EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm

Superfund sites in local communities:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:
http://epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.

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Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

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Legacy of DDT abuse: Cleaning up old pesticide dumps

February 15, 2014

Contrary to science denialist claims, DDT is not harmless.  Users and abusers of DDT, abandoned stocks of DDT and other pesticides around the world, after the stuff had become essentially useless against insect or other pests originally targeted.

In the U.S., EPA moves in to clean up DDT dumps, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), or Superfund.  In much of the world, various UN agencies find the old pesticides, and clean them up as funding allows.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) documents its cleanup efforts with photos of sessions training technicians to find and catalog dump sites, repackaging of old drums when necessary, extraction, packing and shipping to a disposal site.

Photos tell a story words on paper cannot.

Caption from FAO: TN (Tanzania) before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN - : M. Davis

Caption from FAO: TN (Tanzania) before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN – : M. Davis

Sometimes the toxic wastes did not stay neatly stacked.

FAO caption:  TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN

FAO caption: TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN View real size

DDT use against insect vectors of disease essentially halted in the mid-1960s.  The Rockefeller Foundation’s and UN’s ace mosquito fighter, Fred Soper, ran into mosquitoes in central Africa that were resistant and immune to DDT. Farmers and businesses had seized on DDT as the pesticide of choice against all crop pests, or pests in buildings.  By the time the UN’s malaria-fighting mosquito killers got there, the bugs had evolved to the point DDT didn’t work the malaria eradication campaign.

Also, there were a few DDT accidents that soured many Africans on the stuff.  Around lakes where local populations caught the fish that comprised the key protein in their diet, farmers used DDT, and the runoff killed the fish.

Use of DDT ended rather abruptly in several nations.  Stocks of DDT that had been shipped were abandoned where they were stored.

For decades.

FAO caption:    Obsolete DDT in Luanda, Angola - July 2008 -  : K. Cassam

FAO caption: Obsolete DDT in Luanda, Angola – July 2008 – : K. Cassam

Prevention and disposal of obsolete chemicals remains as a thorny problem throughout much of the world.  Since 2001, under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, (POPs), the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has coordinated work by WHO and a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as governments, to make safe the abandoned pesticides, and detoxify or destroy them to prevent more damage.  FAOs efforts, with photos and explanation, is a history we should work to preserve.

DDT provided powerful insect killing tools for a relatively short period of time, from about 1945 to 1965.  In that short period, DDT proved to be a deadly killer of ecosystems to which it was introduced, taking out a variety of insects and other small animals, on up the food chain, with astonishing power.  One of DDT’s characteristics is a long half-life — it keeps on killing, for months or years. Once that was thought to be an advantage.

Now it’s a worldwide problem.


Yes, DDT is deadly to humans, as suicides demonstrate

September 16, 2013

One of the anti-environmental, anti-green false myths kicking around is that DDT is not harmful to humans, and therefore it probably shouldn’t have been banned, “and Rachel Carson was wrong.”

This poster from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates bioaccumulation, theprocess by which larger animals can be killed by acute DDT poisoning.

This poster from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates bioaccumulation, the process by which larger animals can be killed by acute DDT poisoning.

Reality is that DDT is a poison, but acute poisoning of large animals tends to take a lot.  Insectivorous animals or their predators can get those fatal amounts, but humans generally don’t.  DDT as a toxin kills mammals and birds and amphibians and reptiles and fish with equal alacrity, slowed only by the size of the organism and whether the organism’s diet consists of other things that consume and accumulate DDT.

Often that misperception is coupled with a claim that DDT does not cause cancer, and so should have its ban lifted.

