I’d posted before about the hearing in Millsboro on the water permit for NRG’s Indian River Generation Station, “NRG in hiding at DNREC meeting,” one more example of DNREC snoozing on the job, or working for someone else other than the public…

At the hearing, I’d asked about specific reports, the Discharge Monitoring Reports and Violation Reports. Well, I got them, and apparently it’s just Discharge Monitoring Reports, the Violation Reports are incorporated within. Hmmm… OK, anyway, here they are:

Indian River Power Plant Waste Water Discharge Data

Indian River Power Plant Waste Water Discharge Data – SORTED

Transcript of Feb 21 Indian River Power Plant Hearing

There it is… see for yourself!

Comments are due by March 28 (30 days from the date of the hearing), but it wouldn’t hurt to send in a request for extension. Send Comments to the hearing examiner, Robert Haynes at:

Robert.Haynes [at] state.de.us

SEND COMMENTS IN BY MARCH 28TH, and send Alan a copy too, at greendel [at] dca.net


There’s another case of the neuro-illness in workers who are using compressed air to blow the brains out of pig skulls at meat packing plants.  Most are in Minnesota thus far, a couple in Indiana, and now, there’s one in Nebraska:

Nebraska meatworker gets sick


Last update: March 6, 2008 – 9:01 PM

THE LATEST: A former meatpacker in Nebraska has the same neurological condition that has struck workers at pork processing plants in Minnesota and Indiana, and that sparked a nationwide disease investigation in November.

The Nebraska case is the first in that state. Like the other workers, the Nebraska meatpacker, who has not been identified, worked at a processing plant that uses a high pressure air system to remove brains from pigs, Nebraska health officials said.

HOW MANY AFFECTED: The newest case brings the total number of workers known to be affected to 14. Officials say that as the investigation continues to look into past workers at all three plants, they expect to find more cases.

SYMPTOMS: Those affected have reported fatigue, numbness and tingling in their arms and legs with a wide range of severity. Some have recovered and returned to work, while others are severely disabled. Officials are calling the condition progressive inflammatory neuropathy, or PIN.

WHERE: Most of those affected worked at Quality Pork Processors in Austin, Minn., where the condition was first recognized, and two have been identified in Indiana.

Nebraska officials declined to say which plant employed the meatpacker, but the only plant in the state that uses the high compression system is owned by Hormel Foods, based in Austin.

INQUIRY CONTINUES: State and federal health officials are looking into whether pig brain tissue, liquefied during removal by the air-compression system and sprayed into the air as droplets, somehow caused nerve damage in workers who were exposed to it. The brains are frozen in boxes and shipped to the southern United States and Asia, where they are sold as food.

All three plants stopped using the air compression system when the investigation began.

Investigators theorize that a protein or other substance from the animal brains triggered the workers’ immune systems into mistakenly attacking their own nerve tissue.

Josephine Marcotty 612-673-7394

3M + PFOA = worker deaths

March 6th, 2008

The 3M Museum in Two Harbors, Minnesota

Remember not long ago the report that the Minnesota Health Department, when confronted with PFOA contamination of municipal wells by 3M, decided to take “further steps to protect the health of residents” and to do this they RAISE ACCEPTABLE LIMITS OF PFOA rather than come down hard on the polluters? WRONG ANSWER, FOLKS.

Cottage Grove wary of water assurances 

Here’s the MN Dept. of Health press release:

Minnesota Department of Health
News Release

March 1, 2007

Health officials issue new health guidelines for PFOA, PFOS; reiterate protective advice on PFBA

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced today that it is taking further steps to protect the health of residents in south Washington County from long-term exposure to perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in groundwater.

Based on the latest scientific information, MDH has lowered its Health Based Values (HBVs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), two members of PFC group of chemicals that have been found at low levels in groundwater in southern Washington County. The new HBVs are 0.5 parts per billion (ppb) for PFOA and 0.3 ppb for PFOS. The guidelines previously used were 1 ppb and 0.6 ppb respectively.

“We have been reviewing the available data over the last few months and concluded that there is sufficient scientific basis at this time to justify revising the health based values for PFOA and PFOS,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach.

