Entries in EPA (6)


Erin Brockovich Slams EPA over Toxic Waste Superfund Site in Le Roy

ABC News(LE ROY, N.Y.) -- More than four decades after a train derailment left a massive toxic chemical spill in a small upstate New York town, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that they will begin removing 235 drums of dirt still sitting on the site.

The Lehigh Railroad Derailment Superfund site is located in Le Roy, N.Y.; the same town that has received national attention over the past several months because of a medical mystery involving a group of girls who suddenly began displaying Tourettes-like symptoms.

Last fall, about a dozen girls attending Le Roy High School began experiencing uncontrollable and painful tics, seizures and verbal outbursts, which appear to be similar to the symptoms of Tourettes syndrome.

As of Thursday, nearly two dozen people, including one 36-year-old, are displaying the symptoms.  Some in town have wondered whether there is some connection with the decades-old toxic chemical spill.

Enter Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist who became a household name after Julia Roberts portrayed her in an Academy Award-winning film.

Brockovich was asked by some concerned parents in Le Roy to explore whether the spill could be linked to the bizarre symptoms their daughters are suffering.

The derailment left a spill of over 30,000 gallons of liquid trichloroethene (TCE) and cyanide crystals.

TCE is a dangerous man-made chemical that was once used as a solvent to remove grease from metal and to strip paint in manufacturing plants. Over the years, several studies have linked TCE exposure to certain types of cancer. Long-term exposure can affect the central nervous system, according to the National Institute of Health.

While the chemicals were reportedly cleaned up at the time, hundreds of barrels of TCE and cyanide contaminated earth gathered shortly after the spill remained at the site for 40-some years.

After a recent national media spotlight was shined on the Lehigh site, the EPA returned to test the barrels.  The results?  “No tested contaminants were detected in materials from 203 of the drums. In 32 of the drums, some detectable concentrations of contaminants were found.” The barrels will be removed by Friday and sent to a landfill that Lehigh is permitted to accept hazardous waste in Belleville, Mich.

Meanwhile, Brockovich’s colleague, environmental scientist Bob Bowcock, also went to Le Roy last month to conduct preliminary tests.  His results suggest that the plume of the contaminates did not move toward the Le Roy High School.

“This is good news,” said Bowcock. "It is one of the many areas we are investigating where we are able to reprioritize, so we can focus our attention and resources on other environmental concerns” in Le Roy that might have caused recent health problems there.

Bowcock’s stresses that his investigation is looking at a myriad of environmental concerns, including the natural gas wells on the grounds of Le Roy High School, fill material used at the school, the routine complaints of fumes or odors in the school vent system, the school’s storm water system and biological and chemical concerns surrounding the school’s sports field.

And as of yet, Bowcock and Brockovich say, they have found no link between the spill and the Tourettes-like symptoms.

Nonetheless, Brockovich is not pleased with the EPA. In a letter to Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden, she said that the EPA is sending mixed messages. “On one hand, the EPA suggests they found no contamination in the barrels, but they go on to detail the contamination they did find, including TCE and cyanide.”

After reviewing the area for possible environmental causes of the illness and conducting testing in the area, Brockovich’s team came across the derailment site.

“We actually alerted the EPA that the rotting barrels were still there in Le Roy. They had no idea.” Brockovich said.  ”The EPA didn’t even realize the barrels of hazardous material had never been disposed of properly.”

Brockovich calls the EPA’s press release a “feeble attempt to gloss over their abject failure in Le Roy,” and she said that the “EPA clearly dropped the ball.”

Calling the derailment site “the largest TCE Superfund site in the country,” Brockovich went on to say that “the EPA had responsibility to ensure that the polluter clean up the site and remove the drums of toxic waste within 30 days of being filled. And that never happened. ”

According to Bowcock there are approximately 15,000 Superfund sites in the United States and Le Roy is just one example of thousands of towns that are unaware of their environmental surroundings.

“The EPA is failing -- it is not protecting people, it is not protecting the environment,” Brockovich said. "Sadly, it takes citizens like me, and the people of the impacted communities, to speak up and fix problems that should have been dealt with years ago.”

