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WILL STATE PAY $20M TO GET THE LEAD OUT OF NEWARK’S WATER INFRASTRUCTURE?

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The chairwoman of a key legislative committee is pushing a new bill that would provide $20 million to fund improvements to the city of Newark’s water system in an attempt to deal with high levels of lead in at least 30 schools in the district.

The legislation (A-3583), sponsored by Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex), would divert money from the state’s Clean Energy Fund to make the necessary improvements to the city’s water-supply infrastructure. Spencer heads the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

The proposal is the latest initiative put forward to address problems of elevated levels of lead found in water at Newark schools, which led the district to switch to bottled water at the facilities when the problem was made public earlier this month.

While Newark and state environmental officials have not pinpointed the source of the contamination, both have said the source of supply — the city’s water system — is free of lead. The high levels of the toxic metal were a result of old lead plumbing and lead solder in fixtures from the streets to the buildings, according to officials…”

Read more from the New Jersey Spotlight

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SA’s Declining Air Quality Puts the Whole City at Risk

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“Leaving San Antonio was the only remedy that helped Krystal Henagan’s son, Tanner.

Her family moved to San Antonio in 2012, when Tanner was 4 years old. He developed severe asthma, which soon became “uncontrollable.” Doctors thought the child had cedar or oak allergies, and put him on seven different medications. But fleeing the polluted Alamo City air was the only reliable treatment.

“There were some nights and afternoons that it would get so bad that we would leave the area just to get some relief,” said Henagan, who is now a field organizer with the advocacy group Moms Clean Air Force. “We shuttled him between Lubbock and Houston for about six months so his health could get back on track, and it did.”

As the temperature rises and San Antonio’s brief winter gives way to spring and summer, many take going outside for granted. But not everyone gets to enjoy the outdoors. The changing seasons signal an approach of the high point for air pollution, pushing children, the elderly and those who suffer from asthma and other illnesses indoors.

San Antonio’s air is cleaner than it was a decade ago, but pollution is on the rise. Now local officials are desperate to improve the air as soon as possible, both for the health of residents and the fiscal well-being of the region…”

Read more from the San Antonio Current

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There’s a Cancer-Causing Chemical in My Drinking Water, But California Isn’t Regulating It

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“I have to admit, after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, I’m a little freaked out about what’s in my tap water. So when I opened my water bill from the city of Fresno recently, I decided to actually read the “consumer confidence report” for drinking water. And I found this footnote in tiny print:

Consumer Confidence Report Footnote

123 Trichloropropane has been detected in 29 wells in Fresno…. Some people who use water containing it over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer, based on studies in laboratory animals.

Wait…what? I have two little kids, and my family drinks the tap water. And it might cause cancer? I decided to fork out $200 to get mine tested. And to start digging into how 1,2,3-TCP got into the water.

Turns out, it’s not just Fresno. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, 1,2,3-TCP has been found in about a hundred public water systems across California, mostly in the Central Valley but also in counties like Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sacramento, and Los Angeles…”

Get the whole story from San Francisco Public Radio

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Christie’s budget continues depletion of lead abatement fund

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“Gov. Chris Christie’s latest budget proposal honors a decade-old practice in New Jersey: It diverts millions of dollars intended for a lead exposure prevention program to the state’s general fund.

Christie’s Democratic predecessor made similar budget transfers. And administration officials say New Jersey is a success story for addressing lead contamination. But the Republican governor is drawing increasing criticism from lawmakers and community groups who claim he isn’t doing enough to reduce it.

They’ve focused their concern on the lack of money in Christie’s budget for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.

Created in 2004, the fund was designed to provide financial assistance to property owners who want to remove lead paint, which can peel and crumble, placing children at risk for developmental disabilities.

A tax on paint cans was supposed to pay for the fund, providing at least $7 million a year.

But starting with Gov. Jon Corzine, the state has diverted some or nearly all of that money to the general budget almost every year.

Christie’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2017, unveiled last week, allocates $180,000, the same as this year. New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs said the program effectively ended in 2012…”

Read more from the Trentonian

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Knock Knock Is Anyone Home at EPA?

