Tag Archives: pollution

NYT investigates Clean Water Act violations

In the latest installment of The New York TimesToxic Waters series, Charles Duhigg says that, for this investigation, the Times “compiled a national database of water pollution violations that is more comprehensive than those maintained by states or the E.P.A.” (That database can be found here.)

In that database, Duhigg found serious violations across the country, from wells tainted by wet manure used to fertilize fields to seashores soiled by runoff from overwhelmed sewer systems, and discovered that while 60 percent of Clean Water Act violations were judged to be serious, only 3 percent “resulted in fines or significant punishment.”

The investigation found that agencies at every level of government had contributed to what amounts to a national failure to enforce the Clean Water Act. The causes of this failure are every bit as diverse as its manifestations, with lack of agency funding and political pressure from powerful industries being the worst culprits.

Duhigg’s story touches on points across the country, but focuses on the particularly egregious violations of West Virginia mining companies. He also details the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the investigation, as well as its plans for correcting the systematic problems revealed by the Times‘ database.


Massive levels of uranium found in Indian children

Writing in The Observer, Gethin Chamberlain looks into a rash of deformities and disabilities that have appeared among youth in India’s Punjab region and appear to be linked to high levels of uranium exposure. radioactiveChamberlain finds nearby coal-fired power plants to be the most likely source (coal ash can contain high levels of radioactive material) and reports the Indian government appears to be denying that there is a problem.

Staff at the clinics say they were visited and threatened with closure if they spoke out. The South African scientist whose curiosity exposed the scandal says she has been warned by the authorities that she may not be allowed back into the country.

State agency fines polluters but economy takes toll

Tony Bartelme of the Charleston Post and Courier obtained and analyzed records of 17 years of fines handed out to polluters by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The DEHC dished out 6,100 fines in that time period, ranging from a few hundred to a few million dollars in size.

Bartelme obtained the information through a South Carolina Freedom of Information Act request and the information is available through a database on the paper’s Web site.

Bartelme found fines for dumping toxic chemicals into sewers, shipping contaminated waste, leaking gas station pumps and more. The government says that one company’s failure to control pollutants resulted in thousands of tons of toxic air emissions being released into communities around their mills.

“Meanwhile, as the economic crisis has grown worse, so has DHEC’s struggle to maintain its mission. The agency slashed its budget by more than $32 million during the past year. Agency staffers are taking unpaid furloughs. Work is piling up. Officials said recently they might cut in half the number of surprise restaurant inspections the agency does in a year. Fewer inspectors will be at hospitals, daycare centers and nursing homes, and people wanting septic tank permits and other DHEC services might have to wait longer.”