EPA Statement on Colorado Data from Gold King Mine Release

To assess the impacts of the release at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, water quality samples were collected at numerous intervals beginning on Aug. 5, 2015.  Samples were taken prior to the plume’s arrival to establish a baseline for water quality comparisons. Each surface water sample was analyzed for 24 metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Analysis now shows that water quality for the Animas River from the Silverton, Colo. area to the Durango municipal water intake has returned to pre-event water quality levels. These results are based on validated sampling data collected from Aug. 5 to Aug. 9, 2015.

EPA has shared this data with state, local and tribal officials in Colorado to assist them in their decisions regarding the on-going use of water resources. EPA plans to continue to monitor, analyze and share data for downstream river segments as it becomes available.

For more information, visit http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/epa-statement-colorado-data-gold-king-mine-release.

For more information on EPA’s response, visit http://www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine/roles-epa-and-other-responders-after-2015-gold-king-mine-release.

EPA Grants: Systems-Based Research for Evaluating Ecological Impacts of Chemicals

Download the document.

One of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priorities is to support  research that will result in a better understanding of the vulnerability of organisms and ecosystems to chemical exposures. Recent scientific advances provide new approaches for evaluating how exposures to chemicals influence the health of ecosystems. EPA research in this area is developing and applying innovative approaches to improve the evaluation of ecological resilience and impact analyses.

Through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant program, EPA is providing grant funding to six universities to complement its research in this area. The six recipients are developing and applying innovative methods and models to better understand and predict biological and ecological consequences of exposures to chemicals in environmental systems. The universities are researching how to apply different metrics, methods and models to characterize the interactions between spatial and temporal distribution of chemicals and ecological receptors and predict the consequences.

EPA Says It Released 3 Million Gallons Of Contaminated Water Into River

Read the full story at NPR.

In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says that one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.

The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic, and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred on Wednesday. The EPA initially said that 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.

Job announcements: Two EPA internships available

GIS Analyses of Wetlands and Streams–Research Participation Program (Post-MS internship)

A postgraduate participant project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Region 4 office in Atlanta, GA. The research participant will serve in the Ocean, Wetlands and Streams Protection Branch (OWSPB) of the Water Protection Division.

The OWSPB manages and conducts key wetlands, coastal, and ocean activities under the Clean Water Act Section 404, the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) Sections 102 and 103 and the Ocean Dumping Program, the Section 403 Ocean Discharge Program and the Section 312 Marine Sanitation Device Program. The OWSPB provides regional expertise in stream and wetland restoration and mitigation, manages and implements marine and wetlands regulatory and restoration related issues and grants associated with numerous interagency/stakeholder workgroups, committees, and task forces.

This project will provide the participant with training and experience in: GIS analyses of wetlands and streams based on landscape position, ecosystem processes, ecological significance, wetness, soils, and physical disturbance; development of a searchable index of the Wetland Program Development Grants database that improves the ability of EPA programs to locate grant products; perform specific geospatial analysis for certain locations where ground-truth data exists for validation; and complete field work to obtain ground truth data.

Water Quality Standards Uses, Antidegradation and Variances Research  Participation Program, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Post-Bachelor’s internship)

 

A postgraduate internship project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water in Washington, DC. The internship will be served with the Office   of Science and Technology (OST) in the Standards & Health Protection Division.

The Standards and Health Protection Division directs the national water programs for water quality standards and advisories for safe fishing and swimming.  The intern will be trained in the Division’s National Branch (NB), one of the two branches that work on water quality standards.

This project will involve science, policy, and analysis on water quality standards program issues that have national implications, particularly those pertaining to uses for surface waters, antidegradation and Water Quality Standard (WQS) variances. This would include research and development of pertinent technical and policy materials.

House panel approves bill cutting EPA funding

Read the full story in The Hill.

Appropriators teed up the latest congressional fight over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday when a House panel approved a bill with deep spending cuts for the agency and provisions blocking its rule-making.

The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill would cut EPA funding by $718 million, or 9 percent, next year and block a handful of environmental rules the agency is looking to put out this summer.

Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee said they wouldn’t support the bill or deep cuts to the EPA, which has sustained a 20 percent decrease in funding since Republicans took the House in 2011.

