Baltimore City Council Passes Fracking Wastewater Bill
Yesterday, the Baltimore City Council passed legislation to ban the treatment, disposal, discharge and storage of fracking wastewater in Baltimore City. Baltimore has now taken a critical step in protecting citizens from dangers associated with processing wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
With this legislation, Baltimore speaks loud and clear: it will not become a dumping ground for the toxic waste produced by oil and gas wells upriver. Councilman James Kraft introduced the ordinance, along with co-sponsors Bill Henry, William "Pete" Welch, Edward L. Reisinger, Mary Pat Clarke, Sharon Green Middleton, Nick Mosby, Robert W. Curran and Helen L. Holton.
Modern fracking to extract natural gas from shale formations can result in millions of gallons of wastewater for every new well that is drilled and fracked. This fracking wastewater contains not only the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but also harmful natural contaminants from deep underground that are carried to the surface after fracking. Contaminants used in fracking, including benzene, xylene, ethylene glycol and 2-butoxyethanol, all of which have been linked to cancer and have negative affects on the nervous system, kidney and liver.
“We know that the wastewater resulting from fracking can have serious environmental and health consequences,” said Councilman Kraft. “This legislation will ensure that there will not be any disposal, storage, or treatment of this wastewater in Baltimore City.”
Maryland is not currently equipped to safely manage the hazardous waste produced by fracking and drilling, which would involve proper underground injection wells used for disposal of oil and gas wastewaters. The state’s wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the contaminants typically contained in fracking wastewater, which includes naturally occurring radioactive material.
Since fracking wastewater is exempted from federal-and state-level regulations pertaining to hazardous waste, there would be no protections for Marylanders without legislation that specifically bans the processing or disposal of the toxic chemicals associated with fracking.
“We commend the council for recognizing the potential for negative impacts related to fracking. And we thank Councilman Kraft and his colleagues for leading on this issue. By passing this ordinance they are protecting Baltimore from dangers associated with treating wastewater, which can contain extreme levels of harmful contaminants and chemicals,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “We hope that other Maryland cities and towns, from Cumberland to Frederick to Annapolis, follow Baltimore’s lead by taking action to protect their citizens.”
“The city already has its hands full with addressing the existing contamination in its waterways and threats to the health of its residents,” said Tina Meyers, Baltimore Harbour Waterkeeper for Blue Water Baltimore. “Accepting fracking wastewater would just be another burden that our wastewater treatment plants, our waterways, and our residents cannot bear.”
“There is no disputing that the transportation and attempt to treat fracking waste fluid with its use of water laced with unidentified chemicals is a threat to the health and safety of Maryland residents, subjecting drinking water resources, rivers, wells and aquifers to the risk of contamination,” stated Andy Galli of Clean Water Action. “In passing this ordinance the Baltimore City Council has certainly establish the proper public health and environmental safe-guards for protecting the citizens of Baltimore and neighboring counties.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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