• LANDMARK DECISION: Federal Judge Rules Clark County Violated Permit, Clean Water Act from 2008-2011

    Judge Rules Clark County Violated Clean Water Act for Three YearsUS District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled Thursday Clark County violated their Phase I Permit from August 2008 to December 2011 in what marks a landmark decision for stormwater controls in Washington State.

    Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center represented by Earthjustice attorneys Jan Hasselman and Janette Brimmer began the fight for enforcing EPA Clean Water standards for polluted stormwater mitigation in 2010 (see story here)

    In January 2011, the Washington State Pollution Control Board ruled that Clark County’s “alternative” plan for monitoring stormwater was illegal (story here). Clark County subsequently filed an appeal of the Pollution Board’s ruling, but in December 2011, Judge Leighton ruled that pending their appeal, Clark County must comply with Washington State’s stormwater guidelines (story here).

    Most recently, in May, Judge Leighton found Clark County’s argument for modified stormwater controls “makes no sense,” as the Pollution Control Hearings Board decision was clear that Clark County’s modified Agreed Order with Ecology was “unlawful” and the Permit Modification was “invalid.”

    “We are elated that our efforts to protect the environment have yielded such a positive result,” said John Felton, Chairman, Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

    From the Summary Judgment ruling:

    Even viewed in the light most favorable to Clark County, the evidence supports no
    conclusion other than Clark County is liable for violating the 2007 Phase 1 Permit during this time period. The 2007 Phase 1 Permit required Clark County to adopt the default stormwater flow control standard or an approved alternative by August 16, 2008. Clark County, however, to adopt a flow control ordinance that complied with the Permit. On December 28, 2011, this Court enjoined Clark County from issuing any permit or authorization that fails to meet the Phase 1 Permit’s flow control standards. Prior to the injunction, Clark County authorized numerous development projects that should have been subject to the Permit’s flow control requirements, but were not. Brimmer Decl., Ex. G–H, Dkt. #22. As a matter of law, Clark County is liable for violating the 2007 Phase 1 Permit from August 17, 2008 until December 28, 2011. Rosemere’s Motion on this point is GRANTED.

    “This is a great day for counties and cities in our state that are working hard to clean up polluted waterways,“ said Janette Brimmer, attorney for Earthjustice. “We applaud the ruling for recognizing that everyone needs to do their share to protect our precious streams, rivers and salmon and that Clark County, like everyone else, must follow the law.”

    To read Judge Leighton’s Order in full: Judge_Leighton_Order_RE_Stormwater_Summary_Judgment_6-6-2013

    Earthjustice Press Release: Earthjustice Clark Co Stormwater WIN final press release June 7 2013

    In the Columbian: County violated Clean Water Act for three years, judge says

    In the Oregonian: Clark County violated federal Clean Water Act for 3 years, judge rules

  • EPA Rights Complaint Process Changes Fail To Ease Petitioner Concerns (reprinted w/permission from Inside Washington Publishers)

    This article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on February 22, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2013. No further distribution is permitted.

    Click here to view article (pdf format): EPA Rights Complaint Process Changes Fail To Ease Petitioner Concerns

  • Communities’ Letter on EPA’s Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance

    Vapor Intrusion: image source epa

    Vapor Intrusion: image source epa

    On July 26, 2012, a letter was sent to EPA’s Richard Kapuscinski from environmental organizations and citizens groups from all over the country – including Rosemere Neighborhood Association – concerned about EPA’s pending Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance.

    The letter begins:

    We, the undersigned are concerned that pressure from polluters, chemical producers, and property owners may weaken elements of EPA’s pending Vapor Intrusion Guidance, and we urge EPA to adopt an investigatory approach that is truly protective of Americans exposed to highly toxic vapors in their homes, schools, workplaces, and other buildings.

    On July 6, 2012, Inside EPA, reported:
    Industry is criticizing EPA’s approach to calculating the potential for subsurface contamination to migrate to indoor air, raising concerns over a technical document expected to be a component of the agency’s final vapor intrusion guidance and over a Region III proposal to offer government-funded mitigation for vapor intrusion at homes near a Superfund site in Pennsylvania.
    Industry argues the so-called attenuation factors in the EPA documents are unnecessarily conservative and flawed because of incorrect assumptions of the rate at which contamination flows into residences.

    The determination whether vapor intrusion poses a health threat at any existing building should not be based solely upon models and predictions. Models cannot account for changes in operating conditions, occupancy, building modifications, or structural changes such as adding utility lines that penetrate floors or settling that cracks slabs. One test is worth 1000 expert opinions. Decisions should be based upon multiple lines of evidence, including indoor air testing, subslab soil-gas sampling, and outdoor air monitoring.

