WBEZ | EPA http://www.wbez.org/tags/epa Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel wants answers on BP oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Whiting-spill.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although BP&rsquo;s Whiting refinery is a short distance from the city of Chicago, it is firmly in the state of Indiana and answers to that state and its agencies. But that&rsquo;s not stopping Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from asking for a full report on this week&rsquo;s oil spill to be given to the city and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll expect a full accounting to the public and the city of Chicago of the damage that was done, how much, what the clean up efforts were, how comprehensive they have been and what actions the company will take to ensure this doesn&rsquo;t happen again,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday while announcing a plan to invest $671 million to upgrade the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure.</p><p>A BP spokesman said this week it appears crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant that&rsquo;s adjacent to the lake. Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt told WBEZ Wednesday that unconfirmed reports put the amount of spillage at about a dozen barrels of crude oil.</p><p>BP has raised its estimate of how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan. The company said Thursday a preliminary estimate shows between 15 and 39 barrels of oil have been recovered from the lake at its Whiting refinery.</p><p>A barrel of oil can produce about 42 gallons of gasoline, so potentially 1,638 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan. Earlier estimates had pegged the amount at 10 to 12 barrels of oil.</p><p>The spill was detected around 4:30 p.m. Monday. By 9 p.m. a representative with the U.S. EPA said it appeared the leak had been stopped. Cleanup continued Wednesday along the shore of a small private beach between the refinery and its neighbor ArcelorMittal Steel Company.</p><p>&ldquo;BP continues to make progress in responding to an incident Monday at the Whiting Refinery. Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill,&rdquo; BP announced Wednesday from its US Press Office based in Houston. &ldquo;They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.&rdquo;</p><p>BP said monitoring continues with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.</p><p>&ldquo;BP and federal agencies are assessing the shoreline to determine what, if any, next steps are required in the response,&rdquo; a company statement said. &ldquo;BP continues to work to calculate the amount of oil discharged into the lake. This work involves estimating how much oil was released into the refinery&rsquo;s cooling water system, water treatment plant and ultimately into the lake.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the U.S. EPA, its Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team inspected the shoreline today for three hours to assess the presence of oil and to recommend cleanup techniques as required.</p><p>&ldquo;The team saw minimal oiling of the shoreline and recommended a small manual removal crew conduct maintenance along the shoreline,&rdquo; the U.S. EPA said in a news release. &ldquo;Weather and wind conditions improved overnight allowing teams to once again secure boom.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources involved in the cleanup say the crude oil that spilled into the lake was a combination of so-called sweet crude (from domestic sources) and crude from Canada&rsquo;s Tar Sands region, which is considered heavier and dirtier. The tar sands oil is a source of contention among environmentalists.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill like this one, whether big or small, will continue to garner national headlines. And that is the sort of behavior that will keep BP Whiting the refinery Chicagoans love to hate,&rdquo; Henry Henderson, Midwest program director of the Chicago office for the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog post.</p><p>So far, no Indiana or Northwest Indiana public official have made statements regarding the spill. BP represents a major source of jobs and property taxes for Northwest Indiana, and the company just recently completed a $4 billion modernization of the more than 100 year old Whiting refinery.<br /><br />But BP often has been on the receiving end of scathing comments by Illinois officials.</p><p>Lately, Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have taken the company to task for transporting thousands of tons of pet coke, short for petroleum coke, to a site on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side. Residents there have complained about the dust-like substance making them sick when it becomes airborne.<br /><br />Some city officials want the substance completely banned though so far Emanuel is only pushing an ordinance that would severely restrict the use and storage of pet coke. But with the new oil spill BP is under the microscope again.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that BP is a good corporate citizen next door in Indiana,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>And, at least for now, BP is responding.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been engaged with the mayor&rsquo;s office since the onset of this incident and are providing his office with regular updates, &ldquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean told WBEZ Wednesday night. &ldquo;We will also continue to keep the public and relevant authorities informed as we investigate this matter.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This post was updated on March 28, 2014.</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 Second hole found in Indiana Dunes http://www.wbez.org/news/second-hole-found-indiana-dunes-108426 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dunes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Crews have spotted a second hole at Mount Baldy in Indiana Dunes, just 100 yards east of where six-year-old Nathan Woessner was trapped under 11 feet of sand last month.&nbsp;</p><p>The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service have been out investigating the area since Monday, using radar and ground-sensing equipment to find out what could be causing these holes. Bruce Rowe, park ranger and public information officer for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, said crews didn&rsquo;t need their scientific equipment to find the second hole, as it was right on the surface of the dune.</p><p>Officials aren&rsquo;t sure yet how these holes are forming, and Rowe says the concept seems to be entirely new to science.</p><p>&ldquo;We do suspect that it may be where Mt. Baldy had covered up a forest of trees [and] that as these trees are rotting out, the trunks of them are rotting out, that they&rsquo;re leaving behind holes where their trunks once stood,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The second hole was about five feet deep when crews discovered it, but Rowe says it could have been even deeper beforehand, as there was a lot of loose sand collecting at the bottom.</p><p>Last month, six-year-old Nathan Woessner was trapped in the dune for more than three hours while emergency crews tried to dig him out. Doctors initially had to put him in a medically induced coma, but he recovered, and was able to go home from the hospital two weeks later.</p><p>Rowe, an employee at the Indiana Dunes for 22 years, admits the entire incident has made him look at Mount Baldy and sand dunes a little differently. Though he says it hasn&rsquo;t kept him away from them entirely -- he and his son camped in Michigan sand dune park last weekend.</p><p>Mount Baldy has been closed since the accident, and officials say it will remain closed as the investigation continues.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 10:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/second-hole-found-indiana-dunes-108426 Morning Shift: Investigation seeks source of holes at Indiana Dunes http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-15/morning-shift-investigation-seeks-source-holes <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Indiana Dunes - Flickr - pepplerchristine.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The EPA and scientists are trying to discover the source of holes at the Indiana Dunes. What is causing them and what&#39;s the solution? Also, Lake Bell, star of &quot;In a World...&quot;, talks about the voice-over community, the topic of her new film.