Tag Archive for 'EPA'

Politics, profits delay action on arsenic in drinking water

Photo retrieved from: www.scpr.org

“Arsenic is nearly synonymous with poison. But most people don’t realize that they consume small amounts of it in the food they eat and the water they drink.

Recent research suggests even small levels of arsenic may be harmful. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been prepared to say since 2008 that arsenic is 17 times more toxic as a carcinogen than the agency now reports.

Women are especially vulnerable. EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.

The EPA, however, hasn’t been able to make its findings official, an action that could trigger stricter drinking water standards. The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. The paragraph essentially ordered the EPA to halt its evaluation of arsenic and hand over its work to the National Academy of Sciences.

The congressman, Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said he was concerned that small communities couldn’t meet tougher drinking water standards and questioned the EPA’s ability to do science. But a lobbyist for two pesticide companies acknowledged to CPI that he was among those who asked for the delay. As a direct result of the delay, a weed killer the EPA was going to ban at the end of 2013 remains on the market.”

Read more: Southern California Public Radio


States move to limit EPA’s clean water authority

Photo retrieved from: www.msnbc.com

“Florida, Texas and Alaska are nowhere near the Chesapeake Bay. But that hasn’t stopped those states from trying to intervene in the EPA’s cleanup of the mid-Atlantic estuary.

Earlier this month, the attorneys general from those states and 18 others filed an amicus brief [PDF] on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is suing to limit the extent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. The Farm Bureau argues that the EPA exceeded its authority in regulating the amount of pollutants flowing into the bay, which the federal agency says is severely contaminated.

At question is how far the EPA can go in setting limits to ”the maximum amount of pollution a body of water can receive and still meet state water quality standards.” According to the Farm Bureau, the EPA exceeded its legal authority by trying to determine how much individual polluters would have to cut back, instead of just setting an overall so-called “Total Maximum Daily Load” and allowing the states to determine how it would be parceled out.

“These are uniquely local decisions that should be made by local governments,” said Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman in a statement. “That is why this power is specifically withheld from EPA in the Clean Water Act.”

The amicus brief, which was signed by 18 Republican attorneys general and three Democrats, seconds this line of argument. Although all but one of the 21 signatories hail from states which do not border the Chesapeake Bay, they say that the case has national implications. A legal regime which gives the EPA the power to closely regulate pollution in the bay could give it equivalent power in contaminated bodies of water across the United States.”

Read more: MSNBC


What Is Farm Runoff Doing To The Water? Scientists Wade In

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“America’s hugely productive food system is one of its success stories. The nation will export a projected $139.5 billion in agricultural products this fiscal year alone. It’s an industry that supports “more than 1 million jobs,” according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

But all that productivity has taken a toll on the environment, especially rivers and lakes: Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientists want to get a better sense of how all that agricultural runoff is affecting water quality. So this summer, three dozen scientists from the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey are wading into some 100 streams, from Ohio to Nebraska. Their mission: Test for hundreds of pesticides and nutrients used in farming, and check for possible effects on what’s living in the streams.

This is the first time scientists have tested for so many chemicals in a whole region’s waters or considered the impact of agricultural runoff on fish, frogs, bugs and algae at this scale. The study is costing the USGS $6 million and the EPA $570,000.”

Read more: NPR


Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

“You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment.” “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

Read more: Alternet


Embracing the Urban-Nature Ethic

Photo retrieved from: www.counterpunch.org

“The EPA in July 2010 declared the LA River navigable, giving it the full protection of the Clean Water Act.

“This is a watershed as important as any other,” said the EPA’s Lisa Jackson, as she stood in front of Compton Creek, an almost destroyed tributary to the LA River. “So we are going to build a federal partnership to empower communities like yours … We want the LA River to demonstrate how urban waterways across the country can serve as assets in building stronger neighborhoods, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs.”

Now the entire 834-square-mile LA River watershed might be given the attention it deserves after nearly a century of neglect and abuse. While a place like Ballona Wetlands, which is one of the most intact wetlands in the area, has long been given the respect it rightly deserve — fending off development but not always coming out victorious — the LA River is primed for revival.


In 2004 voters in Los Angeles passed Proposition O, which authorized the City of LA to issue a series of general obligation bonds of up to $500 million for clean water projects in the city. The main goal of the measure was to help the City meet clean water requirements known as TMDLs (Trash Total Maximum Daily Load), which were set by originally passed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. As a result, there have been many numerous public works projects funded and more to come.”

Read more: Counter Punch


US Judge Strikes Down EPA Water Rules For Mines

Photo retrieved from: www.washingtonindependent.com

“The Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its powers by setting up water-quality criteria for coal mining operations in Appalachia, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington ruled that the EPA infringed on the authority given to state regulators by federal clean- water and surface-mining laws. A coal mining industry coalition sued the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the lawsuit was joined by West Virginia and Kentucky.