But, the facts:

  • DDT is a neurotoxin; in accumulates in fat, and if enough of it courses through the blood of an animal at a given point, it kills off parts of the neurosystem including the brain.
  • DDT kills mammals (humans are mammals); in fact the U.S. Army argued to keep DDT on the market to use against bats that infested barracks in training camps (bats are mammals, too).  Death depends on the dose, which depends on body size.  Takes a fair amount to kill off a large mammal, quickly.  DDT is implicated in the near extinction of different species of migratory free-tail bats in the Southwest.
  • DDT is carcinogenic.  Fortunately for humans, it’s a weak carcinogen for most cancers, though research points to a troubling link to some cancers (breast, reproductive organs) that appear very late relative to exposure, especially if exposure to DDT occurs in utero, or in infancy.
  • DDT was not banned as a hazard to human health; it was banned as a hazard to wildlife.  DDT in almost all concentrations becomes an indiscriminate killer of wildlife when used outdoors.
  • DDT can kill humans with acute poisoning.

That last point isn’t easy to document in the U.S.  During the go-go DDT years there was one case of a young girl who drank from a prepared DDT solution, and died a short time later.  The incident was a tragedy, but not unique for the 1950s and 1960s.  It was written off to lax safety standards, and because it occurred long before the origin of on-line databases, essentially it has fallen out of history.  Just try to find a reference to the death today.

Partly, this lack of information on human toxicity is due to the fact that DDT use was slowing dramatically by the late 1960s (it was becoming ineffective), and after the ban in 1972, there were few cases in the U.S. where humans were exposed to the stuff, except in emissions from DDT manufacturing plants.  EPA’s order banning DDT in the U.S. applied only to agricultural use, and the chief agricultural use remaining was on cotton.  Manufacturing was not banned, however, which meant U.S. DDT makers could continue to pump the stuff out and sell it overseas, in Africa, and Asia.  This continued right up to that day in 1984 that U.S. companies became subject to damage for the poisons they make under the Superfund law — almost every DDT maker declared bankruptcy to escape liability in the weeks before the Superfund became effective, saddling taxpayers with a few dozen Superfund sites to be cleaned up on the taxpayer’s dime.

DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia, however.  And there we find a badly-documented history of people poisoning themselves with DDT, usually in suicides.

Whatever other pathologies these cases may exhibit, they reveal that DDT does, indeed, kill humans.

Like this recent case, from Ghana; yes, that’s the illustration used in the newspaper; from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation:

Sep 11, 2013 at 11:52am
Man commits suicide over wife’s confession

Benjamin Kwaku Owusu, a 40-year-old former Manager of Unity Oil Filling Station in Suhum, has committed suicide by drinking DDT Gamullio 20 insecticide.

A family spokesperson who spoke to the Ghana News Agency on condition of anonymity said Owusu and his wife lived at Suhum and had been married for five years but never had a child.

He said the situation often developed into misunderstanding between them but later the wife got pregnant and left for her home town.

According to the spokesperson, whiles Owusu was preparing for the wife to deliver, he had a shocking message from the wife that the pregnancy belonged to another man and not him.

He said Owusu, who had a shock, rushed into his room and drunk the DDT Insecticide and fell unconscious.

“Owusu was rushed to the hospital but died soon after he was admitted,” he said.

When the police at Suhum was contacted, they confirmed the story and said the body of the deceased had since been buried after post mortem examination at the Suhum Government Hospital.

GNA

Not sure what “Gamullio 20” means, but it seems to be the brand name of the poison used.

More:


Texas’s Superfund cleanup sites, listed by county

September 21, 2012

I got a notice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

The Texas Superfund Registry has been published in the September 21, 2012 issue of the Texas Register.

64 of Texas’s 254 counties have Superfund sites, either state or federal; many of them have been cleaned up, but many are active.  My count shows 161 sites total for Texas.

You can go to the site and find the information in several different sorts — here is the list, by county, unedited, straight from TCEQ (Not sure why Parker County is listed differently).

Index of Superfund sites by county.

If a county does not appear on this list, it is because there is no state or federal Superfund site in that county. This index includes all sites—those where cleanup is complete as well as those for which cleanup or assessment is in progress.

On the county maps, a light blue star designates a federal Superfund site. A red star designates a state Superfund site.