    To read the entire letter: Communities’ Letter on EPA’s Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance

  • RNA Comments on EPA Draft Title VI Supplement

     
     
    On July 17, 2012, Rosemere Neighborhood Association submitted a public comments letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on EPA’s Draft Supplement: Advancing Environmental Justice Through Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

     
     

    The public comments letter in part includes:

    Despite Rosemere’s lawsuit and the subsequent national debate of the failures of the OCR, and despite your continued promises for EPA to increase efficiency in that office to make Environmental Justice a national priority, the OCR continues to fail in its intake and investigation guidelines in regard to Title VI complaints. To date, the EPA has ignored Rosemere’s various requests to meet with you and to voice our concerns and share our experiences in order to offer suggestions to improve OCR’s operations. And to date, only one case has ever attained a ruling of discrimination in support of Title VI claims [Angelita C. v. California Department of Pesticide Regulations] and it took more than ten years to achieve that result. Most cases are dismissed outright, claiming jurisdictional issues or other bureaucratic problems. Many groups across the country wonder why the OCR functions under such a dismal record, and this points succinctly to how OCR is disconnected from the disparate impacts that can be suffered by Environmental Justice populations nationwide.

    Environmental Justice Enforcement is a very important tool that should be used to address discrimination that can cause adverse health impacts and environmental harm to neighborhoods where low income and minorities live and work. Whereas we appreciate the Title VI Supplement’s attempt to begin to fine tune the various agency failures, we feel that the timelines are vague and deficient and that they need to be more detailed to ensure future compliance success. We offer the general comment that EPA’s enforcement model under the supplement attempts only gentle compliance — collaboration, and conciliation rather than the promise of clearly defined relief. For example, in the Angelita case, the state of California did not experience the withholding of federal funds as required under Title VI guidelines when a real first-time case discrimination was established. We acknowledge that the state of California is currently experiencing a serious budgetary crisis, and that a freeze of federal funds as mandated under Title VI could be very serious, but without consistent penalties for discriminatory behavior there can be no success in altering the on-the-ground conditions that contributed the disparate impacts.

    ***

    It is reasonable for the community to request EPA to be more open, to collaborate with the complainants as well as the agencies that are the target of complaints. Please don’t let this process degrade further into a debate limited to state’s rights of self government v. federal regulation. That argument is easily used to dismiss valid claims of discrimination and only points out how civil rights violations continue unabated in our nation.

    To view the letter in its entirety (pdf format):  Rosemere Neighborhood Association Comments on EPA Draft Title VI Supplement

  • PRESS RELEASE: New EPA Study shows contamination at Camp Bonneville has migrated

    ************ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***************

    NEW EPA STUDY SHOWS CONTAMINATION
    AT CAMP BONNEVILLE HAS MIGRATED

    Contact: Dvija Michael Bertish, Rosemere Neighborhood Association
    360-281-4747

    Original Release: May 31, 2012
    Update: June 8, 2012

    EPA Region X (Seattle Office) has published a May 2012 Technical Data Report entitled “Camp Bonneville Expanded Site Inspection, Vancouver WA” (Technical Document Number 11-02-0010), prepared by Ecology and Environment, Inc, Seattle WA.

    This report is phase II of a study EPA is conducting on-site to determine the level and pathways of contamination at the site. This study was performed subsequent to a February 2009 petition by the Rosemere Neighborhood Association and Columbia Riverkeeper requesting the site be analyzed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to determine possible Superfund status and placement of the site on the National Priorities List. The petition was filed following a litany of cleanup management problems led by the Washington State Department of Ecology, Clark County, and former cleanup Contractor Mike Gage.

    From May 2012 EPA Site Inspection Report:

    Perchlorate contamination associated with on-site sources is migrating and has
    reached North Fork Lacamas Creek and Lacamas Creek within the site boundaries….
    Based on sample results, contamination is present at on-site sources at significant concentrations.

    The Camp Bonneville Site Inspection scored above 28.5 points in an internal EPA scoring process, the threshold required to meet Superfund requirements. Next steps include regional EPA management meetings with local and state officials to determine plans on how to address the newly identified contaminant issues, and to discuss the potential of Superfund Status.

