AmeriScan: May 29, 2003

* * *

Solar Storm Will Be Felt on Earth Friday

BOULDER, Colorado, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - A solar flare traveling towards Earth at a speed of three million miles per hour, is expected to impact the Earth’s magnetic field sometime between 2 to 8 am EDT on Friday, according to the Space Environment Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder.

The storm is expected to reach strong to severe levels (G-3 to G-4) on the NOAA Space Weather Scales, which can adversely affect satellite operations in Earth orbit and power grids on the Earth's surface.

A complex sunspot region near the center of the sun has produced three major flares in the last 48 hours, NOAA says. A strong solar wind was observed in response to the first two events. The three Coronal Mass Ejections associated with the flares ejected billions of tons of plasma and charged particles into space.

The third coronal mass ejection is the one presently heading towards Earth.

A solar radiation storm is also in progress in association with the flare activity, and all flares reached R-3 on the NOAA radio blackout scale.

In addition, there is a good chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis in the mid-latitudes after midnight on May 30, NOAA says.

The Space Environment Center website is online at:

* * *

Brownfields Cleanup New Priority at Federal Sites

WASHINGTON, DC, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - In an agreement signed today in Washington with the federal agency responsible for purchasing the buildings, products, technology, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) committed itself to provide as much as $850 million over the next five years to clean up brownfield sites.

The EPA will make the funds available through assessments, cleanups, revolving loan funds, job training, as well as state and tribal grants.

The term brownfield site means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Every acre of reclaimed brownfields saves 4.5 acres of green space, such as park and recreation areas, the EPA says.

Marianne Lamont Horinko, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and Paul Chistolini, General Service Administration's (GSA) deputy commissioner for public building service, signed the memorandum of understanding at a ceremony at the National Press Club.

The EPA and the GSA are members of the Brownfields National Partnership, which last year brought together 28 organizations, including more than 20 federal agencies, to expand the national movement to revitalize abandoned under utilized industrial and commercial facilities.

The GSA is committed to jointly reviewing federal real property holdings to identify potential brownfields candidates and to expedite their cleanup, redevelopment and reuse.

In January 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, which authorizes up to $250 million a year for Brownfields grants.

On May 16, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman awarded the first Brownfields Job Training grants under the new law. The EPA is awarding 10 communities in seven states $200,000 each to provide environmental job training at brownfields sites.

Since the brownfields program began in 1995, it has awarded 645 grants to assess more than 4,000 brownfields sites, leveraged more than $4.6 billion in private investments, and helped create more than 20,000 jobs. For more information, go to:

* * *

High Mercury Levels Found in Rain

WASHINGTON, DC, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - Rain falling over 12 eastern states has been found to contain high levels of mercury that exceed federal safe standards for people and wildlife, according to a new National Wildlife Federation report.

The paper, titled "Cycle of Harm: Mercury's Pathway from Rain to Fish in the Environment," found that mercury contamination levels in rain and snow falling over Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas consistently exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's safe standards for mercury in surface water.

"We usually think of rain as pure and clean," said Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "But this report reveals that the rain falling over these states contains ominous levels of mercury and threatens the health of people and wildlife."

Mercury attacks the brain and nervous system and can be dangerous to sport fishermen, subsistence anglers, Native Americans and anyone who eats freshwater fish. Health officials in 44 states have issued advisories warning people to restrict or entirely avoid eating fish caught in thousands of inland lakes and streams.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 women of childbearing age has blood mercury levels that exceed the federal safe level for protection of the fetus. This translates into approximately 320,000 babies born annually in the United States at risk for neuro developmental delays.

In wildlife, mercury inhibits reproduction among species such as rainbow trout, zebra fish, mallard and American black ducks, loons and terns, otters and mink.

Air pollution is considered the major cause of mercury in lakes and streams. Eighty five percent of all mercury pollution is created by coal fired power plants and municipal medical waste incinerators that send mercury into the air, where it falls back to Earth as rain or snow, according to the Mercury Policy Project, a nongovernmental organization formed in 1998 to raise awareness about the threat of mercury contamination.

In addition to calling for nationwide controls on mercury emissions from coal fired power plants and the elimination of mercury in products and manufacturing, the report recommends specific actions each state can take to safeguard the health of people and wildlife.

To read the full report, visit:

* * *

Indian Waste Mercury Met by Activists in New York

NEW YORK, New York, May 29, 2003 (ENS) – A ship carrying 290 metric tons of waste containing toxic mercury that contaminated a community in India was greeted upon its arrival today into New York harbor by demands that the mercury be permanently stored and not recycled into the global marketplace.

