Trump EPA Sued for Putting Millions of Lives at Risk With Rollback of Chemical Safety Rules

"We are fighting for the lives and safety of our families and workers. Our lives are more valuable than the bottom line of a few chemical barons."
by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams staff writer


A chemical plant of TPC Group is shrouded by smoke as the fire continues in Port Neches, Texas on Nov. 27, 2019. (Photo: Steven Song/Xinhua via Getty Images)

A coalition of more than a dozen environmental groups on Thursday sued the Trump administration for rolling back chemical disaster prevention regulations, a move they say has endangered millions of lives.

"By killing these critical protections, millions of people living near chemical facilities in the United States are put in harm's way," said the coalition represented by environmental advocacy organization Earthjustice. "We are fighting for the lives and safety of our families and workers. Our lives are more valuable than the bottom line of a few chemical barons."

The rollback of the Obama-era Chemical Disaster Rule was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month despite urgent warnings that the decision would put the health and safety of people who live near chemical plants at risk. The EPA's new rule, which the environmental coalition said is illegal, took effect Thursday morning.

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Salmon on Prozac? A new study will look at what King County's wastewater chemicals do to fish and orcas

The King County Council committed nearly $400,000 to better understand how discharges from its three largest plants affect juvenile salmon and the southern resident orcas that feed on them.

by Hannah Weinberger / November 7, 2019 / Updated at 2:07p.m. on Nov. 7, 2019



King County's West Point treatment plant in Seattle’s Discovery Park, Nov. 4, 2019. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

In 2016, the international media erupted with reports of “salmon on Prozac” found near two wastewater treatment plants in Bremerton and Tacoma. A research team led by Dr. Jim Meador, a research fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, discovered concentrations of common medications, chemicals such as fungicides and even cocaine in wastewater effluent, local estuaries and the tissue of nearby juvenile salmon. Even fish in the Nisqually estuary — more than 20 miles from the nearest test treatment plants — showed signs of contamination. 

The study estimated that, each year, all 106 Puget Sound treatment plants could be collectively discharging 97,000 pounds of chemicals into the Sound. Over the past few decades, there has been considerable growth in not only the number of possible contaminants in our waters, but also the human population responsible for pollution. Public concern has risen to match.

Now, a new study funded by King County and spearheaded by Meador aims to go beyond the sensational “salmon on cocaine” headlines to get us closer to understanding what this means for the life cycles of salmon and orcas that eat them. It has become a frequent topic of discussion within state government — especially after the Governor’s Orca Task Force made reducing exposure to pollution a top priority.

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Biosolids: mix human waste with toxic chemicals, then spread on crops

Dairy cows rest outside at Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine, in August 2019. The farm was forced to shut down after sludge spread on the land was linked to high levels of PFAS in the milk. Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP


Residual sludge from treating waste water has been turned into a money-spinner but what are the costs to health of ‘the most pollutant-rich manmade substance on Earth’?


By some estimates, Americans send about 300m pounds of feces daily from the nation’s toilets to wastewater treatment plants.


While the water is cleaned and discharged, the remaining toxic sewage sludge stays at the treatment plant, and it’s what Sierra Club environmentalist Nancy Raine calls “the most pollutant-rich manmade substance on Earth”.


This “biosolid” sludge is expensive to dispose of because it must be landfilled, but the waste management industry is increasingly using a money-making alternative – repackaging the sludge as fertilizer and injecting it into the nation’s food chain.


Now the practice is behind a growing number of public health problems. Spreading pollutant-filled biosolids on farmland is making people sick, contaminating drinking water and filling crops, livestock and humans with everything from pharmaceuticals to PFAS.


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Impacts of MicroPlastics in Agrosystems and Stream Environments


The main objective of the IMPASSE (Impacts of MicroPlastics in Agrosystems and Stream Environments) project is to assess the risk of environmental contamination with MPs in agroecosystems and nearby aquatic ecosystems, and to provide solutions capable of promoting agricultural sustainability and economic development, protecting the environment and human health.

The IMPASSE project is formed by a consortium coordinated by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) in collaboration with the Swedish University of Agriculture, the Vrije University of Amsterdam, the University of Trent (Canada), and IMDEA Water. It is funded by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (refence PCIN-2017-016/AEI) and framed within the Joint Programming Initiatives of the European Research Area JPI – Water.

From the project description:

"Microplastics (MPs) are generally defined as plastic particles which are less than 5 mm in size. The problem of MPs pollution in the oceans is widely known, but the problem is not limited to the marine environment, it also affects other ecosystems. There is evidence showing that each year, in North America, farmed soils are exposed to up to 300,000 tonnes of MPs. [...] This is especially alarming given that plastic polymers can contain toxic compounds and endocrine disrupting substances. Effectively, sewage sludge application may be causing persistent, pernicious and almost totally ignored contamination of agricultural land. [...]The situation is expected to be similar all over the world, at least in developed countries. A primary source of MPs to agrosystems is thought to be biosolids, grey waters and sludge, which are used as fertilizers. Plastic polymers can attach toxic compounds and endocrine-disrupting substances, so it is important to know the persistence and environmental fate of these MPs, as well as their impact on neighbouring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and on human health."

For further information visit the IMPASSE Project Interactive Website.

Industry Cites 3M Research on Cancer Patients Exposed to PFOA to Claim the Chemical Isn’t So Bad

by Sharon Lerner
August 12 2019, 9:45 a.m.


In partnership with

Defenders of the chemicals known as PFAS have seized upon an industry-funded study of cancer patients as evidence that PFOA, the compound used to make Teflon, firefighting foam, and many other products, isn’t as dangerous as it seems.

The study, which was funded by the Minnesota-based global conglomerate 3M and published in February 2018 in the journal Toxicological Sciences, was based on a clinical trial conducted by the company CXR Biosciences, in which 49 terminal cancer patients were exposed to high doses of PFOA. Now recognized as a widespread water contaminant, PFOA was originally developed by 3M.

The authors of the study, who include a 3M staff scientist and two University of Minnesota faculty members who received research grants from the company, as well as two of the authors of a 2010 abstract summarizing the original clinical trial, initially describe its purpose as assessing the chemotherapeutic potential of PFOA. Yet the paper contains little mention of how the chemical affected patients’ cancers and instead focuses on their cholesterol levels, which appeared to decrease slightly over a six-week trial period. (Since the study’s publication, one of its authors, Matteo Convertino, left the institution.)

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TOXIC PFAS CHEMICALS FOUND IN MAINE FARMS FERTILIZED WITH SEWAGE SLUDGE

by Sharon Lerner
June 7 2019, 5:57 a.m.

ALL SEWAGE SLUDGE recently tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was contaminated with PFAS chemicals, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. The state tested the sludge, solid waste that remains after the treatment of domestic and industrial water, for the presence of three “forever chemicals”: PFOA, PFOS, and PFBS. Of 44 samples taken from Maine farms and other facilities that distribute compost made from the sludge, all contained at least one of the PFAS chemicals. In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.

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