Posts Tagged ‘EPA Northport’

EPA ANSWERS NORTHPORT QUESTIONS: Property Values, Livestock, Air & Water Quality

Recently I received questions from a concerned Northport resident regarding land value, livestock permits, economic value, and air and water quality;  in reference to the EPA/Teck Upper Columbia Studies and Clean-up.

I forwarded those questions along to our EPA Project Manager, Laura Buelow. Laura, Kay Morrison, (Community Involvement Coordinator), and Marc Stifelman, (EPA Toxicologist), responded to these questions. I found both the questions and answers informative and wanted to share them for any other interested Northport residents.

Below are the questions submitted from the Northport resident, and the EPA’s answers.

 

LAND VALUE
Q:   How does this affect the value of the land for taxes, finance, appraisals, selling?

A:   The Steven’s County assessor is a good place to start, also check with your realtor or John Cochran. John is our contact on the Washington Realtor’s Association (http://www.warealtor.org/ )

Q:   Are people having problems selling land due to the contamination?

A:   We have heard that property is being sold, but don’t have any details past that.

Q:   Is there a land conservation group willing to purchase the land at fair market value?

A:   Kay did a search on the term “land conservation groups in Washington state” and found a lot of information that residents may want to look into. We don’t currently have a relationship with any land conservation group. Here are a few of the links residents might try, as well as this google search:

https://www.google.com/#q=land%20conservation%20groups%20in%20washington%20state

http://www.landscope.org/washington/programs/wa_programs/

http://iwjv.org/partner-state/washington-state-conservation-partnership

Q:   How can you sell the land if there is contamination – are we liable for the contamination for the next owner?  Who pays for the testing?  Who is responsible for the clean up now and in the future?

A:   EPA will not hold residents liable for this contamination. Washington has disclosure requirements that can be found on the state’s website:
REAL PROPERTY TRANSFERS — SELLERS’ DISCLOSURES
The testing is being paid for by Teck American, Inc as part of the remedial investigation/feasibility study. The testing in 2016 will be conducted by Teck and their contractor, with oversight by EPA. The soil clean ups that were performed in 2014 were paid for by Teck and conducted by Teck’s contractors with oversight by EPA. If additional soil clean ups are necessary, the landowner will not be responsible for the cost.

Q:   Future clean up – how many years for re-testing? Who pays for the testing and clean up in the future?

A:   We’ll determine if, and where, additional areas need to be sampled based on the 2016 study. We can’t guarantee that we’ll do another round of testing, and we don’t have additional residential soil sampling scheduled out past 2016.

Q:   Is the ground becoming contaminated via air – water?

A:   EPA believes the data shows that the soil became contaminated from historic smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air). The smelter has been in operation since the 1890s. In the 1990s, the smelter went through a major improvement and the air emissions significantly decreased. We have received requests from the community to perform air monitoring and we are looking into the existing data to determine if additional air monitoring is necessary for the remedial investigation/feasibility study. Our focus right now is getting residential properties sampled.

ECONOMIC

Information: These are good questions for the Washington State University extension office for Stevens County – their website is http://ext100.wsu.edu/stevens/
 
From the web site:
“Washington State University Stevens County Extension connects the people of Stevens county to the research and knowledge bases of the state’s land grand research university providing solutions to local problems and stimulating local economies.  Our county-based educators work with partners in your communities to provide educational programs and leverage the broad resources of a major university to resolve issues and create a positive future for the residents of Stevens county.”

Q:   Can we produce and sell food/livestock raised on contaminated field?  I read that we have to get a special permit for that?

A:   Individual soil sampling results would need to be discussed specifically with Laura Buelow, EPA Project Manager (buelow.laura@epa.gov).

Q:   If so, does the produce/livestock have to be tested?

        A:   See above

AIR & WATER QUALITY
Q:   How often is either tested?  How do we get theses tested?

