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New Film Deftly Indicts Public Health Regulators

By Katie O'Reilly

It started with a text from Mom. In January 2014, documentarian Cullen Hoback received word from his mother that a chemical spill had left 300,000 West Virginians living in a swath of coal country known as "Chemical Valley"—so dubbed because it houses the nation's largest concentration of chemical plants—with foul-smelling drinking water. The source was a rusting tank owned by a chemical company with the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up name of Freedom Industries, and the substance leaking into Chemical Valley's waterways was MCHM, a detergent from coal.

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Politics

Governors Weigh in on Water, Climate and the Environment: What We Know So Far

By Brett Walton

State of the State speeches are where governors sketch their legislative priorities and report on the overall health of their dominions. The state of the state is almost always "strong" and water issues are occasionally mentioned.

Below are summaries of the governors' references to water, climate and the environment.

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Health

170 Million Americans Drink Radioactive Tap Water

Drinking water for more than 170 million Americans in all 50 states contains radioactive elements that may increase the risk of cancer, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigation released Thursday.

Radiation in tap water is a serious health threat, especially during pregnancy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's legal limits for the most widespread radioactive elements are more than 40 years old. But President Trump's nominee to be the White House environment czar rejects the need for water systems to comply even with those inadequate standards.

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Even pocket parks in cities (e.g. Duane Park in Lower Manhattan) can shelter wildlife. Read below for ideas about urban biodiversity. Aude / CC BY-SA

Creating a Sustainable Future: 5 Essential Reads

By Jennifer Weeks

Much news about the environment in 2017 focused on controversies over Trump administration actions, such as proposals to promote more use of coal and budget cuts at relevant federal agencies. At the same time, however, many scholars across the U.S. are pursuing innovations that could help create a more sustainable world. Here we spotlight five examples from our 2017 archives.

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Trump Watch
Activists protest during the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn. Philipp Guelland /EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

5 Environmental Triumphs Over Trump in 2017

By Clara Chaisson

From his flagrant dismissal of the scientific consensus on manmade climate change to his eagerness to see treasured landscapes degraded by extractive industries, Trump's disregard for clean air, drinkable water and natural heritage has been relentless during the first year of his presidency. Not only are his anti-environmental actions wrong, but many are illegal. And businesses, politicians, nonprofit groups and ordinary citizens alike have stepped up to fight his toxic agenda.

In the name of making spirits bright, here are five times Trump's environmental actions didn't succeed at trashing planet Earth in the past year.

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Llima Orosa / Flickr

EPA Delays Lead and Copper Rule Again, Promises ‘War on Lead’

By Brett Walton

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pledged that lead regulations will be a prominent feature of the agency's work in 2018—but that work will take longer than anticipated.

The agency expects that a revision to federal rules that are designed to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water will be published in draft form in August 2018, a seven-month delay from a timetable announced this summer.

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Dawn on the S rim of the Grand Canyon. Murray Foubister / Flickr

Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban Upheld by Appeals Court

The Havasupai Tribe and a coalition of conservation groups praised the decision Tuesday by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the Department of the Interior's 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

The court ruled that the ban, adopted in 2012, complies with the Constitution and federal environmental laws, and that the protected area was not too large, as plaintiff mining companies had argued. The ban protects the aquifers and streams that feed the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium-mining waste pollution and water depletion.

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Health

2.5 Million in Yemen Have No Clean Water as World's Worst Single-Year Cholera Epidemic Threatens to Spread

The capital Sanaa and al-Bayda are now among the growing list of cities without access to clean water in Yemen after the Saudi-led blockade cut off supplies of fuel used for pumping.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that some 2.5 million Yemenis lack access to clean water. This latest development adds the capital to a long list of cities whose water infrastructure is crippled by blockade and war.

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Health
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EPA: Perchlorate in Drinking Water Can Harm Fetal Brain Development

By Tom Neltner

Pursuant to a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing drinking water regulations to protect fetuses and young children from perchlorate, a toxic chemical that inhibits the thyroid's ability to make the hormone T4 essential to brain development. The rulemaking is part of a long process that began in 2011 when the agency made a formal determination that Safe Drinking Water Act standards for perchlorate were needed. Under the consent decree, EPA should propose a standard by October 2018.

In the latest step in that process, EPA's scientists released a draft report in September that, at long last, answers questions posed by its Science Advisory Board in 2013: does perchlorate exposure during the first trimester reduce production of T4 in pregnant women with low iodine consumption? Does reduction in maternal T4 levels in these women adversely affect fetal brain development? According to EPA's scientists, the answers are Yes and Yes.

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