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EPA has gone dark. McCarthy is awaiting the end of her term and no one is protecting the American citizens or our environment.

It is outrageous that Administrator Gina McCarthy refuses to acknowledge the citizens living near the Bridgeton/West Lake Superfund site. What is wrong with her? Just Moms STL wrote a letter requesting a meeting in May of 2015 and never even received an acknowledgement that they asked for a meeting. They traveled to Washington, DC anyway in hopes of seeing McCarthy after their federal delegation of senators and congress representatives sent a letter to encourage McCarthy to meet with them. The community received nothing from the office of the Administrator. Not a call, a letter or even an e-mail saying she had a prior commitment or was on travel.

A second letter was sent this past fall to say the community leaders are planning to travel to Washington, D.C. in February and would she please meet with them to discuss the Superfund site which has been mismanaged by her regional staff. Again there was silence. I personally called every day but one in the month of January and February leading up to the date that local people were traveling to D.C. On many occasions when I called, all I received was a voice mail message that asked me to leave a message and someone would get back to me. I left message after message and no one, not a single person from the agency returned my call.

On a few occasions I actually talked to a woman who answered the phone. She was courteous and respectful and always promised to deliver the message to scheduling department. “Someone will call you back soon.” But no one ever called. The citizens living around the site began a telephone campaign to McCarthy’s office. It was only a week until they travel to D.C. and no one provided an answer if McCarthy would meet or not. The community sold cupcakes, brownies, t-shirts, and worked hard to raise the funds to visit D.C. and meet with the Administrator to explain what was going on from their perspective.

With a slim chance of meeting with McCarthy, now two years since their first request for a meeting was made, they climbed on a plane and came to D.C. While there they met with their congressional delegation, allies in the field but never had a meeting with McCarthy. Also they were never denied a meeting; it was deafeningly silent. My goodness if the answer is “NO” then say so. To say nothing is irresponsible, inexcusable and further victomizing the victims.

I stood outside of McCarthy’s office at 9 a.m. the last day of the groups visit. From the sidewalk I called her office and explained that local leaders are downstairs and waiting for a response from McCarthy before they need to leave for the airport. The public relations office sent down a two young people to receive the letter the community had for McCarthy, outlining their concerns. They apologized that McCarthy wasn’t available to meet. She couldn’t have told the citizens before they left St. Louis that she couldn’t meet? It is not a big request to ask for a simple yes or no of availability.

My take away . . . fire McCarthy. My tax dollars should not be spent on someone who works in government and ignores the citizens of the United States. All she had to do on both occasions is say I’m sorry I’ve got a previous engagement. Common courtesy should be a requirement of feredal employment.

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Organic diet cuts pesticide exposure in children, UC Berkeley study finds

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“Organic food matters to Camila Torres, so grappling with its higher prices has made her resourceful.

When the Boulder Creek resident makes baby food for her 1-year-old, Liliana, she tosses prepackaged, frozen organic vegetables from Trader Joe’s into a blender, adds a little water, then purees and warms up the mush before “airplaning” a spoonful into her daughter’s mouth.

Torres wants her two girls to grow up on organic food — and frozen products help her afford it.

“I try to find any way within my means to keep potentially harmful things from entering their little bodies,” said Torres, 28, an independent contractor who works with a company that captions videos.

A new scientific study supports her instincts, documenting that organic food can substantially lower pesticide exposure in children from low-income families in both urban and rural areas.

But traces of pesticides were higher than in previous studies involving middle-income, suburban children, suggesting that kids from cities and farming communities may be getting exposed via their environments as well as their diets…”

Read more from San Jose Mercury News

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Regulatory Gaps Leave Unsafe Lead Levels in Water Nationwide

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“In Sebring, Ohio, routine laboratory tests last August found unsafe levels of lead in the town’s drinking water after workers stopped adding a chemical to keep lead water pipes from corroding. Five months passed before the city told pregnant women and children not to drink the water, and shut down taps and fountains in schools.

