Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, August 04, 2006

Enviros Fudge Data (Again)

Every year, the Natural Resources Defense Council publishes what's come to be considered the bible of beach quality around the country. This year, it contained some bad news for SoCal sun and surf afficianados:
Beach Bums: NRDC's 22 Beach Bums -- which violated federal public health standards at least 50 percent of the time samples were taken -- are:

California: Nine beaches. One beach in Los Angeles County: Will Rogers State Beach (Santa Monica Canyon). Six beaches in Orange County: Aliso Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, Doheny State Beach, Newport Bay (Santa Ana Delhi), Newport Beach (Buck Gully), and Salt Creek Beach Park. One beach in San Diego County: Imperial Beach. And one beach in Ventura County: Rincon Creek.
OC's top beach babe, Monica Mazur, enviro health specialist for the County, and the woman responsible for closing beaches when water quality is a problem, contests the results. Here's the OCRegister on Mazur's findings:
Monica Mazur, supervising environmental health specialist at the Orange County Health Care Agency, said using drainage-channel readings as proxies for ocean-water quality is inappropriate.

In some channels, such water is treated for contaminants before reaching the ocean or diverted into sewer systems.

"I think there's a misinterpretation of data," Mazur said. "In Newport Bay they used the Santa Ana Delhi channel and the Back Bay drain pipe. Both of those are primarily concrete flood-control channels, not areas where people swim."

NRDC disclosed the channel readings, but they were hardly highlighted. If you're talking about beach water quality, study beach water quality. Don't go upstream -- that's how you get sensational science, not sound science.

A bit over a decade ago, NRDC viciously attacked a body of science that found that the California gnatcatcher proposed by NRDC for listing as endangered is, in fact, identical genetically to millions of gnatcatchers in Mexico. "Developer science!" they yelled. The feds listened, and listed the bird.

Well, it turned out to be sound science, proven unequivocally to be true by mitochondrial DNA studies. Even the scientist who led the charge for NRDC signed on to the study, showing that "enviro science" in this case wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

Now NRDC is caught again using questionable science -- and worse, they're using it to justify a lawsuit they filed yesterday against EPA for failing to set adequate water quality standards.

Faced with critical scrutiny by enviro groups, developers are careful to test their scientific findings. Faced with a largely sympathetic media, enviro groups often do not do the same. Hopefully, this will be brought out during the NRDC's lawsuit proceedings, to their embarassment.