While research to date has shown no direct evidence that PFCs cause health problems in humans, studies in laboratory animals indicate that at higher doses, PFCs may interfere with liver and thyroid function and may cause developmental effects.

“The new values are protective, scientifically sound and well-researched,” said John Linc Stine, director of the Environmental Health Division for MDH. The new value for PFOA, 0.5 ppb, is the same as a number implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an enforcement action in West Virginia that became effective Nov. 17, 2006.

A Health Based Value is the concentration of a groundwater contaminant, or a mixture of contaminants, that poses little or no risk to health, even if consumed daily over a lifetime. The updated HBVs for PFOA and PFOS take into consideration the potential for health impacts during fetal and other developmental life stages. A clearer understanding of how long these chemicals stay in the human body is also reflecteded in the revised HBVs.

MDH is working with Oakdale and Lake Elmo to address public and private wells that may be affected by the lowering of the HBVs for PFOA and PFOS. Most residents in the Lake Elmo and Oakdale area will not be affected by the change because they are connected to municipal water systems that don’t contain PFCs or treat the groundwater before distribution.

The lowering of the Health Based Values for PFOA and PFOS does not affect those portions of southern Washington County and northern Dakota County where only perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), another PFC compound, has been found in groundwater.

Those areas fall under the department’s drinking water advice on PFBA, which the department reiterated today.

“We recommend that anyone who has concerns about the potential health impacts from PFBA in their water should limit or reduce their intake of water that has a concentration of more than 1 ppb,” Stine said.

Intake of contaminated drinking water can be reduced by drinking bottled water or by filtering tap water used for drinking or cooking through a point-of-use (POU) activated carbon filter, which removes or greatly reduces PFBA. Water used for bathing, showering or other non-ingestive household uses does not pose a health risk, based on current data.

“We’ve had an initial round of community meetings where more than 800 people heard our advice and heard us talk about things they can do to limit their exposure if they choose,” Stine said. “But we know that there are far more than 800 people in the communities and areas affected by the contamination, so we want to take every opportunity we can to re-emphasize our advice. We also want to share as broadly as possible what we know about point-of-use filters, small, inexpensive filters that can be used to filter tap water.”

Point-of-use (POU) filters can be an effective way to reduce exposure, MDH staff found. They recently tested a number of POU filters commonly available in stores. The testing found that a simple pitcher filter that contains activated carbon was partially effective at removing PFBA from the water, but allows more PFBA to pass through as additional water is filtered. A faucet-mounted filter containing activated carbon worked better, showing full removal of PFBA through about half of its manufacturer’s predicted filter lifetime, and good removal at up to 70-80 percent of its lifetime. Faucet-mounted filtering devices commonly range in price from $15 to $25 and replacement filters cost approximately $15 to $20. Additional information on POU filters with activated carbon is available from the MDH Web site or by calling 651-201-4897.

Stine said MDH staff have determined that sufficient toxicity data does not exist to calculate a chemical-specific HBV for PFBA. However, the advice is based on a comparison of the existing PFBA data to what is known about other PFCs.

“The data that are available for PFBA indicate that this chemical is less toxic than PFOA, a similar chemical,” Stine said. “We believe that 1 ppb is a protective number for PFBA, based on the most recent science, and is protective even of those who may have higher relative water consumption rates, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers and small children.”

Mandernach added, “As more data become available, we will examine it, with the intent of developing a Health Based Value for PFBA. We will continue to work with the EPA, private sector and academia, to accelerate that research and continue to consult with experts on this group of chemicals.”


For more information, contact:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications
(651) 201-4993

John Linc Stine
MDH Environmental Health
(651) 201-4675

Rep. Sandy Wollschlager is in the 3M Environmental department — I expect her to represent her constituency and utilize her connections, to take a leadership role in this and broker a resolution of strong company and MDH and MPCA action, remediation, prevention, company liability to those with contaminated water and harm, and massive fines to 3M.

Today, there’s this in the STrib:

Study: Death rate up for 3M workers exposed to PFOA

By TOM MEERSMAN, Star Tribune

March 5, 2008

Workers who were exposed to a chemical called PFOA at 3M’s factory in Cottage Grove died of stroke and prostate cancer at higher rates than other workers at the plant, according to a new industry-funded study.