Related Categories:
Superfund Sites in Anderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Anderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Angelina County Current and former Superfund sites located in Angelina County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site..
Superfund Sites in Bexar County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bexar County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bowie County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bowie County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Brazoria County Current and former Superfund sites located in Brazoria County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Calhoun County Current and former Superfund sites located in Calhoun County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cameron County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cameron County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Carson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Carson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cass County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cass County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cherokee County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cherokee County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Collin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Collin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Dallas County Current and former Superfund sites located in Dallas County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Eastland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Eastland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ector County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ector County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in El Paso County Current and former Superfund sites located in El Paso County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ellis County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ellis County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Fort Bend County Current and former Superfund sites located in Fort Bend County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Galveston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Galveston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Grayson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Grayson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Gregg County Current and former Superfund sites located in Gregg County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Guadalupe County Current and former Superfund sites located in Guadalupe County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hale County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hale County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hardin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hardin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harris County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harris County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harrison County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harrison County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hays County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hays County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Henderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Henderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hidalgo County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hidalgo County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hockley County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hockley County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Houston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Houston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hunt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hunt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jasper County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jefferson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Karnes County Current and former Superfund sites located in Karnes County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Kimble County Current and former Superfund sites located in Kimble County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Knox County Current and former Superfund sites located in Knox County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Liberty County Current and former Superfund sites located in Liberty County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Llano County Current and former Superfund sites located in Llano County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Matagorda County Current and former Superfund sites located in Matagorda County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in McCulloch County Current and former Superfund sites located in McCulloch County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Midland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Midland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Mitchell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Mitchell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Montgomery County Current and former Superfund sites located in Montgomery County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Moore County Current and former Superfund sites located in Moore County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nacogdoches County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nacogdoches County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Navarro County Current and former Superfund sites located in Navarro County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Newton County Current and former Superfund sites located in Newton County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nueces County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nueces County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ochiltree County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ochiltree County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Orange County Current and former Superfund sites located in Orange County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Rusk County Current and former Superfund sites located in Rusk County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in San Patricio County Current and former Superfund sites located in San Patricio County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Shelby County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Shelby County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Swisher County Information from the EPA about this federal Superfund site in Swisher County. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tarrant County Current and former Superfund sites located in Tarrant County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Taylor County Current and former Superfund sites located in Taylor County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Titus County Current and former Superfund sites located in Titus County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tom Green County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Tom Green County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Van Zandt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Van Zandt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Waller County Current and former Superfund sites located in Waller County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Zavala County Current and former Superfund sites located in Zavala County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Topics Under This Category:
Superfund Sites in Parker County Current and former Superfund sites located in Parker County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.

More, Superfund news from other states:


Meanwhile, back in reality, Superfund cleanup of Torrance DDT site continues

July 11, 2012

English: Map of Superfund sites in the US stat...

Map of Superfund sites in California. Red indicates sites currently on final National Priority List, yellow is proposed for the list, green means a site deleted (usually due to having been cleaned up). Data from United States Environmental Protection Agency CERCLIS database available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/phonefax/products.htm. Retrieved April 24, 2010 with last update reported as March 31, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s near midsummer, so the sputtering of right-wing and anti-science propaganda calls for a “return to DDT” should begin to abate, absent a serious outbreak of West Nile Virus human infections, or some fit of stupidity on the part of DDT advocates.

DDT remains a deadly poison, and you, American Taxpayer, are on the hook for millions of dollars needed to clean up legacy DDT manufacturing sites across the nation.  Contrary to bizarre claims, DDT really is a poison.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works constantly at these cleanups.  Comes this press release from EPA talking about a small success, a $14.6 million settlement with past property owners or users of sites in Torrance, California, designated for cleanup under the Superfund.  The money will pay for cleanup of groundwater at the sites.

Links to sources other than EPA, and illustrations are added here.