A:   Air was last tested in the U.S. by Ecology in the 1990s. Teck monitors air in Trail and we are working to get as much of that data as possible. Several studies have been completed under the remedial investigation/feasibility study. We have sampled river water, beaches, fish, sediment, and soil. The results of each study are compiled as Data Summary Reports and listed at this website: http://www.ucr-rifs.com/ The website is run by Teck specifically for this study and has more background information. EPA’s most recent fact sheet that gives a summary of everything done to date is here: https://www3.epa.gov/region10/pdf/sites/ucr/fact_sheets/UCR_Site_Invest_SU_Nov_14.pdf

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Q:   How can the community develop future economic bases?  How can we draw companies here?

A:   This is outside the scope of our work at this stage of the study. There is an organization called the Tri-County Economic Development District (http://tricountyedd.com/ ) that serves Northeast Washington – Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens Counties.

Q:   What studies are being done on the wildlife and vegetation and the affects of the pollution has on them?  Forest health?

A:   The ecological risk assessment is part of the RI/FS and it will determine if there is any issues with the plants and animals.

Q:   There seems to be a lot of studies done at universities – are any doing studies here?

A:   Contact Jamie Paparich at The Northport Project: northportproject@hotmail.com

Q:   How many groups are involved with this?  Coordination?  Meeting Schedules?  Funding?  Accountability?

A:   EPA and Teck signed a Settlement Agreement in 2006, which is a legal contract that sets out how the study will be conducted. Teck funds all of the work. EPA also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington Department of Ecology, the Colville Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe to participate and provide input on all of the sampling plans and documents. Teck funds these parties as well. There is also the Citizen’s for a Clean Columbia (the CCC). They have a technical advisor and Teck funds the time for the advisor. EPA has had community meetings in Northport approximately every 6-8 months for the last 3 years, mostly focused on the soil sampling.

Here is a link to EPA’s page with legal / enforcement documents, including the 2006 agreement:  https://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/UCR/Enforcement

Q:   Is there a early warning system in place that goes out to the residents when pollutants are released in the river?  Like a reverse 911.

A:   Ecology receives the notice of spills from the Trail smelter.

Q:   How come the fines Teck pays to Canada for environmental discharges are not distributed to the US?

A:   I’m not sure what these fines would be. Teck is paying to all of the remedial investigation/feasibility study.

 

AIR MONITORING IN NORTHPORT

 smoke stack

Necessity of Air Monitoring in Northport, WA:   Part I

 

The WA Department of Ecology’s air monitoring studies completed in Northport from 1992-1998 showed extremely elevated levels of arsenic (200 times higher than the national standard), and cadmium (see the results below in part II).

No air monitoring has been done since 1998.

So has Northport continued to be exposed to these dangerous levels of arsenic and cadmium since Ecology confirmed this, 18 years ago?  Is that why residents continue to be plagued with similar auto immune diseases their parents and grandparents had?   

The EPA is currently working on obtaining air monitoring in the area, but since Teck is conducting the RI/FS of the area it is a matter of convincing them to cooperate. 

Keep reading to learn how

_________________________________________________

Necessity of Air Monitoring in Northport, WA:   Part II

Summary of Ecology’s Northport Air Quality Studies,

Phases I – IV, (1992-1998) 

 

ECOLOGY/EPA  ACRONYMS

Screening Acronyms used by Ecology and EPA in testing certain heavy metal toxins:

    • Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL): Toxins must be found at or below the ASIL set by the EPA based on Standard ambient air background levels throughout the State.
    • Risk Based Specific Concentration Level (RSC): Toxins found at or above the RSC set by the EPA are considered high enough to pose as a risk to the environment and human health.

