April 2016 – SJ Environmental Justice

picture: watchdog.org
In Greensboro, Georgia, a group of specialists, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hit a water main while rating a hazardous 19th-century cotton mill site. The sediment sent harmful chemicals down to Lake Oconee and next to the Oconee River. The EPA had actually denied, but later admitted, that it moneyed the clean-up and also development task that triggered the disaster.

Though that accident happened in the earlier months of 2015, heavy rains that come into the Greensboro, GA area simply continue to send more dirt into the creek. Up until this time, the EPA has actually been able to avoid any major criticism for this harmful waste spill, even though it is still reeling from the disaster it produced at a Colorado gold mine.

Lead in the soil at the job site is 20,000 times above federal levels set up for drinking water, claimed microbiologist Dave Lewis, who was a top-level scientist during his 31 years at the EPA. He ended up being a whistleblower, critical of EPA techniques. Now Lewis works for Focus for Health, a non-profit that looks into disease triggers.

The goal of the EPA project was to create low-income housing. A grant was released around 2005 to turn the mill, as well as the surrounding grounds, into housing for the homeless and mentally ill. Professionals dealing with the Georgia Environmental management Division (GEPD) had begun excavating and tearing down the buildings– regardless of objections by the city of Greensboro and not having a solid plan on how to handle the hazardous waste.

The mill site has 34 dangerous chemicals, 30 of which are on the EPA’s checklist of top priority contaminants because of “high toxicity, perseverance, inadequate of degradability, and also damaging effects on living organisms,” Lewis created.

The Mill

The four-acre site contains the deserted Mary Leila Cotton Mill, which created sheeting until the early part of 2000. This hardwood floor structure, which was over 130,000 square feet, was covered in flaky, lead-based paint. This hazardous paint engulfed the grounds, along with ash produced by its coal-burning generators. High degrees of cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzopyrene, are also concealed there. Moreover, neighboring farmers discarded chemicals in the deserted area at a time when arsenic was utilized to kill insects.

Official documents, evaluated by a number of environmental groups, reveal proposals to move the dirt to other areas or cover it with concrete. The government agencies promised to keep track of and repair any potholes or cracks. But according to Lewis, any excavation would certainly send out big amounts of poisonous dirt right into the creek.

In spite of the man-made contaminants, the ground has actually held its own against more degradation. The hazardous soil was mainly constrained to densely-packed reduced levels held in check by a clay barrier. EPA/GEPD contractors destroyed that barrier with a backhoe. According to Lewis, this is what caused pollutants to flow freely.

The EPA hasn’t responded to any requests for comment. The firm has given clashing statements regarding its participation in the project, going from being familiar with absolutely nothing and then finally admitting that it paid for the cleanup and expansion through a grant.

Even Lewis claimed his previous employer (EPA), never ever revealed any kind of concern in a number of responses to his ongoing pleas regarding environmental problems around the old mill. In letters to Lewis and David Kopp, who represented the citizens in their litigation, the EPA downplayed poisoning the Greensboro, GA area creek, pointing to low levels collected in 2010 samples taken.

Lewis says he examined his very own examples at the College of Georgia, where he use to work as a marine biologist. The findings startled him. However, when he informed the EPA, it claimed it wasn’t aware of the situation at the mill.

“There is no government agency involved with any project at the mill property,” EPA Regional Supervisor Heather McTeer Toney wrote Lewis on Jan. 9. Five months later, in a May 28 letter to Lewis, Toney confessed the program was an “EPA brownfields grant-funded job” and that “remediation was needed to be carried out in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.” The state directed the developer to preserve the mill property in a fashion that protects people from exposure to unsafe contaminants, while the property is undergoing corrective action.

The EPA’s site claims brownfields jobs are part of the firm’s requirement in making environmental justice an integral part of every program and policy by applying EPA’s regulatory tools to safeguard at-risk areas.

On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, PA was running at about 100 % power when it immediately turned off after a pump that supplied cooling water quit running. Pressure and temperature level increased in the activator, creating a pressure safety valve to open. The safety valve opened as it was supposed to, and water and steam began draining from the reactor to a tank in the basement of the reactor building.

As the pressure returned to normal, the shutoff valve should have closed. However, unbeknown to the plant operators, the shutoff valve stayed open. It continued to be open for more than two hours, permitting water that covered and cooled the fuel core to leave from the reactor system, causing the fuel to overheat.

Nonetheless, instrumentation in the TMI control room showed to the plant operators that the valve was shut and that too much water was being infused into the reactor vessel. Therefore, plant operators didn’t replace the water that was shed as a result of the open valve.

As the pressure continued to go down, an increasing number of coolant turned to vapor, causing too much vibrating in the main coolant pumps. The vibration made the plant operators at Three Mile Island, who didn’t recognize the reactor was suffering a loss of coolant, to close the pumps.

The reduction of pressure and water caused a big steam bubble to form in the top of the reactor vessel, preventing the flow of cooling water through the core. Without coolant, core temperatures increased above the melting point of the fuel cladding and the uranium fuel.

50% of the fuel melted before the flow of coolant was restored. Likewise, the cold cooling water shattered several of the hot fuel rods. All of the fuel was destroyed. As a result, over 600,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water went into the basement of the reactor building and storage tanks in the auxiliary building, infecting them.

Furthermore, a small amount of radioactive material was launched right into the atmosphere from the ventilation stack of the auxiliary building to ease pressure inside the reactor building.

Health Effects

The TMI accident created no injuries, and at the very least, a dozen epidemiological research studies performed since 1981 have actually found no noticeable direct health effects to impact to the populated area around the plant.

In 2003, a federal court dismissed the case of 2,000 plaintiffs seeking damages from the former plant owners. The court claimed the plaintiffs had actually failed to present evidence they had obtained a radiation dosage big sufficient to cause possible health and wellness effects.

Years of research study and clinical studies have actually shown no unfavorable health issues to the residents around the plant. People that suffered economic losses as a result of the evacuation after the incident were paid quickly, validating the performance of the industry’s obligation insurance coverage protection under the Price-Anderson Act. On top of that, companies were compensated for loss of revenue, and the state and local communities were compensated for costs accrued from responding to the accident.

Safety Measures

Two weeks after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, President Jimmy Carter assigned a 12-member commission, headed by the late John Kemeny, who was then the president of Dartmouth College, to explore exactly what had taken place and the possible influence it would have on the health and wellness of the public and plant personnel.

The Kemeny Compensation provided a report in October 1979, recommended that the industry creates its own criteria for excellence. The commission also pointed out a need for agency-accredited training institutions for nuclear plant operators and operation supervisors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) also moved promptly, setting up a group to research the accident. Attorney Mitchell Rogovin headed the team, and its conclusions coincided with those of the Kemeny Commission.

In 1979, the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) was due to the failure of equipment and the inability of the plant operators to understand the condition of the nuclear reactors. A slow reduction of cooling water to the reactor’s heat-producing core caused a part of the fuel rod cladding and uranium fuel, as well as the release of a minimal amount of radioactive material.

The TMI accident caused no injuries or fatalities. On top of that, experts wrapped up that the quantity of radiation launched right into the environment was too tiny to result in noticeable direct impacts to the residents living around the plant. At the very least, numerous epidemiological studies have backed up this fact.  Both the industry and the federal government responded swiftly and also emphatically to the accident at Three Mile Island. As for more course of action, the industry formed the Institute of Nuclear Power Workflow (INPO) to ensure excellence in training, plant management, and operations.