    High levels of perchlorate (used in mortars that were fired at the site) are suspected by some scientists to be a carcinogen, and are known to cause other serious health impacts. Pregnant women and children are at higher risks for adverse health impacts from perchlorate. Exposure is known to occur from drinking water contaminated with perchlorate. Significant levels of lead, mercury, HMX/RDX explosives, volatile/semi-volatile organics, and heavy metals are also present at significant concentrations at Camp Bonneville and can become mobile with stormwater activity.

    According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry “Toxic Substances Portal” http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov:

    • Living near a waste site or a rocket manufacturing or testing facility that contains high levels of perchlorate in the soil or groundwater may expose you to higher levels.
    • Perchlorates will eventually end up in ground water.
    • High levels of perchlorates can affect the thyroid gland, which in turn can alter the function of many organs in the body. The fetus and young children can be especially susceptible. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that lead and lead compounds are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens and the EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic lead is probably carcinogenic to humans.
    • Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.
    • The EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methylmercury are possible human carcinogens.
    • Studies in children have suggested that extremely high levels of manganese exposure may produce undesirable effects on brain development, including changes in behavior and decreases in the ability to learn and remember.

    Items specified in the May 2012 EPA Site Inspection Report:

    1) Perchlorate concentration trends in ground water samples have been variable despite Interim Removal Actions that have occurred. Perchlorate is a suspected carcinogen used in rocket fuel, such as in mortars fired at the site. Perchlorate levels remain in excess of state cleanup standards at various monitoring locations. HMX and RDX, additional toxic explosives are also found in the ground water at levels that exceed state standards.

    2) Ground water also shows elevated concentrations of 12 metals: barium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, mercury, nickel, strontium, titanium, vanadium, zinc. Semivolatile organic compounds were also detected.

    3) Surface water runoff (stormwater) from the site to water bodies is a migration pathway, and this pathway extends downstream for 15 miles. Local fishing could be impacted.

    4) Elevated levels of perchlorate, strontium and Volatile/Semivolatile Organics have been found in sediment samples along the North Fork of Lacamas Creek.

    5) Surface water samples show elevated levels of manganese and perchlorate in Lacamas Creek.

    6) Soil samples indicate elevated levels of RDX, perchlorate, lead, Volatile/Semivolatile Organic Compounds, Nickel, and other toxics at various site Target Areas, Target Impact Areas, Artillery Positions, Firing Ranges, and Demolition/Landfill areas.

    7) A Total of 64 Target/Receptor samples were collected, including 20 ground water samples, 10 surface water samples, 33 sediment samples and one surface soil sample. The sample results show that the contamination at significant concentrations from on-site sources is migrating and has reached these targets/receptors. Targets and receptors of sample locations include wetlands.

    9) Perchlorate contamination associated with on-site sources is migrating and has reached North Fork Lacamas Creek and Lacamas Creek within the site boundaries. Perchlorate was detected at elevated concentrations in surface water from the creeks.

    10) Analytical results show that contamination continues to impact ground water.

    11) Approximately 9,627 people use ground water for drinking water purposes within the 4 mile Target Distance Limit used in this study, including the presence of 3,269 domestic wells. The nearest well is within 1/4 mile of the site.

    To view or download this Press Release please click here: RNA PRESS RELEASE: EPA Camp Bonneville Expanded Site Inspection Report May 2012

    To view complete EPA Camp Bonneville Expanded Site Inspection Report: http://www.epa.gov/region10/pdf/sites/camp_bonneville/Camp_Bonneville_Expanded_Site_Inspection_Report.pdf

    For EPA Camp Bonneville Site Summary information: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/cleanup.nsf/sites/CB

    To see Portland TV station KGW Channel 8′s story on Camp Bonneville, “Toxins found in Lacamas Creek”, go to our video page here  http://www.rosemerena.org/home/videos/

    ***********************

    Activists Resist DOD Bid To Block EPA Policy Changes During Cleanups

    In a related story, this article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on April 20, 2012. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2012. No further distribution is permitted.

    Click here to view article (pdf format): Activists Resist DOD Bid To Block EPA Policy Changes During Cleanups 4-2012

  • EPA Plan Expected To Limit New Title VI Petitions (reprinted with permission from Inside Washington Publishers)

    This article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on April 19, 2012. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2012. No further distribution is permitted.

    Click here to view article (pdf format): EPA Plan Expected to Limit New Title VI Petitions

  • Community Representatives Sign Letter to EPA & DOD Urging Inclusive Military Cleanup Discussions

    Representatives from community and environmental groups from across the United States and Puerto Rico have signed a letter to Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and Mathy Stanislaus, Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator, urging more comprehensive transparent and inclusive discussions on military cleanup regulatory requirements.