EPA AIR EMISSION SAFETY LEVELS

 

Arsenic Safety/Risk Levels:

  • The ASIL:  .00023 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
  • The RSC:  0.0023 ug/m3

Cadmium Safety/Risk Levels:

  • The ASIL:  .00056 ug/m3
  • The RSC:  0.1164 ug/m3

 

RESULTS OF AIR MONITORING STUDIES (4 phases) 

 

PHASE  I  &  PHASE  II

PHASE I:   Dec. 15, 1992 – Feb. 13, 1993

• Five air monitors installed

• 100 samples of particulate matter (PM) collected and analyzed for lead, arsenic, and particulate matter.

PHASE II:   Aug. 10, 1993 – Oct. 30, 1993

• Seven air monitors installed

• The particulate filters were scanned for 30 toxic metals, cadmium, zinc, antimony, lead, copper, arsenic, and manganese.

• Computer Modeling conducted to better “understand the probable sources of pollutants…”

RESULTS:

ARSENIC

    • Phase I –     maximum arsenic level detected:  .25 ug/m3 
    • Phase II –    maximum arsenic level detected:  0.1164 ug/m3
    • Results –   Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in both phases.

CADMIUM

** Cadminum was only tested in the Phase II air monitoring
    • Phase II – maximum cadmium level detected:  .0474 ug/m3
    • Results –   Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels

COMPUTER MODELING

The results of the computer modeling done in Phase II confirmed “…the monitoring data results in predicting that winds and pollutants from the (Teck) smelter can easily travel down the Columbia River Valley to produce moderately high pollutant concentrations in the study area.”

__________________________________________________

PHASE III

PHASE III:   Nov. 3, 1993 – Aug. 6, 1994

• One monitoring site – located 3 miles NE of Northport on “Paparich”

• Metals evaluated – lead, arsenic, cadmium

RESULTS

ARSENIC

    • Phase III:   Arsenic maximum yearly average:  .12 ug/m3
    • Results:   Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III

CADMIUM

    • Phase III:   Cadmium maximum yearly average:  .04 ug/m3
    • Results:   Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III

__________________________________________________

PHASE IV

PHASE IV:   Sept. 5, 1997 – Dec. 31, 1998

• Three monitoring sites in Northport

• Metals evaluated – arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc

RESULTS

ARSENIC

    • Phase IV:    Arsenic maximum yearly average:  .02 ug/m3
    • Results:    Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC Levels in phase IV

CADMIUM

    • Phase IV:    Cadmium maximum yearly average:  .01 ug/m3
    • Results:   Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC Levels in phase IV

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion;  of the four Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology between 1992 thru 1998 the level of arsenic and cadmium consistently exceeded all safety standards.  The levels found were high enough to pose a risk to our environment and human health.Ecology concluded in phase IV monitoring that they would:

continue its efforts to fine- tune the MM5, CALMET and CALPUFF air quality models for utilization in the Northport study area. …(I)n addition to evaluating the need for further emission reductions at the (Teck) facility, the above models will be used to determine pollutant impact “hot spots” and optimum long-term air quality monitoring site locations (in Northport).”

No air monitoring has taken place in Northport since the conclusion of phase IV in 1998.  For 18 years the community of Northport has been exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium, levels the Department of Ecology knew about, and warned the EPA about…..but no one warned the residents of Northport, and no one has bothered to follow up.

The EPA and Ecology are currently, and so far unsuccessfully, trying to obtain funding from Teck to install air monitors in and around Northport. 

We can assist the EPA  and Ecology in obtaining this funding.  

Keep reading to find out how.

_________________________________________________

Necessity of Air Monitoring in Northport, WA:   Part III

 

**See letter to copy/sign/paste/send to EPA contact requesting air monitoring at end of article**

So, it was established in the air monitoring conducted by Ecology from 1992-1998 that the levels of arsenic and cadmium in Northport’s air was much higher than safety standards, and risk based concentrations.  The levels of Arsenic were actually 200 times higher than those found at the worst smelter Superfund site in the world, Tacoma Smelter.   Our air was not safe.

