States say half of wetlands would lose protection under EPA proposal
(Reuters) - Fourteen states, including New York and California, and the District of Columbia said the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to replace an Obama-era water regulation would end federal protection for half of wetlands and 15 percent of streams across the country.
The attorneys general issued a joint statement on Monday critical of the EPA’s proposal to narrow the scope of protections in the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that President Barack Obama’s administration expanded in 2015 to cover a wide range of water bodies.
The public comment period for the EPA proposal closed on Monday. It is one of dozens of the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind environmental rules to boost the energy and agriculture industries.
The attorneys general said the Trump EPA violated the underlying federal Clean Water Act, whose goal is to restore and maintain “the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
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Washington, New York: We'll fight Trump order boosting coal, oil projects
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order designed to block states from using a provision of the Clean Water Act to delay or prevent big oil and coal projects such as a proposed coal export terminal in Longview on the Columbia River.
The states of Washington and New York are vowing to block Trump.
"No amount of politicking will change the facts -- states have full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our waters and ensure the health and safety over our people," Gov. Jay Inslee and AG Bob Ferguson said in a joint statement. ...
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York described the Trump order as "a gross overreach of federal authority" and vowed to fight it "tooth and nail." The Empire State has denied a permit to the Constitution Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Canada into New England.
Trump signaled that he, too, is ready for a fight. "My action today will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials," he said in Houston on Thursday. The President singled out New York for allegedly "hurting the country."
A crisis in Kentucky shows the high cost of clean drinking water
LOVELY, Ky. — When the well water here turned brown and started tasting salty, Heather Blevins’s parents hooked their property on Dead Man’s Curve into the municipal supply. It seemed like a blessing until new hazards emerged: Today, Blevins says, the tap water smells of bleach, occasionally takes on a urine-colored tinge, and leaves her 7- and 8-year-old children itching every time they take a bath.
“The way the water is now, I’d rather have well water,” said Blevins, 44, who keeps a constant eye on the county water district’s Facebook page to watch for pipe breaks and boil-water advisories. Blevins, who says her water rates rocketed recently from $19 to almost $40 a month, sets aside money from her $980 Social Security check for bottled drinking water and chemical-free baby wipes to keep her allergy-prone children clean. ...
It’s been “like that” for decades here in Martin County, as it has in other pockmarked parts of coal country. The water crisis peaked last year when service to many residents was shut off, members of the water board quit, and the attorney general opened a criminal investigation into allegations of mismanagement. The Kentucky House recently passed a resolution asking Gov. Matt Bevin (R) to declare a state of emergency and free up resources to fix the dilapidated system. ...
But State Rep. Chris Harris (D), who advocated for the state of emergency, warned that Martin County’s problems could soon be everyone’s.
“As the infrastructure deteriorates around the country, we are going to see more and more Martin Counties,” he said.
The challenges are monumental here in Appalachia and beyond: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s drinking-water system a D grade in its quadrennial report card. The network of more than 1 million miles of pipes includes many that are a century old and have a 75-year life expectancy. Across the country, 14 percent of treated water is lost through leaks, and here in Martin County, that figure has at times reached more than 70 percent. The American Water Works Association estimates that it will take $1 trillion to support demand over the next 25 years; in Martin County, repairs carry a price tag exceeding $10 million.
EPA wants to triple level of rocket fuel chemical allowed in drinking water
The Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to raise the threshold for a chemical found in rocket fuel to triple the previous limit allowed in drinking water supplies. This is the first new drinking water rule introduced by the agency since the George W. Bush administration.
In the EPA’s latest move to weaken environmental and health protections, it released a notice on Thursday requesting public comment on its proposal to raise the maximum level allowed for the chemical perchlorate — which is linked to thyroid problems — to 56 micrograms per liter.
This is three times higher than what the EPA previously recommended as a safe level for drinking water (15 micrograms per liter). The previous recommendation was just an advisory to help guide states, as opposed to an enforceable limit, which is what the agency is now proposing.
In addition to this change, the EPA is seeking comment on three other alternate options: setting the level to 18 micrograms per liter, to 90 micrograms per liter, or simply abolishing the rule regulating perchlorate in drinking water.
The news comes after a decade-long delay following a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) demanding the EPA set an enforceable standard for the chemical.
“This is enough to make you sick—literally,” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at NRDC, said in a statement on the new proposed limits. “As a result, millions of Americans will be at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical in their drinking water.”
EPA Wants Minimal Limits on Poison in Drinking Water
Proposal Would Approve Nine Times the Harmful Perchlorate Content Allowed in California, 28 Times More than Massachusetts
The Trump EPA calculated recommended limits of a dangerous chemical sometimes found in drinking water that can harm babies’ brain development that were more than 9 times higher than those imposed by a few states by fudging a key number in the calculation.
The Trump EPA recommended a limit for perchlorate, which can harm infant brain development, of 56 micrograms per liter, far above the limit of 6 that California imposed and 2 that Massachusetts set, more than a decade ago.
“I guess they think it’s just fine to have children have IQ loss,” said Betsy Southerland, a retired EPA official who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water.
Perchlorate, which a GAO study found in the water, soil or sediment of 45 states, is particularly dangerous to babies because it can harm infant brain development if their mothers are exposed to it in food or water while pregnant. Babies can also ingest perchlorate in their mothers’ breast milk or in formula.
Scientists account for uncertainty in calculating such limits with what is known as the “uncertainty factor” to protect the most vulnerable such as infants. Our nation’s public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used a factor of 10 for perchlorate. The Trump EPA cut that by 2/3s to 3.
“I don’t think it’s grounded in the science,” said Tom Neltner, the chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund. “I think it’s a distorted reading of the science.
That's where Trump voters come from.“I guess they think it’s just fine to have children have IQ loss,” said Betsy Southerland, a retired EPA official who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water.
Vintage EPA photos reveal what US waterways looked like before pollution was regulated
Just over 50 years ago, Ohio's Cuyahoga river caught fire.
The disaster prompted a public outcry that in part led to the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. The EPA was charged with regulating the country's polluted air and waterways, among other environmental objectives.
Soon after its founding, the agency dispatched 100 photographers to capture the US' environmental issues as part of a photo project called Documerica. The photographers took about 81,000 images, more than 20,000 of which were archived. At least 15,000 have been digitized by the National Archives, and the images now function as a kind of time capsule, revealing what states from California to New York looked like between 1971 and 1977.
Many of the photos were taken before the implementation of rules meant to keep water and air free of contamination.
The images of polluted waterways are especially striking. The following Documerica photos reveal what US rivers, streams, and coastlines looked like before the EPA started regulating pollution.
A new drinking water crisis hits US military bases across the nation
The U.S. military's use of firefighting foam that contains potentially dangerous chemical compounds could have serious health consequences for the workers who handle it and those who live nearby.
The Department of Defense had identified 401 military sites that could be contaminated with the toxic compounds, known as PFAS, as of August 2017. The Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University have mapped at least 712 documented cases of PFAS contamination across 49 states, as of July 2019. That map includes contamination on military bases along with industrial plants, commercial airports and firefighting training sites.
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found at high levels in a concentrate for a firefighting foam called AFFF, or aqueous film forming foam, which has seeped into groundwater and at times tainted drinking water. The Environmental Working Group estimates more than 100 million Americans could be drinking tap water contaminated with PFAS.
Dubbed "the forever chemical," PFAS don't naturally break down in the environment, which explains why some water sources are still contaminated from AFFF use decades ago.