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DeVillars Calls Health of New England Environment "On the Mend" But a Long Way from "Completely Well"

Release Date: 04/26/1996
Contact Information: John Palfrey, Office of the Regional Administrator; (617) 918-1014

BOSTON -- In commemoration of Earth Week and in recognition of the dawning age of cyberspace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released the 1996 State of the New England Environment Report on the Internet's World Wide Web. The report documents the current status of the region's environmental health, describes both positive and negative trends, and reflects many of the new directions in environmental policy underway at EPA's New England office.

"I'd say the health of New England's environment is getting better; we're on the mend -- but we're a long way from completely well," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of EPA's New England office. "As a society, we've come a long way in environmental protection but we've got a lot more work to do. And we need some new approaches to doing it."

"EPA is coming of age this Earth Week in more ways than one -- we turn 25 years old and we're hitting our stride on the information superhighway," DeVillars added. "The 1996 State of the New England Environment Report reflects both those developments."

The 1996 State of the New England Environment Report can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL: "". A few highlights from the report include:

    • Air quality in New England continues to improve on the whole, but problems remain. The overall trend in ozone pollution shows improvement, even when compensating for factors such as meteorology. While sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide have been reduced dramatically -- the last two New England cities to be considered in non-attainment for carbon monoxide, Boston, Mass. and Hartford, Conn., were redesignated as meeting the health-based standard for that pollutant this year -- particulate matter and smog continue to pose a risk to the health of New Englanders;
    • New England industries continue to reduce their impact on the environment each year, as shown by data released to the public through the toxics release inventory. In New England, businesses have reduced their toxic releases by more than 50% since 1988, down to about 35 million pounds annually;
    • New England citizens are increasingly moving to the coasts, placing particular strain on often fragile shoreline ecosystems. Trends in the opening and closing of shellfish beds reflect this strain: while tens of thousands of acres of shellfishing beds were opened in New England last year -- mostly offshore -- the number of shellfishing beds in rural and suburban areas that are closed has steadily increased over roughly the last two decades; Indoor air quality continues to pose a significant health threat to New Englanders, especially children and teachers who spend time in school buildings. According to the most recent data, at least one in four New England schools responding reported unsatisfactory indoor air quality;
    • New Englanders continue to recycle more and to create jobs in the process. Between 1993 and 1994, the percentage of toxic wastes that were recycled rose from 45% of the total to 53%. There are 26,897 jobs in New England associated with the processing and manufacturing of recyclables, an industry which contributes $1.1 million to the region's economy;
    • New England still has 93 toxic waste sites on the Superfund's National Priority List; roughly 1,500 sites listed in the larger Superfund inventory known as CERCLIS; and about 500 contaminated sites that are handled under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the nation's hazardous waste management law; and,
    • One million cubic yards of sediments were dredged from New England harbors last year, about 10 percent of which are considered contaminated and unsafe for disposal in open waters.
"For the sake of the children who still breathe unhealthful air inside their schools, the one in four New Englanders who still live within four miles of a toxic dumpsite, and shellfishermen who are struggling to earn a living because their clam flats have been closed, and the beach-goers looking for a cool swim, we need to continue our work to protect the environment," DeVillars added. "As we do so, we need to continue to find more effective ways to get the job done. That's exactly what keeps us going every day at EPA's New England office."

The report also documents a broad series of reforms underway at the New England office of EPA, designed to factor smarter economics and sounder science into decision-making; to bring about cultural and organizational change at the EPA; and to build stronger partnerships with communities and industries to educate and empower others.

New initiatives, geared toward achieving real environmental results, include:

    • an overhaul of the region's Superfund program that focuses on making cleanups faster, fairer and more efficient and promotes redevelopment of formerly contaminated properties;
    • the nation's largest office of pollution prevention and assistance to businesses and municipalities, with a staff of 42. The office houses programs to reward and encourage sound environmental practices and the Center for Environmental Industry and Technology, which promotes innovative approaches to environmental problem-solving and assists the region's $10 billion environmental industry; and,
    • the Strong, Targeted Enforcement Program (STEP-UP), which focuses the agency's enforcement resources on four key areas where they can have the greatest impact on human health and the environment and uses scientific data to determine enforcement targets.
The 1996 State of the Environment Report can be downloaded from the Internet or EPA staff will mail printed copies of the report in June. To be placed on the distribution list for the report, please write to Public Affairs, US EPA Regional Administrator's Office (RAA), JFK Federal Building, Boston, MA, 02203 or send an e-mail to "PALFREY.JOHN@EPAMAIL.EPA.GOV".