The EPA declined ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Radiation in US Milk: What It Means

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Milk from America's West Coast containing trace amounts of radioactive iodine is safe to drink, health officials say.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration reported higher-than-normal levels of radioactive Iodine-131 in milk samples from California and Washington Wednesday. But the levels are 5,000 times below the danger threshold.

"These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children," the EPA said on its website.

A March 25 radiation reading from milk in Spokane, Wash. -- 0.8 picocuries per liter -- is more than 4,000 times less than that of a normal banana, which naturally contains radioactive potassium.

Agencies will continue to measure radiation levels in milk and other food products in the U.S. during Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis.

"Radioactivity levels in milk products are monitored, so it is unlikely that any significantly contaminated milk would make it to the marketplace," said Dr. Timothy Jorgensen, associate professor in the department of radiation medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. "The U.S. population need not be concerned about this level of Iodine-131."

On March 28 the EPA reported very low levels of radiation in the air over Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Washington state.

On March 22, the FDA banned milk and produce imported from Japan's Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA & DOE: 'No Radiation Levels of Concern' Detected in the US -- A network of monitors strategically placed around the country to detect radiation levels have not produced results of concern, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The network, called RadNet, is designed to inform scientists in near real-time of elevated levels of radiation, the EPA says.  The U.S Department of Energy also has radiation monitoring equipment at facilities around the country which, the agency says, has not detected radiation levels that should concern Americans.

On Friday, the EPA said that one of the monitoring stations in Sacremento, Calif. detected "minuscule" levels of the radioactive isotope zenon-133, which is consistent with the radiation released from the Fukushima reactors in Japan. 

However, EPA officials say the amount of radiation detected in Sacremento is "one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural background resources."

The EPA also said in a joint statement with the Department of Energy that this kind of reading is compatible with their expectations in the wake of Japan's tragedy, and should be expected in the coming days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Your Home Protected from Radon Gas?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Radon can pose a potential threat to nearly every home in the U.S., according to HealthDay News.

This odorless, invisible, radioactive gas causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths yearly, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Radon is a byproduct of broken-down uranium in rocks, soil and water.  It becomes a risk to American households because it seeps into the foundation cracks of homes from the ground.

"It's a naturally occurring decay product of uranium," Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society told HealthDay.

But Dr. Thun added that the carcinogen is avoidable.  Thun said the best method for protection is to check for high levels present in the home.

"If one lives in an area where radon is prevalent, it's a good idea to have your home tested," he said.

The EPA suggests a two-level test.  Homeowners can purchase a short-term test that is left in the house for 90 days and sent to a lab for analysis.  Next, homeowners can perform a follow-up test, which is longer than 90 days.  Homeowners should have the home fixed if the average of the two tests remains above 4 pCi/L.

The testing process, called radio mitigation, can cost between $800 and $2,500, according to Kristy Miller, a spokeswoman for the EPA's indoor environments division.

Dr. Thun warned that individuals and families residing in the Northeast and Midwest are at greater risks. These regions tend to have higher radon levels than anywhere else in the United States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


EPA to Set Regulations on Chemicals in Drinking Water

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it will develop a regulation for perchlorate and several other toxic chemicals found in drinking water.

The EPA's decision comes after the agency's administrator, Lisa Jackson, asked scientists to thoroughly look into the "emerging science of perchlorate."  Scientific research shows that the naturally occurring and man-made chemical may affect how the thyroid gland functions.

Along with perchlorate, the EPA is also looking to set standards for 16 toxic chemicals found in drinking water that could be hazardous to humans.

“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family.  EPA is hard at work on innovative ways to improve protections for the water we drink and give to our children, and the development of these improved standards is an important step forward,” Jackson said.  “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA Creates Pesticide Database To Aid Consumers In Bed Bug Control

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced its creation of a database that will assist consumers in choosing an "EPA-registered bed bug product that meets their needs and is safe if properly used according to label instructions."

Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, urged consumers to use the database to ensure a safer way of controlling bed bugs while also taking preventative measures such as "reducing clutter, covering mattresses, vacuuming and other methods."

Currently there are more than 300 different products for bed bug control registered by EPA.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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