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Gina Solomon’s Blog

More Monitoring Mischief: EPA and Lead Pollution

Gina Solomon

Posted October 21, 2008

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The other day I got a call from one of my colleagues, Joe Lyou, from Southern California. Joe runs a great group called the California Environmental Rights Alliance. CERA advocates for environmental justice in communities unlucky enough to have major pollution sources in their backyards. Such as lead smelters.

Joe told me about Exide Technologies, a nasty smelter that needs to clean up. According to the LA Times, this facility melts down about 40 truckloads of old car batteries each day, five days per week. People nearby were complaining about smoke and ash from the facility. Just a few months ago, an investigation by the local air district found high levels of lead, and the facility was required to cut back on production by 50% until it cleans up its act. Go get 'em Joe!

But due to last-minute White House meddling with the lead standard, the EPA would not require air monitoring downwind from the Exide smelter. You see, Exide only releases 0.6 tons of lead per year (that's 1200 pounds of this toxic metal) and that doesn't meet the threshold for monitoring under the new EPA rule.

Although I support the new EPA lead standard, I complained a lot last week when I saw how few air monitors the Agency is planning to deploy. Now documents have emerged that show that EPA was planning to require monitors downwind of all polluters that emit more than 1/2 ton of lead per year, but the White House insisted on a higher threshold of one ton per year. Doubling the threshold means that more than 200 polluters nationwide that should have lead monitors, won't. Could it be a coincidence that the organization that represents Exide and other lead smelters was meeting with White House officials right before the 11th hour change was announced?

Folks living in Cass County, IN; Charlevoix County, MI; Lawrence County, PA; Cuyahoga County, OH; Oswego County, NY; Harris County, TX; and Dakota County, MN; to name just a few, won't have the benefit of lead monitors downwind of the cement plants, refineries or smelters in their communities, thanks to this last-minute change in the monitoring threshold.

To find out if your community has a facility that should have an air monitor (but won't), check out our map of lead polluters.

Those of us who are sick of the White House meddling in EPA rules are calling on the Agency to reconsider their monitoring network. The monitors need to be downwind of all the major lead polluters. Children in these 200 communities deserve protection from lead poisoning.


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