PNN - 2/2/14
Nan Rich - Progressive Democratic Candidate for Governor
Debbie Jordan - Lee County Commission
Eric Gooden - Boca Raton City Council, Seat B.
1. Don't Walk Away EPA
The Environmental Protection Agency is walking away after a decades-long battle with Florida politicians and industry officials over cleaning up phosphate-mining waste in an area that could expose more than 100,000 residents to cancer-causing radiation levels.
Under a decision quietly finalized two weeks ago, the federal agency will leave it to state officials to decide the fate of the sites in and around Lakeland, an approximately 10-square-mile residential area midway between Orlando and Tampa.
However, Florida officials have long argued that the affected area need not be cleaned up in the absence of radiation levels well above what EPA policy would normally permit. The decision not to enforce the usual federal rules could have far-reaching implications for how the United States deals with future radioactive contamination anywhere across the country -- regardless of whether it is caused by conventional industrial activities or illicit radiological weapons, critics say.
In a joint statement to Global Security Newswire, the Florida health and environment departments say they have no plans to examine the sites further, despite prior recommendations by federal officials that an aerial radiation survey of the area is needed. The state officials say they already have enough historical data pertaining to the sites, and that additional monitoring is not necessary.
The statement, provided to GSN by Florida environmental protection spokeswoman Mara Burger, suggests the EPA decision not to clean up the sites under its Superfund program indicated that the federal agency did not consider the Lakeland area "problematic" from a public health standpoint.
Under Superfund law, the federal agency is authorized to remediate contaminated sites that pose a threat to public health and the environment.
Internal documents released under the Freedom of Information Act in recent years show, however, that the federal agency's lack of action was the result of state and industry opposition, and that EPA officials did in fact believe the sites could pose a serious public health threat.
"It's probably the worst site EPA could clean up from a public health standpoint, when you consider the number of potential cancers and the size of the affected population," one source familiar with the Florida case told GSN. The source was not authorized to discuss the issue and asked not to be named in this article.
In response to questions about the matter, EPA spokeswoman Dawn Harris Young did not address whether the sites posed a health risk. She said only that the state had separate "regulatory and educational programs in place."
"EPA believes that addressing all of the former phosphate mines under one regulatory scheme would provide regulatory consistency for the landowners, businesses and residents of Florida," the federal agency spokeswoman said.
The EPA decision not to enforce its Superfund standards at the Florida sites is consistent with a controversial new guide for dealing with the aftermath of dirty bomb attacks, nuclear power-plant meltdowns and other radiological incidents that the agency published last year, Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told GSN.
Documents GSN obtained in 2013 prompted concern among critics that EPA officials are looking to use the new guide -- which is backed by the nuclear power industry -- as a means for relaxing its radiation standards.
The agency's approach to the Florida case lends further credence to the concern that it is backing away from its long-held radiological cleanup rules generally, Hirsch said.
"The agency is lowering the EPA flag outside the building and raising the white flag of surrender," he quipped.
Three Decades of Concern
Although government officials have said little about the Florida situation publicly, federal involvement at the sites surrounding Lakeland began in 1979. That's when EPA scientists first warned their superiors that the area could pose a health threat.
The scientists noted that past phosphate mining had created elevated concentrations of radium-226 in the area's soil. Radium produces gamma rays that can penetrate the body and increase the risk for a variety of cancers. Inhaling or ingesting the uranium byproduct can increase the risk of leukemia, lymphoma and bone cancer, specifically.
In addition, the decay of radium creates radon, an odorless, radioactive gas that can increase the risk of lung cancer by seeping into homes and polluting indoor air.
Given these risks, the EPA scientists advised that no new homes should be built on the sites until further studies were completed, but the agency took no action and residential development continued.
The Environmental Protection Agency paid little attention to the Lakeland area sites until the new millennium, agency documents show. By that time, agency officials estimated that as many as 120,000 people living on 40,000 residential parcels could be exposed to unsafe radiation levels.
In 2003, EPA officials deemed the potential problem at one Lakeland subdivision -- an upscale development of about 500 homes called "Oakbridge" -- to be so bad that they considered it a candidate for emergency cleanup action. Low-income and minority communities might also be affected, internal documents show -- creating so-called "environmental justice" concerns for the agency.
Regional politics intervened, however, and the agency did little more in the way of studying the issue over the subsequent decade. Residents were not warned of the EPA concerns and no remedial actions were taken.
Phosphate mining industry officials, who represent the second largest revenue-producing enterprise in the Sunshine State, made it known in private meetings that they strongly opposed the agency declaring the parcels Superfund sites. Such a move could make mining companies liable for as much as $11 billion in cleanup costs, according to estimates of the potential scope of the contamination that the EPA inspector general included in a 2004 report.