The waste is an assortment of glass contaminated with mercury, effluent sludge, broken thermometers and metallic mercury collected from a thermometer factory owned by the Unilever subsidiary, Hindustan Lever Limited located in the town of Kodaikanal in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.

The waste is headed for Hellertown, Pennsylvania where it is expected to be recycled by Bethlehem Apparatus Company, the world’s largest mercury recycling facility. Unless other arrangements are made, environmentalists warn, the recycled mercury will be offered for sale on the open market.

An activist coalition composed of Greenpeace, Ban Mercury Working Group, and Clean Air Council, have asked Unilever for a meeting to negotiate a permanent retirement of the mercury.

“It will be a travesty of environmental justice if the same toxic mercury waste that damaged the people and the environment in India merely gets recycled and then sold back to India or other developing countries, where it will continue its cycle of poisoning developing countries again,” said Ravi Agarwal, of Toxics Link India.

Exposure to mercury occurs from breathing contaminated air, ingesting contaminated water and food, and having dental and medical treatments. The U.S. federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says, "Mercury, at high levels, may damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus."

“Unilever should purge its mercury double standard on developing countries like India, considering that mercury containing products have been banned for many years in the Netherlands, Unilever's home state,” said Eco Matser, toxic campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands.

There is mounting international concern over the sale of recycled mercury flooding the world market. Environmental groups contend that mercury should be made obsolete due to its severe toxicity. But the recycled mercury "will be dumped into the world market, ushering in cheaper mercury prices, which will increase further mercury use and subsequent harmful releases."

Of particular concern to environmentalists is the expected closing of 10 mercury cell chloralkali plants in the United States over the next decade, and the mandatory dismantling of 47 such plants in Europe by 2007. These plants use mercury in their production process. The dismantling will free up 15,000 metric tons of mercury for resale in Europe and from 1,500 to 2,500 metric tons in the United States.

Last February, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) made a formal decision that there is sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts of mercury that warrant further international action to reduce the risks to human health and the environment from the release of mercury to the environment.

Among the impacts of concern is the widespread and increasing contamination of the world’s fish stocks – a major global protein source for human populations.

* * *

General Electric Agrees to Design Hudson River Cleanup

NEW YORK, New York, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken another step toward cleaning up PCB contaminated sediment in the Hudson River by reaching a draft agreement with the General Electric Company (GE) to perform the project design work required before dredging can begin.

Under the agreement, embodied in a draft Administrative Order on Consent, GE will develop detailed approaches to removing sediment from the river bottom, transporting and disposing of the material, and replacing the habitat in dredged areas.

The company is also agreeing to pay up to $28 million as a partial reimbursement of EPA's past and future costs associated with the dredging project.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, are a class of 209 industrial chemicals that are persistent environmental contaminants, considered probably human carcinogens. These chemicals were once used widely by industries, like General Electric, as insulating fluid in capacitors, transformers and electrical systems.

From 1947 to 1977, two General Electric plants, at Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, New York, discharged from 500,000 to 1.5 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River. Over 300,000 pounds remain concentrated in bottom sediments of the river today.

"GE's agreement to move forward with the design work is another positive sign that we are on the path toward a healthy Hudson River," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane Kenny. "EPA is optimistic that, working together with GE, we will complete work on this historic project safely and on schedule."

The tentative agreement released Wednesday incorporates draft work plans for the design of the dredging work, baseline monitoring, a cultural and archaeological resources assessment and a habitat delineation and assessment program.

The work plans are being circulated for public review and input. The agreement remains in draft to give the public an opportunity to review the detailed work plans and for EPA to consider public input on them.

Under the agreement, GE is responsible for designing a dredging project that will be conducted over a six year period, in two phases, consistent with the February 2002 Record of Decision for the project and the engineering performance standards developed by EPA to ensure that the dredging is done safely and effectively.

The design work is expected to take three years to complete and will be performed and paid for by GE with oversight by EPA and New York State. EPA anticipates that the design work will be phased so that dredging can begin in spring 2006.

* * *

Pennsylvania Develops Wind Power Capability

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Kathleen McGinty, who headed the White House Office of Environmental Quality in the Clinton administration, today offered the support of her office to a wind energy engineering facility that recently relocated from Delaware to Pennsylvania.

McGinty joined clean energy advocates, business leaders, federal and local elected officials to tour the office of AdvanTek International LLC in Boothwyn, Delaware County, where the firm designs and develops its wind turbine rotors. The company, which employs 13 engineers and technical staff, will play a critical role in doubling the land area for wind development in Pennsylvania and improving the efficiency of wind turbines.

