Proposed Detention Center for Child Migrants Contaminated With Lead and Other Pollutants
A site that the Trump administration proposed as a migrant detention center for unaccompanied children is contaminated with several pollutants that could harm the children's health, a report released by EarthJustice on Tuesday found.
In June 2018, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the government was preparing to house unaccompanied children at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, as Reuters reported. However, EarthJustice said that the base was near four Superfund sites.
"Public records show the migrant detention site proposed for Goodfellow will be built atop a former landfill, in an area riddled with lead, benzene and other chemicals particularly hazardous to children," EarthJustice attorney Lisa Evans said in a press release.
BREAKING: Trump wants to hold migrant kids in toxic cages. Earthjustice uncovered disturbing new details of Trump’s… https://t.co/AFcFSdEsua— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1549984119.0
The potentially hazardous sites include:
- A landfill that has leached lead, arsenic and other solid waste into the soil and groundwater
- An aqueous film forming foam release area contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS)
- A firing range where soil is contaminated with lead
- A carbon tetrachloride spill where there are volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)
- A fuel storage and spill area where there are arsenic and high levels of VOCs, including benzene, toluene, chlorobenzene, trichloroethene, 1,1-dichloroethene, methylene chloride, chloroform and carbon tetrachloride in the groundwater
The report found that lead levels in the soil have previously surpassed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safe levels for play areas by 27 times and that lead in the groundwater surpassed EPA safe levels by more than 20 percent.
The findings come three months after EarthJustice sued the Trump administration for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the government's plans for the detention center at Goodfellow. EarthJustice reports that 7,500 children could be housed there.
A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said that fact-finding visits had been taken to Goodfellow and other potential detention sites, but that "none of these properties are under active consideration at this time," Reuters reported.
In July, a draft environmental assessment of the base undertaken by the Air Force found that there were no significant environmental impacts to construction there, meaning it could begin without in-depth review.
But EarthJustice warned that much would have to be done to make the base safe for children.
"Before housing for children is built at the Air Force Base, soil may have to be removed, groundwater tested, waste sites thoroughly removed or covered, and the commercial/industrial restrictions will need to be lifted to allow residential housing for children," the organization said.
#EPA Places Children’s Health Leader on Unexplained Leave @cleanairmoms #DrRuthEtzel #RuthEtzel https://t.co/9tGK5ilVyj— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1538056391.0
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.