bio defense late in game

What a chuckle I got this morning seeing a column in the Express-News written in opposition to the siting of Homeland Security’s germ lab here.

I’ve been supremely critical of the paper’s smalltown chamber of commerce functioning on this issue. Consider their coverage and you can’t help but conclude, the editorial content has been spun – if not to sell the lab to SA – at least to keep a lid on the criticism.

I know our struggling environmental community is short on staff and/or volunteers on all perceptibly non-Edwards Aquifer issues, but finally mustering an opposition column one month before the expected federal announcement likely to name SA as germland territory? Well, suffice to say, it’s a little late in the game. Benefit of the doubt: maybe this is the first that the paper has let slip in.

Where was everyone at the first public hearing (9/11, ’07) when the only one speaking in opposition was a local high school student?

So is the editorial a post-victory friendship offering? For what danger does an anti- offering portend for the bio-boosters at this stage?

I truly hope that if SA is named, a late-stage movement can be mustered to get Congress to double the funding to bury that thing underground.

Lo, and behold, Klar’s column is actually racking up the comments.

From the Ex-News today:

San Antonio residents need to take a serious look at our city’s pursuit of a potentially hazardous Level-4 biodefense lab at the Texas Research Park near Sea World.

We are one of five cities still under consideration by the Department of Homeland Security as the location for this $450 million facility. Several communities in other states being considered have expressed opposition to the lab due to overwhelming evidence that potential health risks to the environment outweigh the economic benefit this Level-4 biodefense lab would bring to their communities.

The current biodefense lab is located on an isolated island several miles away from the mainland in New York State and for good reason. It has had a troubling record of leaks and security breaches since it opened in 1954.

Over the years, OSHA has cited this lab and EPA for over a hundred safety violations, yet it continues to operate under poor security and work conditions. These breaches included an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that resulted in the destruction of hundreds of farm animals at the facility to limit further spread of disease. Public records also show other similar secured infectious disease labs located throughout the nation and around the world have had major leaks and security breaches.

Homeland Security officials as well as experts in the field of infectious disease research contend that the facility will boost the local economy and that it will be “leak proof” and completely safe. Numerous San Antonio citizens and organizations are questioning the validity of these promises.

Potential adverse health risks outweigh the economic benefits of this Level-4 biodefense lab since it would be located near the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer and near large concentrations of livestock and humans. Also, in June, Homeland Security released a draft statement indicating our region could surpass $4 billion in economic losses if an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurred.

Read the full column.

[Cross-posted at Curblog.]

I love that the same day folks met in Benevides to talk with TCEQ about “exempting” another texas aquifer for uranium mining (why don’t they just call it “condemning,” or do they?), the NRC published the license application for Victoria nuke plants. Yeah, that uranium is just as likely to go to China as feed a nuke plant stateside, but the relationship is so painful to watch in South Texas.

Meanwhile, the moldering and molding news I have been sittin’ with too long…

Apartment recycling pilot gets a go:

San Antonio apartment dwellers have two options if they want to recycle: Drive their used bottles, cans, newspapers and other recyclable materials to a drop-off point or take the items to a friend who lives in a house.

But an alternative solution for those interested in recycling may soon become available. The city of San Antonio is testing a pilot program that offers select renters a chance to take part in the recycling effort. The Solid Waste Management Department has partnered with private vendor Greenstar, to provide recycling pick-up services on a trial basis for a six-month period.

Interim Environmental Chief Stephen Haney says the city cannot provide pick-up service to apartment complexes because apartment dwellers don’t pay solid waste fees. In the test program, which began this summer, the city will pay for operating costs, with start-up fees paid by participants.

As climate changes, will patterns of disease shift as well?

This summer, an outbreak of typhus has left 16 Travis County residents with the flea-borne illness; 14 others are suspected of having the disease. In recent years, whooping cough and West Nile virus have also plagued Central Texas.

Are the outbreaks stand-alone events, each with its own explanation? Or, with hot summers bearing down on the state, are these signals of broader changes in disease patterns driven by a warming climate?

Public comment throws cold water on groundwater district meeting

The Groundwater Management Area 9 (GMA 9) meeting on Friday, August 29, packed the house.

It was standing room only with more than 100 people attending a meeting that typically boasts five to six visitors. Most participants opposed an agenda item that would have heralded a future draw down of the Trinity aquifers.

Texas Wildlife Association’s David K. Langford was credited, in part, for the unusually large turnout. Langford had sent out a newsletter informing readers of the meeting’s potential impact on groundwater use and availability in the Texas Hill Country over the next 50 years.

Bandera County was well represented at the GMA 9 meeting with Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District Manager David Jeffrey and board members James Chastain, Don Sloan, Richard Connors and former board member James Hannah. Also attending were Fidel Ramirez of Concerned Citizens, Feather Wilson and former City of Bandera Administrator Don Reddout.

Groundwater districts in Texas were legislatively mandated to develop ground availability models (GAMs) by 2010 and to address desired future conditions (DFCs). Members of GMA 9 were scheduled to discuss three GAMs and the DFC of the Trinity aquifers. Fearing a vote on a GAM that would allow for up to a 33-foot draw on the water table, concerned citizens packed the meeting.

Ron Fieseler, general manager of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District, objected to statements that GMA 9 had ignored the drought of record in the 1950s when creating the Hill Country Trinity GAM. He said the ‘50s drought had always been a part of their consideration.

Fieseler said that water district rules, which would be enacted during a drought of record, could not be plugged into a GAM. He said attempting to incorporate a drought of record into a GAM was unrealistic because it caused technical problems – the computer program crashed. Fieseler said that no water availability figure matched current usage and still allowed for some growth over the next 50 years. He explained that every time drought of record figures were plugged in the GAM, the program crashed because it had too many dry cells.

“Exactly,” countered Dave Collins, “dry cells translate to dry wells, dry springs. A computer model crashing is trivial compared to wells and stock tanks going dry.”

On behalf of “Preserve our Water,” Collins had initiated a lawsuit in 2006 after Fieseler and the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District allegedly ignored their own water district rules and allocated 185 million gallons of water a year to the Rockin’ J golf course and subdivision, one-third of Blanco’s Middle Trinity’s 1,600-acre feet of water.

“That all but exhausted Blanco County’s 1,600-acre feet,” Collins explained after the meeting. He said the Scott White Hospital being constructed at the north end of Blanco County would have a negative impact on area springs, then added, “Fieseler votes for economic growth and development over water science and the impact on springs.”

I’m amazed! Some folks are actually finding their way to these NRC meetings…

NRC takes comments on ISL uranium mining

Among the details to emerge from the meeting was acknowledgment by the NRC that, although ISL mine permits call for returning groundwater to its original condition when mining is done, some of the “baseline parameters” have proved unachievable by mining companies.

“Some of the parameters they have had a little bit of difficulty returning to baseline have been parameters like uranium and radium, because when they come in and use oxygen and bicarbonate and loosen that uranium up that’s a more difficult parameter to return to baseline,” said Bill von Till, the NRC’s regional licensing branch chief. “They have done a good job of getting that down to a point it’s not mobile, but some of those parameters have not been met.”

More interesting links on this are at powertechexposed.com, including:

WELLFIELD RESTORATION REPORT – CHRISTENSEN RANCH PROJECT, WYOMING (pdf)

As uranium mines closed, state altered cleanup goals (South Texas)

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