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-44.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-44" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Investigation seeks source of holes at Indiana Dunes" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-15/morning-shift-investigation-seeks-source-holes Behind the fracking boom, a sand mining rush http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-fracking-boom-sand-mining-rush-108078 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/for cover.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a name="#starved"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F101336097&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F101360760&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Sand mining is a largely-overlooked side effect of the fracking boom. &ldquo;Frac sand&rdquo; refers to the fine, white silica or quartz sand that is in high demand for use in hydraulic fracturing. The fracking process involves drilling a well thousands of feet underground, cracking open the shale rock, and shooting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the miniscule cracks to force out natural gas. The sand serves as a &ldquo;proppant&rdquo; to hold open the cracks in the rock.</p><p>Most of that sand comes from regions where fracking itself is not taking place. LaSalle County, about 80 miles southwest of Chicago, has historically been the silica mining capital of the country. Now with the fracking process coming to some of Illinois&rsquo; downstate communities, the frac sand issue is grabbing a little more attention, although, as of yet, the downstate prospecting for natural gas wells has little effect on the sand mining industry in the northern part of the state.&nbsp;<strong>Listen in on the controversy over a proposed mine adjacent to Starved Rock State Park </strong><strong><a href="##starved">(above)</a></strong>. And then read on for some key facts about mining for frac sand.</p><p>While reporting this story, WBEZ also came across a case of severe and dangerous water contamination next to a frac sand mine in LaSalle County. While&nbsp;<strong>the problems with the water in Wedron remain an unsolved mystery <a href="##starved">(listen above)</a></strong>, check below for what we do know about Wedron.</p><h2><u><strong>Key Facts About Frac Sand Mining in Illinois</strong></u></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Frac sand is not just for fracking.</strong>&nbsp;The sand that most companies want to use as a proppant in fracking fluid is the purest possible silica, or quartz, in a round and even grain size. The silica found in the midwest, in what&rsquo;s called the St. Peter sandstone formation, is perfect for the companies&rsquo; purposes&mdash;and it&rsquo;s also the sand that forms the majestic bluffs at Illinois&rsquo; Starved Rock State Park. This same sand has long been mined for commercial and industrial uses like sandboxes and glass. It&rsquo;s particularly advantageous for mining operations to find areas where silica is close to the surface.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sand mining has been going on in Illinois since at least the 1860s.&nbsp;</strong>A mine belonging to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ussilica.com/locations/ottawa-il" target="_blank">U.S. Silica,</a>&nbsp;the largest sand mining company in the country, has been located in Ottawa, Illinois since the 1860s.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>There are five silica sand mines in Illinois,</strong>&nbsp;four of them in LaSalle County. Three new mines have been proposed and permitted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) but they are not currently operating. Over the last five years, U.S. Silica, Unimin and Fairmount Minerals, companies with long-standing mines in LaSalle County, have all increased production and opened new facilities in other states.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Illinois is historically the silica sand capital of the country.&nbsp;</strong>In 2012, the state was second behind Texas in production of silica sand. Wisconsin is a close third: the number of sand mines in Wisconsin more than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2011/07/31/sand-mining-surges-in-wisconsin/" target="_blank">doubled from 2010-2011</a>&nbsp;and has been growing since, although in 2012&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2012/10/25/updated-map-frac-sand-rush-slowing/" target="_blank">the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported the rush to get new mining permits was slowing</a>. Many of the more than 100 Wisconsin mines have a far lower production capacity than Illinois&rsquo; well-established mines.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Demand has skyrocketed.</strong>&nbsp;The demand for silica sand suddenly shot through the roof with the growth of the fracking industry in the late 2000s. In 2011, U.S. silica consumption was over 26 million tons; in 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey reported it had nearly doubled to over 45 million tons. Prices spiked for a couple years, although now companies in Illinois and Wisconsin report the pricing has leveled out as supply begins to meet demand. The owner of Mississippi Sand, LLC says his sand will sell for $100-$150 per ton, including transportation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Protections for workers have improved.</strong>&nbsp;Breathing in the fine particulate matter from silica mining&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">can cause silicosis and other lung diseases</a>. But in contrast to the first hundred years of mining for silica sand, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now requires protections for workers such as wearing face masks. Still, many mines have been found in violation of federal and state standards, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5416a2.htm" target="_blank">a federal study</a>&nbsp;reported 148 deaths from silicosis in 2002.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Air pollution from dust is a risk of silica mines.&nbsp;</strong>The federal EPA doesn&rsquo;t regulate airborne silica, but states may require air quality monitoring around mines. The proposed Mississippi Sand mine next to Starved Rock State Park will have to get an Illinois EPA air quality permit in order to start mining.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Most mines use a lot of water.</strong>&nbsp;Silica sand mining operations use water to wash sand, and they may also use water to keep down dust on windy days. In addition, many surface mining operations dig down into aquifers, which means some mines pump out water to the tune of millions of gallons per day in order to reach the desired sand.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Silica mining can contaminate waterways.</strong>&nbsp;<a href="http://stopthestarvedrocksandmine.wordpress.com/talking-points/" target="_blank">Environmentalists say water containing silica sediment may silt up streams and harm wildlife.</a>&nbsp;Water quality around sand mines is regulated by states, and in Illinois, surface mines are required to get a water discharge permit for operation. The proposed mine next to Starved Rock State Park has a permit to discharge over five million gallons of water per day into a nearby creek, and an average of 1.4 million gallons per day. The mine will be required to submit monthly water quality reports. In Wisconsin,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2013/03/03/frac-sand-dnr-violations/" target="_blank">a recent report</a>&nbsp;found many mines violated water quality standards in 2012. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mining can lower the water table and disturb wetlands.</strong>&nbsp;Because some sand mines reach below the water table, mining operations may involve pumping water out of the ground. These operations are known to alter water levels in certain areas, including at a sand mine in Wedron, Illinois that is now&nbsp;under investigation for its connection to groundwater contamination.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sand is shipped out by train, barge and truck.</strong>&nbsp;The owner of Mississippi Sand, Tony Giordano, says about 100 trucks a day will leave the mine near Starved Rock once it is in full operation. Each truck carries about 25 tons of sand to a nearby train or barge terminal for long-distance shipping. In the case of Mississippi Sand, almost all the silica sand will be headed for fracking operations in other states.