State health and environment officials operating under Republican governorships sided with industry, taking the position that no cleanup action was necessary if residents were being exposed to less than 500 millirems of radiation per year. State officials said this approach was permissible under guidelines suggested by the privately run National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements.
However, at the 500-millirem-per-year level, the cancer risk for humans is roughly 1 in 40, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry noted in a 2006 internal report it prepared regarding the Florida dispute.
EPA cleanup policy dictates that, in a worst-case scenario, no more than one in 10,000 people should be put at risk for developing cancer from manmade contamination.
Following 2010 news reports about the standoff, EPA officials began making preparations for an aerial radiation survey that was to enable them to get a better handle on the scope and severity of the problem. The plans stalled, however, after a group of Republican lawmakers from Florida -- siding with state and mining-industry officials -- pressured the agency not to conduct the survey.
Last March, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed that the state -- rather than the federal government -- direct all future actions pertaining to the sites, according to a March 13 letter sent by Jorge Caspary, waste management director at Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, to Franklin Hill, EPA Region 4 Superfund director.
Hill agreed to the Florida proposal in a letter back to Caspary earlier this month.
The Jan. 14 letter suggests that after more than three decades of internal concerns about residents' health -- and years of disagreement with the state and mining industry -- the federal government is walking away from the sites permanently.
"Because the state would manage the phosphate mining sites that were historically listed in [the EPA Superfund database] under Florida's existing programs, there would be no further federal interest in these sites under Superfund and EPA would change their [database] status to ‘Archived,'" Hill wrote.
In the letter, Hill does not explicitly agree with Florida's previously stated position that cleanup action is unnecessary unless residents are being exposed to more than 500 millirems of radiation per year. In fact, the correspondence between Hill and Caspary makes no mention of numerical cleanup thresholds at all.
In their statement to GSN, the Florida environmental protection and health departments said it is "not necessarily the case" that they would take no remedial action unless residents are being exposed to more than 500 millirems of radiation per year.
For instance, residents might be exposed to gamma ray radiation through direct contact with radium-contaminated soil in their yards. Florida officials say that while they have no plans to investigate the sites further, they hypothetically would consider taking action if such exposure caused residents to receive a dose of more than 100 millirems of radiation per year. At this level, about one in 300 people would be expected to develop cancer -- a risk 30 times greater than the EPA worst-case-scenario of one in 10,000.
Even then, however, "the state would need additional site specific information in order to determine what actions may be needed, including whether work should be done to mitigate risk or otherwise remediate the site," state officials said.
Florida officials say they do not believe direct exposure to radiation from the soil is a significant risk, and that the main factor in determining whether there is a public health concern at a home should instead be the amount of radon gas polluting indoor air. Mitigating indoor radon contamination is generally cheaper than cleaning up radium-contaminated soil. Indoor radon pollution can often be addressed though the installation of ventilation systems beneath homes, while cleanup of radium-contaminated soil can require massive excavation projects.
But according to critics, focusing on radon -- and not soil contamination -- is a dramatic break from how the federal government would normally address such a site. For one thing, this approach does not account for the body-penetrating gamma rays residents might be exposed to through more direct contact with the soil in their yards. Nor does it factor in the risk of inhaling or ingesting the contamination.
In addition, the EPA reference level that state officials say they would use to determine whether action is needed to address indoor radon pollution is not based on health considerations. Instead, it is based on how much radon current ventilation technology is capable of eliminating.
According to the federal agency's website, there is no "safe" level of radon exposure. However, it can be difficult to reduce radon levels much lower than 4 picocuries per liter of air -- the level that Florida officials are using as their threshold for health concerns. Congress passed legislation in 1988 setting a goal of reducing indoor radon levels to between 0.2 and 0.7 picocuries per liter, but the technology needed to meet that goal does not yet exist.
One in 43 people would be expected to die of cancer from a lifetime of radon exposure at the 4 picocurie per liter level, the EPA website says. The average level of radon in homes is about 1.25 picocuries per liter.
A Different Approach
While the EPA Superfund program considers the amount of radon gas entering homes, its decisions regarding whether to remediate manmade radium contamination are usually driven largely by how much of the radioactive metal is present in the soil. For radium in soil, the threshold the federal agency normally uses is 5 picocuries per gram, not including the amount of radium that would occur in soil naturally. It is at this level of radium and below that the agency would consider a site to be in compliance with its cancer risk guidelines.
In its 2006 report, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry noted that the federal government has relied upon the 5 picocurie per gram of soil standard at many sites, and listed some in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York and Michigan as examples. However, Florida officials considered the threshold to be "overly conservative," the federal agency's report noted.
At the time, Florida officials were pushing for the 500 millirem per year radiation dose limit to be used as a threshold, though they now say they would focus largely on radon in indoor air, with the possible 100 millirem per year dose threshold for exposure to gamma rays from radium in the soil.