EPA Reaches $14.6 million Settlement for Groundwater Cleanup at Torrance Superfund Sites

Release Date: 07/10/2012
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov, 213-244-1815

Plant will Treat a Million Gallons per Day, Prevent Spread of Contamination

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a $14.6 million settlement with four companies for the construction of a groundwater treatment system at the Montrose and Del Amo Superfund sites in Torrance, Calif. Construction of the treatment system is the first step in the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by chemicals used to manufacture DDT and synthetic rubber over three decades.

Once operational, the system will extract up to 700 gallons of water per minute, or a total of a million gallons each day, removing monochlorobenzene and benzene, and re-injecting the cleaned, treated water back into the aquifer. The treated water will not be served as drinking water, but will instead be re-injected to surround the contamination and prevent it from any further movement into unaffected groundwater areas. Construction of the treatment system is expected to be completed in 18 months. EPA will pursue further settlements with the four companies and other parties to ensure that additional cleanup actions are taken and the groundwater treatment system is operated and maintained until cleanup levels are met.

“One of the toxic legacies of DDT and synthetic rubber manufacturing is polluted groundwater,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The treatment plant will be a milestone for the site, protecting the groundwater resources for the thousands of people who live or work near these former facilities.”

Montrose Chemical Corporation of California manufactured the pesticide DDT from 1947 until 1982. Monochlorobenzene was a raw material used in making DDT. The Montrose site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. The Del Amo Superfund site, located adjacent to the Montrose site, was formerly a synthetic rubber manufacturing facility that used benzene, naphthalene and ethyl benzene. The Del Amo site was placed on the NPL in September of 2002. Groundwater contamination from both sites has co-mingled and will be cleaned up by this single treatment system.

The four responsible parties for this settlement are: Montrose, Bayer CropScience Inc., News Publishing Australia Limited, and Stauffer Management Company LLC. In addition to constructing the treatment system, these parties will also pay oversight costs incurred by EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

To date, extensive investigations and cleanup actions have been performed at both sites. EPA’s DDT soil removal actions in the neighborhood near the Montrose site were completed in 2002. In 1999, Shell began cleaning-up the Del Amo Superfund site, constructing a multi-layer impermeable cap over the waste pits and installation of the soil-vapor extraction and treatment system. Additional soil and soil gas cleanups at the Del Amo site are slated to begin in 2013.

The proposed consent decree for the settlement, lodged with the federal district court by the U.S. Department of Justice on July 9, 2012, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

For more information on the Del Amo and Montrose Superfund Sites, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/socal/superfund/index.html

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Follow the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EPAregion9
And join the LinkedIn group: http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/1823773/

More: 

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Velsicol Chemical vs. Rachel Carson — the lawsuit that didn’t happen

August 23, 2010

Decades later, the site of Velsicol's DDT manufacturing at St. Louis, Michigan, along the Pine River, remains a still-recovering-from-contamination site.  Velsicol denied DDT is dangerous in a letter to the publisher of Silent Spring. In 1999 EPA began a $100 million Superfund clean-up of Velsicol's site. Even with new, better cleanup methods, it's still a hazard.  Photo from Penny Park, by the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

Decades later, the site of Velsicol’s DDT manufacturing at St. Louis, Michigan, along the Pine River, remains a still-recovering-from-contamination site. Velsicol denied DDT is dangerous in a letter to the publisher of Silent Spring. In 1999 EPA began a $100 million Superfund clean-up of Velsicol’s site. Even with new, better cleanup methods, it’s still a hazard. Photo from Penny Park, by the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

This story by Linda Gittleman deserves circulation well outside central Michigan, where it was published in the Morning Sun:

LINDA GITTLEMAN: Telling stories of the St. Louis Superfund sites

Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010

When it comes to the St. Louis area Superfund sites, there must be a thousand sidebars – those quirky little stories that all played a role in what happened at the Velsicol Chemical plant, in the city and indeed the country throughout the last several decades.

And, I suspect, there are a thousand more yet to come out.

