Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Ecology Memo Recommending Additional Air Monitoring in Northport, WA

Department of Ecology

 

13 April 2017

TO:  Karen Wood and Chris Hanlon-Meyer

FROM:  Matt Kadlec

SUBJECT:  Regional PM10 Air Monitoring Speciation Network Comparison to
Measured and Predicted Conditions in the Upper Columbia River Valley
near the U.S.-Canadian Border

 

An analysis was recently completed on observed and estimated recent air quality
conditions for arsenic, cadmium, and lead within the upper Columbia River valley near
the international border.[1]  The report recommended a renewal of monitoring of certain aerosol elements in that area in order to conclusively determine current air quality conditions there.

Those estimates are matched to comparable data from monitors in Washington,
Oregon and Idaho as follows.

In the histograms below, the mean concentrations of US EPA Air Quality System
(AQS)[2] PM10 speciation data are compared to estimates of the mean concentrations
near Northport and the upper Columbia River Valley near the border (UCR). All the
means are of the February 2009 through December 2014 interval.

arsenic

 

 

 

cadmium

lead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCUSSION

The upper limit of each location’s histogram bar is the ≈ 6-year mean PM10 element
concentration in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). The purple bars are the
estimated concentrations in the upper Columbia River Valley area and near Northport.
The blue bars are the observed mean concentrations at the AQS monitor locations.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Average airborne PM10 arsenic and lead concentrations in the upper Columbia River
valley near the international border are potentially the highest known levels in
Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Likewise, the average airborne cadmium
concentrations are potentially the highest known anywhere in three states except at the monitor at 2231 N Flint Ave, Portland, OR, which is about 500 feet from an art-glass
foundry known to have emitted high levels of cadmium in particulate matter.[3]

Previously interpreted air monitoring data from 2009 through 2014 suggest that current
emissions from the Trail smelter continue to influence upper Columbia River valley air
quality. PM10 arsenic, cadmium and lead concentrations in the upper Columbia River
valley near the international border exceed expected air quality conditions for a rural
setting. Absent smelter emissions, the particulate metal concentrations in this rural
portion or northeast Washington likely would be about as low as those at the monitors
in rural Oregon and Idaho.

These findings reinforce the need for current PM10 speciation monitoring in the upper
Columbia River Valley near the international border and Northport area.

 

 

1 https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/1702003.html
2 https://www.epa.gov/aqs accessed by Jill Schulte, 6 April 2017

3 http://www.opb.org/news/article/why-portland-heavy-metals-pollution-went-undetected-for-so-long/ Accessed 11 April 2017

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.

 

EPA failure to act in Flint

Almost 45 years ago, Congress showed great wisdom in creating the architecture for implementing this country’s environmental laws. From the Safe Drinking Water Act to the Clean Air Act, and to laws regulating hazardous and solid waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shares the responsibility with state governments for implementing their provisions: from permitting, to inspections, to enforcement.

Where states don’t have the resources, wherewithal or political will to implement the laws meant to protect public health and the environment, the federal government is not only legally empowered, but also legally and — in some cases — morally, obligated to act. This is especially true in emergencies where there is an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public’s health.

The actions currently being taken by U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, as welcome as they are, are long overdue. Flint is a failure to act by those charged with protecting our safety and health (under the law) at both the federal and state levels.

Despite what some have said, the U.S. EPA does have the ability to take back delegated programs, like this one. But more importantly, the U.S. EPA has the independent authority to take emergency actions. That didn’t happen. At the very least, that’s an abrogation of great public trust and responsibility by many of the public officials involved.

There is plenty of blame to go around, not to mention possible criminal charges down the road. There is also the matter of a widespread erosion of confidence well beyond Flint, where everyone in America is suddenly — and justifiably — wondering, “What about my water?”

When confronted with concrete information about the significant health threats posed by lead in Flint’s drinking water almost a year ago, U.S. EPA officials had the authority to act decisively, with or without the state, to aggressively address a serious problem. They did not.

It was within the mandate of the U.S. EPA to warn the public, provide alternate water supplies and filters, conduct sampling, call in the Centers for Disease Control, and issue emergency orders to Michigan and Flint compelling action. They did not.

But beyond legal authority, mandates and responsibility, the U.S. EPA had the moral obligation to do something about Flint. They did not.

The fact it did not happen as months went by — and thousands of people were exposed to contaminated water — can only be considered hubris.

Several years ago, as I thanked an organization for an award, I said that working in a public office is a great honor and a responsibility, because you have the ability to impact the lives of millions of people — for better or worse.

In Flint, it was for an almost unimaginable worse.

Mary Gade is president of Gade Environmental Group in Chicago. She served as U.S. EPA regional administrator, Region 5, 2006-2008.

EPA to hold community meeting August 20th

Come talk to us about metals in soil and proposed actions Share your concerns and questions

In response to your requests for a meeting, EPA, Ecology, and the Northeast Tri-County Health District invite you to share your concerns and questions.

EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology will discuss Ecology’s recent reports on elevated levels of metals in soil and answer questions.

Residential soil testing

Based on recent soil testing, Ecology is asking EPA to accelerate planned residential soil sampling. EPA would like to hear from the community to better prepare a sampling plan. Local knowledge can inform EPA’s decision about where and how to sample the soil in residential areas in the Columbia River Valley close to the U.S.-Canadian border.

Please join us

… at the Northport Community Connections Center on Tuesday evening, August 20, at 6:30 pm.

