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New EPA Climate Change Indicator Is Deceptive

Science Under Attack | May 31, 2021

New climate change indicators on the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website are intended to inform science-based decision-making by presenting climate science transparently. But many of the indicators are misleading or deceptive, being based on incomplete evidence or selective data.

A typical example is the indicator for heat waves. This is illustrated in the top panel of the figure below, depicting the EPA’s representation of heat wave frequency in the U.S. from 1961 to 2019. The figure purports to show a steady increase in the occurrence of heat waves, which supposedly tripled from an average of two per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s.

Heat waves (min) EPA.jpg

Heat waves (max) EPA.jpg

Unfortunately, the chart on the top is highly deceptive in several ways. First, the data is derived from minimum, not maximum, temperatures averaged across 50 American cities. The corresponding chart for maximum temperatures, shown in the bottom panel above, paints a rather different picture – one in which the heat wave frequency less than doubled from 2.5 per year in the 1960s to 4.5 per year in the 2010s, and actually declined from the 1980s to the 2000s.

This maximum-temperature graph revealing a much smaller increase in heat waves than the minimum-temperature graph displayed so boldly on the EPA website is dishonestly hidden away in its technical documentation.

A second deception is that the starting date of 1961 for both graphs is conveniently cherry-picked during a 30-year period of global cooling from 1940 to 1970. That in itself exaggerates the warming effect since then. Starting instead in 1980, after the current bout of global warming had begun, it can be seen that the heat wave frequency based on maximum temperatures (bottom panel) barely increased at all from 1981 to 2019. Similar exaggeration and sleight of hand can be seen in the EPA indicators for heat wave duration, season length and intensity.

A third deception is that the 1961 start date ignores the record U.S. heat of the 1930s, a decade characterized by persistent, searing heat waves across North America, especially in 1934 and 1936. The next figure shows the frequency and magnitude of U.S. heatwaves from 1900 to 2018.

Heat waves.jpg

The frequency (top panel) is the annual number of calendar days the maximum temperature exceeded the 90th percentile for 1961–1990 for at least six consecutive days. The EPA’s data is calculated for a period of at least four days, while the heat wave index (lower panel) measures the annual magnitude of all heat waves of at least three days in that year combined.

Despite the differences in definition, it’s abundantly clear that heat waves over the last few decades – the ones publicized by the EPA – pale in comparison to those of the 1930s, and even those of other decades such as the 1910s and 1950s. The peak heat wave index in 1936 is a full three times higher than it was in 2012 and up to nine times higher than in many other years.

The heat wave index shown above actually appears on the same EPA website page as the mimimum-temperature chart. But it’s presented as a tiny Figure 3 that is only 20% as large as the much more prominent Figure 1 showing minimum temperatures. As pointed out recently by another writer, a full-size version of the index chart, from 1895 to 2015, was once featured on the website, before the site was updated this year with the new climate change indicators.

The EPA points out that the 1930s heat waves in North America, which were concentrated in the Great Plains states of the U.S. and southern Canada, were exacerbated by Dust Bowl drought that depleted soil moisture and reduced the moderating effects of evaporation. While this is undoubtedly true, it has been suggested by climate scientists that future droughts in a warming world could result in further record-breaking U.S. heat waves. The EPA has no justification for omitting 1930s heat waves from their data record, or for suppressing the heat wave index chart.

Although the Dust Bowl was unique to the U.S. and Canada, there are locations in other parts of North America and in other countries where substantial heat waves occurred before 1961 as well. In the summer of 1930 two record-setting, back-to-back scorchers, each lasting eight days, afflicted Washington, D.C.; while in 1936, the province of Ontario – also well removed from the Great Plains – experienced 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) heat during the longest, deadliest Canadian heat wave on record. In Europe, France was baked during heat waves in both 1930 and 1947, and many eastern European countries suffered prolonged heat waves in 1946.

What all this means is that the EPA’s heat-wave indicator grossly misrepresents the actual science and defeats its stated goal for the indicators of “informing our understanding of climate change.”

June 15, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

EPA Updates Its “Climate Change Indicators”

By Francis Menton | Manhattan Contrarian | May 13, 2021

It appears that some time last month the EPA provided a major update of what it calls its “climate change indicators.” The EPA’s web page for this is headed “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” with the sub-heading “Climate Change Is Happening Now.” The update is an initiative of the Biden administration, now eager to invest a few trillion dollars of your money in new “green” infrastructure, after several years in which the Trump EPA paid no attention to keeping these data up to date. The New York Times reports on the big update on today’s front page, under the headline “Climate Change Is getting Worse, E.P.A. Says. Just Look Around.”

The basic technique here is to propagandize you with every sort of essentially irrelevant anecdotal information, while diverting your attention away from the only indicator of “climate change” that actually counts, which is temperature. After all, if temperatures aren’t going up, it isn’t “global warming.” Here, we have some 54 supposed climate “indicators” — everything from rain to drought to ice to sea level — out of which the things relating to actual temperature are only a handful, and then are buried deep in the midst of all the others, probably in the hope that you will miss them. And moreover, the temperature data are then grossly misrepresented in what has to be an intentional effort at deception.

But let’s start with the official line from the new Biden EPA.

The Earth’s climate is changing. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events – like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures – are already happening. Many of these observed changes are linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities.

The Times then picks up on the theme by its headline calling for you to “just look around” to determine that “climate change” is happening. The idea is that you can determine that there is “climate change” by observing ice on ponds, or something, without having to bother with those complicated thermometers, let alone sophisticated satellite measurements:

Wildfires are bigger, and starting earlier in the year. Heat waves are more frequent. Seas are warmer, and flooding is more common. The air is getting hotter. Even ragweed pollen season is beginning sooner. . . . [EPA’s indicators] map everything from Lyme disease, which is growing more prevalent in some states as a warming climate expands the regions where deer ticks can survive, to the growing drought in the Southwest that threatens the availability of drinking water, increases the likelihood of wildfires but also reduces the ability to generate electricity from hydropower.

So how about the temperature guys? As you can see, the Times does throw in a couple of references to “heat waves” and “hotter air” in the midst of all the stuff about flooding, ragweed pollen, ticks, and whatever else. What’s missing is any citation or link to any source to support the assertion about actual temperatures. But over at the EPA page, under the heading “U.S. and Global Temperature,” we find the following graph, which is said to have been updated to April 2021:

EPA temperature graph.png

That appears rather scary! Everything looks like it is going up sharply with passing time. Check out especially the green line, which is identified as the “lower troposphere [temperatures] (measured by satellite) of UAH.” The green line ends with a steep uptick, leaving it with the latest data point just below a record reached in 2016, and a full 2 deg F above the 1901-2000 average.

Oh, but here is the actual lower troposphere temperature record from UAH, available at the website of Roy Spencer, who is the guy who compiles the UAH record:


There are a few differences in the presentation that require a little interpretation, like the EPA graph is in deg F and has anomalies from a 1901-2000 mean, while the UAH graph is in deg C and shows anomalies from a 1991-2020 mean. But still, it leaps out that the green line on EPA’s web page, said to be the UAH record, ends with a sharp uptick and with the last point a full 2 deg F above the mean line; while this record, from UAH itself, ends with a sharp downtick and the last point actually below the mean line. Although EPA explicitly says on its web page that it updated the information in April 2021, this downtick in the UAH record began in January 2020 — a year and 4 plus months ago — and reflects a decline in lower troposphere temperatures of some 0.65 deg C, which is almost 1.2 deg F.

In other words, well more than half of the seemingly scary increase in temperature since 1901 shown in the EPA graph has just gone away in the last 16 months. So the Biden EPA, not wanting to complicate the official story of “climate change is happening now,” simply truncated the data in its graph at January 2020 to shut out the last year plus of big temperature declines. There is no way to characterize the EPA graph as other than intentionally deceptive.

I guess it’s OK because it’s in the noble cause of convincing the American people to allow the government to spend a few trillion dollars on windmills and electric car charging stations for the rich.

May 16, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

9/11 Suspects: Christine Todd Whitman

corbettreport | September 6, 2016

If the brave men and women who had rushed to the World Trade Center in the chaotic days after 9/11 to help with the search and rescue had done so knowing the risks they were facing, that would be one thing. But of course they did not. They had been given false assurances by Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator who assured the public just days into the clean up that the air was safe to breathe.


September 6, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

Radiation spike near Hanford nuclear waste site ‘natural’ – EPA

RT | May 15, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency chalked elevated gamma radiation levels around America’s largest nuclear waste storage facility, the Hanford site, up to natural causes, but RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has found a few inconsistencies in its claims.

RT has reported extensively on the situation at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear storage facility since various leaks and injuries to workers were reported. An incident on May 5th covered by RT, when radiation levels in the area adjacent to the site skyrocketed, prompted a federal investigation.

However, following the RT report, a local newspaper urged its audience not to “believe everything on the Internet” in an article extensively quoting a statement from the EPA that claimed the elevated radiation levels had a natural cause and were not connected to the Hanford facility in any way.

“The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Health agree that radiation from naturally occurring radon was measured on an EPA monitor,” the EPA statement reads.

“The scientists determined that the cause was a temporary elevation of radon levels from the natural decay of certain types of elements found in nearly all rocks and soil.”

The statement also stresses that the spike in radiation could not have been due to emissions from Hanford because the wind was blowing from the opposite direction at the time the measurements were taken.

“The Department of Health said that was not possible because the wind was blowing the wrong direction for the radiation to have come from Hanford at the time the reading was taken,” the EPA notes.

Yet RT America correspondent Alexey Yaroshevsky compared the graph of the radiation readings to wind maps provided by the US national weather service and discovered that the EPA’s findings may not be entirely correct, as the graph appears to show the wind circling around the Hanford site and the area where the readings were taken.

Meanwhile, health protection authorities seem to have quickly taken up the radon-related scenario, emphasizing that radon is common in the area, accumulating in places closer to the ground, and urging people with basements to get radon-measurement canisters to check their homes for excessive levels.

Radon gas is a natural byproduct of Uranium decay in the soil and considered a dangerous carcinogen that can cause lung cancer. Estimates state that outdoor radon levels cause some 800 of the 21,000 radon induced lung cancer deaths that occur in the United States every year.

