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Daily News

September 13, 2000

Florida is the first state to gain EPA backing of a licensing program drinking water and wastewater treatment operators. The program, based on federal guidelines, is intended to ensure that operators have the training and skills to properly run various types of treatment facilities, and that treatment officials are up-to-date on the latest technology. Each application for licensure is evaluated to make sure that the minimum criteria for experience and education, such as training courses and examinations, is met.

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Pennsylvania environment officials are touting construction at a campground water plant that they say will set a new standard for sewage treatment facilities. The experimental on-lot sewage disposal system, to be built at the R.B. Winter State Park, is designed to keep treated water within the watershed by treating the water and returning it to the groundwater. It is also efficient by requiring less maintenance and use of chemicals, and by requiring little excavation to construct the system.

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September 12, 2000

The mining industry has filed suit against the state of Idaho for imposing discharge limits on polluted waterways. The controversy stems from efforts to establish cleanup standards for the Coeur d' Alene River basin, and highlights the difficulty faced by states nationwide in developing total maximum daily loads (TMDL) for impaired water bodies.

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The Interior Department has revised a draft rule for assessing natural resource damages at contaminated sites by backing away from an earlier plan to assign a monetary value to wildlife and other natural resources. The revised draft proposal, which is now circulating among federal agencies and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has attracted support from some officials at EPA.

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EPA is touting an innovative water quality plan developed by the Maryland as possible national model for limiting environmental damage from wet weather runoff. The plans' low-impact development (LID) is a radically different approach to conventional stormwater management, according to EPA, and represents a significant advancement in the-state-of-the art in stormwater management.

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EPA Region I has launched a campaign to protect children's health that includes targeting sources of mercury and lead. The initiative will involve encouraging hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities in New England to join a voluntary effort to reduce mercury-containing wastes; enforcing laws that require landlords to inform tenants of the presence of lead-containing paints; tracking asthma rates in children to develop new building guidelines designed to improve indoor air quality; and informing parents about the potential dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish.

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The President's environmental advisors have succeeded in blocking legislation drafted by the Army to expand training range operations. The legislation sparked an administration-wide flap after the Army was accused of sending the bill to Congress before receiving White House clearance. Environment officials within the administration have argued that the Army would jeopardize an endangered species. A decision to shelve the legislation was made by the Office of Management and Budget.

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September 11, 2000

An upcoming EPA proposed water monitoring rule could prove to be a precursor for a sweeping effort by the agency to develop new drinking water standards as early as 2001 for a host of currently unregulated contaminants in drinking water. The proposal, due out for public comment in the coming weeks, would require hundreds of water systems to monitor for over a dozen listed contaminants over the next five years.

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California air regulators have begun drafting plans for providing automakers incentives for speeding up by two years the sale of substantial numbers of electric cars in the state. A decision to look at accelerating the schedule for electric vehicle sales was part of a vote by the California Air Resources Board to continue its statewide zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

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EPA has agreed to a proposed "regulatory flexibility" project at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard near Bremerton, WA. The project is being touted by EPA and the Pentagon as an innovative approach to several controversial issues: identifying with runoff sources of water contamination and developing a watershed approach to discharge controls.

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EPA officials say an upcoming guidance on controlling sewer overflows caused by rain storms would likely encourage states to step up their efforts. The guidance will seek a review of progress made by states, municipal groups and tribes in controlling combined sewer overflows, and will provide a preview of EPA's position on monitoring, assessing, and potentially regulating, a host of point source discharges affected by wet weather events, sources say.

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The Canadian environment minister is being pressured to ban the importation and treatment of U.S. military-generated polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) waste. Two environmental groups say Canada would violate an international waste treaty, the Basel Convention, if it allowed the waste to enter the country.

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September 08, 2000

A diverse group of advisors to EPA has hammered out an agreement on core issues for regulating disinfection byproducts and managing microbials in drinking water, which agency officials say will provide a roadmap for drafting standards. A consensus on the controversial standards was reached after representatives for rural water treatment facilities balked at proposed health assessment requirements, leading negotiators to pare down the agreed-to plan.

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EPA sources say the agency is poised to excuse California from federal reformulated gasoline requirements in response to concerns about potential groundwater contamination from common fuel additives. The anticipated move, which would be the nation's first waiver from fuel oxygenate requirements laid out in the Clean Air Act, is expected to prompt other states to petition EPA for a similar exemption.

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In a last ditch effort to address concerns about groundwater contamination caused by clean-fuel additives, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has approved legislation that would phase out a controversial oxygenate while establishing a renewable fuels mandate for gasoline.

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The Justice Department (DOJ) has agreed with environmentalists that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be used to limit air emissions from certain agricultural practices, arguing that the Clean Air Act does not bar citizens from seeking remedies under the federal disabilities law. A landmark brief by DOJ could have sweeping implications for all EPA programs, with agency officials worrying that a lawsuit brought environmentalists could subject all of the agency's regulations to ADA attacks.

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Environmentalists are appealing an EPA decision to grant a water discharge permit for a copper mining company in Arizona, arguing that the permit should be invalidated until the state develops limits on water toxins. The case could have far-reaching implications for EPA's Clean Water Act program by brining to a standstill certain discharge permitting decisions until states develop Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards.

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A Canadian fuels company, Methanex Corp., is defending its claim under an international law that California compensate the company for lost revenue caused by the state's decision to ban a common fuel additive used in cleaner-burning gasoline. California halted use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a widely-used gasoline oxygenate, out of concern for potential groundwater contamination from leaking underground storage tanks.

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Independent advisors to EPA are raising concerns about whether the agency has sufficient data to justify making any change at all to its current arsenic standard for drinking water of 50 parts per billion (ppb), sources say. The advisors are also issuing a recommendation to the agency asking it to raise its proposed drinking water limits for arsenic out of concern that the draft standard would impose an enormous financial burden on water treatment facilities in small communities.

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EPA is threatening to sue W.R. Grace & Co in order to dispose of contaminated soil from a Libby, MT, nursery that is contaminated with asbestos from a vermiculite mine owned by the chemical company. EPA sources say the company's refusal to cooperate in this case may signal difficulty in reaching agreement at as many as 300 sites contaminated with asbestos from the mine.

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