During the dinner, an open mike attracted a variety of speakers, singers and performers, including some from our delegation, such as Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir from NYC, who also bussed tables as new groups arrived for dinner. After a native drum circle performance, the leader asked those who had prepared the feast to come forward. As we knelt at the edge of the stage, a seemingly endless line of Water Protectors filed past us shaking hands, giving hugs and thanking us for the feast, creating an emotional ending to an evening that had united people from across the country in support of a cause no single one of us could fully comprehend in its enormity, yet had come to serve in our own modest way.
Following Thanksgiving, our group spent several days at Oceti Sakowin, beginning with an orientation for new arrivals. Sitting on straw bales in a tent, we were schooled by seasoned non-natives about Lakota values and made to understand that this indigenous-led movement is a continuation of 500 years of resistance to colonization. As guests at this ceremonial prayer camp, we were expected to give more than we take, be of use in the maintenance of the camp, and unlearn our unconscious acts of white privilege, including our desire to control and push forward our own ideas. We were instructed to listen and learn, show compassion for all, including ourselves when we made mistakes, honor wisdom and truth, and act respectfully and with humility.
At Oceti Sakowin, where weapons, drugs and alcohol are banned, we observed native people and their allies living in a welcoming, inclusive community that exemplified these values. When someone needed something, it was given freely, as we found when we waited in line for a cup of coffee or tea or came into a tent set up as a store that offered hundreds of items from lanterns to toothpaste at no charge. Both native and non-native volunteers had traveled far, leaving jobs and families to join the cause—cooking, cleaning, chopping wood, organizing supplies, helping to build tiny houses and install solar panels. Many had been serving at Standing Rock for over six months. In kitchens set up in large military tents throughout the camps, volunteers cooked three meals a day for thousands of hungry Water Protectors, using donated supplies that continually streamed into the camps. There was a sense of abundance, an almost magical flow of energy that I can only imagine as the power of love, and an indomitable feeling of hope in the collective resolve of this native-led, multi-cultural, intergenerational movement.
Around the Sacred Fire, always kept burning in the center of camp, drums beat and elders share wisdom for those who come to learn. Native youth from many tribes play a central role in leadership in the Standing Rock movement, speaking for the community at press conferences, organizing actions and patrolling the borders of the camps on horseback. Each morning before dawn during our visit, Water Protectors gathered around the Sacred Fire and an elder led a procession down to the river for a water ceremony just as the sun rose above the distant hills. As we engaged in these ceremonies, Standing Rock called us to feel our own spiritual connection to Mother Earth and be guided by her intelligence.
Despite the history of abuse and betrayal against them, the native people of Standing Rock offer love to all, even the oppressors. They are defending not only the future of their own children, they explain, but the children of the policemen and pipe layers as well. The native elders offer kind words to the police officers whenever there is contact. After the most vicious attacks, an elder formed a forgiveness procession to the sheriff's office carrying a banner and a prayer bundle with blessings for the police officers and their families. When the sheriff posted a notice in the newspaper requesting donations for items the officers needed, a group of indigenous youth delivered all the supplies listed, including milk, energy bars, batteries and hand warmers.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: 'I'll see you at #StandingRock' https://t.co/YOs1gMR9b4 via @EcoWatch #climate #NoDAPL… https://t.co/2dZMUN2nfx— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1480552261.0
For more than 500 years, Native Americans have repeated the same story—we must care for Mother Earth, so that she can care for us. Finally, the descendants of white settlers are beginning to listen. Millions of supporters have joined this native-led movement by donating money and supplies, making calls and sending letters to government officials, holding supportive rallies under the banners of No DAPL and Water is Life, offering prayers, pulling money from banks who have invested in the pipeline company—the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, and staging protests at bank offices.
The women's silent peace march on Nov. 27 at Standing Rock.Judy Wicks
On our last evening, three of us from our group participated in a silent procession of 1,000 women to the bridge that was the sight of the attack one week earlier. As requested, we had first attended a training session in non-violent direct action and had registered at the legal tent, where we were given a phone number to write in marker on our arm in case we were arrested. As instructed, I had prepared for tear gas with a pair of goggles that I had received at the free store and a wet bandana in a plastic bag stuffed in my jacket pocket. Behind me, the procession stretched as far as I could see, dotted with colorful banners reading Protect the Sacred. As our intergenerational, multi-cultural group of women bundled in winter coats and hats, walked arm in arm toward the barricades on the bridge, we heard orders for us to stop. As we continued moving forward, I felt a sense of dread. In the end, the military allowed the elders at the front of the march to proceed down to the river for a water ritual as the rest of us knelt on the bridge. It was the closest I came to confronting the monster.