However, according to a map of radon levels from the EPA’s own website, Benton County, in which the Hanford nuclear plant is located, has relatively low levels radon, even when compared to other American states.

The Hanford nuclear site, on the other hand, holds some 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks that were built between the 1940s and 1970s. Those who used to work at the facility have told RT that vapor incidents are common when radioactive waste is being transported between tanks, which happens often, as the tanks are wearing out.


‘I thought I was dying’: Ex-Hanford worker gravely ill after inhaling toxic fumes

Hanford Site not ‘controlling what comes out of nuclear waste tanks to protect workers’ – public

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Glyphosate and Atrazine: EPA posts, then retracts, reports on top herbicide chemicals

RT | May 6, 2016

The EPA recently posted online reports on two disputed herbicide chemicals, only to pull them offline shortly afterwards. The reports said glyphosate was not a human carcinogen and atrazine caused reproductive harm to mammals.

On April 29, the EPA’s cancer assessment review committee (CARC) posted an 86-page report on the agency’s website that stated glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer that was deemed a “probable” human carcinogen by the World Health Organization last year, “was not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” Reuters reported.

On May 2, the EPA pulled the report offline, saying the action was taken “because our assessment is not final,” and that the “preliminary” documents were “inadvertently” published.

“EPA has not completed our cancer review,” the EPA told Reuters. “We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’) Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate.”

However, the cover page of the documents was titled “final Cancer Assessment Document,” Reuters reported, and the word “FINAL” was printed on each page of the report, dated October 1, 2015. The EPA said the assessment — part of the first comprehensive safety review of the chemical since 1993, which will determine glyphosate use in the US over the next 15 years — will be complete by the end of 2016.

Critics of glyphosate ridiculed the EPA for its short-lived assessment, while the chemical’s supporters, including agribusiness giant Monsanto, hailed the report for endorsing glyphosate’s safety. Monsanto even posted a copy of it on its website.

“Pulling the report indicates lack of confidence in the outcome,” tweeted Nathan Donley, a scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Can’t blame them, the analysis is terrible.”

The glyphosate documents indicated that the EPA was “relying heavily on unpublished, industry funded studies” in its assessment that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen, the Center for Biological Diversity said. In contrast, the World Health Organization’s view that glyphosate is a “likely” human carcinogen included studies that were publicly available and that took into account consumer products.

“All they’re doing is reviewing studies that are funded by the industry,” Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council, told Reuters.

In 1974, Monsanto began selling the chemical in Roundup, which has become a top bioicide for farming, especially involving genetically-engineered crops, and home and garden uses.

“No pesticide regulator in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen, and this conclusion by the U.S. EPA once again reinforces this important fact,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s CEO.

The use of glyphosate in herbicides has increased by more than 250 times in the United States over the last 40 years, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Long-term exposure to glyphosate has been linked to kidney and liver damage, as well as cellular and genetic diseases. Monsanto and defenders of glyphosate use called the World Health Organization’s carcinogen classification too “dramatic” and have pointed to assurances that the chemical is safe.

In April, the European Parliament approved the seven-year reauthorization of glyphosate, though it recommended the chemical should be used only by professionals and not in public places.


Around the same time it pulled the glyphosate assessment off its website, the EPA similarly published and retracted a less-flattering report on the herbicide atrazine, which was banned in Europe in 2004. Atrazine is legal in the US, where it is second only to glyphosate among most-used agricultural herbicides.

Atrazine is manufactured by agrochemical corporation Syngenta. At least 60 million pounds of the chemical is used in the US each year, mainly on corn fields, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. US agencies and other researchers have found high levels of atrazine in groundwater and drinking water near agricultural and rural areas. Atrazine is known to be an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to hormonal defects and some types of cancer in humans.

On April 29, an EPA assessment on atrazine was posted on the agency’s website but subsequently taken down. The documents are available here. The assessment said atrazine was found to cause reproductive harm to birds and mammals, exceeding by 200 times the EPA’s “levels of concern.” Amphibians were found to be especially at-risk from atrazine exposure, echoing research by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, who found that about three-quarters of male frogs are castrated by the chemical.

“When the amount of atrazine allowed in our drinking water is high enough to turn a male tadpole into a female frog, then our regulatory system has failed us,” said Donley, the Center for Biological Diversity scientist. “We’ve reached a point with atrazine where more scientific analysis is just unnecessary — atrazine needs to be banned now.”

Like glyphosate, atrazine is undergoing a 15-year safety review by the EPA. The previous of such assessments on atrazine occurred in 2003.

Syngenta, atrazine’s maker, touts the chemical’s safety on its website, claiming it is not “physically possible to dissolve enough atrazine in water to have any impact on hormones or human health.”

“No one has, ever will, or ever could be exposed to enough atrazine in the natural environment to affect their reproductive health,” the chemical giant says.

Read more:

Quaker Oats sued for use of glyphosate in ‘100% natural’ products

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats cover up role of Obama administration in Flint water crisis

By James Brewer | WSWS | March 9, 2016

Democratic Party politicians and operatives descended on Flint before Tuesday’s Michigan primary hoping to exploit public anger over the water crisis to boost their electoral chances. The selection of the city as the venue for the March 6 debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was designed to give the appearance that the Democrats were concerned with, and would seriously address, the disaster inflicted on the people of Flint over the last two years.

Both candidates sought to lay blame solely on the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, while concealing the role of state and local Democrats, including the state treasurer, the mayor, the emergency manager and the city council. They also said nothing about federal officials from Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who knowingly concealed the fact that the city was not treating its water supply with anti-corrosive agents and that lead levels in the water had made it toxic.

While making various demagogic statements, neither candidate offers any serious proposal to provide relief to the beleaguered residents. During the debate, LeeAnne Walters from Flint asked both candidates if they would require public water systems to replace lead pipes throughout the US if they were elected. Neither candidate would give a direct answer to the question.

Clinton replied, “We will commit to a priority to change the water systems and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere,” referring to all lead sources, including paint and dust.

Walters, a key figure in exposing the consistent cover-up by water quality officials, told the Huffington Post on Monday, “I hated Clinton’s answer. To tell a Flint resident that we’ll handle this in five years is no different than what the city was telling us and what the state was telling us.”

The Flint mother noted that federal agencies, particularly the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have been downplaying the importance of lead in drinking water for decades, focusing almost exclusively on lead in paint and dust. This attitude toward public water systems was a significant factor in the lead poisoning of Washington, DC from 2001 to 2005 and contributed to the culture within agencies tasked to protect drinking water safety that has been exposed in the Flint events.

“If you look at the numbers, most of the grants and funding go to lead paint, so to lump it all together is unacceptable,” Walters said.

Walters said Sanders’ response to her question—that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under his administration would monitor water safety—was “lame,” adding that this is what the EPA is already supposed to do.

Thousands of emails have emerged exposing the role of top employees at Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in covering up the lack of proper treatment in Flint’s water leading to the spike in lead levels. A spate of resignations and firings in the department have occurred as a result.

While the Democrats denounced the Snyder administration, they have consistently given a pass to the EPA, with US Congressman Dan Kildee from Flint, for example, saying that claims that the EPA is equally as responsible as the MDEQ is a “false equivalency.”

In fact, the EPA played a key role in aiding and abetting the efforts by MDEQ and the Snyder administration to conceal the danger to the public. A March 5 article in the Detroit Free Press examines emails between MDEQ and EPA officials from February 25, 2015 through the end of 2015. The emails reveal that the EPA was well informed that Flint was in violation of federal safe drinking water regulations, and that the MDEQ was not only aware, but itself instigating Flint officials to falsify water testing.

The article dates exchanges starting on February 25, when LeeAnne Walters’ home tap water tested at 104 parts per billion (ppb)—7 times more than the EPA action level of 15 ppb. Her child developed skin rashes. The next day, EPA program manager for Region 5 (the Midwest region), Jennifer Crooks, relates this to MDEQ’s Lansing District Coordinator for Drinking Water, Steve Busch, and Mike Prysby, MDEQ district engineer, with a note that says: “WOW!!!! Did he find the LEAD! 104 ppb. She has 2 children under the age of 3… Big worries here.”

This message was forwarded to EPA Region 5 Ground Water and Drinking Water Branch Chief Tom Poy, and Regulations Manager Miguel Del Toral, who is a leading expert on lead in water.

Del Toral, alarmed by the test results followed up with visits to Walters’ home to do further testing. Further emails corroborated Walters’ testimony at the February 3 US Congressional hearing, where she described Del Toral’s work in Flint, which culminated in a June memorandum to the EPA and the MDEQ, after which he was silenced by the federal agency.

Walters testified that she had made that report public. “So when he called me and asked me if he could use my information for this report, I said yes, and I asked for a copy. When I saw it in black and white—there is a difference living it and seeing it in black and white—that is why it was given to the ACLU and made public, because people did have a right to know. From that point, he was then no longer allowed to have association with me or anybody else in Flint. By the EPA.”

Del Toral and Walters had uncovered that there had been no corrosion control treatment of the water in Flint since the water source was switched to the Flint River in April 2014. For decades, the water supplied to Flint from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s treatment plant near Lake Huron had been treated for corrosives, in line with federal law, in order to prevent lead and other chemicals from leaching from Flint’s pipelines into its drinking water.

The long-mothballed Flint treatment plant neither had the technical capacity or the manpower to treat the water, but this did not stop state and local officials from both parties from approving the switch. The officials essentially rolled the dice hoping there would be no public outcry until a new pipeline that would connect Flint directly to Lake Huron was completed.

In his June memorandum, Del Toral also revealed that sampling of the water in Flint homes was done improperly, making the high lead levels less like to be revealed.

EPA Region 5 head, Susan Hedman, since resigned, told Flint’s Mayor Dayne Walling and others who raised concerns about the Del Toral memo, that she wished it had never been produced and that after she edited and vetted it, it would tell a different story—that Flint’s water was in compliance with lead and copper standards established by the federal government.

In early July, Walling asked Hedman to make a public statement to the ACLU to justify the city’s actions and she replied, “I’m not inclined to have any further communications with the ACLU representative.”