Either way, not relying on the 5 picocurie per gram of soil threshold as a trigger for remedial action is a major departure from normal EPA policy, critics say.
Until now, "I've never heard of them abandoning their 5 picocurie per gram limit -- that's used all over the place," Hirsch told GSN. "What EPA ought to face is that it looks as though, under political pressure, they've undermined their entire regulatory structure for cleanup of radium-contaminated soils."
According to EPA documents released in recent years under the Freedom of Information Act, a lack of financial resources has contributed to the agency's reluctance to enforce its usual public health standards at the Florida sites.
Normally, the agency can conduct cleanups on its own terms and then sue the companies it believes are responsible for the contamination in order to recoup its costs.
However, a tight budget environment -- along with the anticipated enormous scope of the contamination in Florida -- gave the agency little leverage in negotiations with the phosphate mining industry, according to the EPA documents.
Industry officials made clear they were not interested in assisting with a cleanup conducted along the lines of the agency's usual Superfund protocols. Without sufficient federal funds available, EPA officials could not credibly threaten to force industry's hand.
Meanwhile, Florida Republicans in Congress argued that the phosphate industry was too important to the state's economy to risk harm by undertaking costly cleanup actions they thought unnecessary.
Faced with a difficult political situation, it appears that EPA officials tried to word the new agreement with Florida in a way that would defer oversight of the contaminated area to the state without acknowledging the difference between the state and federal public health standards, Hirsch said.
He suggested that the omission of numerical standards in the Hill and Caspary correspondence this month appears to be a veiled admission by EPA officials that the amount of radioactive contamination the state would allow would not be considered safe under federal policy.
"What the agency doesn't say speaks volumes -- they know these numbers are outrageous," Hirsch said. "The fact that they capitulate without even discussing them is further evidence of their dirty hands."
The source who asked not to be named said it was doubtful the exclusion of specific numbers in the correspondence would actually stop parties responsible for radioactive contamination from trying to cite the Florida case as a justification for not cleaning up to normal EPA standards, however.
"I would make that argument if I was on that side," said the source. "You'd be stupid not to."
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
2. Edward Snowden Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
By Associated Press
29 January 14
Two Norwegian politicians say NSA whistleblower's actions have led to a 'more stable and peaceful world order' Two Norwegian politicians say they have jointly nominated the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel peace prize.
The Socialist Left party politicians Baard Vegar Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen said the public debate and policy changes in the wake of Snowden's whistleblowing had "contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order".
Being nominated means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider for the prestigious award.
The five-member panel will not confirm who has been nominated but those who submit nominations sometimes make them public.
Nominators, including members of national parliaments and governments, university professors and previous laureates, must enter their submissions by 1 February.
The prize committee members can add their own candidates at their first meeting after that deadline.
3.New studies of MCHM leak's impacts funded
January 30, 2014
3 schools, including WVU, get Rapid Response Research money
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Researchers from three universities have received emergency funding for studies of the long-term impacts of the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak, including an examination of whether the "flushing" advised by state officials and the water company adequately cleared toxic chemicals from home plumbing systems.
National Science Foundation officials said Thursday they had approved Rapid Response Research grants to allow experts from the University of South Alabama, West Virginia University and Virginia Tech to more closely examine the impacts of the chemical Crude MCHM.
The grant announcements come as West Virginia's government continued to insist that the water is safe, and harshly criticized at least one local scientist who has raised questions about the way the crisis is being handled.
In announcing the organization's $150,000 in grants, a NSF official called the Freedom Industries' leak "one of the largest human-made environmental disasters in this century."
"The main challenge for authorities managing the spill has been how little researchers know about the chemical and how it interacts with other substances," said William Cooper, director of the NSF's Chemicals, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems division.
The NSF grants will go to:
• Andrew Whelton of the University of South Alabama, who will examine the chemical's absorption into and removal from plastic drinking-water pipes, focusing mainly on houses.
• Jennifer Weidhaas of WVU, who will assess the extent and contamination in drinking water, the treatment plant and areas near the Elk River.
• Andrea Dietrich of Virginia Tech, who will study the physical and chemical behavior of MCHM itself in the environment, to gather data necessary to model the environmental fate of the chemical.
Together, the NSF said, the three studies present a systems approach that will provide a better understanding of the fate of MCHM in water systems.
"One of the concerns in this spill is authorities have little to no information about exactly what this chemical does to drinking-water plumbing systems," Whelton said. "Chemicals tend to absorb more into plastic pipes than metal pipes. Plastic pipes can act like a sponge, sucking up chemicals."
After the leak was discovered, Whelton drove to West Virginia from Alabama with a team of researchers that's been taking water samples from homes and assisted residents with what they say is a safer and more effective method of "flushing" the leak's chemicals from plumbing systems.
