The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 7, 2013

Government's work stacking up a week into shutdown

From lab work to the environment, federal work slows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Across America the government's work is piling up, and it's not just paperwork. It's old tires and red Solo cups littering a stretch of river in Nebraska. Food poisoning microbes awaiting analysis in Atlanta. The charred wreckage of a plane in California, preserved in case safety investigators return.

And it's the dead eagle in Wendi Pencille's freezer.

Pencille tends to injured birds in her upstate New York home. When a bald eagle dies, she sends the federally protected remains to a special eagle repository near Denver that ships feathers and carcasses to Indian tribes for their sacred ceremonies.

But the federal bird shippers are on furlough while much of the U.S. government, like her fallen eagle, is on ice.

"I couldn't send it, because it would just rot in a mailbox somewhere," said Pencille. So the volunteer wildlife rehabilitator put the 9-pound bird in the freezer alongside food for the owls, hawks and two live eagles recovering at her Medina home.

"I'd like to get it out of there," Pencille said. "We definitely need the space."

A week into a partial government shutdown, some messy stuff is stacking up.

Toxic waste is on hold at the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund sites, although work continues at those deemed an imminent threat to human life. The federal shutdown is fouling up some state and local clean-ups, too. For example, volunteers ready to pick up trash on sandbars and islands along 39 miles of the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska were told to stand down when they lost the use of federal boats.

The Labor Department delayed its monthly count of how many people are looking for work, which was due Friday and highly anticipated by stock traders. The Agriculture Department stopped cranking out tallies of livestock auctions and crop yields, which are vital numbers to farmers and buyers. The Centers for Disease Control isn't tracking the nation's flu cases, just as the season is getting started.

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