EPA and Ecology have been unable to further monitor Northport’s air because of lack of funding, and honestly we fall pretty low on their priority list.  They are currently trying to get Teck to fund air monitoring in the area as part of the Superfund clean-up agreement. Teck is arguing that they are not responsible under CERCLA law for their air emissions.

What the EPA and Teck did not share with the public is that Teck did continued to monitor Northport air, with one monitor, between 1994-2006

Tucked away in appendix G of Teck’s Upper Columbia River remedial investigation/feasibility study, volume 2, is the results of this air monitoring.  Arsenic and Cadmium continue to be way above safety standards and risk based concentrations.  The EPA was not even aware this data existed, or that they had access to it, until I asked them about it. 

To help EPA obtain the funding for air monitors in Northport a demand must be shown. 

If past and present Northport resident, and residents of surrounding communities, copy, paste, and sign the below letter and send it to our EPA project manager, Laura Buelow at buelow.laura@epa.gov, our chances increase ten fold.

 

Please, take five minutes to do this.  Those five minutes can help protect generations of Northport residents to come.

 

____________________________________________

LETTER TO EPA PROJECT MANAGER

(COPY, PASTE, E-MAIL TO:  buelow.laura@epa.gov)

Ms. Beulow:

I am writing to ask EPA to consider an air monitoring study in and around Northport, WA. I believe that the results of the residential soil study clearly show that a formal air monitoring study should be performed in the study area. Aerial deposition of contaminants did occur in the study area and it needs to be determined if this contamination is ongoing.

The results of the four air monitoring studies conducted by the Department of Ecology in Northport between 1992-1998 found levels of arsenic and cadmium to consistently exceed the ASIL and RSC levels.  At the levels reported, the EPA considers them high enough to pose as a risk to the environment and human health.

The results of the air monitoring Teck conducted in Northport between 1994 – 2006 can be found in the EPA/Teck Report: Upper Columbia River remedial investigation/feasibility study, volume 2, appedix G. Unfortunately, Arsenic and Cadmium continue to be way above the ASIL & RSC safety standards and risk based concentrations.

Based on this information, along with ongoing health studies in the area, it seems logical that the contamination is ongoing.

An air monitoring study should be performed for a minimum of 18 months at  the following locations:  Two high level lead contamination site (established in the residential soil study results),  and at one low level lead contamination control site.  Two high level arsenic/cadmium site (established in Ecology air monitoring study), and at one low level arsenic/cadmium site.

Some or all of these sites may need to be monitored over a longer period, depending on the results of the 18-month study.

Sincerely,

name

SUPERFUND: THE SHORTCUT THAT FAILED

 ———————————————–

Excerpt from Jane Shaw’s 1996 paper:

“Superfund: The shortcut that failed”

 

“Even EPA Administrator Carol Browner, supervisor of the program in the Clinton administration, has criticized the program as one that “frequently moves too slowly, cleans up too little, has an unfair liability scheme and costs too much.”

– Carol Browner, EPA Administrator of Superfund 1995; Quoted in Peter B. Prestley, “Superfund in Limbo,” ABA Journal, (June 1995), at 58

Read full report:  Click here

 ———————————————–

Superfund:  The shortcut that failed thousands of families

The author of the paper, and the Superfund EPA administrator were correct when they recognized that Superfund sites, and CERCLA, moves too slowly, cleans up too little, and answers to no one.  However, the paper goes on to point the finger at the EPA for being to tough on the polluters, forcing them to pay for the scorched and toxic environments they used as dumping grounds for decades.  The article claims the EPA does this with little or no proof of the actual damages caused to these sights.

The paper is obviously outdated, and written by an “expert” who has never lived in a Superfund site, never lived in a poisoned environment they were not even aware of, never fought tooth and nail with the EPA and polluters to take financial responsibility, and has never faced the health impacts and property devaluation, and helplessness these “poor” polluters have caused.

