House Takes On the EPA
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from overturning state decisions on water quality, the Huffington Post reports. Sixteen Democrats voted with the Republican majority.
GAO Rebukes the EPA
The Government Accountability Office says that the Environmental Protection Agency ‘has not effectively implemented’ the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The GAO report criticizes the EPA on two levels. In general the EPA, in deciding which chemicals to regulate, has selected chemicals based on data availability rather than what is the greatest public health concern. Of the 20 candidates for potential regulation in 2003 and 2008, none was chosen for regulation because none was determined to be sufficiently widespread.
The GAO criticizes the EPA specifically for how the agency handled its decision in 2008 not to regulate perchlorate, a jet-fuel ingredient. That decision, which was reversed earlier this year, was confined to high-level administrators and did not include the professional staff, who usually provide expert knowledge.
A high-volume dose of hydro fracking wastewater sprayed on a research site in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest killed ground vegetation within days and trees within two years, according to a U.S. Forest Service report published in the Journal of Environmental Quality. The Associated Press reports that 75,000 gallons of wastewater were sprayed on a quarter-acre plot of the forest set aside for experiments. Researchers involved with the study suggest that waste disposal regulations should take land area as well as chemical concentration into account.
And Some Good News in Health
The guinea worm enters a person’s body from contaminated drinking water and can grow up to two feet in length. When the worm emerges through the skin, it can cripple a person for months and, in some cases, permanently. Some 3.5 million people were infected in 1986, but last year only 1,797 cases in four sub-Saharan countries were reported. Public health officials hope to eradicate the worm by next year.
The reduction and anticipated eradication is one of the top ten global public health achievements for the first decade of this century, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation also made this list.
Montana Oil Spill, a Crude Awakening
Federal regulators from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Reuters that the oil pipeline in Montana that ruptured earlier this month may have carried some tar sands crude, which is more corrosive than other forms of oil. Federal inspectors are trying to determine whether the heavier crude could have damaged the pipeline. Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have argued that such spills are more likely to happen with oil from the tar sands.
Great Lakes Report and Meeting
The International Joint Commission, a bilateral body governing rivers and lakes shared by the United States and Canada, has released a progress report for its study of water levels in the upper Great Lakes. The commission is reviewing how water is regulated in the lakes and is developing a new management plan. Public comments are being accepted through August 31 and a series of informational meetings will be held in the basin states. Details for both can be found here.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton