The Ohio House Public Utilities Committee approved Senate Bill 33 on Thursday, January 29. The government building was packed with state residents ready to speak in opposition of the bill. SB 33 is aimed at protecting oil and gas production infrastructure, while in turn, making many acts of protest against the industry potentially illegal. After the passing of the bill, residents spoke out in frustration by chanting “This is our house.” The crowds settled after Ohio state troopers arrived on scene; however, it might foreshadow Ohio’s movement towards limiting protesters’ freedom of speech. Read More.
Attorneys general from 14 states filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency over its rollback of Obama-era chemical plant safety regulations.
“The Trump EPA is gutting critical safeguards against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at these facilities, putting New Yorkers in harm’s way,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. Read more.
On Monday, January 27th, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced that it intends to sue the EPA for failing to enforce Clean Water Act pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established to created as a goal to restore the bay by 2025 by limiting the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment pollution within the watershed. The Foundation argues that Pennsylvania’s efforts to curb pollution entering into the bay is not on track with the 2025 deadline due to funding limitations and planning shortfalls. Read More.
On Thursday, January 23rd, the Trump Administration finalized the removal of the “Waters of the United States” regulations set in place during the Obama Administration. The removal of the 2015 rules was highly backed by the coal and farm sectors, that can now dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into waterways. Trump’s new water rule, the “Navigable Water Protection Rule,” will still protect larger bodies of water, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River, but will reduce the protection of smaller water systems that could still sweep pollutants into those larger systems. Read More.
Rolling Stone has released an article highlighting the dangers of brine, a radioactive naturally occurring byproduct of oil and gas drilling. Workers and communities for decades have been exposed to brine through truck transports, on roads as a de-icer or products in hardware stores without having complete information on its radioactive nature. Read More.
Not too long ago, a local leader in a community in Nevada asked if I could review a set of water testing data. The sample was taken from a water storage tank that provides drinking water to the town where she lives. The town had painted the inside of the storage tank, but now the water has a strong chemical odor and four volatile chemicals were found in the water sample.
The concentration of all four chemicals in the water was below the federal drinking water standards and as far as the town was concerned, the conversation was over. The water was safe to drink. But is it really? What’s the basis for saying this?
Federal drinking water standards are based on exposure to a single substance in isolation of any other risks and reflect only a limited exposure, typically one day, from a single route of exposure, ingestion. But this is not how people are typically exposed which is to multiple chemicals at the same time. The federal standards do not address the cumulative risks posed by exposure to multiple chemicals over time. Further, these standards fail to address potential synergistic effects which are adverse health effects that are greater than would be predicted or expected based on exposure to individual chemicals alone or in combination.
Consequently, estimating risks posed by exposure to multiple chemicals in drinking water using federal drinking water standards underestimates the true risks people face drinking and using this water on a regular basis. Scientifically, we do not know how much these other factors add to the risks a person faces when drinking water with multiple contaminants. Even though each of the four chemicals in this example were found at concentrations below the federal drinking water standards, this does not mean that there is no risk when consuming or using this water. It does mean that science cannot inform this question.
Yet you hear all time when tests results are interpreted by government agencies that there is no cause for alarm. The standards are used like the proverbial line in the sand. On the one side, people are safe, and on the other, there’s endless debate over what the numbers mean. In truth, it’s not that simple.
In this case, each of the four chemicals found in the water affect the central nervous system and the liver. This means that these organ systems are all targeted simultaneously by each of these four substances. The health impact on the central nervous system (CNS) and the liver resulting from exposure to all four of these substances at the same time is difficult to judge because there is little or no information on exposure to multiple chemicals simultaneously. In addition to these targeted effects on the nervous system and the liver, these chemicals pose other specific health risks whether its skin irritation, the ability of the body to fight infection, or damage to the kidney or the heart. In many cases, some chemicals are considered carcinogens, that is, exposure increases the risk of developing cancer. The EPA’s health goal for exposure to all suspect carcinogens in drinking water is “zero” indicating that any exposure to this substance increases the risk of developing cancer over time. But EPA adjusts the health goal to reflect the realities of setting a drinking water standard at a concentration of “zero.”
In addition, because all these substances are volatile, they will evaporate into the air when a person takes a shower. One study compared the risk posed by taking a 15-minute shower versus normal consumption of drinking water and found that the risk of taking a 15-minute shower was greater than drinking the water (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0048969785903493?via%3Dihub). This risk is not included the federal drinking water standard.
While the concentration of these substances in the water may be below the federal drinking water standards, there is significant uncertainty about the cumulative risks posed by simultaneous exposure to these four volatile chemicals in drinking water, especially over time.
This is just one example of how difficult it is to interpret the results of water testing. This situation is quite common, whether it’s contaminants in drinking water, chemicals in ambient air or contaminants in soil. Interpreting air and soil testing is even more difficult because there are no federal standards that define what levels are acceptable and what are not. Instead, EPA uses guideline values that are not enforceable and subject to political whims.
CHEJ can you interpret the results of any testing results you’re concerned about. Contact us if you have test results you need help interpreting.
Northport Middle School, in Long Island, NY, has taken action to relocate its students after findings of high levels of Mercury on school grounds. Parents staged a “sick out” rally last week to express concern for the safety of the students. The school will remain closed for the remainder of the year for continued testing and remediation. Read More.
Malaysia has announced that it will no longer be accepting containers of trash from wealthier countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States. At a press conference on Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Yeo Bee Yin stated, “If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on.” The country has put a foot down against the exportation of trash to developing countries and has since returned 150 containers of trash back to their originating countries. Read More.
“Of 20 key officials across several agencies, 15 came from careers in the oil, gas, coal, chemical or agriculture industries, while another three hail from state governments that have spent years resisting environmental regulations.” Read NYT Story.
At the New Hampshire Women’s March, Naomi Klein took the stage and spoke about why climate change — and many of the natural disasters occurring as a result — is a feminist issue. “We have seen in the aftermath of all of the disasters that I’ve mentioned, that rates of domestic violence increase — that femicide, the killing of women increases — so of course, all of these issues are interrelated,” she said. She continued, saying that we need to recognize the work that many women do in these situations. “The other thing that we see is that women on the ground in these disaster zones are actually first responders. That it is nurses who are saving lives, that it is home care workers and teachers who are saving lives, saving the lives of the people they care for, of the kids that they teach in their schools.” Read more.