senate confirmation.

Hoffman joined the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce in 1990 after working as state director for Vice President Richard Cheney, then a U.S. Representative, from 1985 to 1989. During that time, he helped initiate the bipartisan effort to designate Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River as Wyoming's first wild and scenic river.

In 1984, Hoffman cofounded the Park County Resouce Council, now known as the Northwest Wyoming Resource Council, a grassroots group dedicated to protecting the environment of northwest Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park.

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BP WILL NOT DRILL LIBERTY OIL FIELD

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - Oil company BP announced Monday that it is dropping plans to develop the controversial Liberty oil field in Alaska.

Conservation groups including Greenpeace have campaigned for years against BP's proposal to develop the Liberty oil field in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea, 40 miles to the east of where the Norsthstar oil field was developed.

Like Northstar, Liberty would have involved an artificial drilling island located six miles off Alaska's north coast, with a undersea pipeline carrying oil ashore to the Trans Alaska Pipeline. The oil would be shipped via pipeline to Valdez, Alaska, and then carried by oil tankers to the lower United States and Asia.

"BP's action today confirms what the American public has been saying all along: We do not support drilling for oil. We need to focus new energy developments on renewables like solar and wind," said Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace campaigner in Anchorage. "Plans by the Bush administration and some in Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will meet a similar fate."

Since 1997, Greenpeace has been campaigning around the globe to halt Northstar and Liberty, because they are new, or frontier, oil developments in the Beaufort Sea. Greenpeace has opposed this new oil frontier development on the grounds that it will increase global warming and delay the transition to renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind.

Alaska Governor Tony Knowles said he was disappointed by BP's decision to reduce its Alaska workforce and retreat from the development of frontier fields.

"While I concur with BP's confidence in existing fields, I disagree with their approach on frontier development," Knowles said. "BP remains a significant holder of exploration leases and the state will work with the company to fulfill its commitments that these areas are aggressively explored."

Knowles pledged to maintain a "full court press on development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," which he has called vital to the state's economic future.

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AMMONIA SPILL KILLED 1.3 MILLION FISH IN IOWA

LIVERMORE, Iowa, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - A ruptured pipeline carrying ammonia killed almost 1.3 million fish in Iowa waterways last month, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says.

The final count of dead fish from the spill in Kossuth and Humboldt Counties was estimated at 1.295 million fish, more than twice the amount of the previous high recorded for an accident related spill in Iowa.

The fish kill, caused by a ruptured pipeline of anhydrous ammonia near Whittemore on December 14, killed 1,156,066 fish along 31 miles of Lotts Creek valued at $118,431. Another 139,139 fish valued at $29,282 were killed along about 17 miles of the East Fork of the Des Moines River.

The total for the two waterbodies was 1,295,205 fish valued at $147,731.

The DNR has been data basing fish kill information since the 1980s, and the agency says the December accident was the highest total ever recorded. The previous high recorded for a manmade spill was in Winnebago and Kussuth Counties in 1996, when a manure spill killed about 586,000 fish.

A natural fish kill due to oxygen depletion occurred in 1989 at Coralville Reservoir, killing an estimated one million fish.

Despite the large fish loss, the incident at Lotts Creek and the East Fork of the Des Moines River could have been worse, DNR said. A dam constructed near the confluence of the creek and the East Fork prevented the contamination from going any farther downstream, reducing the ultimate toll on fish.

The DNR will seek restitution money for the fish killed from the appropriate responsible party, which the agency has not revealed. An investigation into the incident is continuing and further enforcement actions may be taken at a later time.

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MASSACHUSETTS AWARDS $326 MILLION FOR LOCAL WATER PROJECTS

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - More than 80 communities, wastewater districts and water suppliers will receive $326 million in low interest loans for 105 environmental infrastructure and planning improvement projects this fiscal year, Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift announced last week.

"These awards provide needed funding for projects that prevent water pollution and help build infrastructure so that communities may plan for the future," said Swift. "The low interest loans will allow communities to pay significantly less for these projects compared to those that are financed through conventional loans, and that is particularly important in these challenging fiscal times."

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) will provide $208 million in financing for 77 construction and planning projects aimed at eliminating combined sewer overflows, upgrading wastewater treatment facilities, extending sewers and developing long term wastewater management plans. An additional $118 million in loans from the Drinking Water SRF will finance 28 drinking water treatment, storage and distribution projects across the state.

"These projects continue the state's investment in our environment," said environmental affairs secretary Bob Durand. "The SRF program is the cornerstone of our efforts to ensure that we have clean water to drink and unpolluted waterways for recreation and wildlife habitat."

Massachusetts has awarded more than $2.3 billion in Clean Water SRF loans since the program's inception in 1991. The Drinking Water SRF, initiated in 1999, has financed more than $460 million in projects.

"The SRF programs offer municipalities the resources they need to ensure a clean, abundant supply of water and provide responsible wastewater management," said state Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Lauren Liss. "These programs are a vital part of our mission to protect and preserve the environment, public health and our quality of life."

Annual grants from the federal government provide seed money for the Massachusetts SRF programs. Matching state funds leverage the federal contribution to make it possible for qualifying municipalities, wastewater districts and water suppliers to borrow money at two percent interest for a variety of environmental infrastructure projects.

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NOMINATE NEW ENGLAND ECO-HEROES FOR EPA AWARDS

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 9, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New England office is seeking nominations for its 2002 Merit Awards.

The awards, which recognize environmental achievement by individuals, businesses, organizations and state and local governments in the six state region, have been given out each year since the EPA was created in 1970. Past recipients have included scientists, community activists, business representatives, public officials and other individuals committed to preserving the environment.

The deadline for nominations this year is January 18.

"This awards program is a great way to recognize New Englanders who are going above and beyond to protect the environment," said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "The awards celebrate individual, businesses and nonprofits that are models for all of us in our efforts to improve our communities."

An independent EPA panel will select the winners based on the following criteria: promotion of innovative ideas, techniques or technologies; ability to address an environmental problem or need; accomplishment of stated goals; ability of the project to be replicated or widely shared; collaboration with others; clarity and effectiveness of the presentation and long term effects on the environment.

The awards are given in four categories: individual; business, industry, trade and professional organizations; local, state or federal government; and environmental, community or nonprofit organization.

Nomination forms can also be downloaded at: http://www.epa.gov/region01/ra/ema/index.html. A list of last years environmental merit award winners is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region01/ra/ema/recipients.html