Superfund, Climate Change, Infrastructure & Revenue Shortfalls Top Concerns

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency quit talks with Dow Chemical Co. aimed at a study and interim cleanup of dioxin contamination...

by Patrick Crow

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency quit talks with Dow Chemical Co. aimed at a study and interim cleanup of dioxin contamination in Michigan’s Tittabawassee River system. The agency said, “Key issues paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unresolved. EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive.” It and Dow were negotiating since October under CERCLA (or Superfund) provisions. The targeted area begins upstream of Dow’s Midland, MI, 1,900-acre chemical complex and extends to the Saginaw River, its floodplains and Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron. The EPA said Dow’s past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration caused dioxin and furan contamination.

Global Warming

Washington, DC-based Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) warned global warming could diminish drinking water supplies in some U.S. regions and cause flooding in others. An AMWA report examined likely impacts of climate change on water supplies, such as an accelerated hydrologic cycle of evaporation and precipitation, water contamination, rising sea levels and pressure on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

AMWA executive director Diane VanDe Hei said the report highlights two key research needs: how climate change might impact existing freshwater resources and how to develop alternative water sources through reuse, recycling, conservation and desalination.

Infrastructure Funding

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), with offices in Denver and DC, reported state legislatures put a higher priority on water infrastructure funding this year. In its list of top 10 issues before the 44 legislatures meeting this year, NCSL ranked financing transportation and water infrastructure as No. 4, behind slow revenue growth, immigration issues and federal requirements for driver’s licenses.

NCSL said slow revenue growth continues to weaken state budgets. It said 24 states reported revenues have been hurt by the housing sector slump and about a dozen reported declines in real estate transfer or recording taxes. It said 11 states have revised fiscal 2008 revenue forecasts downward. NCSL warned, “If the economy takes a turn for the worse, state finances undoubtedly will decline.”

Other News

In other Washington news:

  • EPA’s latest regulatory agenda calls for it to complete its Water Transfers Rule early in 2008, exempting most routine water transfers from NPDES permitting. It plans to complete its radon rule in 2009 and total coliform rule in 2012.
  • A provision in the Senate-passed Farm Bill establishes a Regional Water Enhancement Program. Under it, water and wastewater utilities could help farmers improve water discharge quality. A House-passed bill has a similar provision.
  • The House Environment & Hazardous Materials Subcommittee approved a bill to require EPA to regulate perchlorate levels in drinking water. The chemical, used in munitions and rocket fuels, has contaminated the water supplies of 153 utilities in 26 states. The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee was expected to pass a similar bill.
  • EPA has given Intel Corp.’s Ocotillo Campus in Chandler, AZ, its corporate Water Efficiency Leader award for 2007. The campus recycled 75% of water used in manufacturing, reducing demand for city water.

About the Author: Patrick Crow covered the U.S. Congress and federal agencies for 21 years as a reporter for industry magazines. He has reported on water issues for more than 10 years. Crow is now a Houston, TX-based freelance writer.

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