The Superfund program has too many faults to list, most of all the lack of finances, therefore providing the EPA with the excuse to drag out the process of cleaning up sites for decades, if ever at all.  The entire program is laughable, and is probably the last issue on any Presidents “to do” list.  Likely most Presidents have not, or will not, ever know much more about the Superfund program than the tag line they are given.

This is what the reality looks like. This is the h2Q==arsh reality of what the chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins does to a human being, a Mother, a sister, a wife, a Grandmother, a friend.  The final picture on the bottom of the collage is a photo the Wall Street Journal took of my Grandmother, Kay Paparich, as she was having an episode from her Parkinson’s.

The others photos are of the beautiful, healthy, loving, kind women she was…..as she was unknowingly being poisoned by the heavy metal toxins being released at approximately 450 million tons a day for 56 years.

Did the EPA “unfairly” rush to judgment on holding this Canadian smelter financially responsible for cleaning up the 9.8 million tons of toxic discharge they released into Northport for over 6 decades?  No.

kay+and+louie+sitting

The EPA unfairly ignored a small community in desperate need o
f their help.  However, as a 1982 EPA internal memo stated; the Northport residents were an insignificant amount of people to be concerned with.

Kay and Louie Paparich were not insignificant, and neither are any of the other hardworking, loyal, honest people of Northport, WA.

-Jamie Paparich

WSJ Article

Bob & Fay Jackman

 

WSJ ARticle

Julie Sowards & Cindy Day

Labor Day

WSJ Article

Jim Paparich & Sharon Weber

FullSizeRender[4]

Kay Paparich

History of Northport, WA        image

NORTHPORT, WA; “THE HEAVY FALLOUT ZONE”

The Perfect Storm 

 

by: Jamie Paparich

 

Northport is a small town in north east Washington, located 7 miles from the Canadian border. The town has approximately 375 residents, many of them born and raised there, as were their parents and grandparents.

It is a wonderful little town, situated along the Columbia River in a beautiful valley. Unfortunately, it is this beautiful valley and river front location that helped create a perfect storm of events that have caused countless residents to be plagued with multiple diseases and cancers, spanning three generations. It is also the reason the EPA and DOH refer to Northport as the “heavy fallout zone.”

The pollution is coming from a Canadian smelter located 3 miles up river in Trail, B.C., Teck Resources (Teck). Teck started operating the smelter in 1896. It is now one of the largest lead and zinc smelters in the world. Unfortunately their success has come at a great price to the people of Northport.

A by-product of the smelting process creates a black, sand like material called slag. This slag contains heavy metal toxins including; arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, and several others. For over 90 years, from 1906 thru 1996, Teck dumped approximately 9.8 million tons of slag directly into the Columbia River. Teck reasoned that the velocity of the Columbia river would dilute the toxic slag long before it could impact the environment or come to populated areas. They were wrong.

Unfortunately the swift moving river begins to slow and curve right as it flows into Northport. This creates the perfect environment for the slag to disperse and settle onto the town’s riverbanks, beaches, and swimming holes. Children in Northport spent most of the hot summer days playing in these swimming holes, filled with highly toxic water. If they weren’t at the swimming holes they were playing on the beaches. A favorite local beach was Black Sand Beach. It was named this because the sand appeared black, but actually it was not sand at all, it was slag from the smelter.

Another by-product of the smelting process is the air emissions released from the smelter’s two smoke stacks. The emissions contain the same heavy metal toxins the slag contains. The smelter’s air emissions flow south into Northport, where the majority of the toxic air becomes trapped in the valley.

The area specifically referred to as the “heavy fallout zone” are the farms located approximately 2 miles outside of Northport, located along Mitchell Road. These farms received the brunt of the smelter’s pollution because the majority of the air settled above them and they were located next to the area of the river that had the most recesses, and where it slowed.  For more info on the smelter’s impact click here.

The families living in the heavy fallout zone also suffer from the same rare illnesses. Beginning as early as 1960 many of the children living along Mitchell Road have been diagnosed with two very rare auto immune diseases; ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Many of the adults have been diagnosed with multiple scoliosis, parkinson’s disease, leukemia, prostate, bladder, stomach, and breast cancer.