Several years ago, the PBS series “American Experience” showcased Rachel Carson, the woman who wrote “Silent Spring,” published in 1962. That was the book which became the force that led to the ban, for the most part, of DDT use in the U.S.

Velsicol in St. Louis was the largest manufacturer of DDT in the country.

In the program, Carson recalled the bad old days.

To say the chemical company didn’t much care for her is an understatement. They flat out called her a liar.

Not only was she up to no good with her “sinister influence.” She was also a “tool of the Communist menace.”

Nor did they care much for the New Yorker magazine, which published excerpts from her book shortly before publication. At least the same could be said for her publisher Houghton Mifflin.

Alma College Professor Ed Lorenz had traveled to Yale and perused Carson’s papers that are kept there.

He found a five-page letter written to the publisher from Velsicol’s lawyer outlining in great detail all the discrepancies, misstatements and misunderstandings on Carson’s part as well as the inaccuracies found in the New Yorker series.

Letter from Velsicol Chemical to publisher of Silent Spring

Letter from Velsicol Chemical to publisher of Silent Spring, threatening to sue if alleged errors in Silent Spring were not corrected. No changes were made, and Velsicol did not sue. Letter image from the archives of Alma College.

Certainly wouldn’t want to see all those errors in the book due out, so a letter from Velsicol was in order. A letter that would “call several matters to your attention from legal and ethical standpoints.”

Louis McLean, the attorney, requested a meeting with the publisher so they could discuss all that and more besides.

The editor in chief wrote back and thanked him for the letter, forwarding on a copy to Carson.

“We have reviewed carefully the sources for the statements in her book, in the light of the points you bring up in your letter,” Paul Brooks wrote in response. “While there may be room for differences of opinion, we still believe, after thorough examination, that Miss Carson’s presentation is accurate and fair. Since our concern as well as yours is factual accuracy, we do not believe that a meeting would serve any useful purpose.”

Velsicol didn’t sue.

E.B. White, then the publisher of the New Yorker wrote to Carson, remarking on her courage for, “putting on the gloves and going in with this formidable opponent. This will be an Uncle Tom’s Cabin of a book, I feel – the sort that will help turn the tide.”

It did, at least in the U.S.

And one last item for the “It’s a small world department:” Did you know that the mother of Bernie Davis, the former Alma College professor and former county commissioner, was Carson’s administrative assistant?

She too was interviewed on “American Experience,” Lorenz said.

(Linda Gittleman is the Gratiot Managing Editor and can be reached at lgittleman@michigannewspapers.com.)

America is vexed with a non-centrally organized, but persistent, campaign to smear Rachel Carson and her work, with inaccurate claims about her research and the science of environmental protection — smears that would be laughable were there not so many ill-informed people who give them credence.  In contrast, there is no paid lobby to spread the good works of Rachel Carson — the truth simply stands on its own.

More about DDT and Alma, Michigan, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Also see:


$36 million to clean up DDT mess

June 12, 2009

One more reminder that DDT is a deadly substance:  EPA announced a program to cap render harmless the largest DDT dump, off the coast of California.

Jeff Gottlieb writes in The Los Angeles Times:

The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed spending at least $36 million to clean up the world’s largest deposit of banned pesticide DDT, which lies 200 feet underwater off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Montrose Chemical Corp., which was based near Torrance, released 110 tons of DDT and 10 tons of toxic PCBs into the sewers from 1947 through 1971. The chemicals then flowed into the Pacific.

What do you think?  A substance that is deadly, makes one of the largest and deadliest Superfund sites in America, and costs $36 million in taxpayer smackaroons just to seal up so it won’t kill again — is it “perfectly safe” as the advocates claim?

This is one subject you will not see discussed at Steven Milloy’s sites, Junk Science, nor Green Hell.  You won’t find the Chronically Obsessed with Rachel Carson (COWRC) mentioning this clean-up.

Remind them.

Public hearings on this plan are scheduled for June 23 and 25.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Audublog.


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