|Date:||30 Jan 2002 21:34:39 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] CSWAB: Media Announcement|
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger is pleased to announce... The Legacy Project If we love our children, we must love the earth. Risk-Based Cleanup of Military Toxins As costs to operate and maintain its closing bases increase, the U.S. military is looking for ways to minimize environmental cleanup costs, control potential site liabilities, and expedite transfer. Currently 72,000 of the 440,000 acres of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) property to be transferred out of the Department of Defense are in the "unsuitable" category due to the need to address environmental cleanup requirements. In some cases soil and/or groundwater on these properties may contain residual contamination below federal cleanup standards but at levels higher than "pristine" levels Local Reuse Authorities and nearby communities may demand. In other cases, properties contain unexploded ordnance (UXOs). Consultants working for the U.S. Army have advised Congress that EPA's Brownfields initiatives are and will continue to be an important mechanism to reduce cleanup costs specifically in their role to "promote risk- based cleanups". EPA, as the primary administrator of Superfund, has historically mandated stringent standards for cleanup without regard to current or future intended use of the property. These standards often required cleaning up to "background" levels or levels that allowed for unrestricted use of the property. Such cleanups, the military complained, were too costly. The majority of cleanups conducted in recent years under the EPA's brownfield standards are "risk-based" closures that permit some contamination to remain in place and rely on the implementation and stewardship of land use controls. Such controls indefinitely restrict the use of the land and its natural resources. Examples of land use controls include "institutional controls" such as deed restrictions that limit how the land is used. A deed restriction, for example, may eliminate farming or gardening as a potential future use if residual contaminants could enter the food chain or sensitive ecosystem. "Engineering" land use controls physically restrict access and include fences and landfill caps. It's not surprising this stopgap approach to "cleanup" is cheaper for polluters, including the military, but at what cost to future generations? What will be our legacy? Why Clean isn't Clean Anymore Current environmental regulations are aimed primarily at controlling pollution rather than taking the preventive approach of limiting the use, production, or release of toxic materials in the first place. Many polluters use their influence to delay preventive action, arguing that the immediate expense of redesign to achieve pollution prevention is unwarranted in the face of any uncertainty about eventual harmful health effects. For example, only a few years ago "clean closure" required that all hazardous wastes were removed from a disposal or spill site. Due to pressure from industry and other corporate and governmental interests, the USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and state environmental regulators now allow some "limited quantities" of hazardous constituents to remain in the environment if the facility (polluter) can convince these agencies that the calculated level of risk to human health and the environment is acceptable, particularly when weighed against the short-term environmental cost of a true cleanup. According to a May 16, 1998 memo from the National Director of EPA's Office of Solid Waste, "EPA's position is that the procedures and guidance generally used to develop protective, risk-based media cleanup standards for the RCRA (hazardous waste) corrective action and CERCLA (Superfund) cleanup programs are also appropriate to define the amount of hazardous constituents that may remain in environmental media after clean closure." In other words, "clean" no longer means clean and "safe"... it now means risk that is acceptable to government agencies and polluters. Our Responsibility to the Future The Earth and its ecosystems are the foundation of life and we have a responsibility to protect and care for today's resources and opportunities for the benefit of generations to come. This means ensuring emissions of pollutants do not harm human health or exceed nature's capacity for absorbing or breaking them down. Persistent pollutants harmful to humans or the environment need to be eliminated as all living things should have access to pure water, clean air, and healthy food - free from environmental toxins. The natural environment can only support human life, health, and well being if its own resources are healthy and if it can continue to assimilate wastes and support a wealth of biodiversity - our heritage of natural features, wild plants and animals, and their natural communities. Environmental pollution changes the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air, water, and land; these changes affect the health, survival, and activities of living things and contribute to the degradation and fragmentation of communities and ecosystems. Children are in particular need of protection as their bodies are less able to cope with and detoxify harmful substances. Research in recent years has demonstrated that children and developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to health damage from toxic chemicals. Their organs and physiological processes are still developing and toxic chemicals can disrupt this development, causing long-term irreversible damage. Children are more susceptible to the affects of pollution because the cells in their bodies are still developing at a rapid pace. The increasing burden of toxins in our environment coincides with a rise in childhood asthma, cancer and leukemia. Research has been ongoing since the '80's in an effort to understand the cause behind alarming increases in the rates of asthma and cancer occurring in our children.
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