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mining in Illinois is regulated by the state, counties and cities.</strong>&nbsp;There are no federal environmental standards related specifically to silica, so the environmental effects of silica mining are monitored at a state level. In Illinois, cities and counties with zoning laws can control permits for proposed mines, but may not have the authority to impose taxes or control environmental practices or traffic.</p><p><strong>A proposed mine next to Starved Rock State Park has been approved.&nbsp;</strong>The mine belonging to Mississippi Sand that would be adjacent to Starved Rock received a special use permit from LaSalle County in 2012, and it was also permitted by the IDNR and the Illinois EPA. Coincidentally, the IDNR also manages the state park that activists contend will be at risk. The IDNR said in a written statement to WBEZ, &ldquo;During the review process, the IDNR examined potential impacts to threatened and endangered species in the area and made recommendations to the county board based upon that analysis...Since then, the mining company has provided and satisfied all information requirements provided by law and thus, IDNR approved its permit to the company.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The mine next to Starved Rock is not yet under construction.&nbsp;</strong>In December 2012, the Sierra Club, Openlands, and the Prairie Rivers Network filed a lawsuit against the IDNR and Mississippi Sand, contending that the permit fails to comply with state law protecting wetlands and wildlife. Mississippi Sand owner Tony Giordano said in July 2013 that he can&rsquo;t say when operations will begin at the mine, but he believes the permitting process is proof that the mine is neither unique nor hazardous to the area.&nbsp;<strong><a href="##starved">Listen to the whole story.</a></strong></p><h2><u><strong>Key facts about the water contamination case in Wedron, Illinois</strong></u></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wedron is home to one of the largest sand mines in the country.</strong>&nbsp;Wedron Silica, now owned by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fairmountminerals.com/Fairmount-Corporate/About-Fairmount/History.aspx" target="_blank">Fairmount Minerals</a>, was established in the area 125 years ago and has expanded to become one of the largest sand mines in the county, now employing over 200 people. Fairmount also operates mines in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>There is benzene in the groundwater supply.</strong>&nbsp;Benzene is commonly found in gasoline and petroleum along with toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all of which have shown up in groundwater and well water tests in Wedron.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxguides/toxguide-3.pdf" target="_blank">Benzene is carcinogenic</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/benzene.cfm#four" target="_blank">US EPA drinking water standard</a>&nbsp;for enforcement is five parts per billion (ppb). The recommended standard is zero. Wells in Wedron have tested at up to 2400 ppb for benzene. It may also be absorbed through the air; as of July, 2013, the EPA was awaiting test results regarding benzene vapors in Wedron.&nbsp;<strong>Hear the Wedron story (</strong><strong><a href="##starved">above)</a></strong><strong>.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Benzene is not associated with the process of mining for frac sand.&nbsp;</strong>The mining process may use a lot of water and kick up a lot of dust, but it does not routinely require chemicals like benzene. If benzene in Wedron is somehow related to the presence of the mine, it would have to do with products used to clean equipment, or for maintenance or transportation, not mining itself.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Benzene could be associated with equipment used at the mine, or with an old spill.</strong>&nbsp;Twice in the last fifty years, trains have derailed in Wedron and spilled petroleum directly into the ground. Recent investigations have also uncovered underground storage tanks from former gas stations on the land now belonging to Illinois Railway, which hauls sand in and out of Wedron. A final theory on the source of the contaminants, suggested by Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.brockovich.com/projects/wedron-illinois/" target="_blank">Erin Brockovich</a>, is that a mixture of chemicals including petroleum and solvents come from an equipment maintenance facility on the Wedron Silica property. Fairmount Minerals, the owner of Wedron Silica, denies this charge.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The groundwater flow has been altered by mining in Wedron.</strong>&nbsp;A 2013 EPA groundwater study found that the pumping up of water out of a mining pit on the west side of town has likely caused the groundwater in Wedron to flow west, away from the train tracks and across town toward the pit. If this is true, that would be an alteration to its natural path. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/wedron/pdfs/wedron-memo-201302.pdf" target="_blank">EPA document&nbsp;</a>says &ldquo;mining operations are generally responsible for the reversal of natural groundwater flow direction and lowering the water table in Wedron.&rdquo; If the mine ceased to use the pit, the water could reverse itself and begin to flow downhill toward the river again.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In 2007, Fairmount Minerals opened a new frac sand treatment facility called Technisand.</strong>&nbsp;Technisand produces resin-coated sand for fracking, and has facilities in Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma and Mexico. The company has declined to discuss whether benzene could be involved in the Technisand operation in Wedron, but maintains that it does not believe Wedron Silica is responsible for a petroleum spill.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>An investigator from Erin Brockovich&rsquo;s office says they intend to file suit against the sand mine.</strong>&nbsp;Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator for the Brockovich firm, says the suit will ask for damages on behalf of 35 residents of Wedron.&nbsp;<em>(Updated July 17. A previous version of this story listed the number involved in the suit as 25.)</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Lewis Wallace is a reporter. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-fracking-boom-sand-mining-rush-108078 Delay and denial in Pines http://www.wbez.org/news/delay-and-denial-pines-106548 <p><p>The Town of Pines, Ind., is an unassuming place. There&rsquo;s no factory or skyline to compete with the smoky towers of Gary and nearby Michigan City. Sitting at the edge of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Pines is home to just over 700 people, two gas stations, one church and one bank. It&rsquo;s easy to miss unless you&#39;re looking for it, as it&#39;s tucked among groves of trees along U.S. Highway 12.</p><p dir="ltr">Pines does, however, have a landmark of sorts.</p><p dir="ltr">The unceremoniously-named Yard 520 is an out-of-use landfill that sits kitty-corner from Pines&#39; public park. There&#39;s no household garbage under the yard&#39;s rolling expanse of green grass; instead, the landfill holds an estimated 1.5 million tons of ash from coal burned at a Michigan City power plant, which sits about three miles away. Half of Yard 520&rsquo;s fill is unlined.</p><p dir="ltr">The ash dumping in Yard 520 started almost fifty years ago. Twelve years ago, the town learned the water was contaminated with pollutants that can leach from coal ash. Nine years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared most of Pines a cleanup site. And still today, the Pines cleanup is a web of distrust between residents, the companies responsible for the ash and the EPA.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My husband and I bought our home here to raise our family,&rdquo; said Cathi Murray, the vice president of Pines&rsquo; town council. &ldquo;We thought we found our own little piece of paradise. Well, it turns out to be pretty much our own little piece of hell.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Pines&#39; blue lawn ornaments</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The people in Pines first learned there was a problem in 2000, when a resident tasted something funny in her well water and complained to environmental authorities. After that, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the EPA conducted tests that turned up elevated levels of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/pines/pdfs/pines_fs_200301.pdf" target="_blank">manganese, boron, molybdenum, arsenic and lead</a>. Residents and their environmentalist allies <a href="http://www.catf.us/resources/publications/files/Not_in_My_Lifetime.pdf" target="_blank">spent years agitating over the issue</a>, and the EPA made almost the entire town a cleanup site in 2004.