Dr. Marc Edwards, the leader of the Virginia Tech University team that performed an extensive testing of Flint’s water in August, told the February 3 Congressional hearing. “I did not know what happened for quite some time until MDEQ bragged to Ms. Walters and laughed at her and she reported back to me that ‘Mr. Del Toral had been handled’ and it was very clear that an agreement had been reached of some sort between EPA and MDEQ that would let MDEQ have their way with Flint’s children.

“That they were not going to install corrosion control. They had no intention to do it. There’s many emails that show that they were waiting for this new pipeline to come on next year and they thought it was a waste of time to do anything to treat the water. When we got involved, in August as a matter of fact, an MDEQ email said ‘Shouldn’t someone tell those folks from Virginia Tech that we’re switching to the pipeline next year so they don’t bother wasting their time on this issue?’”

National EPA Director Gina McCarthy, an Obama appointee, appeared for the first time in Flint at a February 2 EPA press conference. When a World Socialist Web Site reporter asked her directly about the quashing of the Del Toral memo, she lied, insisting the lead-in-water expert had not been silenced.

The significance of the cover-up for the EPA by the Democratic Party establishment is vast. Over the last weeks, it has emerged that lead poisoning of the population through the water systems is not isolated to Flint, but is a national phenomenon. In the state of Ohio, lead levels in the blood of children are high in many areas of the state. In the village of Sebring, Ohio, near the deindustrialized city of Youngstown, it has recently been made public that state water quality officials kept quiet for months when they knew that residents had lead-tainted water flowing through their taps.


Map showing recorded blood-lead levels in the US

The map above shows the extent to which children’s blood levels exceed the 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) level considered high by the CDC across the country in 2014. Even more disturbing is the number of states that are not required to submit those levels to the federal government.

Food and Water Watch, the Washington DC-based advocate for public water, reports that federal water infrastructure spending has been cut by 74 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1977. Obama’s latest budget calls for another 11 percent cut.

Neither Democratic Party candidate has any intention of investing in desperately needed infrastructure. They dare not cut across the agenda of the financial elite to amass greater and greater profits at the expense of the working class, and to dedicate obscene sums to the endless pursuit of technology and weapons for war.

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Watchdog Investigations Imperiled by Obama Fixation on Government Secrecy

By Steve Straehley and Danny Biederman | AllGov | December 2, 2015

The Obama administration, by consistently refusing to turn over documents and information, has gone out of its way to make it more difficult for the inspectors general of executive branch agencies to do their jobs.

The concept of inspectors general investigating executive branch departments and agencies came into being in the late 1970s after the Watergate scandal. The idea was that inspectors general would have free rein to investigate wrongdoing in their departments and bring government abuse to light.

But thanks to an obsession with secrecy on the part of the Obama administration, inspectors general who previously had access to all documents, emails and other information have had to beg for evidence, which is often produced after months of requests and is sometimes heavily redacted.

“The bottom line is that we’re no longer independent,” Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, told The New York Times.

More than three decades of established federal policy that gave watchdogs unrestricted access to government records in their investigations is now at serious risk of being undone. That includes “at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records,” according to the Times’ Eric Lichtblau.

Justice Department lawyers wrote an opinion last summer that stated grand jury transcripts, wiretap intercepts and financial credit reports and some other “protected records” could be withheld from inspectors general. As a result of that order, investigators who need to review government records are now required to get permission from the very agencies they are monitoring in order to do so.

“This is by far the most aggressive assault on the inspector general concept since the beginning,” Paul Light, a New York University professor who has studied inspectors general, told the Times. “It’s the complete evisceration of the concept. You might as well fold them down. They’ve become defanged.”

Among the investigations being hindered are those involving FBI use of phone records collected by the NSA, the DEA’s role in the shooting of unarmed civilians in Honduras drug raids, international trade agreement enforcement at the Commerce Department, the “Fast and Furious” gun operation, intelligence relating to the Boston Marathon bombings, and additional cases at the Afghanistan reconstruction board, the EPA and the Postal Service.

Even the Peace Corps has worked to prevent access to records. The agency’s inspector general was denied information when looking into cases of sexual abuse of Peace Corps volunteers. This despite claims that the agency is in favor of “rigorous oversight” and that it cooperated with investigators.

The situation has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of a plan to give the Justice Department inspector general more access, but not those at other agencies, “It’s no fix at all.” His colleague on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said at a hearing that the Obama administration has “blocked what was once a free flow of information” to investigators.

Justice IG Horowitz said the consequence of the watchdog clampdown may be an increase in cases of waste, fraud and abuse across the government.

To Learn More:

Tighter Lid on Records Threatens to Weaken Government Watchdogs (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times )

Gov’t Watchdogs Urge Congress to Reverse Obama Administration IG Crackdown (Fox News)

Pentagon Stonewalls U.S. Watchdog’s Inquiries into $800 Million Afghanistan Program (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )

Justice Department Tries to Limit Inspectors General Access to Government Documents (by Steve Straehley, AllGov )

FBI Claims it Doesn’t Have to Share Records with Justice Dept. Inspector General (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov )

The High Cost of Secrecy to American Taxpayers (by Matt Bewig, AllGov )

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees

By Tracy Frisch | Independent Science News | November 2, 2015

As in other parts of North America, beekeepers in New York have been experiencing unsustainable losses of honeybee colonies. In 2014-15, annual colony losses in New York reached 54 per cent, according to the Bee Informed Partnership survey. And though losses were lower in preceding years, they consistently exceeded the economic threshold of 15 percent loss. At great expense, beekeepers have been able to recoup their winter and summer losses, but for declining native bee species the prospects are even less rosy. For example, the rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) for example, once common in New York and the Northeastern US, is now a candidate for the endangered species act.

An impressive worldwide body of scientific evidence implicates neonicotinoids as a major contributor to the decline of honeybee and wild bee populations (e.g. Lu et al., 2014). This is due to a combination of their acute toxicity, sub-lethal, intergenerational, neurotoxic, and immune system effects, their systemic behavior in plants and their persistence in soil and water (See the IUCN’s Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, 2015 (1)). This relatively new family of insecticides is now believed to be the most commonly used global pesticide.

Unlike Europe and Ontario, Canada, the US has not acted to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. However, the federal government has specifically urged states to create pollinator protection plans. Some states are working on them and a few have completed them (2).

But at the first meeting of the New York State’s Pollinator Task Force (Aug 6 2015), commercial beekeeper Jim Doan was flabbergasted to learn that state officials had appointed two representatives of the national pesticide industry to the 12-member panel. “It’s very difficult for a beekeeper to think he can get a fair shake,” he commented.

Consequently, I decided to see for myself. I attended the September 11 and October 1 Task Force meetings and listened to the recording of the August 6 meeting.

The New York State Pollinator Task Force

The NY state Task Force was set in motion by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Pollinators are crucial to the health of New York’s environment, as well as the strength of our agricultural economy,” Cuomo said in his announcement. “By developing a statewide action plan, we are expanding our efforts to protect these species and our unparalleled natural resources, and making an important step forward in our commitment to New York’s ecological and economic future.

Thus, on April 23, 2015 Cuomo directed the state departments of agriculture and markets (NYSDAM) and environmental conservation (NYSDEC) to develop a state pollinator protection plan, involving stakeholders and research institutions in the process.

By July stakeholders were receiving invitations to serve on the state Pollinator Task Force, which was constituted with 12 “advisors” from the private and NGO sectors. Officials from NYSDAM and DEC serve as co-chairs. In addition, Cornell IPM program director Jennifer Grant sat with Task Force members and played an advisory role, though not as a Task Force member.

Task Force membership

In terms of its personnel, three groups represent pesticide interests on the Task Force: CropLife America and Responsible Industry Supporting the Environment (RISE) are the pesticide industry’s agricultural and non-agricultural trade groups respectively. Both are headquartered at the same Washington DC office. The NYS Agribusiness Association is the third agrochemical group. Dan Digiacomandrea, a technical sales specialist at Bayer CropScience, one of two makers of neonicotinoids, attended one Task Force meeting as that group’s alternate.

Agriculture also got three seats, with appointees from the state farm bureau, state vegetable growers association and the fruit sector. The state vegetable growers consistently sent an alternate, Rick Zimmerman. His resume includes many years as a Farm Bureau lobbyist followed by a career as NYSDAM deputy commissioner. Today he heads up the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance. The state turf and landscape association has a seat, too.

Three NGOs were appointed to the Task Force: The Nature Conservancy, Audubon New York and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Member Erin Crotty, who is executive director at Audubon NY, previously served as DEC commissioner under Republican Governor Pataki. NRDC, which has sued EPA on neonicotinoids, was represented by one of two alternating attorneys at each meeting. Like the aforementioned industry representatives, no one from these organizations appeared to have any specific expertise on pollinators. The first two NGOs proposed ways to increase pollinator habitat but did not indicate concerns about pesticides.

Finally, beekeepers were apportioned two seats. With 12 hives, hobby beekeeper Stephen Wilson has chaired the Apiary Industry Advisory Committee for over 15 years. The other representative is Empire State Honey Producers Association president Mark Berninghausen, a small commercial migratory beekeeper from St. Lawrence County. This group has about 100 members out of the 3,000 or 4,000 beekeepers in the state.

The state has also been accepting public comments (though this was apparently not publicized and no deadline has been announced). These comments must be submitted to the governor’s office, not to the Task Force directly (initially NYSDAM was accepting them). As of this writing, these comments have not been shared with task force members.

Given the make-up of New York’s Pollinator Task Force — one-quarter pesticide industry plus one-third agriculture and turf care industries – and the allegiances of the two convening agencies, the complex issue of pesticides was therefore always likely to be handled with kid gloves.

The timeline and the content

At the kickoff meeting task force advisors had a chance to lay out their positions on what the state should do to protect bees. The second meeting focused on research needs and the third dealt with habitat enhancement and best management practices (BMPs).

Presentations took up much of the second and third meetings. For example, a series of managers from six state agencies described their land management practices and initiatives to provide habitat in respect to bees.