Starting Jan. 13, water company officials and the state government began a weeklong process of lifting broad "do not use" orders for sections of the nine-county area impacted by the MCHM leak. After the order was lifted, residents were advised to run their hot water for 15 minutes, their cold water for 5 minutes, and their outside faucets for 5 minutes, to flush the chemical from their homes.
However, since then, residents have continued to complain that the black-licorice smell of the chemical is lingering, especially in their hot water.
State officials, in announcing their guidance for flushing, rejected an earlier recommendation from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that residents be advised to flush their plumbing systems until the chemical odor is gone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had said in internal documents that flushing the chemicals out of the system "may require a fairly prolonged time to complete," perhaps two to three weeks.
4. More Bottled water on TAP
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wants West Virginia American Water to provide bottled water to the nine counties where tap water was contaminated by the Elk River chemical leak earlier this month.
Tomblin wrote to Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American, Thursday afternoon, after a clean-water protest at the state Capitol.
Following the protest, Tomblin and his staff met privately with five protesters to discuss the need to continue delivering bottled water to rural communities affected by the chemical leak.
Tomblin's letter requests that water be provided even though all "do not use" orders have been lifted and tap water has officially been declared safe.
"To date, more than 17.5 million bottles of water have been distributed to residents in the nine affected counties, at an estimated cost of $889,575 to the state," Tomblin wrote. "My staff continues to receive calls from constituents and organizations requesting bottled water be made available in their communities. To help address this need, I have asked West Virginia American Water Company to make available potable and bottled water to West Virginians in the affected areas."
The water company said it is complying with the governor's request.
"At the time this letter was received, West Virginia American Water had already committed to procuring 20 additional tractor-trailer loads of bottled water, at the request of the governor via a phone call earlier today," spokeswoman Laura Jordan wrote. "This will bring the company's total bottled water contribution to 33 truckloads at a cost of approximately $132,000."
Jennifer Sayre, Kanawha County manager, said Thursday evening that Tomblin's office had told her four truckloads of bottled water would arrive by Friday morning.
Earlier this month, the water company drew criticism when it distributed at least two tankers of water filled from the contaminated Charleston-based system.
Tomblin recently sought aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. The Governor's Office announced Thursday evening that the SBA request had been granted.
A week ago Monday, Tomblin said it is a personal decision to use or not use tap water. Since then, he has made almost no public appearances connected to the water crisis.
The statement about water usage didn't sit well with the protesters, who noted there is significant time and money involved in getting bottled water, especially in poorer, rural areas.
"That personal decision involves an expense," said Rob Goodwin, a volunteer with the West Virginia Clean Water Hub. "We were very clear that, as long as it's a personal decision for people to drink the water, as the governor said, folks that cannot afford to buy bottled water are going to need water brought to them."
The Clean Water Hub sprang up after the Jan. 9 chemical leak to try to help continue water distribution to communities in need.
Goodwin said the group has been focused on getting water to smaller communities, such as Van, Mammoth, Paint Creek, Prenter and Cabin Creek.
The protest was organized by WV Citizen Action for Real Enforcement (CARE).
Johanna de Graffenreid, a CARE coordinator, said the meeting with the governor was very productive and that they've requested an additional meeting, to discuss "the longstanding lack of regulatory enforcements and lack of access to clean drinking water here in the state."
De Graffenreid presented Tomblin's office with a petition asking the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to take over mine inspections from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Chuck Nelson, a retired underground coal miner from Glen Daniel, said the DEP is not doing its job protecting water sources from mining.
"You live out in the coalfields, you're [forgotten] about, you're not going to see the DEP come, and they don't do anything anyway," Nelson said. "We're fed up with it. We've been living with it too long, and we're the ones that've got to pay the price."
The three-pronged protest began Thursday morning outside the Charleston Civic Center, where about 35 people protested the West Virginia Coal Mining Symposium, which was taking place inside.
The symposium, sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Association, was closed to media this year, for the first time in recent memory.
More bottled water on tap
After Tomblin request, W.Va. American to supply water
By David Gutman
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was scheduled to address the gathering at 9:45 Thursday morning, according to the symposium's published schedule. Tomblin, however, did not speak, and it's unclear why. Tomblin sent Charles Lorensen, his chief of staff, in his place.
Amy Shuler Goodwin, Tomblin's communications director, said the governor was never on the schedule.
Bill Raney, president of the coal association wrote in an email that Tomblin, "indicated he had matters regarding the state's emergency situation that had to be done which unexpectedly conflicted with the time he was scheduled."
Jason Bostic, vice president of the Coal Association, said he thought Tomblin was "diverted for some other reason."
It was the first time in Tomblin's tenure as governor that he has not addressed the symposium. Sitting governors almost always address the annual symposium.
The protesters marched back and forth in front of the entrance to the Civic Center, carrying signs and chanting.