EPA Science Advisory Panels: Preliminary Observations on the Processes for Providing Scientific Advice

EPA Science Advisory Panels: Preliminary Observations on the Processes for Providing Scientific Advice, by J. Alfredo Gomez, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, Senate Committee Environment and Public Works. GAO-15-636T, May 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-636T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/670289.pdf

What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) procedures for processing congressional requests for scientific advice from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) do not ensure compliance with the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 (ERDDAA) because these procedures are incomplete. For example, they do not clearly outline how the EPA Administrator, the SAB staff office, and others are to handle a congressional committee’s request. While the procedures reflect EPA’s responsibility to exercise general management controls over the SAB and all its federal advisory committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), including keeping such committees free from outside influence, they do not fully account for the specific access that designated congressional committees have to the SAB under ERDDAA. For example, EPA’s policy documents do not establish how EPA will determine which questions would be taken up by the SAB. EPA officials told GAO that, in responding to congressional requests, EPA follows the same process that it would apply to internal requests for questions to the SAB, including considering whether the questions are science or policy driven or are important to science and the agency. However, EPA has not documented these criteria. Under the federal standards of internal control, agencies are to clearly document internal controls. Moreover, under ERDDAA, the SAB is required to provide requested scientific advice to select committees. By clearly documenting how to process congressional requests received under ERDDAA, including which criteria to use, EPA can provide reasonable assurance that its staff process responses consistently and in accordance with law. Furthermore, EPA’s charter states that, when scientific advice is requested by one of the committees specified in ERDDAA, the Administrator will, when appropriate forward the SAB’s advice to the requesting congressional committee. EPA policy does not specify when it would be “appropriate” for the EPA Administrator to take this action. Such specificity would be consistent with clearly documenting internal controls. GAO will continue to monitor these issues and plans to issue a report with its final results in June 2015.

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has provided certain types of advice related to the review of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), but has not provided advice on adverse social, economic, or energy effects related to NAAQs. Under the Clean Air Act, CASAC is to review air quality criteria and existing NAAQS every 5 years and advise EPA of any adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects that may result from various strategies for attainment and maintenance of NAAQS. An EPA official stated that CASAC has carried out its role in reviewing the air quality criteria and the NAAQS, but CASAC has never provided advice on adverse social, economic, or energy effects related to NAAQS because EPA has never asked CASAC to do so. In a June 2014 letter to the EPA Administrator, CASAC indicated it would review such effects at the agency’s request. According to a senior EPA official, the agency has no plans to ask CASAC to provide advice on such adverse effects.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA formulates rules to protect the environment and public health. To enhance the quality and credibility of such rules, EPA obtains advice and recommendations from the SAB and CASAC—two federal advisory committees that review the scientific and technical basis for EPA decision making. ERDDAA requires the SAB to provide both the EPA Administrator and designated congressional committees with scientific advice as requested. Amendments to the Clean Air Act established CASAC to, among other things, provide advice to the Administrator on NAAQS.

This testimony reflects GAO’s preliminary observations from its ongoing review that examines (1) the extent to which EPA procedures for processing congressional requests to the SAB ensure compliance with ERDDAA and (2) the extent to which CASAC has provided advice related to NAAQS.

GAO reviewed relevant federal regulations and agency documents, and interviewed EPA, SAB, and other relevant officials.

GAO is not making any recommendations in this testimony, but as it finalizes its work in this area, GAO will consider making recommendations, as appropriate.

For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.

Despite FOIA, EPA Press Policy Remains a Puzzle Palace

Read the full story from the SEJ WatchDog.

In response to the WatchDog‘s request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s press policy, EPA seems to be saying that it doesn’t have one. Or that paradoxically EPA staff can talk to reporters but are forbidden to talk to reporters. Or that EPA does not respond to requests for information.

The WatchDog finally got a partial response to its June 10, 2014, Freedom of Information Act request for EPA policies on news media access to EPA employees on April 29, 2015. But nothing was revealed. EPA offered two documents, one of which was 32 years old and both of which were already publicly available. The upshot seems to be that EPA has no agency-wide policy governing whether and when all employees can talk to news media, or that it has one but does not intend to disclose it.