The study of nearly 4,000 people who worked at the plant from 1943 to 1997 found elevated stroke and prostate cancer death rates among those exposed to the chemical, which was used until 2000 for nonstick coatings and other products.

Workers with the highest exposures were twice as likely to die of prostate cancer and stroke than colleagues with little or no exposure to the chemical, the study found.

The death rates from those diseases among all workers at that plant were similar to those of the general population, leading 3M officials to call the difference a statistical anomaly.

“Nothing in this study changes our conclusion that there are no adverse health effects from PFOA,” 3M spokesman Bill Nelson said Wednesday.

3M manufactured PFOA from 1947 to 2000 at its Cottage Grove plant and phased out production by 2002. It was used for nonstick cookware, stain-repellent coatings and dozens of other products.

Starting in the 1970s, scientists became concerned about the tendency of PFOA — perfluorooctanoic acid — and other perfluorochemicals to accumulate in people’s blood. 3M started monitoring the health of its employees who worked with the chemical, and in 1980 undertook the first occupational mortality study of its workers.

Although PFOA has been shown to cause liver, pancreatic and testicular cancer in laboratory animals, 3M has maintained that studies of its workers show no health problems.

Dated August 2007

The latest study was financed by 3M and conducted by Bruce Alexander, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist. Although dated August 2007, the study wasn’t placed in a public file with the Environmental Protection Agency until last month.

Alexander did not respond to several requests for comment, and Nelson said Alexander would not talk about the study publicly because it has not been peer-reviewed by scientists and published in a scientific journal.

The study of Cottage Grove workers included nearly 4,000 people who worked at the plant for at least a year any time from 1943 until the end of 1997. About 12 percent of them had definite exposure to the chemical, which can be absorbed through “inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact,” the study said. The rest were evenly divided between those who probably had some exposure to it, and those who had no exposure.

Researchers studied death certificates for workers through Dec. 31, 2002.

“A high or moderate exposure work history, compared to only working in low exposure jobs, was associated with an increased risk for [stroke] and prostate cancer,” it concluded.

Nelson said that differences between the employee groups led to “skewed ratios,” and that the important thing is that overall results for employees show no higher cancer risks than for the state’s population.

However, the researchers also noted that mortality studies “miss the cases that do not result in death,” or that for some reason “may not be listed as contributing causes of death on a death certificate.”

They mentioned that the association between prostate cancer and exposure to PFOA was similar to research conducted by others in 1993. That study found that those who worked for 10 years in the chemical division at the Cottage Grove plant had three times more prostate cancer deaths than those who worked for a decade in nonchemical areas there.

Nelson said that the 1993 research was a “flawed study” because it incorrectly characterized some of the exposed workers, and that the research was disproved by a 2002 study. He agreed with the latest study’s findings that more analysis is needed, now that the mortality study is done.

“Instead of death rates, we plan to look at the incidence of prostate cancer,” Nelson said. “That would be the next step.”

Informing the public

John Linc Stine, environmental health division director for the Minnesota Department of Health, said state officials received the latest 3M study of its Cottage Grove workers Wednesday and have not had time to review it.

Stine said it’s important that 3M has done the work, and that the public will want to know what it means. PFOA is more than merely a concern for 3M workers: Community wells in Oakdale and private wells in Lake Elmo were contaminated with the chemical, likely from wastes that 3M sent to dumps in those areas decades ago. The company has paid for Oakdale to install a huge water filtration system to remove all perfluorochemicals, and for more than 200 private wells in Lake Elmo to be hooked up to untainted city water.

“It’s likely that people exposed to this chemical in drinking water will want to know if they are at elevated levels for heart disease or stroke or cancer,” Stine said. “I can’t answer those questions now but we will look at the study and try to put it in context for the communities.”

Information about the research comes just a week after state health officials relaxed a limit for a different perfluorochemical, PFBA, that has been detected in groundwater beneath much of the east metro area. Water supplies in those communities are no longer considered to be contaminated except for a few private households, which continue to use bottled water or filtering systems.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388


Coal is a risky business… So now it’s not just Wall Street saying that coal plants are not a good investment, it’s not just the DOE’s IGCC program saying that IGCC is too risky for private development, now the federal Rural Utilities Service is saying that funding for coal plants will be STOPPED. Yes, that’s right, STOPPED! They’ve suspended RUS coal plant loans, “saying the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs make the loans too risky.”