In 2001, after Washington, D.C., changed how it disinfected drinking water, lead in tap water at thousands of homes spiked as much as 20 times the federally approved level. Residents did not find out for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,600 homes — and discovered three years later that many of therepairs had only prolonged the contamination.

The crisis in Flint, Mich., where as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after a budget-cutting decision to switch drinking-water sources, may be the most serious contamination threat facing the country’s water supplies. But it is hardly the only one.

Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.

Federal officials and many scientists agree that most of the nation’s 53,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water. But such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons…”

Read more from the New York Times

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As Washington state decides on stronger toxics law, residents are breathing flame retardants

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“A new generation of chemicals added to furniture, building insulation and baby products like car seats to slow the spread of flames are escaping into air at higher levels than previously thought, according to a new study out of Washington state.

The findings come as Washington lawmakers decide on bolstering flame retardant bans. The state was one of the first to ban an earlier generation of retardants, known as PBDEs.

The new research found flame retardant chemicals used to replace polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) also escape, are ubiquitous in indoor air and suggest inhalation is a major route of exposure for people.

The compounds, called chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, found in the study have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, and some can alter hormones essential for development.

“We’ve been underestimating what total exposure is,” said Erika Schreder, staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and lead author of the study published this month in the scientific journal Chemosphere.

Researchers gave 10 people from Washington state an air sampler that simulates breathing to wear during a normal day: office work, commuting, hanging out at home. They tested for a suite of the new generation of chlorinated flame retardants and found all 10 were breathing some amount of them throughout the day…”

Read more from Environmental Health News

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ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Polyethylene Plant Plant-wide Failure

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Emergency dispatchers Thursday received numerous calls about flaring at The ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Refinery & Chemical complex. Just as I was leaving a meeting in Houston, TX to work with leaders about chemical refineries and oil/gas pipelines this horrible situation happened.

The flaring is the result of power outages in the area.  Beaumont Fire Rescue told 12News it was notified by ExxonMobil that its Beaumont facility had 8 flares going to help maintain safety levels because of the outages.

Plant officials had this to say, “This is ExxonMobil Beaumont Polyethylene Plant on Highway 90 an EXXONMOBIL Beaumont Refinery & Chemical Complex. We can confirm that a plant-wide power failure resulted in significant flaring. We can confirm that non-essential personnel have been dismissed per protocol and are actively engaged at the complex with the goal of returning to normal operations.”

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Put the Super Back in Superfund!

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Today CHEJ released a new report on the mismanagement of the Superfund program and the need to reinstate polluter pays fees.

Superfund: Polluters Pays So Children Can Play 35th Anniversary Report is released as part of a National Day of Action where groups across the country are participating in different ways to deliver the message: polluter pays fees need to be reinstated!

32 groups in 24 states plus Puerto Rico representing 31 Superfund sites provided site profiles and quotes about the need to reinstate the polluter pays fees. The profiles are part of this new report. Some groups around the country are delivering cakes to their representatives celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Superfund and a card asking them to be a Superhero and support reinstatement of the polluter pays fees.

Some of the key findings in the report  include:

  • Funding for Superfund is insufficient to properly manage the program.

  • This funding shortfall has resulted in fewer completed cleanups each year; fewer cleanups started each year; inadequate funding of ongoing projects; an increase in the time to complete projects; and a steady stream of unfunded projects.

  • The expansion of the Superfund Alternatives program, in which responsible parties agree to cleanup a site and avoid being listed on the National Priority List, provides benefits to the polluter while hampering citizen participation that is provided for under the Superfund program.

  • The Superfund program has been so badly mismanaged by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that an unprecedented act of Congress has proposed transferring EPA oversight of a Superfund site to the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Congress must reinstate the polluter pays fees. Without collecting the corporate fees to replenish Superfund, there is simply not enough money to do the critical job of cleaning up hundreds of abandoned toxic waste sites.

For more information, questions, or comments, please contact Lois Gibbs at lgibbs@chej.org.

To view the executive summary of the report, click here

To view the full report, click here

To view the community quotes, click here