8 “nonessential” health and environmental services that shut down today

Flu monitoring, national parks and food inspections are all on hiatus

Topics: Government shutdown, national parks, public health, Food safety, Superfund, clean water, renewable energy, Oil and Gas, Pandas, pandacam, , ,

The government shutdown is officially a reality, meaning all federal programs and services deemed nonessential are temporarily on hold. Here are just a few of things we’ll have to do without until a compromise is reached — some are arguably less nonessential than others:

1. National parks

Access is now denied to any recreational visitors to our 84 million-plus acres of public land; those camping in national parks and forests have 48 hours to get out. The National Zoo, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 12 marine sanctuaries are also closed to visitors.

ThinkProgress found this loophole in the National Park Service’s contingency plan: while parks, forests and wildlife refugees are shut down, “access to personal and commercial inholdings and leased facilities is permitted.” So it’s likely business as usual for oil, gas and mining operations. (The Department of Interior, though, will temporarily stop reviewing proposals for new projects.)

2. Superfund cleanup

Second only to NASA in the proportion of its employees staying home today, the Environmental Protection Agency is down 94 percent of its staff of 16,204. That includes, an EPA spokesperson said yesterday, those running cleanup operations at 505 Superfund sites in 47 states. Pollution and pesticide regulators are also no longer on the job.

3. Flu vaccines



The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s seasonal influenza program, which works to monitor and control the flu’s spread, isn’t “medically necessary” enough to continue.

4. Food inspections

The Food and Drug Administration is now ”unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration has been anticipating an “inability to investigate alleged violations,” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website is no longer live.

5. Water quality

The U.S. Geological Survey‘s water quality data “will not be received, analyzed or disseminated to the public” for the shutdown’s duration.

6. Climate research

Meteorologists are still filing weather reports, but the monitoring of larger trends is off. Still on: climate change.

7. Renewable energy

Those in charge of monitoring nuclear reactors are still on the job, but everyone at the Department of Energy currently working on cutting-edge research is staying home. As with gas and oil operations, the Department of Interior won’t be reviewing proposals for renewable energy projects on public land.

8. Panda Cam

National Zoo staff is still taking care of its pandas, but the zoo warned yesterday that we’ll no longer be able to watch from home. And so it’s come to pass. Go ahead, try to “start watching the Panda Cam.” This is the reality we’re currently dealing with.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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