"I think it's horrifying that the governor would say it's our decision whether to drink the water," said Vivian Stockman, a protester from Roane County who works for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. "I would rather him say that, 'Folks, we're working desperately to figure out what's happened here; there will be changes; we're going to take command; we're going to make sure that the water plant is properly cleaned."
Later, the protest migrated to the Capitol Building, where it doubled in size and set up outside the House of Delegates and then the Governor's Office.
Dustin White, an organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, was kicked out of the Capitol for bringing in a gallon jug of brownish "unidentified liquid." White said the liquid was water, taken Tuesday from his father's tap in Boone County. It smelled of bleach and the licorice-like odor associated with the chemical leak.
"As of two days ago, it started turning this brownish-red color, and this mucus-like stuff has been coming out of the tap," White said. "I just want people to see it, this is what we're supposed to take care of my dad with."
On Tuesday, the water company issued a precautionary boil-water advisory for White's father's home on James Branch Road in Boone County. Boil-water advisories are not connected to the chemical leak.
White said his dad, a 65-year-old retired coal miner, is suffering from bladder cancer.
"We're using bottled as much as possible now," he said. "After the ban was lifted, we did try to do some laundry but, now that it's this color, we can't even do the laundry, and he needs clean towels and things like that all the time."
Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, eventually was allowed to take the jug into the Capitol and White was let back inside. Manypenny took the jug to his office and said he'd take it to the Board of Public Health for testing.
Manypenny stressed that this was a one-time event and if people want water tested, they should contact the National Guard, although the National Guard has said it will not test in people's homes.
One of the only delegates to engage with protesters outside the House chamber was Delegate Randy Smith, R-Preston.
"You guys need to go after some of the other places besides coal," Smith said. "I'm a coal miner, and I take offense to that."
Also at the Capitol on Thursday, a bill was introduced in the House that would require state inspections of above-ground storage tanks like the kind that leaked the chemical.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this week but was referred to three committees in the House. Referring a bill to multiple committees often is a sign that the bill does not have good chances of passage.
House Speaker Tim Miley said that is not the case with this bill. He said the bill was sent to the Health Committee because it is a public-health bill, to the Judiciary Committee because of its legal requirements and to the Finance Committee because he was unsure of its fiscal impact.
"The Health Committee has already called for a public hearing for Monday evening so that we can receive input from affected residents," Miley said in an email statement. "Legislation of this magnitude should be addressed very methodically and not rushed through in a matter of days."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.
5. Kanawha County commissioner says Elk River chemical hazards should be cataloged
By Rusty Marks
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County emergency staff should work with the state and officials from neighboring counties to catalog all chemical hazards to the Elk River, Commissioner Dave Hardy said Thursday. Hardy wants the officials to make a plan to deal with those hazards.
"This is what keeps people up at night," Hardy said at a regular meeting of the Kanawha County Commission. "Could this happen again?"
It seems obvious in the aftermath of the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical spill that leaked up to 10,000 gallons of Crude MCHM into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for 300,000 people in nine counties. But Hardy said no one has really looked at the Elk River and tried to make a list of all the hazards that could threaten the water supply in the future.
Deputy Emergency Services Director C.W. Sigmon said county emergency officials are already looking at what industries and potential chemical hazards lie upstream of Charleston's main West Virginia American Water plant, which sucked the chemical into its Elk River intakes on Jan. 9 and sent contaminated water out to its customers. The leak prompted officials to order water customers not to use their water for drinking, cooking and bathing until levels of MCHM dropped to levels company officials deemed safe. (west virginia river coalition) - rashes/headaches/nausea - national science foundation -
Even after being told they could flush their water pipes and start using the water again, many local residents still don't trust the water supply, and are relying on bottled water. County officials said four more tractor-trailer loads of water will be distributed today.
"This water crisis has turned into a crisis of confidence," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.
Carper said county emergency agencies and county employees did an excellent job getting the word out about the water emergency and securing and distributing safe water for residents. Although reluctant to place blame for the chemical spill, Carper said federal officials could have done a better job giving out information about the chemical, its potential hazards and what to do about it.
"Where is the CDC?" Carper wanted to know.
Officials don't yet know if there are long-term health effects from exposure to the chemical. Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta thinks its necessary to track health data from the spill over the next decade, Hardy said.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.
6. Elk River Data
The water quality of the Elk River basin is excellent, and the Elk provides drinking water for the city of Charleston and other communities. West Virginia American Water Company has plants on the Elk at Webster Springs, Gassaway, and Charleston, the last serving customers in Kanawha County and parts of Putnam, Boone, and Lincoln counties. Public service districts in Braxton and Clay counties obtain their water from Elk, as do the towns of Clay and Clendenin.
