Erin Brockovich Joins Vets to Rally Against DOJ’s Position in Supreme Court Water Pollution Case
Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, dozens of military veterans and watchdog groups rallied yesterday to voice frustration over the federal government’s support of a known polluter in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the side of electronics manufacturer CTS Corporation in a court case yesterday that could strip legal rights from military families poisoned by toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC, and others harmed by industrial pollution across the country.
The case, CTS Corporation v. Waldburger, will decide if federal environmental law preempts North Carolina’s statute of repose, which imposes a 10-year limit to file a lawsuit. A ruling in favor of CTS Corporation would void injury claims of Asheville, NC, residents who, for decades, were exposed to trichloroethlylene—a known carcinogen—on land contaminated by the company.
“Whether it’s Marines at Camp Lejeune, families in Asheville, or residents of any community located near a Superfund site, we cannot allow this case to set a precedent giving polluters a free pass,” said Brockovich, who attended the rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court. “It is unconscionable and egregious to deny victims of industrial pollution their day in court.”
Rather than defending the victims, DOJ filed a brief on behalf of CTS Corporation, specifically noting the government’s interest in the case and how it could affect ongoing litigation from those sickened at Camp Lejeune.
“DOJ is purposely supporting a known polluter to set a legal precedent which would deny Marines, veterans and their families of the very constitutional rights we all served and sacrificed to protect,” said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who uncovered the contamination at Camp Lejeune after losing his 9-year old daughter Janey to leukemia. "We just want the opportunity to present our cases in court and allow the merits of our cases to be the determining factor. DOJ has instead resorted to last ditch ‘legal gymnastics’ to kill all of our claims in their cribs.”
“It is preposterous that DOJ is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reward corporate and government irresponsibility and condone the poisoning of up to one million Marines and their families who faithfully served this country,” said Mike Partain, a breast cancer survivor who lived at Camp Lejeune.
DOJ’s position conflicts with the Obama Administration’s commitment to protect public health and the environment. In Aug. 2012, President Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act into law, which offers health benefits to those contaminated at Camp Lejeune.
“Instead of fulfilling its obligation to take care of the military veterans and families sickened at Camp Lejeune, the U.S. government has turned its back on them,” said Heather White, Environmental Working Group’s executive director. “It is truly disappointing for not only the victims of Camp Lejeune, but for all of the men and women who serve our country.”
“Today we stand with the estimated one million Marines, their families, and the civilians of Camp Lejeune,” said Angela Canterbury, Project On Government Oversight’s director of public policy. “It's time to finally protect those who protect us.”
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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