Putting People First: Safeguarding Our Waters with Science and the Clean Water Act

Prompted by a lawsuit filed by Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), Earth Island Institute, the ALERT Project, Cook Inletkeeper, Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and others, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was compelled to update its outdated regulations governing the use of chemical products in oil spill responses. The court ordered EPA to revisit its decades-old National Contingency Plan (NCP) for oil spills to incorporate the new scientific evidence available about the toxicity and effectiveness of oil dispersants.  

On Wednesday, July 26 at noon AKST, CHE-Alaska will be joined by plaintiffs Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Pam Miller, and Riki Ott to discuss the newly announced revisions which include improved testing of toxicity of dispersants used on spills before being listed in the NCP, public notification when chemical agents are to be used in emergencies, greater disclosure of data relevant to chemical constituents of dispersants, and more. 

The EPA has not updated the NCP since the 1990s, almost 30 years ago, despite the Clean Water Act (CWA) mandating regular updates to reflect modern scientific advancements. This includes understanding the risks associated with chemical dispersants used in spill responses.  Dispersants are petroleum-based chemicals used to break up oil during oil spills and were used in massive quantities during the Exxon Valdez and BP disasters. These chemicals make oil more toxic and are linked with long term health harms including respiratory, neurological, and cardiovascular effects.  

Pam Miller, the founder and Executive Director of ACAT since 1997, brings more than 35 years of research, education, and advocacy experience to her present work.  In 2016, Pam was elected as Co-Chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a coalition of more than 600 environmental health and justice organizations working in 124 countries. 

Riki Ott is a marine toxicologist and activist. After graduating with a doctorate in sedimentary toxicology, Ott moved to Alaska and started a fishing business.  Following the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, which severely impacted the local fishing economy, she became an environmental activist. 

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak is the mayor of the Iñupiat community of Nuiqsut and a former community health aide. Her work focuses on addressing environmental and health impacts resulting from the heavy industrialization on the North Slope, including air pollution connected to oil exploration and production.  

CHE-Alaska is part of CHE’s broader network, an international partnership of nearly 5,000 individuals and organizations across 87 countries and all 50 US states dedicated to addressing environmental impacts on human health across the lifespan.  

We encourage you to become a CHE partner so you can receive their monthly email newsletters, announcements about upcoming webinars, and other updates on a range of environmental health topics. Visit www.healthandenvironment.org to learn more. 

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