The water quality of the Elk River basin is excellent, and the Elk provides drinking water for the city of Charleston and other communities. West Virginia American Water Company has plants on the Elk at Webster Springs, Gassaway, and Charleston, the last serving customers in Kanawha County and parts of Putnam, Boone, and Lincoln counties. Public service districts in Braxton and Clay counties obtain their water from Elk, as do the towns of Clay and Clendenin.
The Elk watershed occupies the central portion of West Virginia. Eighty percent of the land in this basin of the Elk main stream is contained in Braxton, Clay, Kanawha, and Webster counties. Other counties within the basin are Nicholas, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Roane. Elk River begins as a trout stream, but for most of its length is a warm-water fishery, particularly noted for large muskellunge.
From its headwaters near Snowshoe Mountain Resort in west-central Pocahontas County, the Elk flows in a general northwest direction. At the Sutton-Gassaway area it bends to the southwest and continues this general direction to its confluence with the Kanawha River at Charleston. In 1961, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a multi-purpose water resource dam on Elk at Sutton, 71 miles below the river’s origin, creating Sutton Lake and taming the floods that had beset middle and lower Elk Valley residents for decades.
The elevation of the Elk at its source in Pocahontas County is approximately 4,000 feet. At Charleston the elevation of the river is 565 feet, making a total drop of 3,435 feet. Its average fall over the 177-mile course is 19 feet per mile.
7. Australia Permits Dredge Dumping Near Great Barrier Reef for Major Coal Port
MELBOURNE — Australia's Great Barrier Reef watchdog gave the green light on Friday for millions of cubic metres of dredged mud to be dumped near the fragile reef to create the world's biggest coal port and possibly unlock $28 billion in coal projects.
The dumping permit clears the way for a major expansion of the port of Abbot Point for two Indian firms and Australian billionaire miner Gina Rinehart, who together have $16 billion worth of coal projects in the untapped, inland Galilee Basin.
Environmentalists, scientists and tourist operators had fought the plan, which they fear will harm delicate corals and seagrasses and potentially double the ship traffic through the World Heritage marine park.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, an independent government agency charged with protecting the reef, acknowledged the concerns, but said expanding Abbot Point would require much less dredging than other port options.
"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds," the marine park authority's chairman, Russell Reichert, said in a statement.
The permit to dump 3 million cubic metres of mud within the marine park could place at risk the World Heritage-listing of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's top tourist attractions generating an estimated $5.7 billion.
UNESCO, which awarded the reef its heritage listing, last year postponed a decision to June 2014 on whether to put the Great Barrier Reef on its "in danger" list or even cancel its World Heritage listing. It is awaiting a report from the national government on steps taken to address its concerns.
The permit allows North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump dredged material in the reef marine park to deepen Abbot Point for two terminals planned by Adani Enterprises and GVK-Hancock, a joint venture between India's GVK conglomerate and Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, which have long term plans to export 120 million tonnes a year of coal all together.
The marine park authority imposed strict conditions on the dumping permit, including no environmental, cultural or heritage damage to areas beyond 20 km (12 miles) from the disposal site, and urged the ports corporation to consider other dump sites.
If all the dredged material were dumped on land, the pile would be bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Even with the permit, it's unclear how soon the dredging will go ahead, as Adani and GVK-Hancock's plans have been delayed amid funding challenges in the face of sliding coal prices and China's efforts to cut coal use to battle smog.
"This approval is very important for them to achieve financial close for their projects," said a spokeswoman for North Queensland Bulk Ports, referring to GVK-Hancock and Adani.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Paul Tait and Michael Perry)
7. The Next Accident Awaits
By RAFAEL MOURE-ERASO
January 28, 2014
WASHINGTON — THE United States is facing an industrial chemical safety crisis. The horrifying chemical spill that recently contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia is the latest in a relentless series of disasters and near-misses across the country.
It is clear to me, as chairman of the independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents, that urgent steps are required to significantly improve the safety of the nation’s chemical industry — an industry vital to our economy, yet potentially dangerous to those who live near the thousands of facilities that process or store hazardous chemicals.
Those facilities include ones like the Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif., where aging, corroding pipes resulted in a huge fire in August 2012, and the fertilizer plant in West, Tex., where stores of ammonium nitrate exploded last year and laid waste to a large part of the town, killing more than a dozen people.
Sifting through chemical-plant rubble from catastrophic accidents year after year, our board has long called on regulators to require — and for industry to adopt — what is known as inherently safer technology. By this, we mean using safer designs, equipment and chemicals, minimizing the amounts of hazardous chemicals stored and used, and modifying and simplifying processes to make them as safe as practicable.
While there is now, at last, a strong current within industry to adopt this safer technology as a best practice, many still oppose any actual regulatory requirements, arguing they are too costly and prescriptive. We can’t wait for corporations to volunteer, because the accidents continue, often with devastating consequences.