My Grandparents ranch is located in the heavy fallout zone. A beautiful ranch they scrimped and saved to buy in 1957, pouring their blood, sweat and tears into it until their deaths. My Grandfather passed away from leukemia and my Grandmother passed away from parkinson’s. My father and aunt have suffered from ulcerative colitis their entire lives, eventually both of them had to have their large intestines and colons removed, as did many of their childhood friends.

Washington State Department of Ecology conducted four air monitoring studies in Northport between 1993-1998. They set up an air monitor for all four on my Grandparents land. The results of all four showed extremely high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in the air. The levels were way above safety standards. The levels of arsenic were 200 times higher than national safety standards. No one ever warned my Grandparents of the results, or anyone living in Northport.

In the late 1980’s the EPA conducted soil sampling on the farm as well. They found elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in several of the soil samples collected, including the testing they did on their gardens and crops. They never informed anyone on these results either.

The residents of Northport were, and are, exposed to these heavy metal toxins 24 hours a day, through multiple routes of exposure. Through the air they breath, the soil they ingest from garden grown produce, the dust they breath in their house, and the toxic particulate matter in the air that absorbs through their skin. There is no where for them to escape it, and until very recently they were not even aware the danger existed.

The heavy fallout zone was created because of a perfect storm of events. The smelter’s air emissions becoming trapped in the valley, the location and speed of the river, and the lack of support, or even warnings, from the very U.S. agencies created to protect us.

With the current situation in Flint, Michigan the press coverage has people talking about how the U.S. agencies, specifically the EPA, and the state and federal government officials could have let down this poor community in such a devastating way. This is not an isolated incident.

The truth is this is happening all over the United States, in countless small towns. The EPA and the DOH conduct studies of the areas suspected to be impacted by local industrial sources. However, even when their studies conclude the communities are being exposed to dangerous levels of toxins, and they are in “intermediate danger”, the assistance ends there. The EPA and the DOH have told our community it is beyond their scope to do anything more than report their findings. They didn’t even tell us this until a few citizens actually took the time to read the complex reports they published and discovered, in the fine print, the danger we were in.

In 1999 the EPA finally issued a unilateral order to Teck to take financial responsibility for a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the area. Teck ignored this order, and the EPA all but forgot about it. They took no further action until two members from the Colville Confederate Tribe filed a lawsuit against Teck in 2003, in an attempt to hold them liable for the cost of a Superfund clean-up. The EPA then joined the tribe members in the lawsuit. If it were not for these two brave individuals the EPA would have continued to ignore us.

When finally forced into action, these U.S. agencies spend decades completing studies, and then it takes several more years for them to publish their findings.  On the rare occasions they share their findings with the communities they slant the facts and statistics, ensuring the residents they are (most likely) safe, even though sound science says otherwise.

These agencies, whose salaries we fund, are not doing their jobs. They claim it is not their job to do much more than pass their results on to “other” government agencies that can assist us in the aftermath of their findings. The scary thing is these “other” government agencies do not exist. Has no one in the government realized this?

Due to the accumulation, (or body burden), of toxins in the organs and cells, many illnesses linked to chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins, through multiple routes of exposure, don’t result for decades.

Soon the EPA will be unable to deny a correlation between the toxins they under reported to the hundreds of communities they investigated for decades, and the cluster of health issues being discovered in these same communities now. These consequences could have been avoided when the EPA was established in 1970, instead they have spent 46 years doing work governed by politics, industry, and in an atmosphere that encourages the employees to do as little work as possible, and to drag their feet while doing it.

It is our money that pays for these agencies, so it is our right and responsibility to hold Congress accountable to make major changes in the structure and guidelines of these federal agencies, who intern oversee state agencies. Congress represents us, the agencies are responsible for protecting us. It is time we hold them accountable for decades of negligence.

