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Toxic law? Chemical pollution and the EPA

Some of the Republican contenders for president have taken on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  as a favored target,  claiming its regulations are hurting businesses and the economy.

Earlier this month, while campaigning to a Tea Party group in Florida, Governor Perry spoke passionately against the agency. “You’re doing nothing more than killing jobs. It’s a cemetery for jobs at the EPA,” he said.

But is it possible that the EPA, an agency created by President Nixon 40 years ago to protect the environment and our health, isn’t doing enough, particularly when it comes to protecting us from toxic chemicals?

Need to Know’s Dr. Emily Senay wanted to learn more. She traveled to the industrial village of Endicott in upstate New York, where a dangerous chemical has contaminated the groundwater for decades. Just this week, the EPA declared it a human cancer-causing agent.  But some say the science pointing to its risks has been clear for years, and the reason the chemical remains in widespread production and use is that the EPA  has been hamstrung by a decades-old law that is too weak.

Our story is part of Need to Know’s Watch List series, dedicated to reporting on the regulators and agencies charged with keeping us safe.

Poll: The role of the EPA
Is the EPA regulating too much?

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

  • Differing views on fracking's impact
    Studies conducted on the counties above the Marcellus and Barnett Shale for example — where extensive drilling has already taken place — present mixed economic results.
  • thumb
    Too much solar energy?
    The proliferation of privately owned solar has large power companies in Germany worried.
  • thumb
    Nominee has industry ties
    Energy secretary nominee had deep connections to industry, including as a paid adviser to BP until 2011.


  • Kosmicky

    ow Chemical killed 100 thousand in Bhopal India , did market forces close Dow? Hell no!

    Did GM and Ford not release cars with fatal flaws under the reasoning it
    would be less expensive to pay off and deny the claims then actually
    fix the problem. So for the people killed market forces didn’t help .Do I
    need to go Thalidomide , DDT, Asbestos, Ozone destroying Fluorocarbons
    and it goes double for genetic re-enginerring one major mistake there we
    could have generations of deformations or mandatory sterilization. the
    Koch Brothers are behind these less regulation cries.Let them go
    swimming in the New River outside San Diego they will likely die or get
    very sick with the very lack of regulation they are selling because
    Mexico and China have adopted their cavalier attitude and people are
    dying because of close contact with these known released toxins.

  • syl heerens

    the program was not informative enough.
    for example why was mr kibbe not asked to explain which regulations he considers to restrictive  and have him discuss it with a represeative of the epa.

  • Michael Ray Bragg

    I watched this program tonight on the EPA subject and don’t think that the EPA is over regulating.  I think that they are stuck in a time warp and and don’t require systematically applying integrated change management and quality assurance principles before approving the release, application and general use of chemicals or substances into the environment.  I’m a software configuration manager but think abstract and see how the applications of configuration or change management basic configuration principles could be a tremendous help in managing and restructure of this organization.  It is imperative and of the utmost importance to change or rethink how TASCO functions to at least cut down on the human toll.   I can help.

    Michael Ray Bragg
    Manor, TX

    “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has bought progress”  Charles Kettering 

  • wreddyornot

    No agency is effective no matter what its body of law or regulation is if it isn’t adequately funded. I don’t know about the EPA but I know, for example, that the IRS was always underfunded to adequately enforce its laws and regulations. Hence, those with power and resources can get what they want or out of what they owe at the expense of all other taxpayers and consumers.

  • Wade Schmidt

    It’s not more or less regulation – it’s better necessary regulation. We have so much regulation that I don’t think the existing regulations are reviewed and see if there is overlap etc. The impact of regulation needs contemplation too. Are we trying to regulate an out liar. So – we need smart effective regulation. I think all departments regulations should be reviewed to see if they are still applicable in the 2000′s and check and see if they overlap any regulations already covered by a different department. Sharing data already collected by another department should be utilized too instead of making business do duplicate work evenseeing if a department can be satisfied by data already collected even if it’s not exact, but close enough. Be mire accommodating towards business treating them more like a valued customer. In other words – start working with them and be less adversarial.
    Wade Schmidt
    Nashville, TN

  • Reincarnate me not

    yea! hell yea! if we deregulate then those free market capitalists with there well manicured, weed killer and dog poop filled lawns; will be able to cut the grass, put it in tea bags and sell it you as organic green tea!. while your gulping it down they’ll be walking around touting the “AMERICAN DREAM” is still alive. these people are only taking advantage of the uneducated,  vulnerable and foolish. The EPA needs to be bigger and better financed than homeland security. more people will die this year and every year from disease created by are own making than by any terrorist attack. anything man made should be avoided if it’s not crafted from things “unadulterated” , from what the earth gives us. Take this advice or you’ll have to go see a Macdoctor who with his partner the Macpharmacutical Co. will rape and pillage our social healthcare system till it’s unsustainable and then sell you something that rapes YOUR personal resources and, does less. I guess they’re right! hell yea lets have LESS regulation!. from a overworld view, this world is sick! and so are we; therefore so are all our social, economic and political mechanisms. All good things expose within themselves the seeds of there own destruction. That must be where we are at. all things dark and destructive have within themselves the seeds of new life. thank God the golden age is around the corner.

