Log in Subscribe

EPA -- A Target For Florida Republicans

BRADENTON -- Almost 40,000 residents in Lakeland Florida, living on 10 square miles of former phosphate-mined land, are at the center of a dispute between a group of five Republican congressmen and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The issue revolves around a controversy between the group of Representatives from Florida and the EPA over what is a safe level of radiation for humans. The argument goes back decades to a contaminated site in Polk County where dozens of phosphate mines, operated by Agrico Chemical, Mobil Chemical and Borden Chemical, failed to remediate the land sufficiently, qualifying it to be placed on the "Superfund" database.

The issue first gathered attention in 1970s when EPA found unsafe levels of radiation inside some of the homes built on the sites. In 1979  the EPA recommended stopping the building of homes and in 1994, revisited old inspections and found people in the area were being exposed to as much as 500 millirems (mrem) per year of radiation. The acceptable level set by the EPA is 15 mrem/year.

In 2010, Inside EPA (an online news service) published an award-winning series investigated and written by Doug Guarino, chronicling the complete story. Guarino revealed estimated cleanup cost to be be as high as $11 billion, or nine times EPA's  Superfund annual budget. He reported efforts to reinstate the Superfund tax on all industries, requiring an increase in financial assurances to clean up contamination. This could be compromised if the Superfund budget is faced with such excessive cost.

Last February, Representatives Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Richard Nugent and Thomas Rooney, took exception to a report that EPA was conducting aerial surveys over the contaminated area. According to a letter Inside EPA recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Lisa Jackson, the EPA  Administrator, received a letter from the previously mentioned legislators complaining about her agency's unwanted and unnecessary flyovers above the area in question. Inside EPA believes the survey is considered to be the key component in a possible cleanup process.

In the letter to Jackson, the 5 lawmakers characterized EPA's cleanup efforts as "arbitrary," citing that the Florida Department of Health found no health risk at 500 merls/year of radiation. Representatives stated they found that amount an acceptable level. The February letter claimed that the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) accepts the 500 mrem limit, but  the letter omitted the fact that ATSDR's report stated that amount would only be acceptable under rare and interrupted conditions. The ATSDR's recommended limit for continuous exposure is 100 mrem/year such as one living with these levels might experience, ATSRD studies also view EPA flyovers as necessary.

Inside EPA reported this month (7/12/2011) that:

The EPA standard, which the agency has used as a basis for radiological cleanups near residential areas through the country, has long been a source of contention between EPA, Florida and phosphate mining industry officials. The disagreement is one of the main reasons why the agency has yet to act on its concerns about human exposure in the area.

With such a large population living in and around higher risk levels of radiation that carry health risk, might it not be prudent to encourage further studies into the effects on those forced to live there? Why not enforce a limit if there is one? Did the representatives not take an oath to protect the people and property to which they represent? Or is the agenda to eliminate the EPA and lose all precautionary measures in the process?


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.