The program’s suspension marks a dramatic reversal of a once-reliable source of new coal plant financing. It follows the announcement last month that several major banks will require plant developers to factor in climate change when seeking private funding.

“This is a big decision. It says new coal plants can’t go to the federal government for money at least for the next couple years, and these are critical times for companies to get these plants built,” said Abigail Dillen with the environmental law group Earthjustice. The group filed a federal lawsuit last year seeking to block the loan program.

This is big news for those of us who want to see Big Stone II added to the list of 59-61 or so plants going down… Big Stone had RUS finding. If RUS funding is over, is Big Stone going the way of the brontosaurus?  Which of the entities in Big Stone II were in line for RUS funding, and for what?  Power plant funding or transmission funding or ???  The RUS Notice says MRES, and it’s not clear how it’s set up:

RUS Notice of EIS for Big Stone II

Can we expect the end of Big Stone II??? I sure hope so, but… Let’s keep an eye on the Big Stone II site, not that they’d be eager to issue a press release… SNORT!

Loans program for coal plants suspended



The federal government is suspending a major loan program for coal-fired power plants in rural communities, saying the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs make the loans too risky.

After issuing $1.3 billion in loans for new plant construction since 2001, none will be issued this year and likely none in 2009, James Newby, assistant administrator for the Rural Utilities Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday.

The program’s suspension marks a dramatic reversal of a once-reliable source of new coal plant financing. It follows the announcement last month that several major banks will require plant developers to factor in climate change when seeking private funding.

“This is a big decision. It says new coal plants can’t go to the federal government for money at least for the next couple years, and these are critical times for companies to get these plants built,” said Abigail Dillen with the environmental law group Earthjustice. The group filed a federal lawsuit last year seeking to block the loan program.

At the time of the suspension, at least four utilities had been lined up for loans totaling $1.3 billion — for projects in Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri. A project in Montana was denied funding last month. Two more were recently withdrawn: last October in Wyoming and earlier this week in Missouri.

Newby said material and labor costs for new coal plants have been rising 30 percent a year, even as utilities struggle to pinpoint future costs of controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The 2 billion tons of those gases produced annually by coal-fired plants in the United States exceed the emissions of any other source.

Newby said those uncertainties prompted the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to ask that new loans be put on hold until risks can be better quantified.

Rural utilities provide power to about 40 million customers across the nation. More than 60 percent of that electricity comes from coal.

Whether the plants that were awaiting federal loans can find alternative financing remains to be seen.

Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. announced this week it was “delaying indefinitely” its proposed plant in Norborne, Mo., after receiving word of the loan program suspension.

At least one developer, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative, is hoping to wait out the suspension of the loan program rather than seek more expensive loans on the open market, spokesman Nick Comer said.

Two more projects — Southern Montana Electric’s Highwood Generating Station and Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork plant in Wyoming — already are seeking private funding.

A representative of the East Texas Power Cooperative, which has proposed a plant in Plum Point, Ark., also said his utility would seek private financing if the loans are not resumed.

“We’ll have to look elsewhere for funding, which will increase the interest expense, which will increase the electric bill for the consumers at the end of the line,” said the cooperative’s Ryan Thomas.

Newby, with the Rural Utilities Service, said his agency is considering imposing upfront fees on coal plant developers as a way to mitigate taxpayer exposure through the loan program. Initial discussions have centered on a 0.2 percent fee — equivalent to $2 million on every $1 billion in loans.

Newby added he was confident the government would work through the concerns over risk and resume issuing loans possibly as soon as 2010.

Glenn English, chief executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said the program’s suspension was a sign of “nervousness” among lenders anxious over the potential ramifications of climate change legislation now before Congress.

Depending on what policies are adopted, retail electricity prices could increase sharply once the costs of reducing greenhouse gases are factored in, he said. Utilities that drop coal-fired power proposals will be forced to shop for more expensive electricity on the open market.

“What you’re seeing (with the Rural Utilities Service) is a general reflection of the attitude we find in the financial community, mainly this apprehension about what the future holds and what can be expected out of government,” English said.