  • Phillip Erquiaga (EaglesVoice)

    This program brings up several issues.  My point of view is that of a person that lives in the middle of the Libby Superfund Site and deals with EPA daily.  More than 300 people (in a town of 3000) have died in Libby from exposure to Libby Amphibole (LA).
    Libby is the home of a vermiculite mine once owned and operated by W. R. Grace.  The vermiculite is a form that contains a tremolite form of asbestos known as Libby Amphibole (LA).  This material has been used in over 40 million homes as insulation, has been used as a compound in Gypsum board (Sheet Rock), has been used as a component in potting soil and the list goes on extensively.
    Chrysotile asbestos is the most common type and is considered a cancer causing agent. LA has been deemed by many scientists as more dangerous than Chrysotile by a magnitude of 1 to 4. 
    The EPA ignores the science, and makes qualitative health risk judgments, as opposed to doing the proper science and performing a quantitative analysis. They engage in containment in Libby using action plans that change yearly.  They leave homes with vermiculite removed from attics but still in walls and under carpets.  They remove soil in yards to 12” in some places but refuse to remove visible vermiculite in other places.

    The administrative costs of this superfund site are an outrageous 40%.  10 years of EPA in Libby has left a mess that can now never be cleaned because folks will never allow them back on their property.  EPA is a failure in communication and transparency. (Plesee see the link in my next post).

    The bottom line is that EPA is too big to have care about public health. They are too arrogant to admit they could be wrong.  We don’t need more EPA.  We need an agency that scientifically tests compounds before their release and begins studies of all chemicals in use, then has the authority to regulate them as needed to protect public health.  EPA is not the agency as evidenced by their work to date around the country.

    NOTE: Has anyone told you that you could (probably) are exposing your children to LA by living in your home?

  • Phillip Erquiaga (EaglesVoice)

    Please put yourselves in a position of a person that lives in a place contaminated with a substance that is harmful to you, your neighbors, friends, but moat importantly your children.

    Then read the EPA document that linked here: 

    This should convince you that EPA is only interested in manipulating folks, not Protecting Human Health!

  • Phillip Erquiaga (EaglesVoice)

    The IRS UNDERFUNDED???  117,000 employees (Not including the temporary seasonal workers)

    With proper tax reform we could eliminate 100,000 of those federal IRS employees and save the tax payers from them milking our money!

  • Santafe66

    When I worked on the north slope of Alaska I saw EPA “Scientists” capturing little tiny fish in order to invalidate exploration and production of oil. I asked one of their “biologists” what he hoped to find and he said “I hope to stop you people from destroying the pristine arctic”. What a crock! They have been unable to make a case, obviously, or we would have heard of the poor little fish destroyed by the “evil” oil companies. We have also not heard about the destruction of arctic caribou herds which the EPA also claimed would happen…… didn’t.

    Time after time the EPA has obstructed business, costing the public millions by their stupid lawsuits.

  • Eric Hanick

    Our family has first hand experience with the EPA and its lack of enforcement, and its duties to protect the public from environmental issues. In fact the EPA has gone so far as to deliberately falsify, and fabricate documents to mislead the public. We have carefully reviewed public records to make sure what we found, was in fact, manufactured documents orchestrated by Region 1 EPA Officials in Boston. What we found was not only outrageous, but the lack of accountability in the actions of these officials is astounding!

    In 2008 we filed a complaint with OIG of the EPA Criminal Investigation Unit. With the mounds of evidence we have in our possession of this serious crime, to date no valid investigation has been completed. Due to this there is still more than 1000 people living on this toxic waste site that do not know the dangers, and maybe more than 30,000 potentially impacted. On the site there is also a day school and a state park. It is a high use, high impact area that is also surrounded by rivers and sensitive waterways.

    The area is a former site of a 100 year phosphate fertilizer plant, and is located in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, also known as Weymouth Neck. The byproducts and contamination associated by such a mammoth plant, touted as one of “The Largest Fertilizer Plant” in the world, are too large to list. Some of more notable are, chromium, arsenic, lead, radium, barium, copper, mercury, aroclors, pahs, asbestos, and at least 30 other dangerous toxins. Most notable is the radiation contamination, radium, radon, and the byproducts of those.

    To date this serious issues continues to be a focus by my family, and many others that want the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, EPA, and ConocoPhillips to do the correct thing and conduct proper testing. So far they refuse to partly aided by the falsification, and fabrication of documents by EPA.

    See more here which will give you links and information to articles in the Boston Globe, Patriot Ledger

    Eric Hanick

  • KT Pilgrim

    Question: If everyone in an environmentally polluted area is sick from environmental pollution, how are they going to work at those jobs there anyway?

  • Anonymous

    What did you do on the north slope, exactly? What was your job title?

  • John Ross

    If every community and every corporation were legally required to safely recycle 100% of all their human-generated waste products, all the garbage, sludge, junk, chemical waste, smoke and fumes, everyone would have a job and everyone would be in reasonably good health.