</p><p dir="ltr">For Murray, the damage was already done. She had moved to Pines with her husband years earlier and put down roots, working as a school teacher and raising two kids. She&#39;d already spent a decade drinking tap water that came straight out of the ground in Pines; while she was pregnant, she says, she swore off pop and coffee and drank only well water.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pines inline 1.JPG" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 330px;" title="George Adey and Cathi Murray have lived in Pines since before the coal ash contamination was uncovered. They now worry about their families’ health. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;So I have an older daughter who was born with a rare bowel disorder, and I have a younger daughter who was born hearing impaired,&quot; she said. &quot;Do you think I will ever stop wondering, did the water I drink have anything to do with that?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The EPA began circling around a suspect: coal combustion waste, or coal ash, the material stored in Yard 520. The presumption was that as water struck underground ash deposits, it would pick up traces of arsenic, boron, and other elements that can be dangerous if consumed at high levels. The contaminated water would continue moving underground, only to be drawn into residents&#39; drinking wells.</p><p dir="ltr">NIPSCO, the utility that had dumped most of the ash, and the landfill owner, Brown, agreed to pipe in municipal water from Michigan City to two separate parts of Pines. After residents without municipal water (including Murray) sued the companies, they extended the water lines to most of the town under&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/pines/pinesfs200404b.htm" target="_blank">a new agreement with the EPA</a>. About 50 homes in Pines still have no access to the new municipal pipes. For the past nine years they&#39;ve drunk bottled water provided by the companies; today you can spot big, blue containers on some homes&rsquo; front lawns or driveways.</p><p dir="ltr">And Yard 520 is not the only potential source of contamination in the town. In the sixties and seventies coal ash was used as road base and structural fill throughout Pines. You can literally pick the light, shimmery black stuff off the ground in roadways, driveways and even yards. Murray says her children used to play with it before anyone realized the potential danger.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>An alternative approach?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You have to cook with bottled water, boil spaghetti, potatoes ... drink bottled water,&rdquo; said Shirley McColpin. She and her husband own one of about fifty homes in Pines that still have well water in their pipes. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t think people should have to live like that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The responsible companies pay for water for people like McColpin, but she&rsquo;s tired of waiting for the outcome of the official cleanup. She says she&rsquo;s never had her well tested, and she&rsquo;s afraid to wash in the water. McColpin says her husband dodged a bout with skin cancer just a couple years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Somebody polluted our water and somebody&rsquo;s responsible for this,&rdquo; McColpin said. &ldquo;Fess up ... and give us our water.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">From the vantage of people like McColpin, the cleanup begun in 2004 has been slow and the definition of &quot;cleanup&quot; slippery. But the EPA and NIPSCO say they&rsquo;ve done all they can to involve the community in what&#39;s called a &ldquo;Superfund Alternative Agreement,&rdquo; a less formal version of the official&nbsp;<a href="http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/news/superfund/?ar_a=1" target="_blank">Superfund cleanup program</a>. The &ldquo;alternative&rdquo; approach, they say, can save time and money by allowing polluters to enter into voluntary but legally-binding agreements.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pines inline 2.JPG" style="height: 510px; width: 680px;" title="The Yard 520 landfill is the biggest thing in the 700-person town of Pines. It holds more than a million tons of coal ash. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />Superfund Alternative sites are not listed on the EPA&rsquo;s National Priorities List for hazardous contamination sites, although they meet the exact same criteria for the severity of the pollution. The strategy is logical: Superfund cleanups are notoriously complicated and time-consuming, and listing a site on the NPL can involve lengthy litigation. With the Superfund Alternative, the EPA drops legal battles, while industry avoids the bad P.R. smell that comes with having a Superfund site under your nose.</p><p dir="ltr">But observers of Pines and other cleanup sites question whether this &nbsp;route is actually transparent and expedient. A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/evaluate/pdf/waste/effectiveness-assessment-region-4-superfund-alternative-approach.pdf" target="_blank">recent EPA assessment says the alternative approach doesn&rsquo;t necessarily make cleanups cheaper or faster.</a> And Pines residents have repeatedly accused the EPA and the companies of making decisions about the cleanup behind closed doors.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We feel that we&rsquo;ve done more community involvement at the Pines site than some of our NPL sites,&rdquo; said Rick Karl, who heads the EPA Region 5 Superfund Division. He says there&rsquo;s no real difference in transparency or oversight from a regular Superfund cleanup aside from the formality of NPL listing.</p><p dir="ltr">Between 2002 and 2011, Region 5 established more alternative sites than the rest of the country combined. But Karl says he has not evaluated whether Superfund Alternative cleanups are faster or cheaper.</p><p dir="ltr">That&rsquo;s not surprising, or so says Lisa Evans, an environmental activist and lawyer who worked for the EPA in the 1980s. &ldquo;Are cleanups being done faster, does the community have more involvement in those sites, is it costing industry or the government less money?&rdquo; Evans said. &ldquo;None of that is true. What the advantage is, is that industry doesn&rsquo;t have the stigma of having a Superfund site.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, NIPSCO and their consultants are quick to point out that Pines is not a regular Superfund site and they are only &ldquo;potentially responsible parties&rdquo; under the alternative agreement. In other words, they&rsquo;ve agreed to pay the price for cleanup, but they haven&rsquo;t necessarily accepted blame for Pines&rsquo; groundwater contamination. The irony is that people like Shirley McColpin haven&rsquo;t avoided the stigma of living in a contamination zone.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve just been held prisoner,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t sell your home, real estate agents won&rsquo;t come. They don&rsquo;t say, &lsquo;You have poison water we&rsquo;re not coming.&rsquo; But that&rsquo;s the reason they don&rsquo;t come.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The slow grind</strong></p><p dir="ltr">A likely culprit behind the pace of Superfund cleanups is the principle of the &ldquo;polluter pays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As in most Superfund sites, the companies responsible for coal ash in Pines bankrolled the environmental investigation. They hired their own consultants, but they also issued grants to a citizen&rsquo;s group, People in Need of Environmental Safety (P.I.N.E.S.), to hire an independent technical advisor to review the studies of environmental and human health risks from coal ash in Pines.