A highpoint was the talk by Cornell’s new honeybee extension entomologist Emma Mullen. A Canadian who just moved to the US, she had been part of the team of scientists that worked on Ontario’s Pollinator Health Protection Plan. Particularly illuminating was her explanation of the province’s new program to decrease the corn and soybean acreage planted with neonicotinoid-treated seeds by 80% by 2017. She also outlined current Cornell research on bees.

NYSDAM commissioner Richard Ball, a vegetable grower, chaired the meetings and NYSDEC deputy commissioner Eugene Leff played a supporting role. Leff, whose portfolio includes pesticide regulation, previously presided over another stakeholder task force charged with dealing with an equally polarizing issue: preventing pesticide pollution of Long Island’s groundwater. As with the pollinator task force, pesticide and agricultural interests were well represented on Long Island. (The 126-page strategy document that came out of that task force’s work indicates that these interest groups succeeded in delaying any restrictions on suspect pesticides.)

To frame the initial Pollinator Task Force discussion, Commissioner Ball reiterated what has come to seem like the official US dogma on bee decline — there is no single cause and we must consider multiple areas of concern. While the list of pollinator threats varies, USDA, EPA and institutions like Cornell cite factors such as habitat loss, pests and pathogens, pesticides, genetics and/or climate change when they state that view.

Indeed, the most notable feature of the meetings was the overall reluctance to delve into the problem of pesticides except in so far as they induce immediate bee kills. Only two members of the 12-member task force (beekeeper Stephen Wilson and a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney) urged any limitations on the use of neonicotinoids.

Meetings without minutes or structure

A number of additional aspects of these meetings support the idea that the Task Force exists primarily for appearance’s sake. First, no one appeared to be taking official notes and no minutes were made available, despite advisor Stephen Wilson’s request for minutes at the second meeting. (Recordings are posted on NYSDAM’s website.) Second, no one wrote down ideas on a whiteboard or easel to capture them as they came up. Third, Task Force discussions were freewheeling, unstructured and all over the map.

The state’s short timeline also challenges the notion of a deliberative process informed by science. The whole process, from the first of three Task Force meetings to the submission of priority recommendations to the governor, is scheduled to take only three months (3).

Yet the meeting agendas presume that in an hour or two of meetings these advisors will contribute content to the pollinator plan, generate a meaningful research agenda, and cobble together BMPs to protect bees. For all this to happen fails to pass the laugh test.

Thus, in the final portion of the third meeting, Task Force advisors were asked to consider a series of BMPs listed on a handout prepared in advance (presumably by NYSDAM or DEC) but not distributed until the actual meeting. Task Force members had not gotten through the first item on the list when time ran out (4).

Perhaps there was no real need to carefully craft a plan because the conclusions appeared to have been pre-ordained. In his closing comments at the third meeting, DEC deputy commissioner Leff referred back to the governor’s blueprint for the state pollinator plan. In particular, Leff highlighted the BMPs designed to reduce pesticide exposure to managed pollinators through better communication among beekeepers and farmers. Leff stressed the need for landowners and pesticide applicators to know where hives are located and how to contact beekeepers before they spray. Beekeepers would have to be ready to move their hive, he said (5).

If his recommendations go into effect the onus of protecting bees from pesticides would fall on beekeepers. This is at odds with the historical assignment of such responsibility to pesticide applicators. In fact, pesticide labels carry legal weight in prohibiting pesticides considered acutely toxic to bees from being applied when flowers are in bloom or bees are present.

Leff’s proposal to shift responsibility is radical, but it is not new; the essential elements of Leff’s proposal are contained in the Guidance for State Pollinator Protection Plans, a June 2015 document produced by the State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (6). (SFIREG is a committee of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials. SFIREG used to have the document on its website, but has since removed it.) Among the six “critical elements” it identified for pollinator plans are methods for growers to know if managed pollinators are located near where pesticides are used and for contacting beekeepers prior to applying pesticides.

Thus it seems that pesticides are sometimes acknowledged to be causing at least part of the decline in pollinators, but the approach proposed by Leff and SFIREG ignores much of what is known–that systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids can harm bees months after application, for example via the planting of treated seeds (Lu et al., 2014), and that insecticides are not the only agrichemicals that harm bees. For example, a new study has found that exposure to low levels of glyphosate impairs honeybee navigation (Balbuena et al., 2015). And of course, warning beekeepers of impending pesticide applications does nothing to protect native pollinators, though ostensibly these plans are intended to protect them, too.

As the meeting was ending, I was able to pose a practical question. How easy is it for beekeepers to move their hives when they get a call that pesticides will be applied? Roberta Glatz, an older woman who serves on the state Apiary Industry Advisory Committee, replied from the audience.
She said that beekeepers aren’t necessarily where their bees are. “They may be in North Carolina raising queens.” She outlined other concerns as well. There are limited places where you can put your bees, and it takes a lot of negotiation to put in a bee yard. Logistics also come into play. Mud can impede access. Hives are heavy and usually have to be moved in the middle of the night when the bees are home. (And beekeepers often have day jobs, another beekeeper told me once the meeting ended.)

So while even the beekeepers of New York are having a hard time getting a fair shake in a protection plan for their own bees, in terms of pesticides it seems that Bombus affinis and other native bees should expect even less of one.

(1) Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems 2015 (IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides)
(2) The Pollinator Stewardship Council is the best clearinghouse of state government pollinator protection activities around the country. Another resource is a May 2015 white paper from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. It claims to provide links to the MP3s (“managed pollinator protection plans”) of North Dakota, California, Mississippi, Florida and Colorado, but of these states only North Dakota seems to have developed an actual plan.
(3) The timeline called for the state to circulate the NYS Pollinator Protection Action Plan Recommendations to task force members on October 19. In turn, they would have 7 days to comment. As of October 28, a beekeeper on the Task Force reported that he hadn’t received anything from the state yet.
(4) Discussion of specific BMPs was overshadowed by the contentious issue of whether beekeepers should be required to register all honeybee hives with the state and disclose their locations. BMPs listed on the handout pertained to such things as beekeepers’ care for their colonies and control of mites and other parasites/diseases, landowners and state agencies enhancing pollinator habitat and forage, the correct and judicious use of pesticides and of Integrated Pest Management, and the roles of beekeepers, landowners and pesticide applicators in protecting honeybees from pesticides.
(5) Some beekeepers fear that New York’s plan will follow North Dakota’s template, thus transferring the burden of protecting honeybee colonies from pesticides onto the beekeepers.
(6) FIFRA, which stands for the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act, provides the nation’s regulatory framework for pesticides.

Balbuena, M. S., Tison, L., Hahn, M. L., Greggers, U., Menzel, R., & Farina, W. M. (2015). Effects of sub-lethal doses of glyphosate on honeybee navigation. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 10 July 2015. doi: 10.1242/ dev.117291
Lu C, Warchol KM, Callahan RA (2014) Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Bull Insectol 67:125–130.

November 2, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation in Pacific Reaches US West Coast

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | October 14, 2015

“[W]e should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,” marine chemist Ken Buesseler said last spring.

Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency halted its emergency radiation monitoring of Fukushima’s radioactive plume in May 2011, three months after the disaster began. Japan isn’t even monitoring seawater near Fukushima, according to a Sept. 28 story in The Ecologist.

The amount of cesium in seawater that Buesseler’s researchers found off Vancouver Island is nearly six times the concentration recorded since cesium was first introduced into the oceans by nuclear bomb tests (halted in 1963). This stunning increase in Pacific cesium shows an ongoing increase. The International Business Times (IBT) reported last Nov. 12 that Dr. Buesseler found the amount of cesium-134 in the same waters was then about twice the concentration left in long-standing bomb test remains.

Dr. Buesseler, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, announced his assessment after his team found that cesium drift from Fukushima’s three reactor meltdowns had reached North America. Attempting to reassure the public, Buesseler said, “[E]ven if they were twice as high and I was to swim there every day for an entire year, the dose I would be exposed to is a thousand times less than a single dental X-ray.”

This comparison conflates the important difference between external radiation exposure (from X-rays or swimming in radioactively contaminated seawater), and internal contamination from ingesting radioactive isotopes, say with seafood.

Dr. Chris Busby of the Low Level Radiation Campaign in the UK explains the distinction this way: Think of the difference between merely sitting before a warm wood fire on one hand, and popping a burning hot coal into your mouth on the other. Internal contamination can be 1,000 times more likely to cause cancer than the same exposure if it were external, especially for women and children. And, because cesium-137 stays in the ecosphere for 300 years, long-term bio-accumulation and bio-concentration of cesium isotopes in the food chain – in this case the ocean food chain – is the perpetually worsening consequence of what has spilled and is still pouring from Fukushima.

The nuclear weapons production complex is the only other industry that has a record of deliberate whole-Earth poisoning. Hundreds of tons of radioactive fallout were aerosolized and spread to the world’s watery commons and landmasses by nuclear bomb testing. The same people then brought us commercial nuclear power reactors. Dirty war spawns dirty business, where lying comes easy. Just as the weapons makers lied about bomb test fallout dangers, nuclear power proponents claimed the cesium spewed from Fukushima would be diluted to infinity after the plume dispersed across 4,000 miles of Pacific Ocean.

Today, globalized radioactive contamination of the commons by private corporations has become the financial, political and health care cost of operating nuclear power reactors. The Nov. 2014 IBT article noted that “The planet’s oceans already contain vast amounts of radiation, as the world’s 435 nuclear power plants routinely pump radioactive water into Earth’s oceans, albeit less dangerous isotopes than cesium.”

Fifty million Becquerels of cesium per-cubic-meter were measured off Fukushima soon after the March 2011 start of the three meltdowns. Cesium-contaminated Albacore and Bluefin tuna were caught off the West Coast a mere four months later; 300 tons of cesium-laced effluent has been pouring into the Pacific every day for the 4 1/2 years since; the Japanese government on Sept. 14 openly dumped 850 tons of partially-filtered but tritium-contaminated water into the Pacific. This latest dumping portends what it will try to do with thousands of tons more now held in shabby storage tanks at the devastated reactor complex.

