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Groups to sue Coast Guard



Posted on behalf of <rivers@siue.edu>

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IS YOUR AREA IMPACTED BY THESE BATTERIES?  SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH YOUR
LOCAL AGENCIES, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS AND NEWSPAPERS.
ITS YOUR WATER, KEEP MAKING IT SAFE. 

Article copied from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, Sept, 3, 1998

GROUPS TO SUE GUARD FOR WATER POLLUTION

HAZARD:  Environmental groups are taking to court their battle over
batteries maintenance crews dumped in waterways.

By Gita M. Smith

Scottsboro, AL  --  Hundreds of thousands of mercury-containing
batteries lie leaking under US lakes and rivers,  dumped there since the
1950s by the US Coast Guard.  This week, an Alabama sportsman, the
Alabama chapter of Bass Angler Sportsmen Society (BASS) and
approximately 25 other national environmental groups announced their 
intention to sue the Coast Guard in federal court for its failure to
clean up those batteries.

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 60 days notice must be
given to polluters allegedly endangering the environment or humans.

The Coast Guard for decades has maintained marker buoys that light
ships' passage along interstate freshwater rivers and lakes, as well as,
saltwater bays and sounds.  In the past, when the 6 volt or 12 volt 
mercury and zinc batteries died atop blinking signal buoys, Coast Guard
maintenance crews simply dumped the spent batteries into the water as
they replaced them.  

For those decades of careless pollution,  US Coast Guard Administrator
Robert Kramek has apologized and says the Guard was "like many others,
not environmentally conscious in the 1970s."  He says the practice
stopped in 1973 when rechargeable lead batteries were employed.  But Ray
Scott, founder of B. A. S. S. , said the practice of battery dumping
continued well into the 1980s. 

"We have recovered batteries with manufacturing dates up to 1988," Scott
said Tuesday as he exhibited encrusted, leaking Edison Carbonaire
batteries pulled by divers from Guntersville Lake.

In the shadow of the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, divers at mile
marker 392 emerged from 23 feet of cold water with spent, broken
batteries to prove Scott's point.  In less than two hours, they
retrieved 22 batteries, which Scott and Alabama B. A. S. S Federation
president Al Redding then delivered to the Coast Guard Station in
Chattanooga.

There, guardsmen in rubber gloves accepted the batteries and packaged
them for disposal.

"It costs a couple of hundred dollars today to pay divers and fuel the
boat to retrieve those batteries,"  Redding said, adding that the Coast
Guard spent $64,000 for two similar trips in December and February to
bring up 24 batteries from the same waterway. 

"The Coast Guard has told the Congress it will need $50 million dollars
just to clean around fixed light stands -- never mind floating buoys --
and to date, on two trips to retrieve batteries out of Guntersville
Lake, it didn't even finish the job.  These batteries we brought up
today are proof of that," Redding said.

The Coast Guard and environmentalists do agree on one thing: The
magnitude of the battery debris is enormous and affects every state. 

In Georgia, as of Jan. 1, officials had removed 2,400 batteries from 307
aquatic and land sites, including 163,000 pounds of battery parts. 

In Mobile Bay and Alabama's rivers, Navy Reserve divers have recovered
1,058 batteries. 

In Florida, more than 13 years after the initial discovery of batteries
in Tampa Bay, most of the estimated 800 batteries remain submerged. 

For John Cronin, attorney with Pace University Environmental Litigation
Clinic in White Plains, NY, the lawsuit's impact will go beyond battery
retrieval.  It will strike at the way government agencies act when 
found guilty of environmental regulations in the future.