</p><p dir="ltr">The result? The experts (again, one representing the company, another representing the citizens&rsquo; group) spar over technical details, while the residents absorb mixed messages about the contamination&rsquo;s severity and sources. According to P.I.N.E.S. technical advisor, Chuck Norris of GeoHydro, fundamental questions remain unanswered &mdash; despite the fact that the EPA is nine years into its investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, Norris says the EPA and AECOM haven&rsquo;t adequately measured how much coal ash was buried and spread around Pines, where it&rsquo;s located, or how much of the contamination can be accurately attributed to coal ash used as road fill. And, he says, the arsenic showing up in monitoring wells near the landfill has never been located in soil or water samples taken in other places, despite the fact that it&rsquo;s presumably spreading with the groundwater plume or filtering out into the soil.</p><p dir="ltr">Norris is also perplexed about the lack of a definitive groundwater model. In other words, NIPSCO&rsquo;s consultants offered several predictions about where the contaminated plume of water is moving, none of which were accepted by the EPA. That debate took years, and still left the cleanup with no groundwater model at all, a move Norris calls &ldquo;very unusual&rdquo; for a groundwater contamination site.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pines inline 3.JPG" style="height: 285px; width: 380px; float: right;" title="Some Pines residents have been drinking and cooking with bottled water for almost ten years. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p dir="ltr">The EPA approved the environmental reports sanctioned by NIPSCO at each stage even when those reports lacked what Norris considers key information. Norris finds this disconcerting.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to leave the gorilla in the room, but we&rsquo;re not going to make you acknowledge that the gorilla&rsquo;s there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Even though whether or not it&rsquo;s there seems to be important.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Norris says it&rsquo;s too soon to declare the cleanup a success or failure; the proof, he says, will be in the pudding. And, he says, it can be hard for affected residents to face the fact that a &ldquo;cleanup&rdquo; of groundwater contamination is never really over.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s always a balance between what technically can be done, what it costs to do it and how much damage will be allowed to continue in lieu of trying to do more,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A perfect cleanup doesn&rsquo;t exist. Once these contaminants are out, they&rsquo;re out.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And here&rsquo;s the latest message Pines residents have had to absorb: The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/pines/pdfs/pines_fs_200301.pdf" target="_blank">most recent studies of the site</a> approved by the EPA find no significant risk to human health from coal ash contamination.</p><p dir="ltr">This seemingly reassuring news is the word of the consultant overseeing the science in Pines on behalf of the companies. That person also happens to be a leading advocate for the coal ash industry.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>At the helm: An advocate for coal ash reuse</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Lisa Bradley has managed the environmental investigation in Pines since 2004 as an employee of AECOM, an international consulting giant. AECOM already has a coal ash track record: In 2009 the Inspector General for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the utility responsible for the wet ash disaster in Kingston, accused&nbsp;<a href="http://oig.tva.gov/PDF/09rpts/2008-12283-02.pdf" target="_blank">AECOM of understating the company&rsquo;s responsibility</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And last year, Lisa Bradley joined the executive committee of the powerful&nbsp;<a href="http://www.acaa-usa.org/" target="_blank">American Coal Ash Association</a>, an association of utilities and marketers in the business of promoting what they call the &ldquo;beneficial use&rdquo; of coal ash.</p><p dir="ltr">The national industry in coal ash recycling is worth more than $2 billion a year. Companies say various types of dry ash from coal combustion can be safely used in roads, in concrete, or even in toothpaste. The EPA&rsquo;s currently&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/index.htm" target="_blank">weighing two proposed regulations</a> on the use of coal ash; industry broadly favors one that&rsquo;s less restrictive. The agency&rsquo;s sat silent on both since 2011.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, the EPA itself supports coal ash reuse, and in 2011 the inspector general&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2011/20110323-11-P-0173.pdf" target="_blank">slapped the agency&rsquo;s wrist</a> over the issue. The agency, the IG wrote, had collaborated with industry to support the practice of coal ash reuse, despite the lack of data about the potential risks.</p><p dir="ltr">Bradley attends industry events, where she&nbsp;<a href="http://www.flyash.info/2011/Plenary-Bradley-2011.pdf" target="_blank">promotes the idea that coal ash is similar in composition to soil</a>. Environmentalist groups have <a href="http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/ACAAreport.pdf" target="_blank">smeared her work as &ldquo;junk science.&rdquo;</a> But she doesn&rsquo;t believe her advocacy makes her unqualified for the Pines jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see it as a conflict,&rdquo; said Bradley. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m very well trained in what I do. I&rsquo;ve been doing it for a long time. Certainly everything we&rsquo;ve done for Pines has followed EPA guidance and regulations.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">All of this is incontrovertible. Bradley&rsquo;s been a toxicologist at AECOM for 22 years. And in any EPA cleanup, the agency ultimately approves all the reports and decides the outcome based on its own regulatory powers.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet the EPA&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fightingbob.com/files/Coalwaste.pdf" target="_blank">own research</a> has documented two dozen proven cases of environmental or health problems caused by coal ash, and dozens more potential cases. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate that the elements present in coal ash can harm human health, animals and the environment. An&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/2009/02/19/2942/coal-ash-hidden-story" target="_blank">investigative report</a> by the Center for Public Integrity finds industry has had a hand in holding back state regulations and fighting against federal ones.</p><p dir="ltr">So how could a figure like Bradley end up in such a key position in Pines?</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They&rsquo;re providing facts and information just as any other toxicologist would provide,&rdquo; said Nick Meyer, a spokesman for NIPSCO. He says the company selected AECOM as consultants through a standard bidding process. The data the consultants provide, he says, is not subjective. &ldquo;A 12-inch ruler is gonna measure something the same as it measures something down the road.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But the comparison is not apt. Environmental reports are hundreds of pages long and include thousands of pieces of data gathered from wells and soil samples. EPA feedback on those reports is even more substantive; I&rsquo;ve been told a Freedom of Information Act request for comments and communications about the Pines reports will take six months to fulfill.</p><p dir="ltr">When I asked Rick Karl of EPA Region 5 about concerns that this cleanup could be influenced by the coal ash industry, his response was simple.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We use our own scientists to review and prepare comments on any document that is developed by a responsible party,&rdquo; Karl said.</p><p dir="ltr">In other words, the buck stops with the EPA. Though, of course, not everyone sees it that way, particularly those who think the EPA&rsquo;s dropped the ball on coal ash.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The problem lies in relying on the polluter to do the investigation,&rdquo; said Evans, adding that having the EPA make corrections after the fact is a waste of time at best. &ldquo;Because the polluter has a vested interest in keeping those costs low. It&rsquo;s a situation of the fox guarding the chicken coop.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pines%20inline%204.JPG" style="float: left; height: 248px; width: 380px;" title="George Adey shows off bottom ash that had been deposited on a road in Pines long ago. In the 60s and 70s, coal combustion waste was used to fill roads in the town. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Evans argues potential gaps in oversight are built into &ldquo;the polluter pays&rdquo; model of almost all EPA cleanups. Keep in mind that there are more than 1,000 of these sites around the country, and Pines is neither the most contaminated, nor the most controversial.</p><p dir="ltr">But despite the confusion it can cause for residents and the potential for conflicts of interest, the &ldquo;polluter pays&rdquo; model is all the EPA has to work with. The EPA&rsquo;s Superfund program <a href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/2007/04/26/5621/superfund-today" target="_blank">hasn&rsquo;t received new funding since 1995</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/20/AR2010062001789.html" target="_blank">the Obama administration&rsquo;s efforts to reinstate the Superfund tax</a> have gone nowhere. In the meantime, the EPA is placing fewer new sites on the National Priorities List, and Superfund Alternative Approach sites are on the rise.</p><p dir="ltr">As it stands now (in Pines, and around the country), if the polluter doesn&rsquo;t pay, no one does.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The clock will keep ticking</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The coal industry wants a free hand to dispose of this stuff how they see fit,&rdquo; said George Adey, the Pines Town Council president. &ldquo;Our community is a perfect example of why we need a stronger EPA and stronger regulation for coal ash.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">That kind of sentiment&rsquo;s drawing more attention lately, especially after the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/us/27sludge.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Kingston disaster</a>. That incident reminded environmentalists and lawmakers that towns such as Pines had been treated like coal ash dumps, though it hasn&rsquo;t led to much action. The EPA has been sitting on two proposed regulations on the disposal of coal ash since 2010, and the states offer a hodge-podge of guidelines. As it stands, the states regulate the disposal of coal ash in more than a thousand ponds and landfills around the country, many of them unlined.</p><p dir="ltr">Coal remains a major source of energy in the Chicago region as well as the entire nation. And environmentalists say &ldquo;clean coal&rdquo; is a fallacy if you <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1870599,00.html" target="_blank">consider the continued production of unregulated coal ash.</a></p><p dir="ltr">New regulatory developments are likely to pass Pines by, since NIPSCO no longer dumps ash there. The clock, though, will still be running on the cleanup. The EPA says it expects to announce what cleanup requirements it will impose on NIPSCO and Brown in early 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the Yard 520 landfill still sits at the edge of the town. There&rsquo;s a marshy ditch right next to Yard 520 that captures most of the contaminated runoff from the area and carries it through the town of Pines and through Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.</p><p dir="ltr">The final destination? Lake Michigan.</p><p dir="ltr">Lewis Wallace is a WBEZ Pritzker Journalism Fellow. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">@lewispants</a>.</p></p> Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/delay-and-denial-pines-106548 EcoMyths: The big reasons not to flush old medicines down the toliet http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80812811&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120218166375_3.jpg" style="float: left; width: 243px; height: 346px;" title="Area residents dispose of unneeded medications at the drug take back event on Feb. 18, 2012, at Walgreens and other participating locations in Palm Springs, CA. The event was sponsored by the C.A.R.E.S. Alliance, with support from the Palm Springs Police Department. (Rodrigo Pena/AP Images for The C.A.R.E.S. Alliance and Palm Springs Police Department)" />Over the years, you may have heard that the recommended way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals is to flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain - not anymore.&nbsp; The EPA and FDA backed off this recommendation for almost all drugs (exceptions are listed on the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#Flushing_list">FDA website</a>).&nbsp; Medicines are among the thousands of &ldquo;chemicals of emerging concern&rdquo; the EPA and much of the scientific community now monitor and study.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today for our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, Jerome McDonnell and I discuss the pros and cons of flushing medicines with two experts: &nbsp;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Olga Lyandres, PhD</a> of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, author of the paper &ldquo;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/document.doc?id=1263">Keeping Great Lakes Water Safe: Priorities for Protecting against Emerging Chemical Pollutants</a>&rdquo;; and <a href="http://apps.mwrd.org/commissioners/shore.pdf">Commissioner Debra Shore</a> of the <a href="http://www.mwrd.org">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago</a> (MWRD).&nbsp; Both had a lot to say about the dangers of and the solutions for the contamination of our drinking water by dissolved pharmaceuticals and other household products.<strong> See how we &quot;flush&quot; <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/2013/02/flushing-meds/">this myth</a> at the EcoMyths Alliance website!</strong></div><p><u>Why Dispose of Unused Drugs?</u></p><p>The &ldquo;chemical soup&rdquo; that Lyandres mentions is of concern because of the strange mix of chemicals that we dispose of in our waste stream.&nbsp; These chemicals show up in trace amounts in our drinking water, creating a potentially harmful cocktail of chemicals.</p><p>Source: <a href="http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis">http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis</a></p><p>Common chemicals in the waste stream include Prozac, Viagra, and caffeine. &nbsp;As she explained, no one understands the chemistry that occurs when these and other compounds are mixed together. Nor is much is known about the potential impacts on human health. But studies show adverse ecological impacts of <a href="http://epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare.htm">endocrine disruptors</a> in our waterways, including &ldquo;intersex fish&rdquo; &ndash; that is, the male fish in the Potomac River Watershed <a href="http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/DisplayNews.cfm?NewsID=E2FDE07T-74%20D0-11D4-288DC74E7914EA01">bearing eggs</a>!</p><p><strong><u>Two really important reasons to properly dispose of unused medicines</u></strong></p><ul><li>To prevent accidental, and possibly fatal, use of the drug by people for whom the medicine was not prescribed.&nbsp;</li><li>To prevent environmental contamination in of our waterways and soils.</li></ul><p><u>What Can a Person Do To Help?</u></p><p>First, it is important to note that using expired medications is potentially harmful to your health.&nbsp; Once a medicine expires, not only can it lose its potency, but also its chemical composition may have changed.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the past two years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has increased focus on this issue by instituting nationwide pharmaceutical &ldquo;Take Back Days&rdquo;.&nbsp; By making it easier for people to dispose of their medicines safely, the DEA has collected millions of pounds of drugs as a result of this program. The next <a href="http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html">National Drug Take Back Day</a> is April 27, 2013 and will be administered by state law enforcement.&nbsp;</p><p>Commissioner Shore points out that sewage treatment plants do not have the capabilities to clean out the thousands of chemicals that get into the waste stream from home plumbing, storm water, and other sources.&nbsp; So we have to do our part to keep chemicals out of the water system in the first place.</p><p>Both Shore and Lyandres advise people to keep an eye on the expiration dates of their prescribed and over-the-counter medications.&nbsp; When the drugs are expired or unused, there are several safe ways to dispose of medicines to keep them out of getting into your drinking water.