During my week at Standing Rock, I witnessed a surreal, epic drama of two contrasting worldviews, one of horror and one of hope, that will determine the fate of life on Earth. The Black Snake, driven by greed, uses violence and fear to dominate people and nature, and measures success by short-term profits and the accumulation of material wealth. This extractive economy is fed by rampant consumerism and our own addiction to oil and gas. It is a world where corporations violate Mother Earth every day by drilling, fracking, mountaintop removal, poisoning of water, soil and air, and the destruction of forests, marshes and the habitats of wildlife.
In contrast, the encampment at Standing Rock offers us a world we can choose to build together, one that is nonviolent, cooperative and loving, that honors women, the old and the young, and respects all species in the web of life. It is a world building a restorative economy that will produce the basic needs of all people, while protecting and restoring natural systems. It is a world of awe, wonder and joy that honors our one Mother Earth.
Standing Rock calls us to join the struggle to defeat the Black Snake, inspiring us to act with courage to protect our own communities and the future of the children we love. Around the globe indigenous people are standing on the front lines in defense of their places. As the prophecy further warns, if the Earth's people do not unite to defeat the Black Snake, the world will end. As we near catastrophic climate change, this could be our last chance, individually and as a nation, to choose life over money, love over fear and join as one people. The story of the Black Snake is not over yet, but the conclusion is near. What role will each of us play in the outcome?
The first major snowstorm arrived the morning we left. As the bitter Dakota winter descended, the tribal council, concerned for their safety, asked the Water Keepers to move from the camps, leaving a contingent of 1,000 or so to hold the space. In the spring, Oceti Sakowin, which grew organically on a flood plain, will move to higher ground. With both the immediate need and the future in mind, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has planned an all-weather eco-village on 50 acres of the reservation. The Mni Wiconi Sustained Community will model a locally based restorative economy of sustainably produced food, energy and building materials. It will be a sacred gathering place for generations to come, and a place to remember and honor the history being made at Standing Rock, while celebrating an economy and way of living that is dramatically less dependent on fossil fuels. During our preparation for the trip, our Wopila Brigade helped raise over $70,000 for the first building in the eco-village called Makigi Oti, the Brown Earth Lodge, and a larger fundraising campaign is now underway.
As we left Standing Rock over 2,500 U.S. veterans of foreign wars began arriving to act as unarmed human shields in defense of the Water Protectors. Later we heard the story of a gathering when hundreds of veterans asked for forgiveness from native elders, as they acknowledged the history of genocide and theft of the land. An elder expressed forgiveness and added, We do not own the land, the land owns us. Could Standing Rock signal a new era in American history when we address the historic injustice on which our country was founded, defend the sovereign rights of the first people and protect the land and water they have held sacred for tens of thousands of years?
#Veteran Wesley Clark Jr: Why I Knelt Before #StandingRock Elders & Asked for Forgiveness https://t.co/F4IIcM7bEZ @IENearth @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482428564.0
After our return home, I watched a jubilant scene at Standing Rock on live stream as the tribal chair announced the exciting news—the Army Corp of Engineers had denied the permit needed to bore under the river and called for a full environmental impact statement for rerouting the pipeline. A well-earned victory for the Sioux and their allies, but by no means the end of the struggle. A climate-denying president-elect with strong financial and political ties to the fossil fuel industry and personal investments in the pipeline, will soon take office. Following the announcement of the permit denial by the Obama administration, the pipeline company immediately issued a defiant statement vowing to complete the project under the river without rerouting.
The three photos were taken by the author at the women's silent peace march on Nov. 27, 2016. For additional photos and a more detailed story of the Wopila Brigade, click here.
To contribute to building the Mni Wiconi Sustained Community, go to: www.BuildWithStandingRock.today
To find out if your bank is among those financing the Dakota Pipeline, go to: www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/how-to-contact-the-17-banks-funding-the-dakota-access-pipeline-20160929
To find a local struggle to defeat the Black Snake or add your group, go to: www.stopthepipelines.org
To support the winter camp at Oceti Sakowin: www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate
By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Most Meat Will Be Plant-Based or Lab-Grown in 20 Years, Analysts ... ›
- Lab-Grown Meat Debate Overlooks Cows' Range of Use Worldwide ... ›
- Will Plant-Based Meat Become the New Fast Food? - EcoWatch ›
One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.
Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.
piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus
- No Country Is Protecting Children's Health, Major Study Finds ... ›
- 'Every Child Born Today Will Be Profoundly Affected by Climate ... ›
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
- NASA and NOAA: Last Decade Was the Hottest on Record - EcoWatch ›
- Earth Just Had Its Hottest September Ever Recorded, NOAA Says ... ›