Environment

High lead levels in 5 kids in Ohio town with tainted water

SEBRING, Ohio (AP) — Five children so far have elevated lead levels in a northeastern Ohio village where lead-tainted drinking water has been detected, health officials said Wednesday.

It's too early to know whether the positive tests are directly linked to the tap water in Sebring near Youngstown or if they could be tied to other sources such as lead paint, county and state health officials said.

The Ohio Health Department sent a team of investigators to meet with the children and their families on Wednesday to determine if the water could be the cause, said director Richard Hodges.

Feds expand critical East Coast habitat for right whales

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The federal government is expanding its list of right whale habitat to include calving grounds off the Southeast coast and feeding grounds off New England, increasing the critical area by thousands of square nautical miles.

In all, almost 30,000 square nautical miles are now considered critical — more than six times the area originally designated more than two decades ago.

The North Atlantic right whale, hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s for its oil, is slowly recovering. There were about 300 in 1994, a number now estimated to be about 500.

Panel asks Obama for additional Asian carp control study

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Advocacy groups want President Barack Obama to support further study of long-term measures to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

A 30-member panel representing governments, businesses and environmentalists has sought region-wide agreement on how to close aquatic pathways in the Chicago area linking the two giant water systems without damaging shipping and recreation.

In a letter this week, the Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee asked Obama for a study of "control points" such as specially designed locks that would let boats to move back and forth while stopping fish, mussels and other live organisms from doing likewise.

Panel asks Obama for additional Asian carp control study

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Advocacy groups want President Barack Obama to support further study of long-term measures to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

A 30-member panel representing governments, businesses and environmentalists has sought region-wide agreement on how to close aquatic pathways in the Chicago area linking the two giant water systems without damaging shipping and recreation.

In a letter this week, the Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee asked Obama for a study of "control points" such as specially designed locks that would let boats to move back and forth while stopping fish, mussels and other live organisms from doing likewise.

Arrests of Oregon standoff leaders leaves 1 person dead

BURNS, Ore. (AP) — Federal and state law officers arrested the leaders of an armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge, during a traffic stop along a highway in Oregon's frozen high country that prompted gunfire and left one man dead.

Militant leader Ammon Bundy and his followers were reportedly heading to a community meeting at the senior center Tuesday in John Day, about 70 miles north of Burns, to address local residents to discuss their views on federal management of public lands.

In a statement, the FBI and Oregon State Police said agents had made a total of eight arrests — including Ammon Bundy.

Repeal of emergency manager law part of NAACP's Flint plan

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Chief among the priorities national and local NAACP leaders listed Tuesday for the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint is the repeal of Michigan's emergency manager law, which they view as a contributor to the public health emergency.

The "15-point priority plan," which the NAACP drew up with Flint residents, was the focus of a community meeting and was discussed at a closed-door, evening meeting with Gov. Rick Snyder, National NAACP President and Chief Executive Cornell Brooks and other officials.

The plan also calls for the distribution of bottled water to households to be steered from National Guard members to Flint youth who would be paid minimum wage, as well as free home inspections to determine the extent of damage to the plumbing caused by lead that leached from aging city pipes.

Another town gripped by fear over lead-tainted tap water

SEBRING, Ohio (AP) — In a furor with echoes of the crisis in Flint, Michigan, parents in and around Sebring no longer trust the water coming out of their taps — or the explanations from community leaders — after learning just days ago that high levels of lead were detected in some homes over the summer.

Residents in the rural area of about 8,100 people near the Rust Belt city of Youngstown are demanding to know why they were kept in the dark for months. Children are being tested for lead poisoning. Schools have been closed for three straight days. Bottled water is being passed out. And state regulators are calling for a criminal investigation of the water plant manager.

"How long has this been going on and how much did we drink it?" Nina McIlvain asked Tuesday as she loaded bottled water into her car. "I'm sure there's more to it than we know."

Scientists: "Doomsday Clock" reflects grave threat to world

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Rising tension between Russia and the U.S., North Korea's recent nuclear test and a lack of aggressive steps to address climate change are putting the world under grave threat, scientists behind a "Doomsday Clock" that measures the likelihood of a global cataclysm said Tuesday.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the minute hand on the metaphorical clock remained at three minutes-to-midnight. The clock reflects how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and new technologies, with midnight symbolizing apocalypse.

"Unless we change the way we think, humanity remains in serious danger," said Lawrence Krauss, chair of the bulletin's Board of Sponsors.

Wildfire plan seen as biggest land policy change in decades

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A year after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell shifted the national approach to fighting wildfires across a wide swath of sagebrush country in the West, her strategy is turning out to be one of the most significant federal land policy changes in some 80 years, public land experts, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists say.

The five-page order she issued last January directed federal resources for the first time to fight massive blazes in open sagebrush steppe habitat that supports cattle ranching, recreation and some 350 species of wildlife, including the imperiled sage grouse.

"It is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the United States," said Janice Schneider, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management.

Snowpack in drought-stricken California hits 5-year high

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Recent El Nino storms have boosted the Sierra Nevada snowpack to 115 percent of normal — more than the drought-stricken state has seen in five years, officials said Tuesday.

The electronic reading by the state Department of Water Resources was the highest since it reached 129 percent in 2011.

The Sierra snowpack contributes nearly one-third of California's water when it melts in the spring.

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