&nbsp; Below are our experts&rsquo; recommendations on safe disposal.</p><p><u>Disposing of Medicines Safely</u></p><ul><li><u>Local Municipal and Other Agency Collection Sites</u>: Commissioner Shore recommends finding a drug collection location near your home.&nbsp; The Illinois <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/medication-disposal/locations/index.html">EPA lists medication disposal locations in by county</a> on its website. The MWRD also participates in the DEA Take Back days at several of its water treatment plants in Cook County.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Special Envelopes Sold at Local Stores</u>:&nbsp; Major pharmacies, such as <a href="http://info.cvscaremark.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-caremark-helps-launch-partnership-drugfreeorgs-national-campaign-curb-te">CVS</a> and <a href="http://www.walgreens.com/topic/sr/sr_community_safe_medication_disposal.jsp">Walgreens</a>, sell specially designed envelopes for mailing used medicines to safe disposal facilities.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Trash it as a Last Resort</u>:&nbsp; If there are no local medicine disposal alternatives, the FDA recommends throwing away old medicine in a plastic bag after mixing it with kitty litter or coffee grounds.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is not the best option, since the bag goes into a landfill. There is a chance that eventually the package could leak and the drugs leech into groundwater. However, disposing expired medications in the trash is still better than flushing them down the toilet.</li></ul></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 EPA Administrator Jackson announces resignation http://www.wbez.org/news/epa-administrator-jackson-announces-resignation-104580 <p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; The Obama administration&#39;s chief environmental watchdog, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is stepping down after a nearly four-year tenure marked by high-profile brawls over global warming pollution, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and several other hot-button issues that affect the nation&#39;s economy and people&#39;s health.</p><p>Jackson, the agency&#39;s first black administrator, constantly found herself caught between administration pledges to solve controversial environmental problems and steady resistance from Republicans and industrial groups who complained that the agency&#39;s rules destroyed jobs and made it harder for American companies to compete internationally.</p><p>The GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, said last year that Jackson would need her own parking spot at the Capitol because he planned to bring her in so frequently for questioning. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called for her firing, a stance that had little downside during the GOP primary.</p><p>Jackson, 50, a chemical engineer by training, did not point to any particular reason for her departure. Historically, Cabinet members looking to move on will leave at the beginning of a president&#39;s second term.</p><p>&quot;I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference,&quot; she said in a statement. Jackson gave no exact date for her departure, but will leave after Obama&#39;s State of the Union address in late January.</p><p>In a separate statement, Obama said Jackson has been &quot;an important part of my team.&quot; He thanked her for serving and praised her &quot;unwavering commitment&quot; to the public&#39;s health.</p><p>&quot;Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, including implementing the first national standard for harmful mercury pollution, taking important action to combat climate change under the Clean Air Act and playing a key role in establishing historic fuel economy standards that will save the average American family thousands of dollars at the pump, while also slashing carbon pollution.&quot;</p><p>Environmental groups had high expectations for the Obama administration after eight years of President George W. Bush, a Texas oilman who rebuffed the agency&#39;s scientists and refused to take action on climate change. Jackson came into office promising a more active EPA.</p><p>But she soon learned that changes would not occur as quickly as she had hoped. Jackson watched as a Democratic-led effort to reduce global warming emissions passed the House in 2009 but was abandoned by the Senate as economic concerns became the priority. The concept behind the bill, referred to as cap-and-trade, would have set up a system in which power companies bought and sold pollution rights.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a revolutionary message for our country,&quot; Jackson said at a Paris conference a few months after taking the job.</p><p>Jackson experienced another big setback last year when the administration scrubbed a clean-air regulation aimed at reducing health-threatening smog. Republican lawmakers had been hammering the president over the proposed rule, accusing his administration of making it harder for companies to create jobs.</p><p>She also vowed to better control toxic coal ash after a massive spill in Tennessee, but that regulation has yet to be finalized more than four years after the spill.</p><p>Jackson had some victories, too. During her tenure, the administration finalized a new rule doubling fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. The requirements will be phased in over 13 years and eventually require all new vehicles to average 54.5 mpg, up from 28.6 mpg at the end of last year.</p><p>She shepherded another rule that forces power plants to control mercury and other toxic pollutants for the first time. Previously, the nation&#39;s coal- and oil-fired power plants had been allowed to run without addressing their full environmental and public health costs.</p><p>Jackson also helped persuade the administration to table the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.</p><p>House Republicans dedicated much of their time this past election year trying to rein in the EPA. They passed a bill seeking to thwart regulation of the coal industry and quash the stricter fuel efficiency standards. In the end, though, the bill made no headway in the Senate. It served mostly as election-year fodder that appeared to have little impact on the presidential election.</p></p> Thu, 27 Dec 2012 09:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/epa-administrator-jackson-announces-resignation-104580 Kia, Hyundai owe drivers millions for false claims about mileage http://www.wbez.org/news/kia-hyundai-owe-drivers-millions-false-claims-about-mileage-103622 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kia_MSVG.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hyundai and Kia overstated the gas mileage on most of their models from the past three years in an embarrassing blunder that could bring sanctions from the U.S. government and millions of dollars in payments to car owners.</p><p>Because of the inflated mileage, discovered during an audit by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Korean automakers must retrofit the window stickers on the cars, reducing their fuel economy figures by one-to-six miles per gallon depending on the model, the agency said Friday.</p><p>The audit turned up discrepancies between agency test results and data turned in by Hyundai and Kia, the EPA said. As a result, the two automakers will have to knock one or two miles per gallon off the mileage posted on most of the models&#39; window stickers. Some models will lose three or four miles per gallon, and the Kia Soul, a funky-looking boxy small SUV, will lose six mpg from the highway mileage on its stickers.</p><p>Chicago resident Kadie Lord wasn&rsquo;t surprised by the news that her 2011 Kia Soul&rsquo;s gas mileage was mislabeled. It&rsquo;s a big part of why she&rsquo;s trying to sell the car and switch to using public transit for her commute.</p><p>&ldquo;I was surprised when I actually got the car and started driving it I saw that the mileage wasn&rsquo;t what they said it was going to be,&rdquo; Lord said. &ldquo;Even after talking with my dad, he&rsquo;s like &lsquo;I thought this was supposed to get better gas mileage and clearly it doesn&rsquo;t.&rsquo; I mean it&rsquo;s a cute car and I like it, but it&rsquo;s not what I expected.&rdquo;</p><p>The EPA said its inquiry into the errors is continuing, and the agency would not comment when asked if the companies will be fined or if a criminal investigation is under way. But the EPA said it&#39;s the first case in which erroneous test results were uncovered in a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer. Only two similar errors have been discovered since 2000, and those involved single models.