Officials from Fukushima’s owners, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., have said leaks from Fukushima disaster with “at least” two trillion Becquerels of radioactivity entered the Pacific between August 2013 and May 2014 — and this 9-month period isn’t even the half of it.

The fact that Fukushima has contaminated the entirety of the Pacific Ocean must be viewed as cataclysmic. The ongoing introduction of Fukushima’s radioactive runoff may be slow-paced, and the inevitable damage to sea life and human health may take decades to register, but the “canary in the mineshaft,” is the Pacific tuna population, which should now also be perpetually monitored for cesium.

Last November Buesseler warned, “Radioactive cesium from the Fukushima disaster is likely to keep arriving at the North American coast.” Fish eaters may want to stick with the Atlantic catch for 12 generations or so.

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Stinging rebuke: Court rules against EPA’s lax approval of Dow’s bee-poisonous pesticide

RT | September 11, 2015

A federal appeals court in the US has rejected a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to approve an insecticide harmful to honeybees without proper verification of the chemical’s effects.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly approved and registered the pesticide sulfoxaflor, made by Dow AgroSciences, in violation of the agency’s regulatory protocol.

Environmentalists and representatives of the honey and beekeeping industries said sulfoxalfor is a type of insecticide chemical known as a neonicotinoid that is associated with mass death among bee populations worldwide.

The court agreed with sulfoxaflor’s neonicotinoid status in its ruling, finding that the EPA based its regulatory decision on “flawed and limited data,” and that sulfoxaflor approval was not based around “substantial evidence.”

The EPA used studies and materials provided by Dow to assess the chemical’s effects on bees and other species. Based on insufficient data given to it by Dow, the agency proposed certain conditions on the approval of the chemical, the court found.

Yet the EPA went ahead with unconditional registration anyway even though Dow had not met those conditions or offered updated studies, the court said.

“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” the ruling stated, adding that the EPA must provide more data on impacts of sulfoxaflor before moving forward with the chemical.
“It’s a complete victory for the beekeepers we represent,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney representing the American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and other plaintiffs, according to Reuters. “The EPA has not been very vigilant.”

Dow AgroSciences, a division of Dow Chemical Co., first registered sulfoxalfor in 2010 for use in three of its products, including the brands Transform and Closer. In a statement, Dow said it “respectfully disagrees” with the court’s ruling and that it intends to “work with EPA to implement the order and to promptly complete additional regulatory work to support the registration of the products.”

The EPA said it will review the ruling, but offered no further comment to Reuters.

The plaintiffs in the case filed a lawsuit against the EPA in late 2013, arguing the EPA’s approval process of the chemical fell short of its legal oversight demands. Shortly before the EPA cleared sulfoxalfor in May 2013, the European Union enacted a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (sulfoxaflor is considered by many to be a “fourth-generation neonicotinoid”) in light of scientific studies that indicate their harm to bees.

The suit was the first to invoke the US Endangered Species Act to protect bees, claiming the EPA violated the act by not sufficiently considering the impact of pesticides on honeybees and other imperiled wildlife categorized as threatened or endangered under federal law. Bees pollinate plants that are responsible for at least a quarter of Americans’ food.

Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1990s to boost yields of staple crops such as corn, but they are also widely used on annual and perennial plants in lawns and gardens. Researchers believe the neonicotinoids are causing some kind of unknown biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

CCD has led to the deaths of tens of millions of honeybees in the US, with annual death rates of about 30 percent. A 2013 US Department of Agriculture study reported that CCD has caused the devastation of an estimated 10 million beehives. This year, the USDA said that 42.1 of managed honeybee colonies were lost from April 2014 to April 2015, the second-highest annual loss on record.

Pesticide producers argue that the current massive bee die-off worldwide is not caused by chemicals, but mite infestations and other factors.

Honeybees pollinate more than 100 US crops – including apples, zucchinis, avocados, and plums – that are worth more than $200 billion a year.

In May, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations on pesticide use that seek to protect managed bee populations during certain periods of the year.


Insecticides cause honeybee colony collapse, study shows

​US govt’s wanton approval of harmful pesticides fueling ‘bee holocaust’ – lawsuit

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tribes struggle with toxic spill as EPA is accused of deliberate disaster

RT | August 15, 2015

As Native American tribes are struggling to cope with a toxic spill caused by an Environmental Protection Agency contractor that turned a river in Colorado orange, a letter from a retired geologist has emerged, that warned of the risk a week beforehand.

A contractor for the EPA released some three million gallons of toxic mining sludge on August 5 while attempting to clean up an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado. The waste flowed into Cement Creek, and has since contaminated the Animas River, San Juan River, and the Colorado River in Utah.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe in southern Colorado has declared a state of local emergency. Their 1,059-square-mile reservation was the first to be hit by the spill, a 100-mile-long stream of mining waste containing lead, copper, and arsenic. Classifying the spill as a disaster enables the release of aid and recovery funds.

“The cost and magnitude of responding to and recovery from the impact of the water contamination from the Gold King Mine Animas River Spill, caused by the EPA on August 5, 2015 is far in excess of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s available resources,” the tribe said in its declaration, quoted by Indian Country Today.

Further downstream, the Navajo Nation is fighting the EPA over the agency’s damage claims form. The tribe’s attorney general says Standard Form 95 contains “offending language,” waiving all claims to future compensation.

“Once the claim is made it will only be for the claims suffered to date and precludes future claims,” Navajo Nation president Russel Begaye said, ordering all tribal agencies to stop advising residents to use the form.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Durango, Colorado earlier this week, but declined to travel to the disaster site, according to the Denver Post. Agency officials said the mine was “too far” to visit, involving a 55-mile trip, partly over unpaved roads.

“As you know, it is a significant distance away, but I did visit the river. I took a look at it myself to get a sense of the river,” McCarthy said. “And I think the good news is it seems to be restoring itself, but we have continued work to do and EPA is here.”

Originally estimated at 1 million gallons (3.785 million liters), the spill was later confirmed to have involved at least three times that amount of toxic waste. Among the metals detected in the sludge were arsenic, cadmium, copper, beryllium, iron, lead, mercury, and zinc. The recorded lead levels alone were 12,000 times higher than normal.

Five water supply systems have been affected by the spill. While the river system mostly serves farming communities, the disaster also poses a risk to the drinking water of 17,000 people living in Durango, Colorado and 45,000 residents of Farmington, New Mexico.

While the agency has maintained that the release of toxic sludge from the Gold King mine was an accident, one retired geologist speculated the EPA might have been setting the area up for a disaster in order to get more federal funding.

“Based on my 47 years of experience as a professional geologist, it appears to me that the EPA is setting your town and the area up for a possible Superfund blitzkrieg,” Dave Taylor of Farmington wrote in a letter to the editors of the Silverton Standard, published July 30. The paper confirmed the letter’s authenticity in a blog post on August 12.

The EPA’s grand experiment to plug the Red & Bonita mine might seem to work at first, Taylor wrote, but he predicted the water would find a way out and “exfiltrate uncontrollably through connected abandoned shafts, drifts, raises, fractures, and possibly from talus on the hillsides.”

Taylor further anticipated that all of the water flow would return to Cement Creek within anywhere from a week to 120 days and could even increase the contamination.
“Reading between the lines, I believe that has been EPA’s plan all along. The proposed Red & Bonita plugging plan has been their way of getting a foot in the door to justify their hidden agenda for construction of a treatment plant,” he wrote.

The EPA has been lobbying to designate the area as a recipient of federal Superfund financing, but met opposition from local residents, Breitbart confirmed. The Wall Street Journal identified the contractor hired to plug the Red and Bonita mines as Environmental Restoration, LLC of Fenton, Missouri, a recipient of over $380 million in EPA contracts over the past decade.

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper visited Durango on Wednesday and took a sip of water from the Animas River in a publicity stunt. An iodine tablet which he used to purify the water would have killed any bacteria and parasites, but had no effect on the heavy metal pollutants. Residents were advised not to follow the governor’s lead, though, as the water was considered unsafe for drinking even before the spill, the Durango Herald reported.

PHOTOS: Toxic spill turns river in Colorado yellow

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism | , , , | 2 Comments

How EPA Faked the Entire Science of Sewage Sludge Safety: A Whistleblower’s Story

Independent Science News | June 9, 2014

US EPA’s 503 sludge rule (1993) allows treated sewage sludges, aka biosolids, to be land-applied to farms, forests, parks, school playgrounds, home gardens and other private and public lands. According to a recent EPA survey, biosolids contain a wide range of mutagenic and neurotoxic chemicals, which are present at a million-fold higher concentrations (ppm versus ppt) compared with their levels in polluted air and water (1). Biosolids contain all of the lipophilic (fat-soluble) chemical wastes that once polluted our rivers and lakes, but which now settle out at sewage treatment plants and become concentrated in sewage sludges. Most biosolids contain ppm concentrations of heavy metals, including chromium, lead, and mercury. They contain similarly high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and semi-volatiles, such as bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate, Benzo(a)pyrene), and polybrominated diphenyl ether congeners (PBDE flame retardants). Most biosolids also contain pathogenic agents and ppm levels of many common drugs, including ciprofloxacin (Cipro), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro), and fluoxetine (Prozac).

While working at EPA Dr David Lewis published evidence that teenager Shayne Conner (of New Hampshire) died and other neighbors were harmed from living near land applied with sewage sludge (Lewis et al 2002). He furthermore became involved after dairy herds of two Georgia farms (McElmurray and Boyce) were poisoned after grazing on sludged land. He testified in lawsuits following each incident, against his employer (EPA), which is where many of the following depositions were obtained. The following article is an excerpt from Chapter 4 (Sludge Magic) of his new book (Science for Sale: How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits). The lawsuits referred to are Lewis v. EPA 1999; Lewis v. EPA 2003; and USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. 2009. The depositions below piece together an unprecedented and coordinated multi-agency scientific scheme involving EPA, USDA, local and city municipalities, Synagro Technologies (a waste management company), various universities, and the National Academies of Science.

The effort was intended to misleadingly present sewage sludge as scientifically safe, to hide the evidence that it was not, to deliberately misreport the contents of municipal sludges, and smear David Lewis with a scientific misconduct charge after he blew the whistle.