The ruling represents the latest setback to the Obama administration’s attempts to crack down on mountaintop removal coal mining.

Last year, the EPA revised standards issued in April 2010 by tightening guidelines on the practice of dumping waste from surface mine blasting into Appalachian valley waterways. Critics say that practice destroys the environment. The mining industry defends it as an efficient way to produce cheap power and employ thousands in well-paying jobs.

The EPA had written that the fundamental premise of its new guidelines was that “no discharge of dredged or fill material may be permitted” under any of three conditions: if the nation’s waters would be “significantly degraded”; if it causes or contributes to violations of a state’s water quality standard; or” “if a practicable alternative exists that is less damaging to the aquatic environment.”

Read more: NPR


EPA Sued Over Pollution Petition

Photo retrieved from: www.treehugger.com

“Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging the agency failed to approve a petition to lower pollution into the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The groups claim that excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution into these waters have resulted in the largest North American “dead zone.”

Gulf Restoration Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Iowa Environmental Council, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. filed the lawsuit on March 13 in federal court in New Orleans.

The lawsuit concerns the EPA’s July 29, 2011, denial of a 2008 petition submitted pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The petition asked for revised or new state water quality standards and total maximum loads to address excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the waters of the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, the excessive nutrient pollution in the waters causes or contributes to a massive low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf and extensive water quality degradation.”

Read more: Legal Newsline

Fracking Could Cause a New Global Water Crisis

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Numerous communities where fracking has occurred in the U.S. have had their public water resources contaminated as a result of fracking. One community the report highlights is Dimock, Pennsylvania:

In 2009, Pennsylvania regulators ordered the Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease all fracking in Susquehanna County after three spills at one well within a week polluted a wetland and caused a fishkill in a local creek. The spills leaked 8,420 gallons of fracking fluid containing a Halliburton-manufactured lubricant that is a potential carcinogen. Fracking had so polluted water wells that some families could no longer drink from their taps. Pennsylvania fined Cabot more than $240,000, but it cost more than $10 million to transport safe water to the affected homeowners. In December 2010, Cabot paid $4.1 million to 19 families that contended that Cabot’s fracking had contaminated their groundwater with methane. In 2012, the U.S. EPA began providing clean drinking water to these families after Cabot had been released of its obligation to do so by the state of Pennsylvania.”

Read more: Common Dreams

EPA fails to defend Clean Water Act

Photo retrieved from: www.cleanwaternetwork.org

“The organizations, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Florida Clean Water Network, and the Androscoggin River Alliance, say EPA is ignoring blatant violations of this important protection and thereby encourages states to violate it, pointing to two recent cases: In Florida, EPA has dithered for nearly a year without action. In Maine, the administrator resigned due to a parallel state law which has since been weakened while EPA stayed silent.

The federal Clean Water Act bars appointment of any state decision-maker on pollution discharge permits who “has during the previous two years received a significant portion of his income directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants for a permit.” Nonetheless, at least two states have recently done just that. Both conflicted environmental nominees were confirmed and then challenged by environmental groups; one was ousted and one remains but in both cases EPA remained on the sideline.

Nearly a year ago, on February 23, 2011, PEER and Florida Clean Water Network filed a legal complaint with EPA that Herschel Vinyard, Florida’s environmental secretary, and another top appointee should be legally barred from issuing water pollution permits due to Vinyard’s prior employment on behalf of shipyards.”

Read more: examiner.com

The Frog of War

Retrieved from: www.motherjones.com

“ATRAZINE HAS LONG been a mainstay of American agriculture. Registered for use in 1959, it is now used on half the nation’s corn and 90 percent of our sugarcane, not to mention lawns, golf courses, and Christmas tree farms. All told, about 80 million pounds of it are applied each year, making it the most widely used herbicide after glyphosate, a.k.a. Roundup. While Syngenta, the largest producer, won’t disclose its profits from atrazine, the company earned $2.3 billion in 2010 from its line of selective herbicides (those that only kill specific plants), of which atrazine is the leading product. Sales keep rising as more weeds develop resistance to Roundup: Syngenta reported a14 percent bump in the first half of 2011.

n 1997, EcoRisk approached Hayes on behalf of Syngenta’s corporate predecessor, Novartis. They wanted him to study atrazine, which at the time was going through a product reapproval process mandated by the EPA. Hayes took the gig, figuring Novartis wouldn’t ask him to look into the herbicide’s effects if it expected him to find anything. “My hypothesis was, nothing’s going to happen,” he recalls.”

Read more: Mother Jones