Wednesday

Superstorm Sandy Washes Raw Sewage and Chemicals Into Waterways

Sandy stirs a toxic stew of contamination that could threaten public health around New York City. The huge storm washed raw sewage, industrial chemicals and debris into flooded waterways. “Normally, sewer overflows are just discharged into waterways and humans that generate the sewage can avoid the consequences by avoiding the water,” said John Lipscomb of the clean water advocacy group Riverkeeper. “But in this case, that waste has come back into our communities.” A particular concern is the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, which abuts a 1.8-mile canal recently designated a Superfund cleanup site by federal authorities due to a legacy of industrial pollution and sewage discharges. The Huffington Post

Environmentalists raise concerns that Sandy stirred up hazards at fracking sites, too. Environmental groups said the superstorm’s brute force could overwhelm feeble storage pits next to fracking sites. In turn, the critics said, that could allow the unintended release of toxic materials from the oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations into streams and farmland in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Industry groups say they prepared in advance of the storm and were confident that drillers secured toxic materials at the storage sites near their wells. Scripps Howard News Service

Storm-related alert lifted at nuclear plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the low-level emergency alert ended today at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Forked River, N.J., The alert — the second-lowest designation in the NRC’s four-tier warning scale — was triggered as water whipped up by Sandy rose outside the plant, threatening cooling equipment. NRC officials said water levels had since fallen and were still dropping. The plant had gone offline before the storm for refueling. Although storm-related complications were blamed for forcing several other reactors offline in New Jersey and New York, no serious problems were reported. The Associated Press, The New York Times

Applications for gun licenses soar in Oklahoma as open carry law nears. Under a law taking effect Thursday, anyone with a license to carry a concealed gun will also be able to openly carry a gun in a belt or shoulder holster, loaded or unloaded. It will make Oklahoma the 15th state to allow people to openly carry firearms. More than 140,000 Oklahomans already have licenses to carry concealed weapons, and applications for new licences have jumped about 40 percent over the past year. Gun rights advocates said the open carry law will deter crime. But law enforcement authorities argue that problems will result when people inadvertently bring guns into places such as schools and playgrounds. The Associated Press, The New York Times

Massachusetts pharmacy blamed for meningitis outbreak touted the cleanliness of its labs. Shortly before the outbreak, the New England Compounding Center sent customers a “Quality Assurance Report Card.” It said that, in the first half of 2012, there were no instances of contamination exceeding the accepted standard on surfaces in its “clean rooms,” where the company produced injectable medications such as the steroid now linked to 28 deaths and 356 meningitis cases overall. But during that period, the company’s records indicate that its own internal testing showed that 33 surface samples from the clean rooms contained bacteria or mold at levels requiring corrective action to remove contamination. The Boston Globe, Reuters

Roofing firm in Florida cited for job safety violations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused GP Roofing & Construction of Palm Coast, Fla, of three willful violations, the agency’s most serious charge, and proposed penalties of $72,600. OSHA said GP failed to, among other things, provide protection against falls for employees working on steep-pitched roofs. “Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry,” an OSHA official said. “When fall protection is absent, workers are only steps away from a deadly or disabling plunge. This employer must take effective steps to ensure that proper safeguards are in place and in use at all job sites.” OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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