    We are representatives of communities that host active, closing, and former military facilities. We ask that we, as well as state and tribal regulatory agencies, be brought into this important conversation.
    We are sympathetic to the desire to have a consistent set of regulatory requirements from U.S. EPA or other regulatory agencies. However, twenty-six years after the establishment of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, we expect some natural evolution in cleanup regulation as new problems are discovered and the scientific knowledge of the impacts of pollutants changes.

    We support Congressman Sam Farr’s suggestion that a forum be created in which regulators, the military components, and affected communities seek common ground to achieve faster, more efficient, and more protective cleanups.

    The letter dated April 14, 2012, was signed by Rosemere Neighborhood Association along with representatives of environmental and community groups, including Earth Island Institute, Arc Ecology, United Tribe of Shawnee Indians, and representatives of the Restoration Advisory Boards of former Defense sites in a dozen states.

    To view the letter please click here: Communities Letter on Military Cleanup

  • Judge Leighton Denies Clark County Motion For Bond

    US District Court Tacoma

    U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton has denied Clark County’s request that Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper and Northwest Environmental Defense Center (Rosemere et al) post a monetary bond in their ongoing stormwater case.

    In January 2011, the Washington State Pollution Control Board ruled that Clark County’s “alternative” plan for monitoring stormwater was illegal  (see full story here).  Clark County subsequently filed an appeal of the Pollution Board’s ruling, but in December 2011, Judge Leighton ruled that pending their appeal, Clark County must comply with Washington State’s stormwater guidelines (story here).

    In January, Clark County also filed a motion asking the court to require Rosemere et al to post a $2.9 million bond (later reduced to $1.1 million) in the event the county wins in state court the plaintiffs could pay damages.

    Yesterday, Judge Leighton ruled against defendant Clark County’s motion saying,

    Here, Plaintiff has little or no means to post a substantial bond. The litigation seeks to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act, and as such, is in the public interest. Further, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, given the indications of the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

    See full order here: ORDER DENYING MOTION TO ESTABLISH BOND

  • EPA Takes Steps To Resolve Civil Rights Concerns But Hurdles Remain (reprinted with permission from Inside Washington Publishers)

    This article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on January 27, 2012. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2012. No further distribution is permitted.

    Click here to view article (pdf format): EPA Takes Steps To Resolve Civil Rights Concerns IEPA 01-12.pdf

    View the DRAFT Report from EPA Civil Rights Executive Committee here: Recommendations for Developing a Model Civil Rights Program at The Environmental Protection Agency

  • PEAC Comments on Final Environmental Impact Statement for I-5 Columbia River Crossing Project

    I-5 Interstate Bridge Over Columbia River

    Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (“PEAC”), the Environmental Legal Clinic of Lewis & Clark Law School, has submitted comments on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups on the Columbia River Crossing Project (“CRC”) Final Environmental Impact Statement.

    PEAC clients include Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Coalition for a Livable Future, the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Portland Audubon Society, Oregon Public Health Institute, Upstream Public Health, and Association of Oregon Rail and Trail Advocates. PEAC also states that although it specifically represents these groups, it is “in fact representing the concerns and views of a broad and diverse coalition of groups.”

    To date, CRC has established a pattern of ignoring input from these environmental and stakeholder groups concerned about the proposed bridge design impacts to our sole source aquifer, surface and groundwater resources, salmon, air quality, general public health concerns and other environmental impacts.

    In this document PEAC details all these concerns and the various technical reports behind them, finding,

    Overall it is remarkable how much incomplete and missing analysis is found when the public reviews this FEIS, which has already cost Oregon and Washington taxpayers more than $130 million. This would be Oregon’s largest public works project, and its taxpayers and the taxpayers of Washington are entitled to a much more thorough and complete analysis, a true comparison of all reasonable alternatives that “sharply defines the issues and provide[s] a clear basis of choice among options” (40 C.F.R. § 1502.14), and a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on all of those things in a supplemental DEIS.

    While the coalition is not “anti-bridge”, it does charge CRC with the responsibility to not harm our environment, destroy our resources or our community and to be fiscally responsible.

    PEAC concludes with,

    For all the reasons set forth above, PEAC respectfully requests, on behalf of its clients listed below, that the responsible federal agencies and the CRC Task Force withdraw the CRC FEIS and issue a corrected Supplemental DEIS for public comment.

    You can read the entire PEAC document “Comments on September 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement for I-5 Columbia Crossing Project” here: PEAC_Comments_on_CRC_FEIS
    (pdf format – please note this is a fairly large document a may take a moment to open)

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