What we need is comprehensive regulatory reform. But achieving safety reforms is complicated and time-consuming. In the interim, the Environmental Protection Agency should step in and use its power under the Clean Air Act’s general duty clause to compel chemical facilities to take steps to make their operations inherently safer. The law assigns owners and operators of these facilities a general duty to identify hazards, design and maintain safe facilities and minimize the consequences of leaks. The E.P.A. should follow up by adopting specific regulations to meet those goals.
Twelve years ago, the E.P.A.’s administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, proposed regulations that would have encouraged producers and users of high-risk chemicals to find safer alternatives or processes.
But her proposal stalled in the face of strong opposition from American companies, which are already required to use safer technologies and other risk reduction methods at their European operations. (Insurance data indicate that losses from refinery accidents, for instance, are at least three times lower in Europe than in the United States.) In 2012, Ms. Whitman urged the agency to use the Clean Air Act to require safer technology “before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs.”
The E.P.A. said recently that it was considering such an approach. The agency’s own National Environmental Justice Advisory Council has urged it to issue new rules to reduce the “danger and imminent threat” posed by chemical plants, manufacturing and transport. Across the nation, an estimated 13,000 facilities store or process chemicals in amounts hazardous enough to endanger the public, according to the E.P.A.
But that estimate understates the dimensions of the problem. For example, the West Virginia facility implicated in the recent spill, which stored chemicals used in the coal industry, would not fall under criteria used by the agency to come up with its estimate.
Consider how a requirement forcing safer practices and technologies might have prevented the three accidents I’ve mentioned.
The Chevron refinery would have been required to replace aging, corroded pipes with safer corrosion-resistant material that almost certainly would have prevented the rupture that endangered 19 workers caught in the initial vapor cloud, not to mention the smoke plume that sent 15,000 Bay Area residents to hospitals. The refinery industry accident rate overall is unacceptably high.
The agricultural chemical company in West, Tex., would have used safer storage practices and safer fertilizer blends, and kept far less ammonium nitrate on site. The lives of more than a dozen firefighters and residents might have been spared, and the widespread damage to homes, schools, a nursing home and other structures would not have occurred.
And the decades-old chemical storage tank in West Virginia that leaked as much as 10,000 gallons of chemicals used in coal processing into the nearby Elk River, contaminating the water supply of some 300,000 Charleston-area residents, would have been moved and replaced by modern, anti-leak storage tanks and safer containment.
After the West, Tex., explosion, President Obama issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to review safety rules at chemical facilities. I am strongly encouraged by the White House leadership on this issue. The E.P.A. is working with other agencies to comply. But in the meantime, the agency has the authority to act now, on its own, to require inherently safer design, equipment and processes that would go a long way toward preventing more catastrophes.
Rafael Moure-Eraso is the chairman of the United States Chemical Safety Board.
8. US Chemical Safety Board
A leak originating from a storage tank at Freedom Industries contaminated the local water supply leaving hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents without clean drinking water.
The CSB's investigation is currently ongoing.
Location: Charleston, WV
Accident Occurred On: 01/09/2014
Accident Type: Release
9. Cincinati's Not Waiting
Cincinnati plans to shut down intake valves along the Ohio River to protect the city's drinking water from a chemical spill in West Virginia.
Mayor John Cranley announced Monday that the valves will be shut down for at least 20 hours beginning Tuesday night. Cranley says that will allow the water to pass the city without any chemicals entering the drinking supply.
The city plans to use a reserve of 60 hours of treated water, built up specially following the West Virginia spill.
On Thursday, a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a plant into the nearby Elk River in Charleston, W.Va. The Elk River feeds into the Ohio River.
The spill caused a dayslong crisis in which officials banned the use of tap water for some 300,000 people.
Meanwhile, officials in Indiana's largest city on the Ohio River say they're also monitoring developments in a chemical spill upriver in Charleston, W.Va.
Evansville Water & Sewer Utility Director Allen Mounts and Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said Tuesday they're receiving updates from the Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.
A chemical called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked from a 40,000-gallon tank at a chemical plant along a river that flows into a tributary of the Ohio.
As of late Tuesday, about half of West Virginia American Water's customers had been allowed to use their water again. The crisis began last Thursday when a chemical spilled into the Elk River, affecting 300,000 residents and closing schools, restaurants and businesses.
The ban on water use for anything but flushing toilets was being lifted in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system was not overwhelmed. Authorities continued to hand out free bottled water at distribution stations.
Matthew Davis, 21, was among those still waiting for the ban to be lifted. After rinsing off at a creek last week, he finally enjoyed a hot shower Tuesday at his fiancee's house 30 minutes away. Davis had his wisdom teeth removed just before the water ban.
"Pretty much all I had was Coke, and that hurt," he said.
The water crisis started Thursday when a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a Freedom Industries plant into the nearby Elk River.