From “Sludge Magic” by Dr David Lewis:

The Men Behind the Curtain

1) Alan Rubin – EPA

Alan Rubin, who was a career chemist at EPA’s Office of Water, is considered the primary author of EPA’s 503 sludge rule. He was one of a number of  office scientists at EPA headquarters involved in retaliations against scientists and private citizens who reported adverse health effects associated with biosolids. Time magazine (September 27, 1999) ran a short article about Rubin mailing “death threats” on EPA and Water Environment Federation (WEF) letterhead to private citizens concerned about biosolids, saying, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!”

When deposed in my U.S Department of Labor cases, Dr. Rubin explained what motivated these attacks:


Q. Are you proud of the work you did?… Do you feel, in any
way, hurt or upset to have someone like Dr. Lewis criticizing
it?… Professionally hurt, a little?
A. Somewhat.
Q. How so?…
A. Well, I think my professional reputation, to a large extent, is
based on my association with biosolids, 503 and its technical basis.
So I feel my reputation would be somewhat disparaged if the basis
of the rule, and the scientific findings were shown to be in error.

Rubin coined the term “sludge magic” when EPA’s proposed 503 sludge rule was undergoing internal peer review at EPA’s Office of Research & Development in 1992. Dr. Robert Swank, the research director at the EPA lab in Athens, Georgia, where I worked, called Dr. Rubin. When Swank asked him to explain how sewage sludge renders pollutants non-bioavailable, Rubin replied, “It’s magic.” During his deposition, Rubin deferred to USDA agronomist Rufus Chaney when questioned about scientific studies supporting sludge magic:


Q. You called it sludge magic?
A. Yes, that is my term. “sludge magic” [means] there are unique
properties in the biosolids matrix that sequester metals, that
sequester organics. By sequester I mean significantly reduce the
mobility to move from the biosolids out to the environment,
and the matrix is really complex, and has organic material in
it, organic pollutants, I’m talking about organic materials, like
unit type materials, and carbohydrates, and manganese, and
iron, and phosphorus, and all of these work together with the
soil in a matrix to significantly reduce, if not eliminate movement
of pollutants from the biosolids out to the environment.
The processes, some of them are understood, some of them are not
that well understood, but the whole thing taken together is called
magic. So I coined the term magic.
Q. And the “sludge magic” which prevents harmful stuff that is
in the sludge escaping the sludge?
A. Moving at any significant flux or rate out to the environment
to create doses of pollutants that would harm plants, animals or
Q. … these studies [are] kept somewhere?
A. No, they are actually—well, Chaney is probably the one that
has them all, he is like a walking encyclopedia.

So, after working in EPA’s biosolids program for over thirty years, the primary author of EPA’s 503 sludge rule still couldn’t explain how biosolids prevent potentially harmful levels of pollutants from being taken up by plants, animals and humans.

2) Rufus Chaney-USDA

My attorney, Ed Hallman, deposed Dr. Rufus Chaney at USDA’s Animal Manure and By-Products Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. His position reflects the importance that the USDA places on protecting biosolids:


I’ve been appointed in a category which is above GS-18 called
senior scientific research service. Within that, there are no subgrades.
There is a group —there is only about ten of us in all of
my agency that have reached that level.… I would say I’m the
US Department of Agriculture’s most knowledgeable scientist
about biosolids.

Chaney further testified that EPA scientists have never understood the science he developed, which proves heavy metals and toxic organic pollutants in biosolids cannot harm public health or the environment.


EPA withdrew the original proposed rule and completely
rewrote it. Actually I played a very significant role in what
the rule became. It’s evident in the record. And even at the
end I provided comments through USDA, approved at higher
levels, saying that the rule needed a few more revisions before
it was issued. But, yes, I was heavily involved in bringing to
fore the science about biosolids that needed to be the basis for
the rule.

Chaney explained that the unique properties of sewage sludge prevent pollutants from becoming bioavailable. In other words, they can’t be taken up or absorbed by plants and animals’ and they pose little or no risk to public health or the environment no matter which pollutants are present, or what their concentrations are.

One of Rufus Chaney’s primary collaborators, Jay Scott Angle, replaced Gale Buchanan as the agricultural dean at University of Georgia (UGA) in 2005, the year we filed a qui tam lawsuit over “the Gaskin study” (Gaskin et al 2003)(6). After EPA funded this study, one of its employees, Robert Brobst, who is charged with investigating reports of biosolids-related adverse health effects, provided UGA with data fabricated by the City of Augusta, Georgia (see Figure 1.). This fabricated data was used in the Gaskin study which EPA then used to discredit any links between biosolids and cattle deaths on two Georgia dairy farms owned by local farmers, the McElmurray and Boyce families (4). President Bush appointed Buchanan under secretary of agriculture for research, education and economics the following year (7).

Two years earlier, the director of UGA’s School of Marine Programs was advised not to hire me as a faculty member “because we’re dependent on this money… grant and contract money… money either from possible future EPA grants or [from] connections there might be between the waste disposal community [and] members of faculty at the university.” (8)

Many wastewater treatment plants throughout the United States aren’t working properly, and are constantly in need of being repaired or upgraded to keep up with population growth. To help with this problem, EPA created a revolving loan program under the Clean Water Act to pump billions of dollars into the states to keep their wastewater treatments plants pumping properly. Chaney reasons that because the system as a whole is in constant need of repair, and there are still no documented cases of adverse health effects in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, “sludge magic,” as Rubin calls it, works even when waste treatment plants don’t.

Chaney further reasoned that any peer-reviewed scientific articles claiming that land application of biosolids poses a risk to public health or the environment must be false because no scientists funded by the US government and other reputable institutions have documented adverse effects from biosolids since the 503 sludge rule was passed in 1993.

In 1992, EPA’s sludge rule failed to pass a scientific peer review in EPA’s Office of Research & Development. Chaney blamed scientists in EPA’s Office of Water for this failure:


They originally proposed a rule where they even had the data
screwed up. I don’t know how much you know about that. But
the original rule would have essentially prohibited all land
application…. So there were lots of errors the first time around,
stupid errors. They didn’t—they didn’t review it with USDA or Food
and Drug Administration before they put it on the street and they
suffered and had to withdraw it and start over.

In his deposition, Chaney stated that adverse health effects from biosolids were documented in the scientific literature before 1992, and that he himself authored many of those studies.


Q. And you believe that all the studies you’ve seen, including
the ones that you have coauthored and worked on, indicate that
the land application of sewage sludge in accordance with 503 is
safe… and is not a danger to human health and welfare, is that
correct, if it’s applied in accordance with those regulations?
A. I won’t disagree with that. I had advised EPA that I wanted
a lower cadmium limit…. I won the battle because pretreatment
and the universal understanding of the unacceptability of cadmium
in biosolids has led to biosolids declining to 1 to 2 ppm in
most cities in the United States. Biosolids has become remarkably
less contaminated because of what we’ve done with the 503 and
because of the publications, such as mine, which showed adverse
effects of previous practices.

The phenomenon by which biosolids have become far less contaminated with cadmium is clearly evident in the data that the City of Augusta reported to EPA and the State of Georgia. These are the same (Gaskin) data that EPA and UGA published and later used by the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that Augusta’s biosolids were not responsible for hundreds of cattle that died on two dairy farms (McElmurray and Boyce) where it was applied. The data purportedly show (Fig. 1 pdf here) that monthly cadmium levels in the city’s sewage sludge fluctuated wildly up to 1, 200 ppm from January 1980 to February 1993, the very month that EPA promulgated the 503 rule.

Augusta, Georgia's fraudulent reporting of Cadmium in Sewage Sludge began in 1993

Chaney wants everyone to believe that cadmium, which was making people and animals sick, dropped to safe levels all across the country the moment EPA passed its sludge regulation in February 1993. No regulatory agency at the state or federal level, however, ever monitors levels of cadmium, or anything else, in biosolids (11). They simply accept whatever data the cities provide.

In Augusta’s case, we know that the city’s “sludge magic” was faked. The city’s former plant manager, Allen Saxon, confessed when deposed by Mr. Hallman.

Judge Anthony Alaimo, who ruled on a lawsuit against the USDA filed by the McElmurray family, ordered the USDA to pay for crops the family couldn’t plant because their land was too contaminated with cadmium and other hazardous wastes from Augusta’s biosolids. Judge Alaimo wrote, “In January 1999, the City rehired Saxon to create a record of sludge applications that did not exist previously.” (12)

That same year, EPA gave UGA a federal grant to publish Augusta’s data as part of the Gaskin study (Gaskin et al 2003). As soon as Mr. Saxon finished making “sludge magic” happen, all of the original data Augusta reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) between 1993 and 1999 magically disappeared, and not just in Augusta. They turned up missing from the EPD records in Atlanta as well. EPA doesn’t know what happened to the data, nor does the EPD, nor the City of Augusta, nor UGA. All of the data just magically disappeared from city and state records at the same time cadmium purportedly disappeared from Augusta’s sewage sludge.

According to Rufus Chaney, it just doesn’t matter whether the data are fake or real. He explained in his deposition: (13)


Q. Ms. Gaskin could have totally made up all that data and you
would still rely on it because it was in a peer-reviewed study; is
that accurate?
A As long as it—as long as it was in general agreement with
general patterns established in hundreds of papers….

To sum up Chaney’s position, because Gaskin’s paper concluded that Augusta’s sludge did not pose a health risk, it’s valid research even if the data were fabricated. On the other hand, people should disregard scientists who report problems with biosolids, even if their work is published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. That’s because researchers at universities funded by government and have published hundreds of papers concluding that biosolids don’t put public health or the environment at risk.