"Fostering the development of companies like AdvanTek not only helps to cut pollution and improve environmental quality, but it also gives Pennsylvania a commanding edge in the renewable energy market, allowing for more opportunities in technology development and job growth," said McGinty.

In order for wind power to continue to grow, technologies must be developed to improve turbine power output in lower speed winds that are more common that high speed winds.

AdvanTek's Instantaneous Power ControlT (IPCT) technology is a new form of rotor blade and control system that reduces the cost of wind energy by capturing more power at lower wind speeds.

"IPCT is a game changing technology that will significantly decrease the cost of wind energy production, reduce the need for federal and state subsidies, shorten the distance between supply and demand, and strengthen our energy independence and security," said AdvanTek President Steven Kopf.

AdvanTek will employ an advanced wind turbine test center to demonstrate the IPCT rotor and control technology that can increase the annual output of utility scale turbines by as much as 25 percent.

The technology offers the potential to improve the net present value of a wind farm by more than 50 percent, and more than double the land area available for wind development in Pennsylvania.

"AdvanTek is another example of the public-private partnership represented here today that has made wind energy an economic force in Pennsylvania, providing emission free power to the region," said Thurman Brendlinger, director of the Clean Air Council's Pennsylvania Wind Campaign, which cosponsored AdvanTek's official opening ceremony.

Wind farms in Pennsylvania today produce 35 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 10,000 homes. Another 110 megawatts of wind power is coming on line within the next year.

Demand for clean electricity continues to grow. Recently, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, Swarthmore Borough, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania all increased their commitments to wind power by purchasing New Wind Energy from Community Energy, a Delaware County renewable energy marketing company.

* * *

Lake Erie Dredging Projects Get $80,000

COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - Recreational boaters will notice improved waterway navigation along four Lake Erie sites due to more than $480,000 in grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The funds will be used for dredging activities in Ashtabula, Lake, Lorain and Ottawa counties.

The largest grant award is $198,000 for the City of Mentor in Lake County for dredging within the waters of the Mentor Lagoons Marina.

A $180,000 grant was awarded to the Conneaut Port Authority in Ashtabula County for maintenance dredging of recreational boating channels located in Conneaut Harbor.

A $62,250 grant was awarded to Carroll Township in Ottawa County for traditional dredging at the entrance of the Toussaint River as it joins with Lake Erie.

And a grant of more than $40,000 was awarded to the Lorain Port Authority in Lorain County for dredging in the east basin of Lorain Harbor.

The ODNR Division of Watercraft administers the Recreation Harbor Evaluation Program grants. The grants program is funded through the Ohio Waterways Safety Fund, which consists of watercraft registration and titling fees and a percentage of the state gasoline sales tax.

Additional information on recreational boating in Ohio and ODNR grant programs is available at:

* * *

Great Spots to Watch Birds Without Leaving Your Seat

NEW YORK, New York, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - Birds wind up on the strangest perches, and not always in remote places. Wild turkeys roam Central Park in midtown Manhattan. Hummingbirds and herons are seen near downtown Denver, Colorado, and loons linger along Cleveland's lakefront.

The National Audubon Society has released its list of the 15 most accessible Important Bird Areas to remind people that birdwatching exists on many levels that do not include getting up before the crack of dawn in a remote wilderness area.

Besides providing passive birdwatching experiences inside cities, urban perches are important stops for migratory birds on their lengthy trips.

"Important Bird Areas provide vital homes, nesting areas and rest stops for migratory birds all across the United States," said Frank Gill, Audubon senior vice president of science. "While many areas are in places that can't be visited, many are easily accessible to people in and around cities."

Audubon's Important Bird Areas program identifies places that are home to a significant number of birds, including species that are endangered or threatened. It also lists hundreds of species of special concern, including many birds on the Audubon WatchList of birds in decline or at special conservation risk.

Besides Denver, New York and Cleveland, the list includes urban areas like Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, the C&O Canal National Historic Park in Washington, DC, and Rock Creek Park in Rockville, Maryland.

More than 1,500 Important Bird Areas have been identified by Audubon and its partners in 46 states. Once an area is classified, Audubon works with BirdLife International and local community partners to aid in restoration and protection efforts.

The American Birding Association reminds birdwatchers to respect wildlife and habitat by avoiding activities that may disturb or stress birds. Do not expose them to danger during observation, and limit or avoid using recordings to attract birds. Stay back from nests, roosts and feeding sites.

The 15 most visitable Important Bird Areas, in alphabetical order are:

* * *