Saturday, November 9, 2013

If You Care About Safe Water, Protect It!

There is a clear path for the legislation needed to better protect everyone in America from perchlorate exposure. Senator Barbara Boxer spoke from her heart about the hard science in this insightful article from the Washington Post. She is quoted making a compelling case in 2008 that the failure to regulate perchlorate in drinking water is reprehensible, at best:

"Perchlorate has been a serious, persistent and widespread problem which threatens the health of our families, especially our children," Boxer said. "For the Bush EPA to walk away from this problem and shrug off this danger is, in my view, unforgivable and immoral."

Her statement about the imperative to regulate perchlorate in drinking water is as true today as it was five years ago. The data on the long term health consequences of chronic perchlorate exposure are being compiled by us - we are the "guinea pigs" and early indications are great for the makers of synthetic thyroid hormone.  In 2011, Truthout reported on perchlorate at Army bases designated as Superfund Sites, but yet again the one-of-a-kind RCRA permit for the Radford Arsenal allows it to "slip the loop" of  EPA Superfund oversight by not being included.

Perchlorate contamination at and around military bases nationwide is not going away. Neither is the need for  Congress to pass legislation to restrict the amount of this toxin in everyone's drinking water. During the 110th session, Congressman Ed Markey co-sponsored H.R. 1747 "Safe Drinking Water for Healthy Communities Act," and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced S.150 "Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act," both of which need to be passed, reconciled and signed into law for the holidays. This important safeguard for our water will only happen when we insist on being heard above the lobbyists. Be the voice of children who need Barbara Boxer to step up to the plate again and Senator Ed Markey to join colleagues Feinstein, Cardin, and Klobuchar, co-sponsors of  S.150, to get the bill moving into law.

If you live in Virginia's 9th, Congressman Morgan Griffith needs to hear from you! Encourage him to advocate for every child in the New River Valley  by setting a uniform limit for the amount of perchlorate allowed in drinking water. We need our drinking water to be tested for perchlorate now, not only because it was recently detected in 3 of 3 private wells tested in Montgomery County, where contaminants travel in the Karst terrain underlying the facility, but also because of the ongoing releases of perchlorate from the Radford Arsenal. Those of us living around RAAP need to act locally on this one because if not us, then who?

Today's Sing-Along "Rocket Fuel for Breakfast!"

There have been times when Congress has tried to protect us from the endocrine disrupting chemical, perchlorate. At those times, the Department of Defense springs into action to head off common sense regulation of rocket fuel in drinking water under EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). 

One such symphony of action began in 2009, when the EPA decided that despite Congressional actions geared toward preserving the supremacy of environmental laws over military standards, they would aim for DoD "harmonizing" with the EPA . Dod chose this new impetus in response to a Congressional attempt to limit perchlorate in the water we drink, H.R. 1747 introduced in the 110th session. Aptly named the Safe Drinking Water for Healthy Communities Act of 2007, the proposed law was a sure-fire threat to the ongoing production of all things explosive - for military and private markets. Despite warnings from the Government Accountability Office in 2011 admonishing Congress to exercise their oversight responsibility to regulate perchlorate because EPA seemed to be turning a deaf ear to the facts, noting

"EPA did not include the Office of Children's Health Protection in its small group despite EPA's and the National Academies' conclusion that iodide uptake inhibition from perchlorate exposure had been identified as a concern in connection with increasing the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women with iodine deficiency and to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children," 

in the end, EPA chose not to act according to the precautionary principle. There is no federally enforceable standard (Maximum Contaminant Level - MLC) for perchlorate in the current Safe Drinking Water Act. This means that annual water quality report you get does not include perchlorate - not for   anyone's drinking water, although a few states have set their own limits. The Congressional capitulation to the well-harmonized efforts of EPA and DoD to avert oversight wasn't a freebie, but the efforts of AlliantTechsystems (ATK) and other key players in the munitions industry made for beautiful music at the cash register. Costly regulations on  perchlorate would eat away at profit margins and we know how that scale tips. As this one-of-a-kind environmental clean up permit points out, "...there were concerns that an NPL listing would decrease the economic development potential for this GO/CO facility." This philosophy provided the basis of an agreement between EPA and the DoD dating back to 2000, wherein it is the stated policy that "monied interests" will trump health and safety for the community of living things all around the Radford Arsenal.

The defeat of H.R. 1747 by ATK, who had the great fortune of operating the GOCO (government owned/corporately operated) Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) from 1995 until 2012, was a boon to maintaining high profitability at this turn-key federal facility. Plus, it made the whole environmental mess easier to turn over to BAE Systems, when they lost this lucrative contract to the recently DOJ sanctioned British firm.  Today, ATK enjoys the benefits of no restrictions for perchlorate under the SWDA in their capacity as "tenant" of Michael Chertoff's BAE Systems. As this document from BAE details, their deal permits them to literally spew perchlorate into the air (SEE compelling photo here!) as part of their "energetic waste" disposal process. Do-si-do your partner, friends! BAE and the U.S. Army are considerably less forthcoming about how much perchlorate leaches into the ground water beneath the OBG, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia where silence is golden.

Now, if you visit the New River Valley you might think fishing or floating down this American Heritage River in the gorgeous area just outside of Virginia Tech would be a fun, safe, family outing. Beware the blow-horn announcing to "evacuate the river - explosives burning is about to begin!" If you live and breathe here everyday, you might believe that there are regulations protecting your children from ingesting dangerous levels of hormone disrupting perchlorate, breathing it in while playing outside, or getting a "double dose" of dermal/inhalation exposure in every shower. You would be wrong. In fact, our local Sierra Club found perchlorate in 3 of 3 private wells tested this past July in Montgomery County, where it borders the arsenal.  Those results were announced by the Club's NRV chapter at a BAE/U.S. Army meeting on September 5th. They were even briefly published on their website, but this researcher cannot find them published today. Despite the assertion that perchlorate detection in 100% wells off site does not prove cross-contamination, at least one highly qualified would-be whistle blower disagrees. In fact, more than one expert concurs that finding even low levels of perchlorate in these wells after months of record rainfall, flooding and even drastically reduced burning of toxic waste at the Open Burning Ground (due at least in part to this weather) proves contaminants in the groundwater at RAAP are traveling off-site through the Karst topography underlying the plant. If only there were no consequences to truth-telling in America today, we would all be safer.

Rocket fuel in your morning coffee, anyone?

Friday, November 1, 2013

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