In 2004, Chaney commented on the US Composting Council’s (USCC’s) list serve about my termination by EPA acting assistant administrator Henry Longest, who developed EPA’s sludge policies in the late 1970s (14). USCC is headed by Lorrie Loder, Synagro’s product marketing director. Chaney, of course, supported Longest’s decision to end my career for publishing research that raised public concerns over biosolids (Lewis et al. 2002). He contrasted our BMC study with the Gaskin study:

CHANEY USCC (2004) (15)

The paper by Gaskin et al. [Gaskin, J. W., R. B. Brobst, W. P.
Miller, and E. W. Tollner. 2003. Long-term biosolids application
effects on metal concentrations in soil and bermudagrass
J. Env. Qual. 32:146-152.] reports objective measurements
on the soil metal concentrations, and metals in forages
growing on the soils….[Lewis’s] publication [Lewis D. L., D. K.
Gattie, M. E. Novak, S. Sanchez, and C. Pumphrey. 2002.
Interactions of pathogens and irritant chemicals in land-applied
sewage sludges (biosolids)
. BMC Public Health 2:11.] contains none
of the data from examination of biosolids exposed subjects, and lacks the
comparison with randomly selected individuals from the general
populations. It is not valid epidemiological science….

I support the whistle-blower rule and process as strongly as any
other citizen or government employee. I happen to believe that
Dr. Lewis has been treated fairly. Claims and opinions about
public health are not peer-reviewed scientific evidence. EPA and
other agencies have to base rules on the peer-reviewed papers,
and to consider the weight of evidence. Some papers are more
complete in proof of the issue tested, as I noted above regarding
proof that some source caused a specific human infection.

Our study published in BMC-Public Health had documented several cases linking Synagro’s biosolids to illnesses and deaths, including the death of Shayne Conner in New Hampshire (Lewis et al. 2002). Chaney’s statements about our study are drawn from a white paper Synagro published in 2001, which contains false allegations of research misconduct against me and my coauthors. In 2004, Synagro withdrew its allegations after EPA dismissed the allegations as meritless and not based in any facts (16). Synagro’s white paper, which Chaney parroted, states, for example:


[Steps Lewis should have taken] include analysis of biosolids
composition, fate and transport of chemicals and pathogens,
determination of dose-response relationships, and methodology
for and identification of the cause of health ailments purportedly
associated with an environmental contaminant….
Such studies should involve a comparison of outcomes for subjects
who are exposed to biosolids (treatment groups) and other subjects
who are not exposed (control groups)…. The leading study,
a comprehensive multi-year study of Ohio farm families living
near land-applied fields, reported “no adverse health effects…in
either people or animals.” (Cit. 38.) While Dr. Lewis admitted
that this study was based on sound epidemiology, he refuses to
apply its techniques….

Our BMC paper does, in fact, contain this information. It includes, for example, data we obtained from the patients’ medical records, and a dose-response analysis of exposed and unexposed individuals in an area near a field treated with biosolids (Figure 2)(18). This field lay approximately 300 feet from a house where Shayne Conner suddenly died from respiratory failure. Conner’s parents, Tom and Joanne Marshall, sued Synagro, which bought out the company that applied the biosolids. EPA ethics officials approved of my serving as an expert witness for plaintiffs, and required that I donate any expert witness fees to EPA or other governmental or nonprofit organizations. By serving as an expert witness, I was able to obtain access to medical records and other critically important information tied up in Marshall v. Synagro.

In Conner’s neighborhood, we were able to gather information on symptoms from all but one family, including family members who reported no symptoms. We found:


Based on a least-squares analysis, proportions of individuals
with symptoms increased linearly from 40 to 80 h (r2 0.98) with
time exposed to wind blowing from the field; all occupants in
households with exposure ≥ 80 h reported symptoms (Fig. 2).
Proportions of individuals with symptoms also decreased linearly
with distance from the field from 130 to 320 m (r2 0.95); all
occupants in households living ≤ 130 m from the field reported

As reported in our BMC article, we mainly investigated the most common form of treated sewage sludges, called Class B biosolids:


County records indicated that biosolids-related complaints for
individual patients described in this study were concurrent with
land application of Class B biosolids.

As mentioned earlier, most bacterial populations that are killed back can re-establish themselves within a few days after biosolids are stockpiled, or spread on land (21). It’s like cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. Eating it fresh out of the oven is one thing, but after it’s been sitting out for a few days is a different matter. Biosolids are rich in proteins, which allow staphylococci to proliferate just as they do with turkey dinners (22).

We discovered that one out of four residents who reported irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory tract from exposure to biosolids had staphylococcal infections involving S. aureus or S. epidermitis. Two of the three deaths linked to biosolids were caused by S. aureus infections. Because multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria are common at wastewater treatment plants, biosolids-related infections are of particular concern (23).

During her depositions, Julia Gaskin testified that she believed Augusta’s biosolids harmed the McElmurray and Boyce dairy farms; and she pointed out that her study included ample data supporting the dairy farmers’ lawsuits.


A. Now, you have characterized that the EPA has used this
against them. There is certainly data in here that could have been
used to support them as well.
Q. What data?
A. The fact that we had high cadmium and molybdenum in three
fields that had been—and forages in three fields that had been
greater than six years. The fact we saw a reduction in copper and
molybdenum ratios with long-term biosolids application.

3) Thomas Burke – EPA

Responding to congressional hearings into EPA retaliations against me, my EPA laboratory director, and others who have questioned the science EPA uses to support its sludge rule, EPA called upon the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (NRC) to reevaluate its scientific basis. Ellen Harrison, an NRC panel member from Cornell University, provided the panel with copies of my unpublished manuscripts and two in-press, peer-reviewed journal articles (BMC Public Health, 2002; ES&T, 2002) (25). Harrison, director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute, and her coauthors published a well-documented, peer-reviewed article concluding that EPA’s current sewage sludge regulation does not protect human health, agriculture, or the environment (26). She was also part of a group of NRC panel members selected to brief EPA on the academy’s findings when their report was electronically released on July 2, 2002. She testified in my labor case: (27)


Q. I’m looking for a larger-picture question here, what would
you state would be Dr. Lewis’ major contribution in terms of the
concerns he was raising to the National Academy review process?
A. David is the only scientist that to that time had raised the
scientific issues that might lead to exposure and disease and so
David’s ideas in that regard, I think, were important to sort of
framing the National Academy panel’s in recognizing that…
there are a lot of gaps here, there are plausible routes of exposures
that we haven’t assessed. So David’s role was—I mean
in my book David was a hero in this regard basically. Despite
the incredible flack he was getting, [he] put forward reasonable
scientific theories, backed by some research to suggest that
there were plausible routes of exposure and that in fact illness
might be resulting. He, I mean as far as I’m concerned, he kind
of turned the whole thing around… I think without David’s
involvement we wouldn’t be at all where we are today in terms
of looking at the safety issues anew. David raised-David gave a
legitimacy to the allegations that has made it impossible to ignore
the alleged health issues…. So I think David has probably been
the most important player in all this.

Although the report drew heavily upon my unpublished manuscripts, the electronic version only cited one paper, an ES&T article. Susan Martel, an NRC staff member, explained to Harrison that all but one reference to my work were removed from draft versions of the NRC report based on input from panel members. Then, according to Martel, the panel chair, Thomas Burke, removed the one remaining reference to my ES&T article from the final copy of the report, which is posted on the NRC’s website (28). Burke, who was Dean of Johns-Hopkins School of Public Health at the time, was recently appointed head of EPA’s Office of Research & Development by President Obama.

Burke removed the one remaining reference to our research after he and Martel received the following email from panel member Greg Kester, who was the biosolids coordinator for the State of Wisconsin: (29)

Hi Tom and Susan—In contrast to your message that the briefings
went well, I am quite disturbed by what I have heard transpired
at the EPA briefing this morning. Among other items, I
heard that EPA staff in the biosolids program were referred to
as “the usual suspects” and basically denigrated for their work in
the program. The message was also taken that their work should
be devalued and the work of David Lewis should be elevated. I
did not agree to such representation nor do I believe much of the
committee did. We specifically noted that EPA should not be criticized
for the work they did.… While EPA may not have been
moved by the criticism, there are those on the Hill who would
love nothing more than to criticize EPA.

One year earlier, Synagro VP Robert O’Dette had emailed Kester a copy of his white paper accusing me of research misconduct. Kester, in turn, forwarded it to senior officials at EPA headquarters and other EPA offices throughout the country (30). In his email, Kester stated: (31)

This paper presents many of the issues raised by Dr. Lewis in the
New Hampshire case and provides compelling refutation. It was written
by Bob O’Dette of Synagro.

The NRC panel used Synagro’s white paper in its deliberations over my research, and rewarded O’Dette by using a photo he submitted for the cover of the NRC report. Although the panel liberally borrowed from my unpublished and in-press papers without citing the source, it was careful to credit O’Dette as the source of its cover photo. Then, after removing my in- press, peer-reviewed articles documenting scores of cases of adverse health effects across the country, the NRC panel falsely reported: “There is no documented scientific evidence that the Part 503 rule has failed to protect public health.” (32)

But the fallout from what the NRC panel did wasn’t over yet. In 2008, a Nature reporter called me wanting my response to a federal judge, Anthony Alaimo, ruling that data in the Gaskin study were fabricated to cover up cattle deaths linked to hazardous wastes in Augusta’s sewage sludge. Nature, as it turned out, was putting together a two-page news article and editorial about our research at UGA, pointing out that a multi-university study in Ohio had independently confirmed our findings:

NATURE EDITORS (2008) (35)

In what can only be called an institutional failure spanning
more than three decades—and presidential administrations
of both parties—there has been no systematic monitoring programme
to test what is in the sludge. Nor has there been much
analysis of the potential health effects among local residents—
even though anecdotal evidence suggests ample cause for concern.
In fact, one of the studies used to refute potential dangers,
published in the Journal of Environmental Quality in 2003
by researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens, has been
called into question ….

Even the National Academy of Sciences seems to have been
taken in. A 2002 report from the academy cited the then unpublished
Georgia work as evidence that the EPA had investigated
and dismissed claims that sewage sludge had killed cattle, but
the study had not looked at the dairy farms in question. And
although it may be technically true that there was no documented
evidence of sludge applications causing human illness or death,
the academy also cited work by an EPA whistleblower, David
Lewis, suggesting at least an association between these factors.
If anything, recent research underscores those findings. The
Georgia citation notwithstanding, the academy did outline a
sound plan for moving forward. It recommended among other
things that the EPA improve its risk-analysis techniques; survey
the sludges for potential contaminants; begin tracking health
complaints; and conduct some epidemiological analyses to determine
whether these reports merit concern.