WATER CRISIS IN FLINT; EPA ACCOUNTABLE?

The Environmental Protection Agency is the ultimate line of defense against water contamination. Yet the Michigan crisis isn’t the first one this decade

 

 

The ultimate responsibility to safeguard public health rests with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per the Clean Water Act. In fact, there are provisions of the Clean Water Act that provide for criminal prosecutions for violations that can result in fines and imprisonment.

The EPA has 200 fully authorized federal law enforcement agents who can carry firearms, 70 forensic scientists and technicians, and 45 attorneys who specialize in environmental crimes enforcement. Yet the EPA, mandated as the public’s last, best line of defense, failed the people – yet again – when it came to the Flint water crisis.

The Flint atrocity could, with congressional and presidential resolve, be the last one – agency administrators and political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, and Congress is responsible for doling out funding to them.

But for that resolve to crystallize, the horrors of the poisoning of Flint need to be seen within the historical contexts that show the crimes committed against the people of Flint fit a toxic template with deep roots in the managerial culture of the EPA that has repeatedly created sacrifice zones in poor, predominantly black and brown communities of America, often backed by congressional and presidential inaction.

Congress, acting on behalf of the people, must break this cycle and hold all public officials who were complicit in the tragedy in Flint to account.

Ten years ago, municipal water quality expert Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor who is now part of the group investigating Flint, took on the EPA and the CDC about lead poisoning in Washington DC. It took six years and tens of thousands of his own dollars to fight two federal agencies charged with protecting the public. After that period, by virtue of wresting Foia request information that both agencies had withheld from the public – and surviving both agency’s efforts to discredit him as an unreliable rogue – the agencies finally had to admit they had misled the public, and that a disproportionate number of Washington’s children of color suffered lead poisoning.

In 2005, the EPA used $2.1m provided by the American Chemistry Council to study the effects of pesticides on infants and babies, in what was known as the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study, or Cheers. It offered $970, a free camcorder, a bib and a T-shirt to parents whose infants were exposed to pesticides in Duval County, Florida, if the parents completed a two-year study, which included “spraying pesticides inside your home routinely”.

California senator Barbara Boxer decried the program as “appalling, unethical and immoral”, saying it “is the worst kind of thing; it’s environmental injustice where children are the victims”. The acting EPA administrator moved decisively and halted the program – because Boxer vowed to hold up his confirmation until the study was shut down.

When asked about his experience witnessing the most recent effects of contaminated water, Marc Edwards almost came out of his chair at a congressional hearing on Flint water last week, which we both attended. “There was plenty enough evidence in the corrosive material found in the water samples to merit immediate action,” he said. “They didn’t need to wait for levels of lead to spike in the children’s blood before they did anything. But the [department of environmental quality] and the EPA were perfectly content to have their way with the children of Flint.”

He stopped himself, struggling for composure. He lowered his eyes.

At the same time, muffled breathing grew a few rows behind him at the back of the room. Then a choking sound. And then a wail. A black woman in a red dress stood up, bent sharply at the waist with her hands clasped in fists against her lips. She tried and failed to hold back her cries. She turned and rushed toward the aisle.

The members noticed. Heads turned. The woman in red left, her sobs filling the chamber as she trailed through the heavy wooden doors. The EPA representatives didn’t even look in her direction.

Today we need to ask: what did EPA administrator Gina McCarthy know about Flint, and when did she know it? Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, has authorized US Marshals to “hunt him down” – referring to Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley – and “serve him that subpoena”. McCarthy also needs to be subpoenaed. The agency’s track record of collateral damage must be stopped.

But given the EPA’s repeated history of burying its actions, we cannot trust it to investigate itself. There needs to be an independent, transparent and comprehensive investigation of the underlying culture that prevents those conducting good science and best practices from fulfilling the agency’s mission.

 

Click here to read original article on theguardian.com website.

 

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