</p><p>&quot;Consumers rely on the window sticker to help make informed choices about the cars they buy,&quot; said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator of the EPA&#39;s air-quality office. &quot;EPA&#39;s investigation will help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field among automakers.&quot;</p><p>Hyundai and Kia executives apologized for the errors, said they were unintentional, and promised to pay the owners of 900,000 cars and SUVs for the difference in mileage. The payments, which will be made annually for as long as people own their cars, are likely to cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars.</p><p>Automakers follow EPA procedures to do their own mileage tests, and the EPA enforces accuracy by auditing about 15 percent of vehicles annually.</p><p>The EPA said it began looking at Hyundai and Kia when it received a dozen complaints from consumers that the mileage of their 2012 Hyundai Elantra compact cars fell short of numbers on the window stickers. Staffers at the EPA&#39;s vehicle and fuel emission laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., included the Elantra in an annual audit that focused on cars that lead their market segments in mileage.</p><p>Hyundai and Kia are owned by the same company and share factories and research, but they sell different vehicles and market them separately. The companies said the mistakes stemmed from procedural differences between their mileage tests and those performed by the EPA.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re just extremely sorry about these errors,&quot; said John Krafcik, Hyundai&#39;s CEO of American operations. &quot;We&#39;re driven to make this right.&quot;</p><p>The changes affect 13 models from the 2011 through 2013 model years, including seven Hyundais and six Kias. Window stickers will have to be changed on some versions of Hyundai&#39;s Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent, Azera, Genesis, Tucson, Veloster and Santa Fe models, as well as the Kia Sorrento, Rio, Soul, Sportage and Optima Hybrid.</p><p>Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, also apologized and said the companies have a program in place to reimburse customers for the difference between the mileage on the window stickers and the numbers from the EPA tests.</p><p>The companies will find out how many miles the cars have been driven, find the mileage difference and calculate how much more fuel the customer used based on average regional fuel prices and combined city-highway mileage. Customers also would get a 15 percent premium for the inconvenience, and the payments would be made with debit cards, Sprague said. The owner of a car in Florida with a one mpg difference who drove 15,000 miles would get would get a debit card for $88.03 that can be refreshed every year as long as the person owns the car, Sprague said.</p><p>Lord is glad to she&rsquo;ll be able to get reimbursed for the mileage but said it would take more than a debit card to win back her trust.</p><p>&ldquo;(Since) I&rsquo;ve already had this issue in the past it will make me look twice at Kia and Hyundai,&rdquo; Lord said. &quot;Are you sure this is what you said it&#39;s going to be?&quot;</p><p>If all 900,000 owners get cards for $88.03, it would cost the automakers more than $79 million a year.<br />For information, owners can go to <a href="http://hyundaimpginfo.com" target="_blank">hyundaimpginfo.com</a> or <a href="http://kiampginfo.com" target="_blank">kiampginfo.com</a>.</p><p>Sung Hwan Cho, president of Hyundai&#39;s U.S. technical center in Michigan, said the EPA requires a complex series of tests that are very sensitive and can have variations that are open to interpretation. The companies did the tests as they were making a large number of changes in their cars designed to improve mileage. The changes, such as direct fuel injection into the cylinders around the pistons, further complicated the tests, Cho said.</p><p>&quot;This is just a procedural error,&quot; he said. &quot;It is not intended whatsoever.&quot;</p><p>Krafcik said the companies have fixed testing procedures and are replacing window stickers on cars in dealer inventories. Owners can be confident in their mileage stickers now, he said, adding that Hyundai will still be among the industry leaders in gas mileage even with the revised window stickers.</p><p>The mileage was overstated on about one-third of the Hyundais and Kias sold during the three model years, he said.</p></p> Fri, 02 Nov 2012 12:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kia-hyundai-owe-drivers-millions-false-claims-about-mileage-103622 Illinois environmentalists complain Midwestern Generation coal plants pollute groundwater http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-environmentalists-complain-midwestern-generation-coal-plants-pollute-groundwater <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/coal_rennett_stowe.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Environmentalists have <a href="http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/documents/10-3-12%20ELPC-Complaint%20with%20Attachments.pdf" target="_blank">filed a legal complaint</a> against four Illinois coal plants.</p><p>The Illinois EPA said it has also sent violation notices about contaminated groundwater to the plants owned by Midwest Generation in Joliet, Pekin, Will County and Waukegan.</p><p>Whitney Ferrell is a lawyer for the <a href="http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/" target="_blank">Environmental Integrity Project</a>, which filed the complaint.</p><p>&quot;We found pretty pervasive groundwater contamination at all four sites and are hoping that through bringing this claim we can ensure the cleanup of the groundwater in those areas and the protection of nearby communities,&quot; Ferrell said.</p><p>Ferrell said the complaint uses data from Midwest Generation to make its case.</p><p>The Illinois Environmental Protection Act requires coal plants to monitor and report on water quality near their facilities.</p><p>Midwest Generation said in a statement it is prepared to defend its operations.</p><p>&quot;We have not been served with the complaint, but from what we have seen, it raises nothing new,&quot; Midwest Generation said in a statement on Friday. &quot;We will be prepared to defend our operations vigorously against parties who have long sought any avenue to try to close down coal-fired power plants.&quot;</p><p>The Environmental Integrity Project and the Environmental Law &amp; Policy Center (ELPC filed the complaint and are joined by the Prairie Rivers Network and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment.</p><p>Traci Barkley is a water resources scientist with the <a href="http://prairierivers.org/" target="_blank">Prairie Rivers Network</a>.</p><p>She said the contaminants found in the groundwater could damage aquatic ecosystems.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a significant concern for us to the extent that contaminated groundwater is migrating into adjacent surface water bodies,&quot; Barkley said. &quot;Some of the things we are most concerned about are the pollutants including selenium and mercury.&quot;</p><p>The complaint will be heard by the <a href="http://www.ipcb.state.il.us/" target="_blank">Illinois Pollution Control Board</a>.</p></p> Mon, 08 Oct 2012 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-environmentalists-complain-midwestern-generation-coal-plants-pollute-groundwater Rockford gets $1 million award from Illinois EPA http://www.wbez.org/news/rockford-gets-1-million-award-illinois-epa-99041 <p><p>The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is giving $1 million to Rockford to help fund the removal of contaminated soil in the city's downtown.</p><p>City officials say the clean-up will help Rockford move forward with plans to expand a park and build a new Amtrak station downtown.</p><p>Officials say the state grant will be used at the site of a former rail depot and another structure that were demolished last year and the Tapco building, which is slated for demolition after sitting empty for nearly two decades.</p><p>The project will include digging up and hauling away 2,500 loads of dirt.</p><p>The grant is part of a state program designed to encourage communities to redevelop brownfield sites as part of efforts to improve their local economies.</p></p> Fri, 11 May 2012 08:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rockford-gets-1-million-award-illinois-epa-99041