Complaints came in to West Virginia American Water about an odor, and officials discovered the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol was leaking out of a 40,000-gallon tank.
Look at my water 45 mins into the flush!!!!!@erinbrochovich @wsaztv #wvwatercrisis #wvchemleak pic.twitter.com/cDA3BDiWvA
— Mendi StottsStarcher (@MelindaStarcher) January 15, 2014
Federal authorities, including the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, are investigating.
Only 14 people exposed to the contaminated water were admitted to the hospital, and none was seriously ill.
The chemicals removed from Freedom Industries' Elk River site have been shipped to another facility the company owns. The facility is in nearby Nitro, not near a water source, state officials said late Tuesday.
All hospitals but one had running water. The exception was Boone Memorial Hospital in Madison, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.
There were still some areas on the edges of the water system with chemical levels exceeding the acceptable amount, said West Virginia National Guard Adjutant Gen. James A. Hoyer.
More than 200 restaurants have reopened where the ban has been lifted, said Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin.
Schools in all four counties in the affected areas were to remain closed Wednesday. Tomblin did not provide a timeline for school to resume.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich came to Charleston after she said she received thousands of online requests to visit and look into the spill. Brockovich said she believes officers from Freedom Industries should face criminal charges.
@samsteinhp This is #sediment at my friend's Charleston #WVWaterCrisis AFTER the all clear. Water ran 15mins. pic.twitter.com/syvvgQSRd9
— Dani (@ThatRealDani) January 15, 2014
"It would've cost so much less to identify the leak, report the leak, fix the leak instead of ignore the leak. This is going to be hundreds of millions of dollars," she said.
Officials cautioned that even water that was deemed safe may still have a slight licorice-type odor, raising the anxieties of some.
Bobbi Holland, who lives in the Edgewood neighborhood, went to wash her face Monday night after flushing out her system.
"It smelled stronger than ever and I was like, 'Oh no,'" she said Tuesday. "But when I woke up this morning, there wasn't any odor."
Said Beverly Farrow, another Edgewood resident: "I have not brushed my teeth or rinsed my mouth with the water yet. I'm still kind of waiting on that."
10. Green Wash and dry dry dry
First, of course, this incident quickly sheds all the green-washing claims big energy companies have tried to attach to the notion of “clean coal.” After all, the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol was the latest, greatest chemical compound used to “wash” coal of its impurities to produce a “cleaner” exhaust from coal processing. Community groups and environmental activists have been dispelling the myth of “clean coal” for decades as nothing more than a PR distraction by coal interests. In 2008, over 1.1 billion gallons of water were polluted by toxic coal ash, leaving the town of Harriman, Tennessee, literally uninhabitable. The incident in West Virginia is the latest in a long list of toxic disasters from coal power in the United States.
Underground water radiation skyrockets from ‘not detected’ to 1.7 Million Bq/liter of strontium-90 and other beta radionuclides — Antimony-125 now showing up — Tepco changes measurements from ‘under analysis’ to ‘out of range’
Wall St. Journal: ‘Potentially lethal’ Strontium-90 moving deeper into groundwater at Fukushima, levels rising — Asahi: Radioactive material spreading below underground wall next to ocean — Record high on other side of final barrier by Unit 3
Wall St. Journal, Jan. 31, 2014: Among the radioactive materials that were dispersed at the site, the potentially lethal alkaline earth metal [strontium] poses the biggest immediate concern, because, unlike cesium, it doesn’t get trapped in soil and tends to accumulate in bones of fish and animals if ingested. [...] strontium has been slowly moving to deeper into ground water, which could be moving toward the ocean. [...] Radiation levels in groundwater sampled from several monitoring wells have been very slowly rising since last summer and radioactive strontium has been detected since October, according to data from Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2014: A team of reporters from The Asahi Shimbun visited the site on Jan. 29. [...] Another problem exists underneath the embankment on the eastern side of the plant site. Radioactive materials have been found to be spreading under that embankment. [...]
See also: Expert: "Can’t be changed & can’t be stopped"; Radioactive Fukushima water will continually enter ocean -- Significant 'discreet leaks' recently -- West Coast "should be alarmed" at lack of testing—Levels rising for 2 years & expected to increase
- There are three universities right here in Boca Raton and that means there are a lot of people with promise and ideas that are passing through our community everyday. We need to be that place that puts that kind of energy of creativity and initiative to good use so that Boca can be a place for them to put down roots and be a part of Boca's vibrant future.
#1. Economic Development/Jobs
#2. Education on All Levels of Development
#3. Public Safety
We must take advantage of new technologies in order to fight crime by providing our law enforcement agents the most advanced equipment and respecting our dedicated first responders who risk their lives every day for our safety and peace by insuring their fair compensation and retirement benefits.
#4. Taking a New Look at the Boca Raton City Budget