To read the NRC report, the Nature reporter located it on EPA’s website rather than the NRC’s website. After I filled the reporter in on what happened, Nature ran the following correction, which contained even more misinformation from the NRC in an attempt to explain why it removed the last remaining reference to our work in the final version of its report.

NATURE EDITORS (2008) (36)

Correction: The 2002 biosolids study from the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS) did not reference research into health impacts
by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whistleblower
David Lewis, as reported in our News story “Raking through
sludge exposes a stink” (Nature 453, 262–263; 2008). The citation
was included in a prepublication draft that is still posted on
the EPA’s internet site, but the NAS panel voted to remove the
reference before final publication. An NAS spokesman said the
panel decided the information was not relevant as the panel was
not charged with evaluating health impacts.

At least panel member Ellen Harrison got in the last word about the National Academy of Sciences removing the last remaining reference to our work:


The NAS made this change to the report without permission from
the panel. This is a violation of the NAS procedures requiring full
committee consensus on reports. I would not have approved the
removal of this reference since it was clearly relevant to the work
of the committee…. the unilateral action of NAS to remove the
reference was highly inappropriate.

4) Robert O’Dette – Synagro Technologies Inc.

EPA and Water Environment Federation (WEF) officials involved in the National Biosolids Public Acceptance Campaign systematically funded scientists who supported the 503 sludge rule while eliminating those who did not. In 2002, a Texas county commissioner invited me to speak at a public hearing about a growing number of illnesses linked to Synagro’s biosolids in his area. I agreed on the condition that he invite Synagro to have its own expert rebut my arguments. So, the commissioner wrote a letter to the company’s VP for government relations, Robert O’Dette, who had authored Synagro’s white paper containing allegations of research misconduct against me and my coauthors at UGA. In his reply, O’Dette explained how the system works: (38)

What we don’t need are more so-called scientists whose research
findings are predetermined by scientific or personal bias. These
people will find their work rightly discredited and their funding
will disappear while credible researchers continue to have

Synagro sent its own expert, Ian Pepper from the University of Arizona, to give a presentation at our conference, and it held its own conference across the street with others speaking on its behalf.

5) Tracy Mehan, III – EPA

On December 24, 2003, Tracy Mehan, Asst. Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, issued a letter in which he used the Gaskin study to dispel any link between biosolids and cattle deaths on the two dairy farms (39) Attorney Ed Hallman read Brobst’s testimony, then questioned Gaskin:


We, the authors, at least Julia and I, will stand by that the study
had nothing to do with the dairy farms. I mean, we both said
that on several occasions, and I believe we will both stand by
that. And I have conveyed that to headquarters. If they choose to
not listen or choose to listen, that’s up to them. I don’t have any
say in how they make these paragraphs and how they form things
and form their conclusions. I wouldn’t have done it that way.

Q. Do you recall any conversations that you’ve had with
Mr. Brobst about the study had nothing to do with the Boyce
and McElmurray farms?
A. Yes.
Q. Tell me the substance of those conversations.
A. I, the substance of the conversations were concerns that our
study was being used, that people were citing our study as if the
dairy farms were part of what we had sampled, and they were
not. And I had concerns about that, that even though the JEQ
article clearly said beef cattle farms, that some people were not
being clear about that fact.
Q. Did you ever voice those concerns to anyone besides
Mr. Brobst?
A. I voiced those concerns to Mr. Brobst and also at one point
Ned Beecher.
Q. Who is that?
A. He is the director of the Northeast Biosolids Association.
Q. What did you tell him?
A. I told him that I was concerned that the JEQ article was
being conflated with the dairy and that our study did indicate
that there was not a widespread problem, but it did not specifically
address the dairy concerns.

5) Henry Longest, II – EPA

When Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich greeted me in his office overlooking the National Mall in 1996, he looked at me and said, “You know you’re going to be fired for this, don’t you?” “I know,” I replied, “I just hope to stay out of prison.” The speaker had just read my commentary in Nature, titled “EPA Science: Casualty of Election Politics.” It reflected the proverbial crossroads in my life. Since I was five years old, I wanted to become a scientist and have my own laboratory. Giving up my research career was not something I took lightly. It reflected my conclusion that EPA’s commitment to removing pollutants from water and concentrating them on land will eventually cause as much, if not more, harm to public health and the environment than these same pollutants caused in rivers and other aquatic systems. As soon as I turned age 55 in 2003, EPA’s Acting Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research & Development, Henry Longest, terminated me ─ the Agency’s only research scientist to ever publish first-authored research articles in Nature, Lancet and Nature Medicine. As acting deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water in the late 1970s, Longest was the first high-ranking EPA administrator to promote land application of sewage sludges.51e-RiPH7WL._SY300_

Science for Sale: How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits by David Lewis can be obtained here.

1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Biosolids: Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report —Overview, January 2009, EPA 822-R-08-014.
2. US Dept. Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges. Case No.99- CAA-12, Deposition transcript of Dr. Alan Rubin, p. 149. Lewis v. EPA, Apr. 27, 1999.
3. Ibid, pp. 168-172.
4. USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division. Case No. 3:06-CV-16-CDL. Deposition transcript of Dr. Rufus Chaney, Jun. 26, 2009.
5. Ibid.
6. Dendy LB, U. of Maryland administrator named dean of UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. University of Georgia, June 3, 2005.
7. University of Georgia, Bush taps former UGA dean for REE under secretary. Jan. 19, 2006.
8. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, CA 2003-CAA-00005, 00006. Deposition of Robert E. Hodson, Ph.D. Jan. 31, 2003.
9. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 21.
10. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p.53-54.
11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. Land Application of Biosolids Status Report; Report 2002-S-000004; Office of Inspector General. Washington, DC.
12. McElmurray v. United States Department of Agriculture, United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia. Case No. CV105-159. Order issued Feb. 25, 2008.
13. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 157.
14. Chaney R, USCC Listserve, October 5, 2004.
15. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 13-17.
16. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, Case Nos. 2003-CAA-6, 2003-CAA-5, Joint stipulations, March 4, 2003; USEPA, Stancil F, Branch Chief, ESD, to Russo R, Director, ERD, Apr. 22, 2003; Thomas AL, Synagro, to Adams M, President, University of Georgia, Dec. 21, 2004.
17. Synagro Technologies, Inc. Analysis of David Lewis’ Theories Regarding Biosolids, p. 4, 6, Sept. 20, 2001.
18. Lewis DL, Gattie DK, Novak ME, Sanchez S, Pumphrey C. (2002) Interactions of pathogens and irritant chemicals in land-applied sewage sludges (biosolids). BMC Public Health 2:11.
19. Ibid, Lewis et al., BMC-Public Health, 2001. Results, Environmental Assessment.
20. Ibid, Lewis et al., BMC-Public Health, 2001. Methods, Assessing environmental conditions.
21. Gattie DK and Lewis DL. 2004. A high-level disinfection standard for land-applied sewage sludge (biosolids). Environ. Health Perspect. 112:126-31.
22. Khuder S, Milz SA, Bisesi M, Vincent R, McNulty W, Czajkowski K. Health survey of residents living near farm fields permitted to receive biosolids. Arch. Environ. Occup. Health 62, 5–11 (2007).
23. Reinthaler FF, Posch J, Feierl G, Wüst G, Haas D, Ruckenbauer G, Mascher F, Marth E. Antibiotic resistance of E. coli in sewage and sludge. Water Res. 2003 Apr; 37(8):1685-90; Sahlström L, Rehbinder V, Albihn A, Aspan A, Bengtsson B. Vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) in Swedish sewage sludge. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 2009.
24. USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division. Case No. 3:06-CV-16-CDL. Deposition transcript of J. Gaskin, p. 293-4, Jun. 20, 2009.
25. Martel S, National Academy of Sciences, to Harrison E, Mar. 27, 2002 [Email].
26. Harrison, EZ, McBride MB and Bouldin DR. Land application of sewage sludges: An appraisal of the US regulations. Int. J. Environ. and Pollution, Vol.11, No.1. 1-36.  Case for Caution Revisited 2009.
27. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Case No. 98-CAA-13, Deposition of Ellen Harrison, p. 34-35, 76, Mar. 21, 2003.
28. Harrison E, Cornell Waste Management Institute, to Lewis D, Mar. 5, 2003 [Email].
29. Ibid.
30. Kester G to EPA officials Rubin A, Hais A, Roufael A, Carkuff A, Sajjad A, Bastian R, Brobst R, Sans C, Hamilton D, Hetherington D, Gross C, Lindsey A, Home J, Ryan J, Smith J, Colletti J, Dombrowski J, Dunn J, Walker J, Fondahl L, Dominy M, Meckes M, Murphy T. Subject: FW: Dr. David Lewis, 09/24/01 [Email].
31. Ibid.
32. National Research Council. Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practice, Overarching Findings, p. 4. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 2002.
33. Burkhart J (NIH/NIEHS) to Lewis D, copied to Burleigh K (NIH/NIEHS), Subject: EHP ms 6207. May 07, 2003 [Email].
34. Ibid, Gattie, Lewis, 2004.
35. Stuck in the mud—The Environmental Protection Agency must gather data on the toxicity of spreading sewage sludge [Editorial]; Tollefson J. Raking through sludge exposes a stink. Nature, 2008, Vol. 453, p. 258, 262-3, May 15, 2008.
36. Nature editors. Correction. Nature 453; 577, May 28, 2008 doi:10.1038/453577d
37. Harrison E. Correspondence at June 17, 2008.
38. O’Dette R, Synagro Technologies, Inc., to Stavinoha TD, Commissioner Precinct 1, Fort Bend County, TX. Nov.18, 2002.
39. Mehan GT III. USEPA, Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, to Mendelson J III. Dec. 24, 2003 [Letter].
40. Ibid, Gaskin deposition p. 269, Jun. 22, 2009.
41. Ibid, Gaskin deposition p. 372-4, Jun. 22, 2009.

For more information go to the Bioscience Resource Project webpage on Sewage Sludge.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 2 Comments