Representatives from EPA and Ecology will be available to talk about Ecology’s recent study, EPA’s plans, and discuss your concerns and answer your questions.

Where: Northport Community Connections Center, 405 Center Ave.,

Northport, WA 99157

When: Tuesday, August 20, at 6:30 pm

For questions please contact:

Kay Morrison, Community Involvement Coordinator, US Environmental Protection Agency

206-553-8321, or toll free at 1-800-424-4372

Carol Bergin, Public Involvement Specialist, WA Department of Ecology – 509-329-3546

EPA Awards $2 Million to Small Businesses

This is great news. I was wondering if you could share the project/research study that was awarded with the air monitoring grant?
I am curious because Northport still has been unable to get funding or approval for just the one air monitor we were promised and, until recently, thought was in place near the border, as this was where we were told a constant monitor would be operated by Teck and reviewed by Ecology due to the extremely elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium consistently detected in all four air monitoring phases done in Northport from 1992-1997. The levels of arsenic found was 200 times that of the recommended Safety levels and Cadmium was not much better. Per the agreement Ecology made with Teck (during phase 3) to approve their amended permit request to install the Kivcet smelter Teck was to monitor the air after the installation of the new smelter to ensure the toxin levels were as low as they predicted. Phase 4 was done for this purpose. The results showed that the arsenic and cadmium levels were still just as high as they were in the first three phases. Based on these results The ATSDR instructed Ecology to have Teck continue to monitor the air near the border (on the US side) and Ecology was to review Teck’s reports monthly. After phase 4 was completed the air monitor was removed and ow we find out no more air monitoring has been done in or near our area since. The closest air monitor is 35 miles away in Colville!

Is there any funding available for one air monitor in Northport? This is a major concern to the citizens of Northport since Teck’s air plumes are still visible, the same health issues are occurring, and some of the health clusters, specifically diagnosed cases of Colitis, are growing in frequency and in numbers of impacted residents, most children. Given this information along with the fact no monitoring has been done of our air since the Kivcet smelter monitoring failed to show the lowered levels of arsenic and cadmium that they guaranteed in their permit application to install the new smelter 18+ years ago. Another major concern is all the data and information I have read on the Kivcet smelter design indicates part of the reason the air odor and visibility are markedly improved is due to the extremely small size of the particulate matter. Several articles I read, one was a memo from Teck to Ecology, states the size of the particulate matter has been hypothesized to be to small to be captured by any available air monitors. Considering the smaller the particulate matter the more dangerous chronic exposure is to people and coupled with the continued health clusters diagnosed in residents living in the same two mile radius the past health clusters were discovered and the area the air monitors for all 4 air monitoring phases were set up .

Any suggestions on who could possibly help us with this would be greatly appreciated. I have been in touch with Ecology and the Wa DOH. They both informed me they have no plans to install an air monitor in Northport since they believe the four phases already conducted in our area,(17+years ago) , are sufficient enough.
They were sufficient enough to prove we were, and likely still are, in danger if we were/are chronically exposed to the toxins and particulate matter in the air we inhale and ingest as well as absorb through our skin.
The current HHRA being conducted by the EPA has no plans to do any additional monitoring of our air either, they also stated that the four air monitoring phases Ecology performed were sufficient enough to prove an individual exposed no more than 35 days out of the year does not run a likely risk of developing health issues related to their exposure to the elevated toxins of concern.

When is someone going to address the likelihood our health issues are very probably linked to the unmonitored elevated toxins of concern we were not even made aware of until decades after their monitoring detected it?
All we simply want is an air monitor, I don’t think that is to much to ask?

I look forward to any suggestions you can offer.

Jamie Paparich
The Northport Project
Northportproject@hotmail.com
http://www.northportproject.com
775-750-6384

Government putting our health & safety at risk….still.

Changes to environmental assessments puts health, safety at risk, say critics

February 20, 2012
Heather Scoffield
THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA—A group of environmental lawyers, doctors and academics says the federal government will endanger health and safety if it curtails the environmental assessment process in a “haphazard” way.

They fear the federal government, in its zeal to streamline approvals for resource projects, is developing a process that would be blind to long-term effects on people and communities.

“We know that some of the reforms they are planning are going to drastically limit public participation and probably be at the expense of the environmental protection,” said lawyer Rachel Forbes of West Coast Environmental Law.

If anything, she said, the federal government needs to strengthen public participation in environmental reviews, since local people know their environment best.

“We can’t afford to get these decisions wrong — the whole point of environmental assessment is to protect Canadians and their environment from danger,” said Gideon Forman, executive director of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

Ottawa is soon expected to announce changes for environmental reviews to speed up the system.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says he wants to shorten time allotted to public hearings, reduce overlap with the provinces and clarify how best to consult aboriginal communities. He wants to sharpen the government’s focus on major projects and not get too concerned about the small ones.

“The ultimate goal is simple in itself, but not that simple to attain: one project, one review in a clearly defined time period,” he said in a speech in Calgary last week.

He says Canada is scaring away investors with convoluted and arcane procedures. Despite tinkering by several different governments over the years, including Stephen Harper’s, Oliver says a major overhaul is needed to clean up and modernize the process.

But Oliver and Harper have also complained about the long list of intervenors at hearings into the Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast, branding them as “radicals” backed by foreign money who are needlessly delaying things.

view this article at The Star. com

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